Each week Joshua Bousel drops by with a recipe for you to grill over the weekend. Fire it up, Joshua!
I have yet to jump on the banh mi bandwagon, but my fiancée has been all over them. She's been singing the praises of the banh mi so much, that I felt it was my obligation to try them, so we can we ride this food craze together.
Having made a Vietnamese grilled pork not too long ago, I was looking for a different filling option. I came across this recipe for Vietnamese grilled meatballs that was just calling to me. I loved that this recipe had me mixing pork fat and sliced pork loin together in a food processor, along with the flavors I loved so much from my previous Vietnamese venture. This produced a very pleasing, fine-textured meatball with the great taste I was expecting—but the meatball wasn't what I set out to experience.
When I added these already delectable meatballs to a baguette, and stuffed in some pickled carrots and daikons along with a big bunch of cliantro, it was like being in flavor nirvana. The vegetables added a crunch and acidity that matched perfectly with the fish sauce flavored meat; and throw that much cilantro on anything, and I'm sold. Since I was the newbie, I had to turn to my fiancée and ask if these were the correct flavors of the banh mis she loves so much—to which she gave a big nod of approval, then promptly got up to fix herself a second sandwich.
Grilled Vietnamese Meatball Banh Mis
Adapted from Hot Sour Salty Sweet: A Culinary Journey Through Southeast Asia by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid.
- 1 pound lean pork, very thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup shallots, minced
- 1/4 cup garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons nuoc mam (fish sauce)
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- Ground black pepper to taste
- 2 ounces pork fat, minced
- 2 tablespoons roasted rice powder
- Bamboo skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes
- 2 large baguettes, cut into 6- to 8-inch pieces and sliced in half
- Pickled carrots and daikons
- 1 bunch of cilantro, very coarsely chopped
Whisk together the shallots, garlic, fish sauce, sugar and pepper in a small bowl. Place pork slices in a large zipper-lock bag, pour in marinade, seal bag and toss to coat well. Open bag and reseal, removing as much air as possible. Place in the refrigerator and marinate at least 1 hour, or up to 24. Thirty minutes prior to making the meatballs, transfer the pork to the freezer to firm up.
Using a food processor, pulse the pork fat into a paste. Add pork and process until you have a sort of pasty ball. Add the roasted rice powder and process to combine.
Form meat into into balls about 1 1/2" in diameter. Thread 4 balls onto each soaked bamboo skewer.
Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread coals out evenly over the charcoal grate. Grill skewered meatballs over medium-high heat. Cook until browned on all sides and cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Remove from the grill and let cool for 5 minutes.
To assemble the banh mi, place pickled carrots and daikons in the baguette, add the meatballs, and stuff in a handful of cilantro and serve.