I grew up in Orange County, fairly close to Westminster, A.K.A. Little Saigon, where several Vietnamese individuals roam, where the fresh bread and butter is excellent, and the French Vietnamese food is absolutely divine. This time when I returned to Little Saigon, I realized the then chaotic loud Vietnamese shouting is now nostalgic music to my ears… and the Vietnamese food here is a million times better and cheaper than whatever I’ve had in L.A. Throughout my childhood upbringing, my mom and friends’ parents would bring home giant bags of spring rolls and …. the best banh mi sandwiches. Banh mi in this western region basically refers to a meat (or tofu) filled baguette with marinated vegetables that typically come with salty, sweet, sour, and spicy flavors and crunchy/soft/chewy textures.
My mom also made some of the meanest, bloodiest looking, tastiest char siu pork during my childhood. I asked her to teach me her recipe, but use pork belly. Now pork belly over pate over a baguette (fat over fat over carbs) is kind of a wonderful sin / gluttony party in the mouth. (that I craved) My mom heavily criticized me for pan frying the pork belly, and I fought with her over the dining table in defense of it being an experiment…. but we both shut up after tasting the first bite and shared a moment of complete peace and harmony and smiled. My mom and I each ate about a foot long of these sandwiches that sitting. This is an example that good food brings people together into peace and harmony.
THANK YOU so much mom and dad (and Tony) for raising and supporting me in Orange County. Thank you Vietnamese expats and friends for bringing one of the best sandwiches to America, particularly the O.C. Thank you Mr. Baguette for the delicious pate and tips on marinating. Thank you Benson from Good Afternoon, my friend from Tokyo, for especially building this optimized food blog. I hope to post recipes more consistently, document and share other fun food journeys with you all.
CHAR SIU PORK BELLY BANH MI
- 1/2 C soy sauce
- 1/3 C honey
- 1/3 C ketchup
- 1/4 C Chinese rice wing (xiaoxing wine)
- 2 tbsp. hoison sauce
- 2 tbsp. red food coloring
- 1/2 lb. boneless, skinless, fresh pork belly, fat trimmed and cut to 3/4" -1" cubes
- 1 loaf french baguette
- 1/3 C mayonnaise 1 pate
- 1 carrot
- 1 daikon
- 1 cucumber
- 1/2 C rice vinegar
- 1/2 C sugar
- 1/2 C water
- 1 small bunch cilantro
To prepare the meat, cut the pork belly into desired thicknesses and marinate it in a bowl with 1/2 C soy sauce, 1/3 C honey, 1/3 C ketchup, 1/4 C xiaoxing wine, 2 tbsp hoison sauce, and 2 tbsp. red food coloring. Cover, and marinate in the refrigerator at least 4 hours or overnight.
To prepare the vegetables,cut the carrots, daikon, and cucumbers into 1/4″ x 2″ matchsticks and stir into a bowl with the water, vinegar, and sugar. Cover, and marinate in the refrigerator at least 4 hours or overnight.
Remove the meat from the fridge. Heat a medium to large non-stick pan over a high heat. Add the oil to the pan and cook the meat about 4-5 minutes on each side.
Slice the baguette in half the long way to open it, and divide the entire baguette into thirds. Open the baguette, spread desired amount of mayonnaise and pate. Toast in oven for a few minutes.
Add desired amount of marinated vegetables. Add cilantro if desired and serve immediately.
So glad I brought this Japanese Benriner mandolin back from Japan. Although I went to architecture school, Tokyo, and cut a ton of models, I’m the worst in precision when it comes to cutting, and this from Koppabashi / kitchen town saved my life and probably yours as well. It comes with varying thicknesses in slicers as well! So enjoy.