The cuisine of Vietnam may be the original ‘Asian fusion’, combining the culinary tradition of colonial France with the flavours, produce and traditions of the native Vietnamese. This sandwich ranks as one of the world’s best, in my opinion. Rich mayo and chicken liver pate combine with savoury cold cuts, pickles and spice. Top it off with fresh cilantro and you’ve got a balanced, delicious winner. The headcheese is one of the coolest looking charcuteries I’ve ever made and adds a unique snap to the bite on account of the ear cartilage and black wood ear mushroom. The chicken mortadella is dead easy to make and, boiled in banana leaf, is a nice, silky addition to the cold cut mix. Processing it will surely remind you of the ‘pink slime’ that is the scourge of fast food restaurant nuggets and patties. Rest assured that this version is not washed in ammonia.
The charcuterie is adapted from the work of the incomparable cookbook author, Andrea Nguyen, who writes some of the simplest yet tastiest recipes I know. Her books are a fountainhead of information on Asian home cooking. The chicken liver mousse is a dumbed-down knock off of Montrealer, James Maguire’s famous recipe without the straining and water baths.
It may seem daunting to spend 2 days making a humble sandwich, but I promise you a rewarding and interesting cooking experience, not to mention a bánh mì sandwich that is unlike anything you’ll likely get outside of Saigon.
- assorted Vietnamese style charcuterie (recipes below)
- mayo (preferably kewpie)
- sriracha hot sauce
- pickled carrot and daikon (recipe below)
- baguette, cut into 7 inch lengths and sliced almost all the way through
- Warm the baguette in a 300F oven.
- Spread mayo on both sides.
- Spread chicken liver mousse on the bottom half, followed by a selection of cold cuts.
- Add pickles, hot sauce, and cilantro.
Vietnamese style charcuterie
Garlicky Stuffed Ham Hock (Bánh mì thịt ở) ~ Andrea Nguyen
- 1 skin-on boneless ham hock or shank, about 2 pounds
- 3 or 4 drops red food coloring mixed with 1 teaspoon of water
- Boiling water
- 3 large cloves garlic, finely minced and mashed with the broad side of a knife
- 1 tsp black peppercorns, dry toasted until fragrant and coarsely ground
- 2 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1/4 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
- Remove any hairs you might find on the hock. Remove the nasty, chewy piece of tendon that looks like a bit of squid ring. Halve the hock into half pound sections about 6 inches long.
- Mix a paste with the garlic, peppercorns, salt, sugar, and Chinese 5 spice. Rub it into every crevice on the meat side of the hock. Flip it over and paint the skin side with the diluted red food colouring with your fingers
- Preheat an over to 375F. Roll each of your hock pieces into tight foil tubes.
- Put the rolls, seam side up, in a baking dish filled with 1/4 inch of boiling water. Bake for an hour and half or until the internal temperature of the rolls is 170F. Transfer rolls to a plate and let cool completely.
- Refrigerate for 8 hours or up to overnight before unwrapping. Slice the cold rolls as thinly as possible to avoid chewiness.
Vietnamese-style Headcheese (giò thủ) ~ Andrea Nguyen
- 1/2 lb pig ears (2 medium-large ears)
- 1/2 lb pork tongue (1 small)
- 1/2 lb kin-on boneless ham hock or shank
- 1 small yellow onion, halved
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1 tsp canola
- 3 or 4 dried wood ear mushrooms (aka black fungus), reconstituted, trimmed and cut into 1/4-inch-wide strips
- 2 pieces fresh or thawed, frozen banana leaf, one 4 inches square and one 5 x 12 inches, trimmed of brown edges, rinsed, and wiped dry
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 1/4 plus 1/8 tsp black pepper
- Remove any hair from ears and shank.
- Boil the ears and tongue in salted water for 5 minutes. Drain and rinse well with cold water. Set the ears aside and remove the white top layer of the tongue with a sharp knife. There is no need to remove the bottom layer.
- Return the tongue and ears to the saucepan. Add the hock, onion, 2 tsp salt, and water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat and boil for 45 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside for 45 minutes to cool.
- Meanwhile, prepare a thick egg sheet in a non-stick skillet. Quarter the egg sheet and cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips. Set aside with the wood ear mushrooms.
