If you understand the architecture of banh mi, you can whip one up any time. This foundational recipe assumes that you’ve made the main filling already. If you have everything prepped, your Vietnamese sandwich will come together in a snap. Unless a banh mi recipe specifies a particular combination of ingredients, feel free to experiment.
Keep in mind that banh mi is not a meat-laden affair. As a guideline, a well-balanced banh mi with all the fixings has a visual ratio of 1:1 or 1:2 of main filling to vegetables. It’s somewhat like a salad encased in bread, a crazy juxtaposition of flavors, textures, and flavors. It’s a party in your mouth.
This recipe was slightly adapted from my book, The Banh Mi Handbook (Ten Speed Press, 2014). Note that “*” refers to recipes in the book. —Andrea Nguyen
Vegetable add-ons (see step 1)
Bread (see step 2)
Filling (choose one or more): about 3 ounces of any filling in The Banh Mi Handbook
Fat (choose one or more): mayonnaise (regular or flavored), garlic yogurt sauce,* salted butter, avocado slices
Seasoning (choose one or more): Maggi seasoning sauce, Mock Maggi sauce, Spicy hoisin sauce, soy sauce or tamari, salt and pepper
Before assembling the sandwich, prep the vegetable add-ons and set aside. Slice, reheat, sear, or return the filling to room temperature; see individual recipes for guidance. Choose all, some, or none of the following: a small handful (1/4 cup) of pickled vegetables, drained of brine; 3 or 4 thin slices of medium-hot chile, such as jalapeño or Fresno (retain the seeds for fire); 4 to 6 cucumber strips, rounds, or ovals, cut 1/8- to 1/4-inch thick.
Choose your bread. Use either 1 homemade banh mi roll (see my recipe); petite baguette; handspan section of French baguette; or another suitable bread (see “Bread Buying Guide” in the book, page 14).
If needed, recrisp the bread in a toaster oven preheated to 325° F for 3 to 6 minutes. Cool for a few minutes or the mayo or butter will melt into a yucky oiliness.
Use a serrated bread knife to slit the bread lengthwise, leaving it attached on the back side to hold the sandwich together; it’s okay if you accidentally cut all the way through. Use your fingers to remove some of the insides from one or both halves, depending on how much doughiness you want; save the insides to make pâté. (If you like, you can cut and hollow out the bread before recrisping it.)
Spread your chosen fat on the two cut sides of bread, covering all the way to the edge. (If using avocado, lay down thin slices and mash them slightly so they stick to the bread.) Season by drizzling in Maggi or another liquid condiment, or sprinkling with salt and pepper. Working from the bottom up, layer on the fillings and the pickles, chiles, cucumbers, and/or herbs. Close the sandwich and use the bread knife to cut in half crosswise. Enjoy.
Andrea Nguyen is a James Beard award-winning author, cooking teacher, consultant and editor. Her latest book is "Vietnamese Food Any Day" (Ten Speed Press, 2019). She edited "Unforgettable", the biography cookbook about culinary legend Paula Wolfert.