I’m often asked what kind of food I like to cook most. And let me tell you, the questions confounds me every time. Um, food? I find the question a hard one because I don’t stick to a single cuisine or technique. Living in the suburbs of New York City, I have access to all kids of ethnic ingredients. I suppose I prefer savory over sweet. And if I had to pick favorites, I’d have to say that Vietnamese is one of the top three.
I was first introduced to Vietnamese food by a college roommate who was Vietnamese. She’d take me to a local restaurant in Georgetown and order all of the foods her mom made at home. But it wasn’t until years later that I tried banh mi. One bite and I was hooked. Flavorful meat, pickled vegetables, spicy sriracha – it was sandwich-heaven.
This pork meatball banh mi recipe is a family favorite. The kids LOVE the meatballs. My oldest niece devoured at least 8 when I made them for a party last summer. If you are avoiding carbs or gluten, or if you just want a lighter meal, make lettuce wraps with them. Equally amazing. And if you like these, try the grilled chicken banh mi.
And mommy hack: I make 2 pounds of the pork mixture at a time. One pound for now and the other goes in a bag in the freezer or an easy meal later on. Just freeze the raw meatball mixture. When ready to use it, let it thaw then roll into meatballs.
- 1 medium daikon
- 1 large carrot
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 tsp. plus ½ cup sugar
- 1¼ cups distilled white vinegar
- 1 cup lukewarm water
- ⅓ cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon sriracha
- 1 pound ground pork
- ¼ cup finely chopped fresh Thai basil
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 green onions, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
- 4 10-inch-long individual baguettes or four 10-inch-long pieces French-bread baguette (cut from 2 baguettes)
- 16 large fresh cilantro sprigs
- To make the pickle, peel and cut the daikon and carrot into sticks about 3 inches long and ¼ inch thick. Put in a bowl and toss with the salt and 2 tsp. sugar. Massage the salt and sugar into the vegetables for about 3 minutes or until you can bend a piece of daikon and the tips touch without breaking. Flush with running water and drain. Transfer to a quart jar.
- For the brine, stir together the ½ cup sugar with the vinegar and water until dissolved. Pour into the jar to cover. Discard any extra brine that won't fit in the jar. Refrigerate for one hour and store up to one month.
- Stir mayonnaise and sriracha together in small bowl. Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.
- Line rimmed baking sheet with plastic wrap. Gently mix all ingredients in large bowl. Using moistened hands and scant tablespoonful for each, roll meat mixture into 1-inch meatballs. Arrange on baking sheet. Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.
- Preheat oven to 300°F. Heat sesame oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of meatballs. Sauté until brown and cooked through, turning meatballs often and lowering heat if browning too quickly, about 15 minutes. Transfer meatballs to another rimmed baking sheet. Place in oven. Repeat with remaining meatballs.
- Cut each baguette or baguette piece horizontally in half. Spread hot chili mayo over each. Arrange cilantro in bottom halves. Fill each with ¼ of meatballs. Top with some of the pickled vegetables. Press on baguette tops.