- Prepare an empty 20 oz can (preferably unribbed) to be used as a mold. Using the bottom of the can as a guide, cut a circle from the banana leaf. Drop it into the bottom of the can. Cut a piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil and shape it by wrapping it around the outside of the can. Line the can with the foil and then the rest of the banana leaf. Make sure it is all quite snug.
- Remove the ears, tongue, and ham hock from the pan. Discard the broth. Halve each ear piece lengthwise and cut the pieces into scant 1/2-inch-wide-strips. Halve the tongue lengthwise and scrape out any dark, soft bits lingering in the centre. Cut each half crosswise into 1/4-inch thick pieces. Slice the pork shank into domino-sized pieces about 1/4 inch think.
- Put all the meats into a nonstick skillet and place over medium heat. Stir and lower heat when brown. The ears will release their gelatin and the white cartilage will become more visable. Keep stirring to coax more gelatin out. After 10 minutes or so, the mixture will become tacky. Add the egg and mushroom pieces and continue cooking until they are tacky. Sprinkle in the fish sauce and pepper and keep cooking until the ingredients are tacky agai. Remove from the heat. Taste and add 1 or 2 big pinches of salt, but don’t dilute the gelatin with more fish sauce.
- Transfer the mixture to the can pushing down as you go to compact it. Fold the foil down to close the top and press firmly to compact. Weigh it down with a few pounds of cans. When completely cool, remove the weights and refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.
- Unmold by removing the bottom of the can with an opener. Push out with another small can. Remove the foil but keep the banana leaf until serving time to maintain aroma. Stop refrigerated for a week or freeze for up to a month.
Vietnamese mortadella (giò lụa) ~ Andrea Nguyen
- 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
- 1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless, chicken thighs
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- 2 tbsp tapioca or corn starch
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 5 tbsp fish sauce
- 3 tbsp canola oil
- Slice the breasts and thighs across the grain into 1/4-inch thick strips. Trim any sinew, but leave the fat.
- Mix the rest of the ingredients, mix in the chicken and marinate, refrigerated for at least 8 hours.
- Puree in a food processor until a smooth, stiff, light pink paste forms.
- Place a large section of banana leaf on a similarly sized piece of aluminum foil. Spoon the chicken paste onto the banana leaf in a long, thick log. Roll it all up tight like a big stogie, closing the ends. Tie it up nice and tight like this guy does: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UcgMtjtkeSg
- Boil that baby for about 40 minutes until the internal temperature is 180F. The foil will darken and the sausage will expand. That’s why you tied it up!
- Let cool completely before untying and removing the foil. Halve the sausage lengthwise and thinly slice.
Chicken Liver Mousse ~ James Maguire
- 8 oz (227 g) chicken livers
- 1 can coconut milk
- 1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt
- 1/2 tsp (2 mL) pepper
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) chopped shallots
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 3 tbsp (45 mL) sherry or brandy
- Separate lobes of livers, removing any connective tissue and fat; sprinkle with half each of the salt and pepper and soak in coconut milk.
- In skillet, melt 1 tbsp of the butter over medium heat; cook shallots, stirring often, until softened, about 5 minutes. Push to side of pan.
- Melt 2 tsp of the remaining butter in same pan over medium-high heat; cook livers, turning once, until just a hint of pink remains in centre of thickest part, about 3 minutes. Add sherry; cook for 30 seconds.
- Scrape into food processor; whirl until smooth. Let cool slightly in processor. Cut 1/4 cup of the remaining butter into pieces. With food processor running, drop in butter, piece by piece and waiting until combined before adding next piece. Sprinkle in remaining salt and pepper; whirl until shiny, about 1 minute.
- Scrape into litre containers.
- Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate until needed.
Daikon and Carrot Pickle (đồ chua) ~ J. Kenji Lopez-Alt
- 1 large carrot, peeled, shredded on a Benriner or mandoline
- 1 medium daikon radish, peeled, shredded on a Benriner or mandoline
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
- Combine carrots, radish, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Using fingertips, massage salt and sugar into vegetables until dissolved. Add water and rice vinegar. Pack vegetables into a quart-sized mason jar. Pickles can be used immediately, or for best results, seal jar and refrigerate at least overnight and up to 1 week.