A hearty baguette stuffed with succulent, char-grilled chicken, crisp cucumbers, tangy pickles, herbaceous cilantro and a rich and creamy mayonnaise. Banh Mi sandwiches are the ultimate solution for busy weekdays. They are highly customizable, satisfying even the most discerning palates and irresistible because they are well balanced in flavor. This recipe is an express version that uses simple, readily available ingredients and can easily be tailored to suit your personal taste preferences.
Why This Works
Vietnamese sandwiches, also known as Banh Mi, are a delicious balance of sweet, savory, tangy, fresh, crunchy and umami flavors. They are a perfect meal solution for busy weekdays due to their ease and simplicity.
What is a banh mi?
Bánh mì (bun mee) translates to bread in Vietnamese, specifically demi-baguettes. The sandwich that is made out of a banh mi is called bánh mì thịt. It originated in Saigon, Vietnam in the 1950s under French occupation and is one of the most recognizable inventions of French-Vietnamese cuisine. The core components of a bánh mì thịt is protein, fresh cucumbers, fresh cilantro, Vietnamese pickles, pate (a French terrine of pork, duck, or chicken liver), and sauce. My version of the recipe omits the pate which may be an acquired taste.
Banh mi thit is usually made with Vietnamese pickled daikon and carrots (do Chua). It’s a quick pickle recipe that is crucial to rounding out the sandwich by adding tanginess, umami, and crunch!
What type of protein do I need to make a banh mi?
The banh mi thit sandwich is very versatile and may be made with chicken, pork, beef, seafood, and even tofu.
What type of bread do I need to make a banh mi?
The bread is one of the key elements of a good banh mi sandwich, traditionally it is made with a soft and airy baguette similar to a submarine, hoagie roll, or Italian sub. Different breads can be used as well, but I personally prefer the French baguettes for their chewy center, crisp golden crust and rustic appearance.
What is fish sauce?
Fish sauce (nuoc mam) is a staple in Southeast Asian cuisine and is known for its dark brown, clear appearance. This fermented liquid seasoning is made from fish and is characterized by its strong, pungent aroma. It has a distinct taste that is a blend of sweet, salty, and slightly briny flavors.
How do I buy fish sauce?
With many different brands available, it can be overwhelming to choose the right nuoc mam. However, my Southeast Asian grandmother prefers the Three Crabs Brand pictured below which is reputable. Please note that there may be brands that have very similar names that are of poorer quality. If a reputable brand that you recognize is unavailable to you, consider the following:
- Read the ingredients: Look for a high percentage of anchovy extract and salt, as this is an indication of high quality. Some lower-quality fish sauces contain added sugars, preservatives, and artificial flavors.
- Consider the color: Fish sauce should be amber-brown in color and relatively clear. If the sauce is very dark, it may indicate over-processing or the addition of caramel color.
- Choose a reputable brand: Look for well-established brands with a proven track record of producing high-quality fish sauce. You can also ask for recommendations from friends or family who have used fish sauce before.
How is fish sauce used?
In cooking, fish sauce is used to add saltiness and a rich umami flavor to dishes. It is commonly used as a seasoning in pho broth, as a dipping sauce in Vietnam, in marinades and sauces for Thai cuisine, and to enhance the flavor of various dishes.
Chicken Banh Mi
- 1 lb chicken thighs
- 1 lime trimmed, halved, juiced
- 2 tbsp Maggi Seasoning sauce or dark soy sauce
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tbsp sriracha
- 1/2 tsp
ground black pepper
- 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
- 1/4 tsp white sugar
- 2 garlic cloves trimmed, peeled, minced
- 1 baguette
sliced into thirds, split in half
- 1 jalapeño thinly sliced
- 1/3 bunch cilantro
- 1/2 english cucumber sliced into stalks
- 1 cup Vietnamese pickles recipe on page
- 1/3 cup Kewpie mayonnaise
- Chicken | Add the chicken thighs into a bowl. Add lime juice, soy sauce, fish sauce, sriracha, sugar, salt, pepper, and garlic. Mix well. Allow the chicken to marinate at room temperature for 10 minutes. Heat a pan over medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot, add a generous amount of oil. Once the oil is hot, add the marinated chicken thighs to the pan, spacing them out evenly. Cook the both sides until an internal temperature of 165°F / 78°C is reached.
- Assemble | Spread mayonnaise on both sides of the baguette. Add the sliced chicken, Vietnamese pickles, cucumbers, cilantro, and jalapeños on top of one half of the baguette. Place the other half of the baguette on top of the fillings, press down gently to compact the sandwich, and slice it into smaller pieces if desired. Serve immediately and enjoy!