A Whitehorse DIY: The Banh Mi

There are certain cuisines that don’t exist here in Whitehorse. If you want Indian, I hear the airport restaurant makes a good butter chicken. If you want Korean, I think both places listed on Urbanspoon have closed (but at least Oishi has a Bi Bim Bap on their limited menu). What about Thai? Rumour is that a restaurant called 506 All Day Grill has you covered, but they also do burgers, pizza and pasta – so I’m a bit skeptical.

(EDIT: A Thai food truck opened up TODAY. So add that to my must-try list!)

There is a Vietnamese restaurant called Pho 5 Star. It does decent noodle bowls and pho (though I’m tempted to bring in my own Thai basil whenever I eat there).

One thing it doesn’t do – Vietnamese Subs or Banh Mi.

When living in Vancouver, we occasionally had a Banh Mi but my obsession with them really took off in Ottawa. We weren’t far from Chinatown which was really Little Vietnam. For $3 (and buy 5 get the 6th free) you could get a delicious meal. When my husband was unemployed, I pushed him to just go buy 50 of of them, walk to downtown Ottawa and sell them for $5 each to the business/government crowd, myself included.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Banh Mi, the literal translation is “bread”. But the connotation it has taken on is a sub-style sandwich on a French roll/baguette. When it comes to the fillings, mayo, pickled carrot and daikon, cilantro/herbs, and meat are your mainstays. This is a good overview: http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/2014/11/29/366611344/the-banh-mi-handbook-a-guide-to-a-viet-french-sandwich (and below is actually a recipe from that author)

My Whitehorse Banh Mi adventure started with leftover lemongrass chicken (recipe: http://www.hungrygowhere.com/recipes/vietnamese-style-grilled-lemongrass-chicken-*aid-71493f00/). This is an old standby of mine and while it’s best on the grill, can be done in the oven or pan-fried. I probably put on more lemongrass and garlic than the recipe states. Actually, I don’t measure anything anymore, yet it always turns out good.

As for the Banh Mi itself, I used this recipe: http://www.vietworldkitchen.com/blog/2009/06/banh-mi-sandwich-recipe.html – and no, I didn’t bake my own bread or make my own mayonnaise. I did, however, make my own carrot and daikon pickle, which is a must-have on the sandwich (recipe: http://www.vietworldkitchen.com/blog/2009/05/daikon-and-carrot-pickle-recipe-do-chua.html). I was concerned about finding daikon in Whitehorse, but was pleased to find it at the Independent grocery store. That’s also where I got some white rolls – though you can also use a baguette sliced into sections. I think I picked up the Maggi at the Asian Central Store, though it’s often available at regular grocery stores.

I like spicy, but raw jalapenos aren’t my jam. Instead I’d opt for sriracha or sambal oelek smeared on one side of the bun.

So, how did it turn out? Loved it. Did a great job of mimicking the flavours and textures of the Banh Mis I have had over the years. Sure, there’s no Vietnamese paté, but I actually have a recipe for that – so wish me luck.

We ate up all the lemongrass chicken in the first sitting, but had more of the rest of the fixings, so I’ve started trying out different meats in my sub. The day after the year’s first wiener roast, we had leftover wieners (unsurprisingly). So I made the lemongrass marinade and pan-fried them. And I only had hot dog buns, but still the result? Tasty.

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Once we were out of wieners, I turned to eggs. We had some hard-boiled eggs, so I sliced them up and put them on a sub (with the rest of the regular fixings). Result? Fine. Probably wouldn’t do that one again. Instead, I’d use a fried egg, which was the next day’s adventure. Result? Good.

Overall, it was easier to make than I expected. It was more delicious and closer to the real thing than I expected. Let’s just say my expectations were blown.