Someone should smack me. In my excitement of developing and executing a special banh mi recipe that I could share with my group of food blogger friends, I sort of forgot to leave a sample at home for my husband. I should also confess that because I was running short on time, I also asked him to “run to the nearest Vietnamese bakery” for me (before having his morning coffee), so I could 1) sport authentic baguettes, and 2) get out the door in time. Who does that?!
Let me say now that this isn’t typical banh mi. This is an autumn variation, made specifically to incorporate an apple. There’s no pâté, no daikon, no carrots. Instead, this one starts out with a layer of garlic confit. Kind of like duck confit, but with garlic. Then there’s a spread of freshly made mayonnaise (thank you backyard chickens!), followed by a generous helping of pork belly that was braised in caramel, fish sauce, shallots, and more garlic. On top of that, there is julienned apple and red cabbage, and to finish, a sprinkling of cilantro leaves. All of this sandwiched in an authentic Vietnamese baguette; light, airy, crispy, and mandatory.
I’m pleased to report that my platter was a success. I’m also not surprised that this morning, I had my morning coffee withheld from me until I promised to make it up to my dear, patient, loving and kind husband. As soon as this post goes live, I am making another trip to the market. For brunch today, banh mi sandwiches: round two. Doors open at 11AM.
An autumn spin on the classic Vietnamese “banh mi,” this braised pork belly version boasts a spread of garlic confit, homemade mayonnaise, tart green apples and crunchy red cabbage. Serves 12 as an entrée or 24 as an appetizer.
- • 2 pounds pork belly, sliced thin (like thick-cut bacon) and then cut into 2” lengths
- • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- • 2 shallots, minced (yield ½ cup)
- • 3 garlic cloves, minced (yield 1 tablespoon)
- • 6 tablespoons granulated sugar
- • 4 tablespoons water
- • 6 tablespoons fish sauce
- • 3 cups water
- • 1 cup vegetable oil
- • 24 peeled garlic cloves (yield ½ cup), root ends cut off
- • 1 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
- • 1 Granny Smith apple
- • ¼ head small red cabbage
- • 4 cups water
- • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- • 1 large egg, at room temperature
- • ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
- • ½ lime
- • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- • 2 yard-long Vietnamese baguettes
- Minute 1: Start a timer. Prepare your ingredients.
- Minute 15: Make garlic confit. In a separate saucepan, put 24 cloves of garlic in a small saucepan and add 1 cup vegetable oil; none of the garlic cloves should be poking through the oil. Simmer on low heat. The garlic should cook gently; very small bubbles will come up through the oil, but the bubbles should not break the surface. Adjust the heat as necessary. Cook the garlic for about 40 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon every 5 minutes or so, until the cloves are completely tender when pierced with the tip of a knife.
- Minute 20: Braise pork belly. Place a 5-quart saucepan (or Dutch Oven) over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. Once oil is warm, add minced shallots and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes. Then add minced garlic and continue to cook for 2 minutes.
- Minute 25: Add pork belly and cook until the meat is no longer pink, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile: in a separate small saucepan, combine 6 tablespoons granulated sugar with 4 tablespoons water and cook over medium heat, stirring often with a wooden spoon until mixture is thick and caramel in color. Immediately pour caramel into saucepan with pork belly.
- Minute 30: Add fish sauce and 3 cups of water to pork belly mixture; continue to cook pork belly over medium heat for 45 minutes.
- Minute 55: Remove garlic and oil mixture from heat. Strain oil into glass Pyrex measuring up to separate garlic cloves from oil. Reserve both oil and garlic cloves. Let oil cool for 30 minutes.
- Minute 60: Julienne an apple. In a bowl with 4 cups of water, add apple cider vinegar and set aside. Cut the rectangular pieces of an apple into slices that are approximately 1/8 inch thick. Try to keep the slices as even as possible, for the best appearance and for cooking each piece evenly. Turn the slices so that the widest part is flat against the cutting board. You may place another slice of apple on top of the first slice, but generally do not try to cut more than three or four pieces at a time. Cut these slices into 1/8-inch strips. Immediately place julienned apple strips into bowl of water.
- Minute 70: Prepare cabbage. Using sharp knife, thinly slice cabbage to create thin strips. Set aside.
- Minute 75: Using metal tongs, remove pork belly from saucepan into large bowl, add freshly ground black pepper, mix and set aside. Reserve fat and juice for other uses.
- Minute 85: Make garlic mayonnaise. In a small glass bowl placed over a damp cloth towel, add egg yolk, Dijon mustard, juice of ½ lime, and soy sauce. (Reserve egg white for another use.) Whisk with primary (writing) hand for one minute. Then, while still whisking, with secondary (non-writing) hand, slowly pour in reserved oil from garlic confit, one drop at a time, until half of the oil has been poured. This should take a couple of minutes. Once half of the oil has been poured, the remaining half can be poured into the bowl in a thin stream while you continue to whisk. Season with fine sea salt. Set mayonnaise aside.
- Minute 95: Drain bowl containing julienned apples and lay strips out on paper towel to dry.
- Minute 97: Assemble sandwiches. Using serrated knife, cut baguettes lengthwise to split. Using fingers, smear the garlic confit evenly across the bottom of each baguette. Then add mayonnaise (about 3 tablespoons per baguette). Then add the pork belly, red cabbage, apples, and cilantro.
- Minute 110: Slice each baguette into 12 pieces and serve immediately.
Source: Rustic Garden Bistro, with special thanks and recognition to the White on Rice Couple for reference of the caramel sauce and pork belly cooking methods, and also to Thomas Keller for his garlic confit and oil recipe (p. 266, Ad Hoc at Home).
But wait – there’s more!