Many years ago, I worked in cable television to support my culinary habit of wanting tasting menus at fine restaurants. Thank you Charlie Trotter for helping me part with many hard earned dollars. In my business, we had a group of customers we referred to as “truck chasers.” These delicious customers were the ones who were so eager for any cable channel or technical service we offered, they nearly chased down Installers’ trucks for service. These guys were the sure bet for business.
Today I’m the truck chaser.
Like anyone, I’ve stood in line with construction workers to get a soppy breakfast burrito out of the back of Juanita’s Fine Food truck that might be parked in front of my house. Good cheep food. The other truckers, the gourmet food trucks, the mother truckers if you will, are all the rage in Los Angeles and my food destination of choice. Just last week, my daughter sent me a text “kogi truck at ucla, can we get for dinner.” She got the tweet from likely the most popular of the trucks (they have a fleet), and we were on the move. We stood in line thirty minutes to feed the family Korean barbeque fare from a graffit-bombed truck. My girlfriend Tracy and I make lunch runs to West LA to a popular food truck gathering spot at Olympic & Centinela. The draw is gourmet specialty food for cheap. The thrill is finding which trucks have gathered. Will it be Lobsta, or the Shrimp Pimp or Ludotruck or, my first truck crush, nom nom.
Ever since I discovered the bÃ¡nhmi sandwich at nom nom, I was determined to make this spicy, crafted, fresh flavored sandwich at home to feed a craving should the truck be in Playa Vista. Because the only downside to a gourmet food truck, is not being able to get to the food you seek.
BÃ¡nh mi captures the flavors of Vietnamese fare in seasoned grilled proteins and combines it with slaws and vegetables onto a French roll. Easy. Really. The name, the cuisine, the idea of anything gourmet, may seem daunting, but this sandwich is worth trying. And I’ll break it down.
It starts with a French roll you buy at the grocery store. As always, you can modify this recipe to make it easier or more to your liking. The spread on the sandwich is mayonnaise and sriracha chili sauce. Okay, you don’t have sriracha chili. Even if I tell you that I believe every major grocer will carry this Thai chili sauce in the “soy sauce” aisle and that you should own a bottle of this for all of your spicy foods including Bloody Mary’s, use any spicy sauce you have on hand, even Mr. Tabasco.
The proteins are either thinly sliced pork or chicken that you marinade in a few savories for thirty minutes. Okay, so you need your dinner now. Just mix them all together and fry up in a pan. By the way, I make a big batch of this and freeze marinaded meats for later.
I used my mandoline to make the matchstick slices of both the carrots and the radish. Okay, so you don’t have a mandoline. You can use a shredding blade in your food processor OR (before you say I don’t have that) you can buy pre-shredded carrots. For the radish, which is the big ugly brownish thing in your grocer’s produce bin. Just grate it if you don’t have the tools mentioned above.
Finally, cilantro; I add loads of it for the fresh, fragrant boost that only cilantro offers. Okay, so you think cilantro “tastes like soap.” Omit it. The real essentials in this sandwich are a soft bread, a little spice, sweet pickled vegetables, and savory grilled meat. After you take a bite, you too will say “nom, nom.”
A special thanks to you the reader who has made it this far in the post, which happened to take a mother-trucking long time to load, photo by photo, with my slow internet connection from the slow food countryside in Tuscany, Italy. No complaints really because my wining and dining from the picturesque setting has been nothing short of sublime and given me a special Chiani Classico come pici pasta belly on which to comfortably rest my laptop.
Look for some Tuscan inspired crunchtimes coming soon. Ciao down.
chasing bÃ¡nh mi
preptime: 30 minutes (not so crunchy) serves 4
4 french rolls
1 pork tenderloin or 2 chicken breasts (boneless, skinless)
1 T olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 c chopped onion
2 t chopped jalapeno pepper
1/4 c fish sauce (or 2 T soy sauce plus 1 tsp sugar)
1/2 t salt
1/4 t pepper
1/2 c fat free mayonnaise
1/2 t sriracha sauce (Thai chili sauce)
Daikon radish and carrot pickle (see recipe below)
- Prepare radish and carrot pickle one hour in advance if possible, but up to a few days.
- Thinly slice pork or chicken.
- In a medium size bowl, combine olive oil, garlic, onion, pepper, fish sauce, salt and pepper. Add sliced meat and let marinate for at least 30 minutes for best results, but if pressed for time you can prepare immediately.
- Heat a large skillet on medium high heat. Coat with cooking oil spray. Add sliced meat trying not to overcrowd the pan. Cook for a few minutes and turn. Depending on the thickness of your slices, meat should cook within 5-8 minutes.
- Mix mayonnaise and sriracha sauce in small bowl and set aside,
- Slice cucumber with wide vegetable peeler or mandoline to get long, thin slices.
- Slice french rolls on the side as sandwich bread.
- To assemble sandwich: slather mayo dressing on both sides of bread, add cucumber slices, top with meat, add pickled radish and carrots with limited juice, top with cilantro.
Daikon and Carrot Pickle
Makes about 3 cups
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into thick matchsticks (mandoline makes this easy)
1 pound daikons, peeled and cut into thick matchsticks
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons plus 1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup rice vinegar
- Place the carrot and daikons in a bowl and sprinkle with the salt and 1 teaspoon of the sugar. Use your hands to knead the vegetables for about 3 minutes, expelling the water from them. Rinse under cold running water, then press gently to expel extra water. Return the vegetables to the bowl if you plan to eat them soon, or transfer them to a 1-quart jar for longer storage.
- To make the brine, in a bowl, combine remaining sugar, the vinegar, and the water and stir to dissolve the sugar. Taste and adjust to your liking. Pour over the vegetables. The brine should cover the vegetables, if not add some water. Let the vegetables marinate in the brine for at least 1 hour before eating. They will keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks.