Bánh mì is a Vietnamese street food: it’s a loaded baguette-like roll, often filled with fatty cuts of meat and lots of fresh herbs and pickles for balance. I’ve found that a supermarket bake-at-home baguette is the best vehicle here, because it needs to be crusty on the outside and very soft inside.
3cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled
8 fresh kaffir lime leaves, roughly chopped
1 tsp Szechuan peppercorns
100ml dark soy sauce
100ml maple syrup
1 carrot, peeled and shaved with a vegetable peeler
100ml rice wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
650g boneless and rindless pork belly, cut into 4 equal rectangular pieces
1 tbsp vegetable oil
60g creme fraiche
½ cucumber, cut into batons
2 red chillies, finely sliced on an angle (deseeded, if you want less heat)
4 soft baguettes
30g fresh coriander, stalks and leaves
40g spring onions, finely sliced on an angle
1 tsp fish sauce
1½ tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
- Heat the oven to 200C/390F/gas mark 6. Put the first four ingredients in a spice grinder and blitz to a coarse paste (or use a pestle and mortar). Transfer to a bowl, and stir in the soy, syrup and 200ml water.
- Put the carrot, vinegar and an eighth of a teaspoon of salt in a small bowl, massage together and leave to pickle for at least an hour.
- Season the pork with half a teaspoon of salt and lots of pepper.
- On a high flame, heat the oil in a large, high-sided, ovenproof and, ideally, nonstick saute pan.
- Fry the pieces of pork for four minutes on one side and one to two minutes on all the other sides, until crisp and deep, golden-brown all over.
- Pour the soy marinade into the pan, spoon it all over the pork to coat, cover with a tight lid and put in the oven to roast for 20 minutes.
- Remove the lid and baste the pork well. Stir 200ml water into the pan juices, put the lid back on, then turn up the temperature to 230C/450F/gas mark 8 and roast for 30 minutes more, basting again halfway through (if the sauce isn’t thick and sticky by this point, reduce it on the stove top later). Take off the lid, leave the pork to rest for at least 15 minutes, then cut into 4cm x 2cm slices.
- In a bowl, stir together the creme fraiche and mayo, then refrigerate.
- To assemble the bánh mì, drain the carrot, a tablespoon of its pickling liquid. Combine the carrots, cucumber, chilli and reserved pickle juice, add a big pinch of salt and toss.
- Spread the mayo over the bottom slice of each sandwich and top with some of the pickle mix. Put some meat and sauce on top, then scatter with coriander and spring onion. Drizzle with fish sauce, sprinkle on the sesame seeds and serve.