Today I feel like taking a trip down memory lane. I don't know what it is, but come October, I get in this nostalgic mode. Perhaps it's all the upcoming holidays stirring up memories or the fact that the year is almost over! Wow...can't believe it... The first time I ever had a Vietnamese banh mi sandwich was in high school. While my memories are starting to escape me (NOOO!!), those associated with food seem to have a permanent place in my brain. You know what I'm talking about ;). I can still remember the day when I first tasted the exotic sandwiches called Banh Mi (I didn't eat sandwiches much growing up so any that I ate were life-changing). They were all the rage back then, along with pho (a.k.a the ultimate hangover cure), spring rolls, boba drinks... and of course, being a teenager, I had to stay with the trend.
The sandwich was unlike anything I'd had before. Each ingredient had a purpose in creating that perfect balance - the crunchy baguette, pickled veggies, marinated grilled pork, buttery spread, fresh cucumber and jalapeno slices - and even if only one component had been missing, the experience just would not have been the same. After years of hating on cilantro, I've come to realize that it, too, has a place between the bread. While they're still inexpensive, I long for the days when they were only like $3 and made for the perfect fuel before SAT prep class (Testmasters, anyone?). I long for many things...
While the Hungryman is still obsessed with these sandwiches, ever since he fainted on his face and broke one of his front teeth (a traumatic experience that left him with a dental implant and crown many years ago), the sharp edges of the bread seem to bother him. I always poke fun at him for not being able to eat fruits whole or whenever he looks like a chipmunk due to the intense chewing he does with his side teeth. I need to work on being a more sensitive wife and not say things like "what are you? 5??" every time I have to cut up an apple for him.
So instead of a baguette, I invited crisp green lettuce to the party. Some planning ahead is highly advised as the pickled daikon and carrots taste better and better over time. I like to make them at least 2 days before serving. I failed sightly as I realized I didn't have a jar to store them in until after I had prepared them. Thus, the good ol' zip-loc bag came to my rescue once again.
I sure hope you like fish sauce! Even if you think you don't like it, you may change your mind after trying these pickled veggies and meatballs. It's funny bc both my mom and my mother-in-law refer to it as the 3 crabs sauce (pictured above). Apparently, it's the best one out there.
The star of this salad for me was the Asian turkey meatball! So succulent, full-bodied, and perfectly savory and spicy. I'm going to make a double batch next time and throw them into rice bowls, noodles, wraps, etc. If you want to turn this salad into a real banh mi, just purchase a French baguette next time you're at the market/bakery and you're set ;).
Pickled daikon and carrots
- 2 cups shredded daikon
- 2 cups shredded carrots
- ¼ cup rice vinegar
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1.5 lb lean ground turkey I used 93% lean
- 6 garlic cloves minced
- 3 green onions finely chopped
- ⅓ cup basil finely chopped
- 3 Tbs fresh cilantro minced
- 2 Tbs fish sauce
- 1 Tbs sriracha
- 1 Tbs sugar
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1 Tbs sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon salt and pepper
- 3 Tbs low-sodium soy sauce
- 1 ½ Tbs honey
- 3 Tbs sesame oil
- 3 Tbs canola oil
- For the pickled vegetables: Stir all the ingredients to blend in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight. The longer the mixture sits, the more the flavor develops. I sometimes make this 2 days in advance.
- For the meatballs: Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl. Scoop individual meatballs using an ice cream scooper. Arrange in a single layer in a baking dish. Bake in a 350 F oven for 40 min or until nicely browned and cooked through.
- For the dressing: mix all ingredients until well-blended