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How I Wrote an Entire Book on Banh Mi

My career as a cookbook author is one that my family and friends are proud of but also slightly mystified by, especially with regard to my latest project. “You have to work so hard to come up with ideas and then get people to pay you for them. It is amazing that you did this,” my 80-year-old mom marveled. I’d just handed her a copy of "The Banh Mi Handbook", released in July by Ten Speed Press. Mom wasn’t damning me with faint praise. She was surprised at what I’d produced.

“Isn’t your new book going to be like a pamphlet?” a friend repeatedly asked during the year or so that it took me to write the book. He’s extremely bright and knowledgeable about food but couldn’t figure out how I planned to pull off a whole cookbook devoted to banh mi.

Like many others, he assumed that banh mi basically boiled down to the dac biet (“DACK bee-yet”) special combo sandwich involving a crisp baguette filled with liver pate and thin slices of Viet-style cold cuts (usually mortadella-like sausage, stained glass-like headcheese, and pinkish garlicky pork), pickled daikon and carrot, cucumber, cilantro and chile. What else would I have to share aside from the limited number of dac biet derivatives seen at many Vietnamese delis where the sandwiches are sold?

My friend’s skepticism didn’t insult me as much as it flummoxed me: I never thought that I could not write a whole book on banh mi. If there are books on hamburgers, why not banh mi? I’d eaten the signature Vietnamese sandwich since childhood and tinkered with enough of them to know that they could go in many directions. Plus, I noticed that a new generation of Vietnamese and non-Vietnamese chefs, cafes and restaurants were offering banh mi riffs as well as excellent traditional ones too.

Daring banh mi seemed to be in many places. In Portland, Oregon, a banh mi shop opened on the same block as a McDonald’s; Lardo, the city’s super popular sandwich shop, presented banh mi on a ciabatta roll and it worked just as well as baguette. At Baoguette in Manhattan, a sloppy Joe-style banh mi contained pickled papaya. A handful of vendors in Vietnam were offering Turkish-German-Viet doner kebab banh mi.

Steamed Chinese buns stuffed with banh mi filling and old-school canned sardine banh mi were among the options at Saigon Sisters in Chicago. In a 2011 listing of the best new sandwiches in America, "Huffington Post" included Seattle’s Baguette Box and its new wave “drunken chicken” banh mi filled with a General Tso-ish chicken. In Los Angeles at Good Girl Dinette, chef/restaurateur Diep Tran concocted a cilantro Maggi mayonnaise for her banh mi and fries. Meanwhile, the iconic dac biet continued to expand its fan base beyond people of Viet heritage.

Surveying the situation, I wondered this: Could I tell the story and inspire the future of Vietnamese food in America via banh mi? Sandwiches are universal and easy for people to wrap their heads around. Since banh mi’s popularity was on the rise, there was an opportunity for nudging Vietnamese food from its ethnic margin closer to the mainstream center.

To that end, I planned the book so that the chapters and recipes helped readers understand the arc of Vietnamese food. "The Banh Mi Handbook" opens with a brief history of the sandwich, from its hyphenated Southeast Asian roots as an amalgam of native, foreign, and colonial ideas to being part of today’s global food culture. Then the book swiftly moves into practical tips for gathering the ingredients and building fabulous banh mi. The bulk of the book contains a diverse recipe collection that includes classics and modern condiments, pickles, and fillings.

There’s authenticity but also tons of riffs and encouragement to tweak. Cultural and culinary tidbits were slipped into the recipes to help cooks build a foundation for understanding Vietnamese foodways. I also included tips that recipe testers suggested too. (I don’t work in a vacuum and value their feedback; recipes are developed by me and tested by others.)

My earlier cookbooks were landmarks and a little serious, requiring a lot of research. The banh mi book was written with just as much care but is more fun (it’s a sandwich!), uses ingredients cooks can find at supermarkets, and the recipes are deliciously doable. My publisher and I decided to make the book’s shape to match that of the sandwich. The iPad-like smallish size makes it portable but I also tucked cooking tips into sidebars and sections called “Notes.”

