Caramelized Pork Bánh Mì Sandwiches

Well, Kramer and I finally saw The Phantom Menace in 3D last night for Valentine’s Day (isn’t that romantic). I have to be honest; I was pretty disappointed with the 3D quality. I expected more for Industrial Light and Magic! I know that the movie wasn’t shot with 3D in mind, but still, when you advertise “Star Wars in 3D” I at least expect to be somewhat impressed. It wasn’t quite worth the mild headache that 3D movies usually give me, but it was definitely fun to see it in theaters again, especially the pod racer scene and the Darth Maul fight scene with Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn. I have to say, though, Qui-Gon Jinn was kind of dressed like The Dude from The Big Lebowski, including the haircut. I never noticed it before, but the realization made the movie a little bit better, I think.

So, here’s the other thing about Kramer and me: We’re off to Aruba tomorrow! I am beyond excited. I can’t wait to lay on a beach, drinking cocktails out of coconuts. That’s standard in Aruba, right? Anyway, I will be taking the next week or so off to enjoy my vacation, but I wanted to leave you with something fun and delicious, hence the bánh mì. These Vietnamese sandwiches are “so hot” right now in New York, but they’ve been around for ages, as it is the result of French colonialism in Vietnam and the surrounding countries. You take a French baguette, stuff it with Vietnamese ingredients, and you’ve got yourself a bánh mì. I figured that we would start off with a simple combination: Vietnamese caramelized pork with pickled vegetables and plenty of hot chili paste. I was able to utilize my pickled red onions in this recipe, along with some other pickled vegetables, and I have to say, Kramer and I devoured these sandwiches faster than most things, that’s for sure. There’s just something about taking a big, hearty bite out of one of these giant bánh mìs. The best part is that there are a million different variations of this sandwich. You can use all vegetables and/or tofu, for instance, for a vegetarian version, or you can use chicken, fish or beef. There are even versions with a pork pate, which I plan to get around to making soon enough, that are even more delicious. The caramelized pork can be eaten on its own, too, with some rice, but I highly recommend treating yourself to a crusty baguette for this Vietnamese treat.

Caramelized Pork Bánh Mì Sandwiches
First, quickly pickle your radishes and carrots.

Caramelized Pork Bánh Mì Sandwiches
Combine your sugar, vinegar, water, and peppercorns and heat over medium-high until the sugar is dissolved.

Caramelized Pork Bánh Mì Sandwiches
Thinly slice your carrots into matchsticks and slice your radishes.

Caramelized Pork Bánh Mì Sandwiches
Add them to a jar or sealable container.

Caramelized Pork Bánh Mì Sandwiches
Pour the liquid over the vegetables and refrigerate for at least 6 hours.

Caramelized Pork Bánh Mì Sandwiches
Now for your pork.

Caramelized Pork Bánh Mì Sandwiches
Saute your shallots.

Caramelized Pork Bánh Mì Sandwiches
Then add in your garlic.

Caramelized Pork Bánh Mì Sandwiches
Then add in your pork.

Caramelized Pork Bánh Mì Sandwiches
Meanwhile, combine your sugar and water and stir over high heat until it turns a golden brown color, about 8 minutes.

Caramelized Pork Bánh Mì Sandwiches
Add your fish sauce, water, and caramel to your pork, then stir to combine.

Caramelized Pork Bánh Mì Sandwiches
Cover, then continue to cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

Caramelized Pork Bánh Mì Sandwiches
Until it looks like this.

Caramelized Pork Bánh Mì Sandwiches
Then remove the lid and broil for 2-3 minutes for a nice, crispy char.

Caramelized Pork Bánh Mì Sandwiches
Get your sandwich ready by spreading a bit of mayo, hot chili paste, cucumbers, pickled carrots, pickled radishes, and pickled red onions.

Caramelized Pork Bánh Mì Sandwiches
Serve and enjoy!

