My brother Peter is a New York State Civil Court judge when he’s on the clock, and a devoted chowhound in his off-hours. One day about five years ago I went to meet Pete for lunch and he took me to a little hole-in-the-wall a short walk from his chambers in downtown Manhattan. Called Sau Voi Corp., this strange little shop sold a variety of goods: brassieres stacked up like nesting yarmulkes, lottery tickets, Vietnamese music CDs, pornography DVDs, and a selection of nondescript food, tightly wrapped in plastic, that looked, in Judge Moulton’s phrase, “like it had been sitting there since before World War II.”
They also sold – and continue to sell – fresh banh mi sandwiches. Banh mi, in the words of the New York Times’s Julia Moskin, is the “classic street-vendor Franco-Vietnamese sandwich.” In the hundred years or so since the Vietnamese began customizing the basic French sandwich of pate on a baguette, the banh mi has mutated in a zillion brilliant ways, especially during its decade or so here in the States. Ms. Moskin, who ventured that “New York in 2009 is starting to look like the year of the banh mi,” went on to note that “[American banh mi] are so rich in history, complex in flavor and full of contradictions that they make other sandwiches look dumb.” Certainly, I’ve been a fan of them ever since my first bite at the Sau Voi Corp.
And I found a new place, a little easier to negotiate for this episode (see Cook’s Note below). This recipe is my interpretation, using liverwurst as a stand-in for pate. If you don’t like liverwurst, you’re welcome to swap in some French country pate. Or leave it out altogether. There are plenty of others things going on here.
Recommend side dish: Taro chips
Makes 4 servings
Hands-on time: 25 minutes
Total preparation time: 25 minutes
3 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
One 5-inch piece seedless (English) cucumber
2 medium carrots
One 4-inch piece daikon
2 medium scallions
1 large jalapeño chile
3/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons hot chili sauce (preferably sriracha)
1 Spicy Roast Pork Tenderloin (reserved from previous recipe)
Four 6-inch baguette pieces
1/4 pound thinly sliced cooked ham
1/4 pound sliced liverwurst (optional)
1. Whisk together the rice vinegar, 2 teaspoons of sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Thinly slice enough of the reserved cucumber with the skin left on to make 1 cup. Coarsely shred (preferably using the shredding disc of a food processor) the carrots and daikon (about 3/4 cups each). Trim and slice the scallions (about 1/4 cup); halve, seed, and finely chop the jalapeño (about 2 tablespoons). Stir the cucumber, carrots, daikon, scallions, and jalapeno into the vinegar mixture.
2. Meanwhile, combine the mayonnaise with the hot chili sauce and the remaining 1 teaspoon sugar. Thinly slice the pork tenderloin.
3. Split the baguette pieces horizontally. Spread the cut surfaces with the mayonnaise mixture. On the bottom half of the baguette pieces, arrange the pork, ham, liverwurst (if using), and pickled vegetable mixture. Add the top halves of the baguette pieces and serve.
Where did we buy our banh mi sandwiches in Chinatown?
Banh Mi Saigon
198 Grand Street between Mulberry and Mott
and what a variety of delicious sandwiches do they offer!!