Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Banh Mi Handbook: Chicken Sausage Patty Banh Mi

During the brief time I lived in New York City I made a point of bookmarking various banh mi joints around town into my Yelp account. I had heard so many lovely things about banh mi and I was hoping to try one for myself. As luck would have it, I never quite got around to any of those spots, and until recently banh mi only lived in my dreams.

I'm ashamed to admit the above fact, because I'm not only a foodie and food blogger, but I especially have a soft spot for Asian cuisine. After leaving NYC, banh mi still remained on my culinary "to do" list, and it wasn't until recently when I received a review copy of The Banh Mi Handbook by one of my favorite authors Andrea Nguyen (she also wrote my beloved Asian Dumplings!) that I had my opportunity to make and eat banh mi of my very own.

The book (due in bookstores July 8, 2014) is smaller in size than Asian Dumplings and definitely fits the description of handbook. It's straight to the point and includes 50 recipes for banh mi, including classic and innovative variations.

Nguyen begins with a basic introduction and follows up with Banh Mi 101, which discusses common ingredients as well as sharing a master banh mi recipe to help get the equation just right. Banh mi typically includes pickled vegetables, hot chiles, sliced cucumber, fresh cilantro, a filling (usually meat of some kind), a type of fat (such as mayo or butter), and seasoning.

Her chapter devoted entirely to banh mi bread offers suggestions on where to obtain breads suitable for banh mi making, and also includes Nguyen's tried and true banh mi bread recipe. Then we move on to chapters devoted to Mayonnaise, Sauces and Pickles, followed by Cold Cuts, Chicken, Seafood, Pork and Beef, Vegetarian, and finally Alternative Banh Mi.

Each recipe includes a cooking/prep time as well as notes on the best accompaniments for that particular filling. Nguyen has thought of everything to steer you straight into the ultimate banh mi experience.

This banh mi novice was very excited to get cooking (and eating) her first ever banh mi. I decided to start out with the Chicken Sausage Patties filling. I replaced the ground chicken with ground turkey, so really it was Turkey Sausage Patties in my particular case. In the sausage recipe itself, I omitted the fresh chiles because I was planning on using homemade pickled jalapenos as the pickle component, even though Nguyen suggests daikon and carrot pickles (a recipe is included in the book).

The prep/cook time for this recipe is stated at 45 minutes, but I can honestly say it was probably faster. I used sections of French baguette for the sandwiches and had every intention to scoop out some of the bread (as Nguyen suggests) to make extra room for the filling, but my family was so hungry with a delayed start to making dinner than I totally forgot. Oops!

The sandwiches were still absolutely delicious! I love the crunch from the fresh cucumber, the sweetness from the spicy hoisin sauce, the creaminess from the mayo, the herbaceous notes from the cilantro, and of course that delicious homemade sausage!

With some of the leftover sausage patties I made another banh mi a few days later, this time using a softer torpedo roll. I actually preferred the torpedo roll to the baguette because the texture was more spongy, while the baguette was denser and more firm. There are a variety of breads that could work for these sandwiches so just use your favorite from the options!

I really enjoyed checking out The Banh Mi Handbook. I learned a lot about the history of banh mi (namely its relationship with the French colonization of Vietnam) as well as a variety of ways it can be prepared. I look forward to making some of my own Vietnamese cold cuts someday for banh mi making, as well as the homemade bread!

If you're a fan of banh mi, or sandwiches in general, this is a great book to check out to learn so much more about these super trendy sandwiches.

Chicken Sausage Patty Banh Mi
Makes 6 banh mi
(Adapted from The Banh Mi Handbook)

Chicken Sausage Patties:
2 cloves garlic, minced and mashed or put through a press
2/3 cup (2 oz/60 g) finely chopped green onion, green and white parts
1 Thai or serrano chile, minced, seeds optional (I omitted this because I was planning on serving the sandwiches with pickled jalapenos which would offer enough heat)
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 1/2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, rice flour (brown or white), or almond meal flour
1 1/2 pounds (675 g) ground chicken thigh (I used ground turkey instead)
1 to 2 tablespoons canola oil

For serving:
6 banh mi rolls (handspan section of French baguette, French or Italian rolls, Mexican bolillo, Cubano rolls, Ciabatta rolls, Kaiser rolls, hoagie or cheesesteak rolls, or sandwich bread)
Spicy hoisin sauce
Daikon and carrot pickle (I used pickled jalapenos instead)
Sliced cucumber
Fresh cilantro

In a bowl, combine the garlic, green onion, chile, sugar, fish sauce, and oyster sauce. Taste and adjust to get a pleasant salty-sweetness with a little heat. Stir in the flour, then mix in the chicken. Divide into 12 portions. Set near the stove with a bowl of water.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat before adding 2 to 3 teaspoons of oil. Wet your hands, then form a 3-inch (7.5-cm) patty; if you like, make oblong ones to match the shape of the banh mi roll. Pass it between your hands a few times to smooth out the surface, then gently lay it on the skillet. Repeat to make 5 more.

Cook for 3 to 4 minutes per side, until nicely browned and no longer pink in the center (pierce it with a knife tip to test). Add extra oil, then form and cook 6 more patties. Let rest for a few minutes before using.

Cut the bread open, leaving one side still attached. If the bread is particularly dense, scoop out some of the innards to make room for the filling. Spread the mayonnaise evenly over both sides of the inside of the bread and add some of the spicy hoisin. Line the inside of the bread with all the filling ingredients as desired.

For regular banh mi, slice the patties to evenly distribute the meat across the bread; angle your knife to make broad pieces. Keep them whole for sliders.

Spicy Hoisin Sauce
Makes 1 cup
(From The Banh Mi Handbook)

6 tablespoons (90 ml) Thai sweet chile sauce
1/4 cup (60 ml) hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
2 tablespoons regular soy sauce

Whisk together all the ingredients in a bowl. Taste and, if needed, fine-tune with additional vinegar to offset the sweetness of the chile sauce. Aim for a tangy-sweet-salty flavor. Refrigerate for up to a month.

*Note* I actually halved the spicy hoisin sauce recipe and found it to be the perfect amount for my banh mi, but the sauce is so tasty you can easily make the whole recipe and save the extra for another use.

*Disclaimer* I received no compensation to write this review other than a free copy of the book. My opinions are always my own.


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