Caramelized Pork Bánh Mì Sandwiches
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
For the Carrots and Radishes:
  • 3-4 carrots, peeled and cut thinly into matchsticks
  • 8-10 radishes, cleaned and sliced thinly
  • 3½ cups water
  • 5 tablespoons distilled vinegar
  • 5 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
For the Caramelized Pork:
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large shallots or 1 sweet onion, minced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 pounds pork shoulder or butt, cut into bite-sized cubes
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1¼ cup water
  • ¾ teaspoon black peppercorns
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
To Assemble the Bánh Mì Sandwiches:*
  • 4 small baguettes, toasted and sliced or 1 large baguette, cut into 4 pieces, toasted, and sliced
  • pickled carrots (recipe above)
  • pickled radishes (recipe above)
  • pickled red onions
  • thinly sliced cucumber
  • hot chili paste or Sriracha
  • mayonnaise
  • cilantro
  • caramelized pork (recipe above)
  • *All of these ingredients can be interchanged/left out/added to - make this sandwich into whatever you like!
For the Carrots and Radishes:
  1. Bring your water, vinegar, sugar, salt, and peppercorns to a boil. Place your vegetables in a jar or sealable container, then pour the liquid over the vegetables. Seal the lid and place in the refrigerator. Let sit for at least 6 hours, or as long as a few days, as the flavor will develop the longer that they sit.
For the Caramelized Pork:
  1. First, you need to make your caramel. Place your sugar and 3 tablespoons of water in a small pot over high heat, and stirring frequently, cook until it becomes a dark golden color, about 5-8 minutes. You need to be sure to do this over high heat, because if the heat is too low, the sugar will crystalize instead of caramelize. When the sugar has caramelized, set aside until ready to use.
  2. Heat your olive oil over medium heat in a large, heavy bottomed pot or pan with a lid. Add in your minced shallots, and saute for about 5 minutes, until translucent. Add in the garlic, and cook for 1 minute, stirring the entire time. Add in the pork and cook for 8-10 minutes, until browned on all sides.
  3. Add in the fish sauce, cook for 3-5 minutes, until it has cooked off, then add in the water, peppercorns, and salt. Stir to combine, turn the heat to medium-low, and add in the caramel. Cover the pork and cook for another 50-60 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, until the pork is tender and the sauce has reduced. When your pork is ready, turn your oven to broil and put the pan in there to crisp up the pork; the sugar will caramelize beautifully, but watch it, because it will only take about 1-2 minutes under the broiler before it starts to burn.
  1. Spread some mayo and hot chili paste or Sriracha on each sandwich, and top with pickled vegetables, cucumbers, cilantro, and your caramelized pork. Slice and serve.


25 Responses

  1. Anthony says:

    Banh Mis are very popular here in LA. As a Vietnamese student-employee of mine once said, “God bless the French for conquering us; they did wonders for our cuisine.” :)

    Enjoy the vacation!

    • Sydney says:

      Vietnamese cuisine is truly incredible – it definitely combines all the best parts of Asian and European traditions, and I haven’t even touched on Vietnamese iced coffee yet…oh man.

      • Ben says:

        vietnamese iced coffee is sick. damnit, now i want one.

        i’ll commend you for being brave enough to try your hand at banh mis. the ones here are only good, not great, and it’s probably the only thing that makes me long a little for being back in texas.

  2. Deanna B says:

    I have some great bahn mi places near my house so I never make them at home. I can get my favorite grilled pork (with extra veggies and jalapenos) for $3. My favorite place mixes the pate in with their mayonnaise. The caramelized pork looks amazing!

    Enjoy Aruba, and eat lots of conch and other shellfish!

  3. Rhonda says:

    That sandwich looks awesome, have a great trip!

  4. Megan says:

    oh man, I’d love this! Looks super good.

  5. CV says:

    This looks delish!

    Random question- Did you use red radishes because you were unable to find daikon? The pickeled veggies in banh mi’s are usually daikon and carrots :)

    • Sydney says:

      Yeah, I know, but you’re right – I couldn’t find ’em at the bodega near my apartment (haha) – so I substituted as best I could. Feel free to exchange the radishes for daikon! You can use turnips, too.

  6. Becky says:

    I’m sure many prepared dishes I’ve eaten had fish sauce in them. Even still, with me not being a seafood fan, I’m afraid to try any recipe that includes fish sauce. Can I skip it, or should I just get over my fear of fish sauce?

  7. Wow – that carmelized pork looks amazing…love these sandwiches! What a great idea to try them at home!

  8. Megan says:

    Oh man. This looks super-good. I just recently ordered a sandwich like this out and then promptly saw this recipe and sent it to my boyfriend. Pork is his favorite. I can’t wait to be able to eat this at home!

  9. Anon says:

    Sigh, Bahn Mi has been so Westernised these days. Traditionally, the Banh Mi has a butter (almost aioli-like) layer under all the vegetables and meat, and then is finished with chilli oil and soy sauce. Nonetheless, I’m grateful that their popularity has increased so I can get one virtually anywhere!

  10. I love your homemade version of banh-mi. I mean, you’re using real pork! I know that sounds absolutely ridiculous but I’ve had it at the restaurants and they use some questionable weird boloney-looking meats!

  11. […] ½ lb pork loin marinated, using this recipe marinade for pork banh mi […]

  12. says:

    Not too shabby! Wait, that’s not right. What I meant to say is, “Oh this is tasty!”

    I made this recipe almost exactly as described (It drives me nuts when people say, “This recipe is just okay. I replaced the pork with seitan, left out the fish sauce and substituted a few packets of Equal, instead of carrots and radishes I used celery and plantains, and I doubled the sugar and halved the pepper corns. It really wasn’t that good!”). The only change I made is that I pickled daikon instead of radishes.

    I burnt my caramel the first time (it happened all of a sudden!). The second time, the caramel looked good, but it became a solid by the time I was ready to add it to then pork. A little heat fixed that issue.

    There was a LOT of liquid left after my pork had simmered for the better part of an hour. It was quite tender, so I just strained it and placed it under the broiler.

    My wife (who is decidedly Vietnamese) was pleased. And so was I.

    Oh, I might mention: these quantities make more like 6 sandwiches. Well, I guess it depends on the size of your sandwich. I make mine relatively small… 6 inches of bread or so.

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