In re: Bánh mì

Okay, so been a Vietnamese kick recently as the post on Pho may have hinted at, today I’ll turn our attention to bánh mì:

Bánh mì in Vietnamese refers to bread – specifically the baguette that we can thank French colonialism for introducing to Vietnam, but the name bánh mì at least here in the States also speaks to the amazing sandwich that is served on the crisp airy baguette. The basics of the bánh mì tend to include pâté spread on to the bread on one side, mayonnaise on the other, some kind of meat or protein, and a variety of veggies- often cucumber, cilantro, pickled carrots and diakon radish and here in the US jalapeños as well as a splash of Maggi seasoning.  The sandwich may sound a bit odd if you haven’t encountered it before, but trust me this is one of the most amazing combinations of flavors and textures that is not quite like anything else.  If your in downtown Columbus you can get a pretty decent one in the North Market or if you head up to Mi Li you can get a really great one.

For whatever reason I haven’t ever really tried making my own, without really planning it out I suddenly found myself with the ingredients to make my own version.  It all started when I was cleaning out a chicken to roast for dinner and wanted to do something with the liver.  Having just made a fresh baguette that was still cooling on the stove (it was Presidents Day so I had the day off and had time to bake baguettes and roast chickens and make a bánh mì.  So back to the liver, I quickly whipped up a simple pâté using the liver in a mini food processor with some bread crumbs, milk, salt, pepper and a little duck fat.  I baked the tiny pâté in a ramekin in the toaster oven in a water bath for 30 minutes and then chilled it.

Meanwhile I made some pickled carrots by slicing match sticks of carrots and putting them in a vinegar, sugar and salt mixture to quickly pickle.  My bánh mì didn’t feature a main protein (and really it doesn’t need one I learned) and if the pâté was replaced with a mushroom pâté it would be a great vegetarian sandwich.

So once everything was ready, carrots having sat in the fridge for an hour I was ready to make the sandwich.  On one side of my freshly toasted baguette I spread the pâté, layered on cucumbers, a layer of pickled carrots, some pickled hot peppers from our garden, and a bunch of cilantro.  The other side got some Kewpie mayonnaise, I didn’t have Maggi seasoning so I put a few drops of soy sauce on top of the contents and combined the two haves together.  This improvised version of bánh mì  turned out pretty awesome and was pretty simple to pull off.

bánh mì

In re: Pho

Faux pho

A couple weeks back when my fiancé was feeling under the weather and was making up some ramen (including the little packet – something I never quite developed the taste for) I decided I’d go a bit more for the flavor of Pho, but without having many ingredients or the time to make it for real, I came up with a really quick pho that was pretty good in a pinch.  With the right ingredients this could easily have turned into a bit less faux pho without much more work.  Really all I was doing was infusing stock (in this case chicken, but for pho bo, my preference you’d use beef stock).  Into the chicken stock I put in some of the standard elements (the ones I had on hand) – cinnamon sticks, slices of fresh ginger, star anise, fish sauce and sugar and let that all simmer on the stove.  I didn’t really have any of the garnishes aside from some cilantro and dropping in the ramen noodles and splashing on some hoisin sauce and siracha but in a quick pinch it filled in for pho.

Pho

So also on the pho front here in Columbus I’ve had a couple recent trips to Pho Asian noodle House & Grill (1288 W. Lane Ave., Columbus, OH 43221 – info on yelp) which is a mixture of mostly Chinese food (despite the name) and Vietnamese.  The people who run it are super nice and despite the building being an old Taco Bell the place transcends its former self (I should mention that they still have the drive through and its operational – yes you can get Pho, good pho at that, through a drive up window).  Anyway, its quick, pretty cheap and good.  The roast duck noodle soup is awesome as is their standard pho and their pad thai (I guess they do have more than Chinese and Vietnamese) was good as well.

 

Buckeye Pho Asian Kitchen (761 Bethel Rd. Set E195, Columbus, OH 43235 in front of  the Micro Center )  – seems to be a recent addition (not sure how old it is the place appears to be brand new – the interior is spotless and super bright) to the thankfully growing Vietnamese dining scene in Columbus I think I heard it was somewhat related (relatives or the like) to the owners of Mi Li Cafe a great spot for awesome Bahn Mi and while Buckeye Pho comes through with really good Bahn Mi (like Mi Li they make their own mayo and pate and it all comes on the super crispy baguette to seal the deal).  The difference from Mi Li are pretty obvious starting just with the name, which is carried through on with a wall covered with buckeyes and an OSU color scheme.  The other thing that sets Buckeye Pho apart is the sports bar appearance of the place.  3 huge TVs overlook a long bar in the middle of the place – but don’t let these throw you as it is decidedly not a sports bar and the food is awesome and the owners/staff are super nice.  Their special pho was fantastic, including all the various types of beef they have (you can order specific versions with just what you want if your trying to avoid something, like say tripe which comes in the special version).  So far it seemed like they have a nice reception, the night we were there it was packed but with quick service they were turning the tables over quickly so we barely had to wait to get seated.