Like pho noodle soup, banh mi is customizable and personal. There’s a banh mi for every person and moment. To echo that notion, I made sure to offer recipes for meaty as well as vegetarian and vegan cooks. Banh mi for the gluten-free? Yes, make banh mi lettuce wraps. How about eggless mayonnaise? I spent a week fooling around in my kitchen to make that happen. Can’t find or dislike daikon for the pickle? Use a substitute or select a different pickle among the handful of pickle recipes, which I developed with flavors and textures that work well in banh mi. Downloadable, sample content and recipes are available at Scribn.com: http://bit.ly/1r6jlzQ

Many people started cooking from "The Banh Mi Handbook" soon after they got it. Some admitted to reading it in bed. Those are mighty high compliments to an author. I set out to show that banh mi is and can be a lot more than what we think it is. The book is 132 pages long with about 55 recipes, much more substantial than a pamphlet.

The Banh Mi Handbook Proofs

photo credit: Andrea Nguyen

Part of the cookbook writing process is reviewing and marking up the designed proofs of the book. I always us a Magic Rub eraser. We went through many rounds of this to polish things before the book went to print.

Banh Mi Dac Biet

photo credit: Paige Green

Is this all that banh mi is? For some yes, but it doesn't have to be. We made this one completely from recipes in the book for the photoshoot.

Daring Banh Mi in America

photo credit: Andrea Nguyen

Downtown Portland, Oregon. Me holding a Baoguette sloppy Joe-style sandwich on the street in Manhattan.

Doner Kebab Banh Mi in Saigon

photo credit: Andrea Nguyen

A great late night snack that embodies the evolution of Viet food. (Note the Hellman's mayo.)

Banh Mi Handbook Recipe Development

photo credit: Andrea Nguyen

A snippet of what I developed and refined for the book: banh mi buns, cilantro Maggi mayo, and a drunken chicken banh mi.

Final Book Cover

photo credit: Paige Green

Given the book's overall size, the Hanoi grilled chicken banh mi on the cover is true to size.

Banh Mi Handbook Range of Images

photo credit: Paige Green (2), Elizabeth Stromberg (1)

Along with vivid food photography by Paige Green there are modern graphics created by Elizabeth Stromberg, the book designer whose worked with me for years. I contributed a couple of line drawings to illustrate techniques. Sandwiches are fun and for everyone.

If you have questions or comments about banh mi, "The Banh Mi Handbook," Vietnamese food, or cookbook writing, don’t hold back. Let’s discuss.

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  1. Oh goody!!! You know how much I already love this book! I know everyone's looking forward to picking your brain :) And, hey, CHs, I'd never made ANY bread before making her banh mi rolls...and they turned out great! Welcome back to CH, Andrea!

    2 Replies
    1. re: c oliver

      Delighted that you're on the banh mi band wagon. And making the bread too! Damn, woman. You're a banh mi master.

      1. re: Andrea Nguyen

        HAHAHA! re master but you demystify things so beautifully. May have to make those rolls again. Finally found my vitamin C tabs that had gone missing :)

    2. Excellent use of the new photo format and insight into "inviting professional voices.."

      Andrea, love your work!! I have the tofu and dumpling books and they are much loved and used. At home, we make banh mi type sandwiches using ciabatta so I'm happy to read it is a "thing."

      1 Reply
      1. re: tcamp

        Thank you. I'd been hesitant to weigh in the past but figured that since CHs have discussed my work in the past, this was a nice way to directly engage cooks and readers.

        Go banh mi! August is National Sandwich Month in the U.S.

      2. An excellent intro to a lovely book. Thanks, Ms. Nguyen!

        Besides the standard fillings my other personal favourites (in Vietnam and Vancouver, Canada) are headcheese*, tinned sardines, meatballs, pâté. Also this filling which is similar to what a restaurant** in Vancouver called 'homemade ham'. What is this exactly, do you know?

        I even brought pâté and 'jambon' back to Europe in a Coleman cooler filled with ice cubes! (was before 9/11)

        *(cooked in an pig's stomach and if I remember correctly it is called 'jambon' in Vietnam. Is this not headcheese?)

