As discussed in my recipe for phở tái, Vietnam was once a French colony from the mid 19th century to the mid 20th century. Although French have long been driven out of the country, French cuisine has left a permanent footprint on Vietnamese cooking – this is no more evident than in bánh mì, a fusion food that combines French bread and pâté with the Vietnamese love for bright flavors and crisp, fresh vegetables. Bánh mì is a Vietnamese term that refers specifically to bread, but the name has become synonymous with a style of sandwich that features a baguette, some type of meat filling, pickled vegetables, sliced chiles, cucumbers, and cilantro. The flavor profile of bánh mì is singularly light, bold, and refreshing, and like phở, makes a strong case for Vietnamese cuisine to be among the best in the world.
Because of its status as a fusion food, recipe development for bánh mì is convenient in that there is no standard of authenticity to adhere to – as long as there is a baguette, some combination of common ingredients, and a savory filling, it can be called bánh mì. Andrea Nguyen, in her excellent guide to making bánh mì, confirms that most Vietnamese home cooks do not bake their own baguettes, as it’s more convenient and inexpensive to buy them from the bakery. Rice flour baguettes are also not a necessity, and the main things that you should be looking for at the market are crisp breads that are not overly crusty or chewy.
This recipe is part of a series on cooking dishes from every component of a butchered duck, and draws from what was likely the original iteration of bánh mì in the early 20th century: a baguette smeared with liver pâté and nothing more. The giblets – the heart, gizzards, and liver – that are typically found stuffed in the cavity of a whole duck are used to make a simple pâté that may not look impressive but is quite flavorful. Instead of the traditional herbes de provence, a combination of fish sauce, lemongrass, shallots, ginger, and garlic are substituted in for a distinctly Vietnamese flair.
The assembly of the bánh mì itself is quite simple after the pâté is made – slice the baguette, smear the pâté onto one side of the bread, and add pickled vegetable strips, sliced chiles, sliced cucumbers, and a few sprigs of cilantro. Sriracha mayonnaise (yes, contrary to most restaurant menus in the country, mixing Sriracha sauce with mayonnaise produces a flavored mayonnaise, not an aioli) can be made by combining mayonnaise with honey and Sriracha sauce in a proportion to your liking. Pickled daikon and carrot (Đồ Chua) can easily be prepared by slicing thin matchsticks and immersing them in a solution of rice vinegar, salt, and sugar. A batch of pickled vegetables will last for weeks in the refrigerator, allowing you to make bánh mì anytime you wish.
bánh mì // duck giblet pâté + sriracha mayonnaise
- 2 baguettes, preferably breads with thin, crispy crusts
- 2 chile peppers, sliced
- 4 sprigs of cilantro, with the stems trimmed to no more than 1″
- 1 cucumber, sliced
Duck Giblet Pâté:
- Giblets of 1 duck, approximately 100 – 150 grams
- 2 tbsp duck fat or butter
- 2 shallots, minced
- 2-3 gloves of garlic, minced
- 1 stalk of lemongrass, minced
- 1″ strip of ginger, minced
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 3-4 tbsp Shaoxing cooking wine, rice wine, or dry sherry
Pickled daikon and carrot (Đồ Chua):
- 2-3 carrots, peeled and sliced into thin 3-4″ strips
- 1 medium daikon, peeled and sliced into thin 3-4″ strips
- 1 cup water
- ½ cup rice vinegar
- 1 tbsp salt
- 4 tbsp sugar
- ½ cup Kewpie mayonnaise
- 2-4 tbsp of Sriracha sauce or other chile garlic sauce
- 2-4 tbsp of honey
At least an hour before making the bánh mì, combine the pickled daikon and carrot ingredients in a mason jar or other container and set aside in the refrigerator.
Rinse the giblets with cold water and dice into small, 1″ cubes. Peel the outer layers of the lemongrass and mince the bulb and lower portion of the stalk. Heat 2 tbsp of butter or rendered duck fat in a skillet under medium heat, and sauté the minced lemongrass, shallots, garlic, and ginger until aromatic, about 2-3 minutes. Add the diced giblets and continue to sauté until the giblets are browned all over. Season with salt, pepper, and 1 tbsp of fish sauce.
Transfer the contents of the skillet to a food processor, and pulse the blades repeatedly, stopping occasionally to scrape the pâté off the side of the wall. Drizzle 3-4 tbsp of Shaoxing cooking wine and continue to run the food processor until the pâté becomes a smooth paste. Transfer the pâté to a new container and use immediately or set aside in the refrigerator. The pâté will keep for up to 3-4 days.
Mix the Kewpie mayonnaise, Sriracha sauce, and honey in a proportion to your liking. Slice open the baguettes and smear the pâté on the bread. Spread the Sriracha mayonnaise on the other side of the bread, and add sliced chile peppers, sliced cucumbers, pickled daikon and carrot, and cilantro sprigs to each sandwich.
The pâté will stiffen up when it chills in the refrigerator. I would consider adding 4-5 tbsp of heavy cream or coconut milk to get it to that mushy, spreadable consistency in the final food processor step if it is looking dry or crumbly.