July 2012

Wait, what’s your Italian friend going to tell you about making Vietnamese pork meatball banh mi? Plenty because I just made them and they’re delicious! Do you already know about these tasty Vietnamese sandwiches, served with pickled vegetables and a generous slathering of sriracha mayo on a baguette? Or maybe you’ve eaten them out, but never made them at home. Either way, read on!

We’ve got three things to make first–(1) sriracha mayo, (2) pickled veggies and (3) meatballs. Here we go.


Sriracha Mayo
Can make 1 day ahead

1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sriracha
2 green onions, sliced thin

Whisk together mayo and sriracha. Stir in onions. Cover and chill.

Pork Meatballs
Can make 1 day ahead–see a pattern here?

1 pound ground pork*
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh basil (I used part cinnamon basil, part Basil of Siam)
2 garlic cloves, pressed
3 green onions, sliced thin
1½ teaspoons fish sauce* Note: just 1 teaspoon would be fine, too.
1 tablespoon sriracha
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

a tablespoon or more of toasted sesame oil for pan-frying the meatballs
1 cup or more of panko breadcrumbs to roll the meatballs in before cooking

Combine ingredients (EXCEPT sesame oil and panko) gently with your hands. Do not overmix. Roll meat by the tablespoonful to form a ball. Place in a container for storage–I used my roasting dish.

Chill in the fridge. Before you cook them, roll them in panko.

Preheat oven to 300°F. Heat sesame oil in large skillet over medium heat. Sauté until outer edges are nicely golden brown, turning meatballs often and lowering heat to simmer as you go, about 10 minutes.

Transfer meatballs to a rimmed baking sheet. Drain sesame oil onto baking sheet; bake in oven 10 minutes.

Pickled Vegetables
Aw, heck, you could make these a day ahead, too.

2 carrots
2 2-inch lengths English (seedless) cucumber, sliced as matchsticks
½ daikon radish, sliced as matchsticks
¼ cup unseasoned rice wine vinegar
¼ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon Kosher salt

In a low dish, toss together the carrots, cucumbers, daikon, vinegar, sugar and salt.

Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. If you won’t be using them right away, you can store them in the fridge.

fresh cilantro
fresh mint (optional)
slices of lime (optional)
jalapeño slices (if you like things extra spicy)

Now, let’s put it all together!

Our baguette was easily longer than a foot–cut in thirds to make three sandwiches. If you’d like to make four sandwiches, you’ll want either a bigger baguette or another loaf altogether.

Pull out some of the soft bread to form a shell, which we will slather and stuff as follows. Generously spread sriracha mayo on each baguette half (both sides). Arrange jalapeños, then cilantro (and/or mint), in bottom halves. Fill each with 1/4 of meatballs. Drain pickled vegetables; place atop meatballs. Press on baguette tops. Serve with slices of lime to squeeze over the top of the meatballs, if you like. And don’t forget to include any extra pickled vegetables on the side.

Et voilà! If you don’t want to eat all the meatballs as banh mi, you can serve some of them over rice or rice noodles with pickled vegetables and some of the pickling liquid (ooh, and chopped cashews or peanuts on top) or throw the meatballs in chicken broth with a bit of rice, a squeeze of lime and some sriracha.

*Local shopping help for those in central Connecticut:
Three Crabs fish sauce – Kien’s Oriental Market, Hartford, CT – they make banh mi, too!
baguette – Hartford Baking Company, Hartford, CT–find them on Fridays, July through October, at Middletown’s North End Farmers’ Market
ground pork – Lino’s Market, Durham, CT

I’d like to share a little taste of my hometown–a riff on a delicious appetizer they serve at Mondo in downtown Middletown.

Theirs looks like this–almost sushi-like in presentation. Pretty impressive, isn’t it?

But how did they do it? I didn’t ask. How hard could it be? I looked up other fresh mozz recipes and saw instructions to roll it out. ROLL IT OUT? REALLY? I had my doubts, but had to try it. As I suspected, it didn’t work very well for me, so I turned the idea inside out. Instead of fresh mozz as the outer layer, I used the prosciutto to wrap cubes of fresh mozz and arugula. Ahh, much easier. And just as delish! So, andiamo–on with the show!

inspired by Mondo Restaurant, Middletown, CT

Four slices thinly sliced prosciutto (I love the Canadian prozhutt at M’town’s own Public Market)
12 cubes fresh mozzarella (3 per slice of prosciutto)
fresh arugula
fresh parsley (I didn’t add to the arugula this time, but will next time)
slices of fresh lemon
Penzey’s California Seasoned Pepper (to sprinkle over the mozz)
white truffle oil

Assembly is very simple. You might want to start off with a cutting board instead of dishes like your friend the kat. Place a bundle of arugula (and parsley if you like) in the middle of each slice of prosciutto. Top with three cubes of mozzarella. Sprinkle with Penzey’s California Seasoned Pepper and a bit of salt if you like.

Now roll ’em up and cut each roll in two. Drizzle with white truffle oil; serve with slices of lemon to garnish. Serves two.

Making this appetizer is a great way to stay cool as hot fun in the summertime continues! If you’re not inspired to try this at home, make tracks to Mondo–and order it with any one of their delicious (#1 in my hometown) pizzas!