Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Sandwich I Would Marry: Bánh Mì

Kansans are odd folk. It's a hushed oddness -- but an oddness nonetheless. Being a lifelong Kansan, I'm qualified and within my bounds to make this comment. However, I suggest you visit Kansas and form your own opinion.

If you want a front-row seat to observe some of these quiet eccentricities, invite a few native Kansans over for dinner. I don't recommend going into this blindly. You need to know that Kansans don't like to have their taste buds assaulted. To ensure that you don't overwhelm their palates, keep the following in mind:

  1. Don't serve dinner after 6:30 p.m. According to my grandfather, dinner around 5:30 is ideal. I don't know the logic behind this reasoning, but I do know that Kansans (myself included) get testy if dinner is served after 7:00.

  2. When seasoning food, just stick with salt and pepper. Don't try to sneak in ginger, fennel, rosemary, or anything a Kansan might consider exotic.

  3. Don't serve anything with a funny sounding name. Kansans' taste buds get skittish around things like hummus, jicama, and tabbouleh.

  4. If you serve cheese as an appetizer, make sure it's yellow. If you stick with one of Kraft's Cracker Barrel selections, guests will be impressed.

  5. If you prepare a salad, don't mix greens. Stick simply with an iceberg lettuce. Don't add nuts to salads or feta cheese. Serve a variety of dressings on the side, but be sure you have Ott's Original Dressing on hand. (Revision: It's Dorothy Lynch Dressing I'm thinking of, not Ott's. Thank you Nella from Peckerwood Gravy Company for remind me.)

  6. Be prepared to talk about the weather. Even if you don't own a rain gauge, be prepared to announce daily precipitation amounts received over the past decade. I'm not exaggerating.

  7. Serve potatoes with the meal, preferably mashed with gravy or scalloped. We also like our tators fried.

  8. Kansans like casserolse. Any casserole with a cream of mushroom base will satisfy most Kansans.
Of course, Kansans will eat whatever you serve because we're also polite folk, but we'll talk about how odd the meal was on our drive home, and you wouldn't want that. Would you?

Now if you're an individual who likes to shake things up and you don't mind guests talking on the drive home about the strange meal you served them, I'm going to share a recipe that breaks many of the above rules. It's a little Vietnamese sandwich called the Bánh Mì, and it's one of the best things I've eaten this year.

Allow me to say this again: It's one of the best things I've eaten this year.

This sandwich will satisfy every corner of your palate. I challenge all of my readers to make it this weekend and report back to me. Just follow these simple steps:

  1. Visit the White on Rice Couple's companion website The Battle of the Bánh Mì and get the complete lowdown on this sandwich.

  1. Follow their recipe for the marinade and preparing the meat, and don't be afraid of the fish sauce.

  1. Buy or bake some good bread. They suggest a nice, crusty French loaf. I prepared my sandwich with day-old loaves from Jimmy John's. An 18-inch loaf can be purchased for 45 cents. I'm in the process of finding a recipe to replicate Jimmy John's bread or the French loaves you see used for Po-Boys down in N'Awlins.

  1. Prepare the following to dress the sandwich:

  • sprigs of cilantro

  • thinly slice red onions

  • thinly sliced cucumbers

  • pickled carrots and daikon radish: Be a native Kansan, I was apprehensive about this ingredient, but this makes the sandwich. Like the fish sauce, it's a bit stinky, but roll with it.

  • mayo

  • Sriracha: This spicy Asian ketchup is essential for the sandwich.
Over the past few weeks, I've prepared this sandwich about six times. Once I even used chicken in place of the pork, and it yielded great results. When I'm not preparing the sandwich, I'm thinking about it. This is the power a good sandwich holds over me. The voodoo of a good sandwich.

Anyway, get out there and get you Bánh Mì on this weekend.


P.S. I survived prom decorating, and tonight I'll take my five-year-old daughter to prom. Her enthusiasm will glide me through the evening.


Nella said...

I nearly snorted my coffee while reading your descriptions of the Kansans and their food. To everyone out there, it is all true! Also, for variety, don't forget the Dorothy Lynch salad dressing.

I have cooked from one end of the spectrum to the other for my husband's family over the years. All are Kansans. Here is what my brother-in-law said one time:

"I never know what Nella is going to fix us for dinner, but whatever it is, it's always good."

Gotta love him!

Marianne said...

You are a great Daddy to take your daughter to prom. Yay! Are you two dressing up too?

This sandwich sounds wonderful...

Jeni said...

That looks and sounds really yummy. Good luck with the prom! Too cute :)

muddywaters said...

You're right. I think, I meant to mention Dorothy Lynch instead of Ott's.

All people, including myself, are reluctant try new things. It just doesn't apply to Kansans, but I'd say we're more reluctant than most.

Marianne: Thanks. We might post some pictures.

Jeni: Thanks. I'm eager to hear more about your new addition. You'll have some interesting posts in the future when you begin cooking with your little one.

Anonymous said...

You totally cracked me up with your rules for feeding Kansans. I can tell you from personally experience that the rules for feeding Georgians are exactly the same, except that you can get away with serving white rice instead of the potatooes.

I love that your post is about Banh Mi. So good, although I usually skip the mayo on mine! I love the make the picked carrots and daikon - they're great for garnishing simple salads, too.

Kate said...

Sounds delish. And I hope your prom date went well!

Lynda said...

This looks really delicious and so different!
I had to laugh at your description of Kansans and their food; I live in SW Missouri and it's the same here!

Anonymous said...

The pork meatball version calls for Sriracha-spiked mayo. Amazing what a little Tobasco or Sriracha does to a 1/4 cup of mayo.

Made the meatball version a couple of weeks ago, and am giving this one a shot tonight.