It’s something I under estimated for a long time, due to my ignorance toward other cultures. Until I read a book by Tom Parker Bowles about The World’s Best Street Food, to get familiar with what I am getting myself into. When I got to Vietnam’s chapter, my first impression was “at least I can spell it: “Banh Mi” let’s see if I can eat it, and I just devoured one last week. Bingo!
It’s the $5 lunch people will queue for! Banh mi (also known as Vietnamese pork roll) is a Vietnamese term for all kinds of bread, specifically the baguette, due to the influence of the French during its colonial period. However, it is lighter, crustier (which is why half of the nation is desperate for a dentist) and much bigger than a baguette; and the filling is significantly different.
In another term, there are no pearls and diamonds in a Banh mi sandwich, but what makes it very special is the five criteria that differentiate a good sandwich from a bad one:
- Bread: the foundation
- Meat: the balance
- Vegetables: the freshness
- Sauce and flavouring: it binds everything together
- Value: it’s cheap!
Vietnam’s lucky number is number five. Vietnamese cuisine traditionally features a combination of five fundamental tastes: spicy, bitter, sour, salty, and sweet; relating to five elements: metal, wood, fire, water and earth. They also try to have five colours in their dishes: white, green, yellow, red and black and aim to engage the five senses: food arrangement attracts eyes, sounds come from crisp ingredients, five spices are detected on the tongue, aromatic ingredients coming mainly from herbs stimulate the nose, and some meals, especially finger food, can be perceived by touching.
Traditional Vietnamese cooking is considered one of the healthiest cuisines worldwide for its fresh ingredients, minimal use of oil, and dependence on herbs and vegetables. Fish sauce, soy sauce, prawn sauce, and limes are among the main flavouring ingredients, and Black pepper is used in place of chilli to produce spicy flavours.
Banh Mi is widely available in Sydney, particularly in Cabramatta for as cheap as $4.00 at Viet Hoa, closer to the city at Hong Ha in Mascot for $5.00 (you need to queue for this one).
You can make your very own Vietnamese pork roll at home, maybe two (call me)
You need 150g of mined pork in a bowl, add a pinch of salt, 3tsp of grated palm sugar, 3tsp of fish sauce, 2tsp of soy, ½ lemongrass stack (green part reserved, white part finely chopped) and ¼ crushed garlic. Mix well to combine until tenderised. Halve reserved lemongrass and shape pork mixture around each piece to make 2 pork kebabs.
Split baguettes open and spread 1 tsp. of mayonnaise and 2 tsp. of pork liver pâté. Cut pork ‘kebabs’ in half lengthwise and divide among baguettes. Add pickled carrot, cucumber, coriander and spring onion, and season with soy sauce and sliced red bird’s-eye chilli, to serve and salt and pepper to taste.