Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Lunch Week 28: Banh Mi

So every Sunday, I head over to the kitchen to whip up a big batch of food for lunch next week. Yes, I brown bag. And I almost always do it, unless I become too busy to even buy cold cuts from the deli. I do it for several reasons being health, finance, and laziness. Now, you may think that spending hours on a day off to prep and cook five meals at once is hardly lazy. But let me remind you, I hate it when the time comes to decide what to eat for lunch every day. I work in Midtown so the choices are endless. My problem, the more choices, the harder it is for me. So it's much easier for me to have my lunch ready and already decided. So my lunch for the week: Banh Mi I was craving something Asian for lunch this week. But I didn't want to work hard in making the food. I recently had a banh mi and thought that I could make a decent version of it easily. Then it dawned on me: I can make it easily and bring it to work for lunch. I started by pickling the vegetables. I chose cucumbers, carrots, and onions. I used rice vinegar because it isn't as sour as white vinegar. It leaves a tart yet sweet taste. I sliced up an English cucumber to avoid the seeds. I salted the thin slices then poured some vinegar on top. The red onion was sliced thinly into strips. I picked a red onion because it's sweeter and the color would be a great addition. Vinegar was also added on top. The carrots were shaved into wide strips. I wanted some substance from these carrots but didn't want them to fall off the bun. Again, vinegar added. The vegetables weren't covered in vinegar. This prevents over pickling. I just wanted them tart enough but not sour. I tasted them every 30 minutes until the right tartness was achieved. Besides, as they sit in the fridge, the more sour they will get over the week. Next, the meat. I decided not to go with sliced pork roll and opted for pork chops instead. This was my twist on the cooked crumbly pork banh mi. I first made sure the pork was trimmed of excess fat. Then I sliced the thick chops in half to make thin pieces. This would allow quicker cooking and less of a chance of the marinade burning. I marinated the meat in soy sauce, fish sauce, oil, red pepper flakes, mirin, salt, and pepper. After a while, I pan seared the chops until caramelized and cooked through. Now the condiments: sriracha mayo. Just take regular mayo and that famous hot sauce and mix them together. You'll get a nice pink spread. Add hot sauce to your own taste. And the pate. I love my banh mi's with pate. I used a ready made pork pate. This small container is actually quite a lot when you take it out of the container. I mashed everything up with a fork. If it seems a little dry, add some mayo. As for bread, I chose not to use a French loaf. I used whole wheat hamburger buns instead. I wanted something a little healthier. Also, I needed bread that wouldn't harden overnight. Fresh bread will harden quickly and doesn't serve me any purpose. And of course, the cilantro. I love the freshness and flavor that this herb gives the sandwiches. The sandwiches are prepped with the condiments already on the bread. The pork chops go on the bottom of the container for microwaving. The separately wrapped bun with condiments go on top. And the picked vegetables (also separately wrapped) goes on top. Last, the cilantro (again separately wrapped). But put together it's one hell of a sandwich. The pork chops are still juicy but the marinade should have worked a little longer on the meat. Next time, I'll let it sit overnight. The pickled vegetables were a nice complement to the pork. The sriracha mayo gave everything a nice kick. Though a little too much on my bread made the sandwich a little too spicy. It almost over powered the entire thing. Unfortunately, the pate was hardly noticable especially with the spicy mayo. Surprisingly, the bread held up really well. Usually a soft bun would break apart with something hearty. But this whole wheat bun was really great.

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