Momofuku week, Bánh mì
Bánh mì holds a very special place in my childhood, being one of my first and most vivid flavor memories. My favorite sandwich shop is still the one my mom bought from when I was little, despite somewhat falling by the wayside next to trendier shops like Seattle Deli. I only ever order the traditional cold cut sandwich, with extra pâté, untoasted. I attribute my love of liver products to this early exposure to chicken liver pâté.
Following a trip to New York, one of my friends declared the Momofuku bánh mì the best bánh mì he had ever eaten, but until I can plan a trip, the recipe in the Momofuku cookbook will have to suffice…and it more than lives up to its reputation. The two terrines, chicken liver and ham, described in the book are dead simple to make (“easier than making meatloaf”, says Chang), and they make enough for probably 20+ sandwiches. I’ve read conflicting reports as to whether a third terrine, a veal headcheese, is included in the restaurant sandwich (Chang writes that they no longer use it). Either way, I wish they had put that recipe in the book!
Using only the two terrines still yields a bánh mì worthy of comparison to the sandwiches from my youth. The ham terrine, a “ghetto-simplified and lightly Vietnamesed jambon persillé“, scented with bay leaf, star anise, and cinnamon is a great foundation to built the rest of the sandwich on. The chicken liver terrine, heavily seasoned with fish sauce and five-spice powder, tames the liver funk with ground pork. The two together are earthy, meaty, and delicious.
If I had to pick a favorite ingredient out of a bánh mì (very difficult because the sandwich is so balanced if made correctly), it would have to be the pickled daikon. I remember picking them out and eating them by themselves when I was little. They are so simple to make, I can’t imagine not having a jar of them in my fridge. (Post on pickles upcoming.) Along with the pickles, Chang calls for Kewpie mayonnaise, sriracha, and cilantro. A note about Kewpie: it’s the best mayonnaise in the world! I love that Chang uses a store-bought mayonnaise at his restaurants. He knows when something is good and not to be messed with.
This is probably my favorite recipe from the cookbook. It really hits a personal note, and I will never tire of a good bánh mì. The first day I made the terrines I ate three sandwiches and have had one a day since then. It’s that good.