Of all the flavor-packed proteins that can stretch the middle of a Vietnamese banh mi sandwich, my favorite probably isn't among the most popular of fillings. Barbecued pork, lemongrass chicken, spicy meatballs, and even tofu can all make for a deliciously filling banh mi. But for me, I usually opt for the sardine banh mi when I happen across a banh mi shop.
Sardine banh mis are usually made with canned sardines packed in a spicy tomato sauce. The rich, meaty flavor of sardines along with the spice and tang from the tomato sauce can lift a baguette in ways that other fillings can't. And since canned sardines are used, this particular type of Vietnamese sandwich is a cinch to make at home. No grilling or roasting of meats is necessary—just open the can of sardines and mash the fish into the sandwich, bones and all (they're edible, you know).
And when combined with the usual banh mi accoutrements of mayonnaise, pickled carrots and daikon, fresh cilantro, jalapenos, and a drizzle of Maggi seasoning, a simple tin of sardines transforms into a savory and satisfying sandwich.
Note: You can find canned sardines in tomato sauce at Asian markets. Ligo brand is a good choice and comes in spicy and mild versions.
Baguettes made in Vietnamese bakeries are made with rice flour and are crispier than regular french baguettes. If you don't have a Vietnamese bakery nearby, a regular French baguette roll can be used.
- 1 medium carrot, cut into fine matchsticks
- 1 small daikon radish, cut into fine matchsticks
- 1 tablesopon sugar
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/4 cup vinegar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 baguette roll, preferably Vietnamese, about 12-inches long, cut in half cross-wise (see note)
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- Maggi seasoning, for drizzling
- 1 (5.5-ounce) can of sardines in tomato sauce
- Fresh cilantro
- 1 jalepeño pepper, thinly sliced
To Make the Pickled Carrots and Daikon: combine carrots, daikon, salt, and sugar in a small bowl and toss to coat. Allow to rest 10 minutes until liquid has been drawn out of vegetables and salt and sugar are completely dissolved. Add vinegar and water and transfer to small, sealable container. Let sit at room temperature for 1 hour, or for best results, allow pickled to rest for at least 3 days in the refrigerator.
Lightly toast baguettes if desired, then split each baguette half lengthwise, then evenly distribute the mayonnaise among the baguettes. Add a few dashes of Maggi seasoning to the inside of the baguettes. Divide the sardines among the sandwiches—there should be about 2 whole sardines per sandwich. Using a fork, mash the sardines into the sandwiches. If desired, spoon more of the tomato sauce from the can over the mashed sardines.
Top the sardines with the pickled carrots and daikon, cilantro, and jalapeno slices. Serve immediately.