The high-pitched, strange refrain is the official dinner bell at the Blankenhaus. Nums are all delicious things: little snacks, multi-course dinners, leftover pizza in the fridge. Used in a sentence: "Will you make me a num?" It's one of those stupid married people words that would probably bug the crap out of anyone else in the vicinity.
But it did give me a strong affinity for one team when I was watching the Great Food Truck Race on Food Network. I don't know how we ended up watching the show; we both have a strong aversion to the reality show garbage they've been turning out lately. Cupcake Wars, 24 Hour Restaurant Battle, Family Style... ugh, it's horrible. What ever happened to Mario Batali just standing there, cooking? Sandra Lee and Rachael Ray came a-whorin', that's what. But that's a rant for another day.
I think it's the lead-in for Iron Chef, so we ended up catching it. And I fell in love with the Nom Nom truck, first for the name, and then for the great sandwiches they kept handing out to lucky people in fancier (and east-er) metropolitan areas. Crusty, fresh French baguettes overflowing with Asian-style vegetables and meatballs. Umm, yum! It sounded fabulous, and I'm sure there's some cool little dives and food carts downtown serving them up, but with the frequency I get out there (especially for kart-happy lunchtime), new nums didn't seem meant to be.
Until this weekend, when I was going through that big old recipe file (the one with the pork roast, and everything else delicious that I save). Apparently banh mi caught my eye this January, when I was flipping through Bon Appetit. There was the recipe, part of their special Meatball Madness spread.
I think I should just draw a recipe out of that massive file every week and make it, no questions asked. I've got so many hidden treasures I've never tried in there, but when I go through them, they just kind of get lost in a thick fog of possibilities and ingredients. I'll have to get Matt on board... although I'm a little concerned over how many "do-overs" he might call over the draw. Keep trying, and you'll get that gouda and bacon macaroni and cheese eventually!
Banh Mis are a fascinating hybrid of Vietnamese and French cuisines. How they ended up together I don't know... but according to Chowhound, it has something to do with savvy Vietnamese chefs selling them to appeal to French colonists. Meats change, but the tasty pickled vegetables, toothsome bread and tangy mayonnaise are constants.
The only major change I made to the Bon Appetit recipe was using nonfat Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise to downplay the fat. I could've been extra-saintly and used ground turkey, but I wanted them to taste a smidge authentic. Matt says I used too much sriracha. I say he's a weiner.
For Me? Banh Me!
HOT CHILI MAYO
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 2 green onions, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon sriracha
- 1 lb ground pork
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 green onions, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tbsp sriracha
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 2 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 tsp pepper
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup coarsely grated carrots
- 1 cup coarsely chopped cabbage
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 4 individual baguettes or 2 long baguettes
- cilantro sprigs for topping
Hot Chili Mayo: Stir all ingredients in a small bowl. Season with salt. Chill.
Meatballs: Gently mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Using moistened hands, roll meat mixture into small, 1" meatballs. Arrange on a baking sheet (if you have a baking stone, use that). Bake for 25 minutes at 325 degrees.
Sandwiches: Toss 1st five ingredients in a medium bowl. Let stand at room temperature for an hour.
Cut each baguette or baguette piece in half. Pull out enough bread from each bread half to leave 1/2 inch-thick shell. Spread hot chili mayo over each bread shell. Arrange cilantro in bottom halves. Fill each with 1/4 of the meatballs. Drain pickled cabbage and carrots; arrange on top of meatballs. Press on baguette tops.