        ** (restaurant in Vancouver: https://www.aupetitcafe.com/authentic...)

        7 Replies
        1. re: Pata_Negra

          Vietnamese "ham" can refer to two things:

          1)Pork leg or shank that's been cooked with garlic and 5-spice; it often sports a pinkish rind from food coloring. Some cooks use pork belly. It's known as thit banh mi (literally meat for banh mi).

          2) A silky sausage that's akin to mortadella in fine texture. In Vietnamese, that's called gio lua or cha lua. The color is buff/off-white.

          Sometimes, I find actual super thin slices of canned ham in banh mi too. It's not fancy French jambon.

          I looked at the menu you pointed to and it's hard to tell. What color is that "ham"?

          1. re: Andrea Nguyen

            re ham: It's red. I thought it was pork belly. Must have been slow cooked.

            I'm familiar with 'Cha Lua'. The headcheese might be 'Gio Thu'. That is it.

            1. re: Pata_Negra

              Tee hee. The "ham" can be boiled. My first recipe for it is in "Into the Vietnamese Kitchen" (page p. 166, thit banh mi o); the cut used is shank, seasoned and rolled up, then baked in the oven. The recipe comes from my mom's dear friend. For "The Banh Mi Handbook" I simplified things with tenderloin but kept the seasonings bold and boiled it; the result impressed and satisfied my parents.

              Headcheese is called "gio thu" in Vietnamese. You're a banh mi aficionado, @Pata_negra!

              Here's a recipe reference shot from when I worked on the book: liver pate, garlicky pork tenderloin (my "ham"), headcheese, and gio lua silky sausage (pork and beef versions). You can make gio lua with chicken too.

               
              1. re: Andrea Nguyen

                Yes, it's in the middle of the pic!!! Yum!

                I made pseudo Banh Mi recently, actually. No Vietnamese headcheese, unfortunately. (photos in my profile)

                1. re: Pata_Negra

                  You don't need headcheese in banh mi for the sandwich to be Vietnamese. There are countless version of banh mi. Have no shame.

                  I recently posted photos of about 90% of the recipes in The Banh Mi Handbook. You can see the range at Vietworldkitchen.com, my blog: http://www.vietworldkitchen.com/blog/...

                2. re: Andrea Nguyen

                  Your book looks great, Andrea, congrats! I can totally see devoting a volume to banh mi. My favourite thing in banh mi is nem nuong, variously referred to as pork sausage or meatball, though I rather think of it as a patty since that's how it mostly turns up here. I've toyed with making my own at home but it's so easy and inexpensive to get the best commercially here in Vancouver that I've never got around to it.

                  I buy the frozen patties from Kim Chau deli (which supplies many of the Vietnamese restos in town) and use them as burgers in the summer. Thaw, toss on the grill, put them on a nice potato roll/good quality hamburger bun with the condiments of your choice and voila, yet another riff on banh mi.

                  1. re: grayelf

                    Nem nuong refers to a sausage, patty or meatball of ground meat. Nothing wrong with your interpretation.

                    Yes, I have similar ideas in the book so you're in line. But make your own to tinker and control flavors.

          2. Welcome!

            I am attaching a link to our pre-order thread so anyone can find both discussions easily.

            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9282...

            1 Reply
            1. re: smtucker

              I should have known that Chowhounders were already on top of things! Thanks for the link. I'm quite flattered.

            2. Very cool. Thank you for posting!

              1 Reply
              1. I'm thinking this would be a great Cookbook of the month or dish of the month since we'd have someone who could hold our hands if we need. To be honest, until I saw the book, I never thought to make banh mi since I can buy excellent ones for under $5 but the book makes them look so much better.

                1 Reply
                1. re: chowser

                  You're very kind. In the 1980s, my family took advantage of many Little Saigon deals advertised as "buy 2 get 1 free". They were skimpy and not made with care. After a while, my mom said, "You get what you pay for." We started making them ourselves.

                  Aside from saving money, when you make food yourself, you're delving deeper into what it is -- the ingredients, techniques, people and culture. What a beautiful thing to experience.

                2. Andrea -- welcome to Chowhound!!! I'm a big fan of yours, and "Asian Dumplings" is one of my favorite cookbooks.

                  What an amazing post. I will admit, I am a stranger to Banh Mi, but your photos have sparked my culinary curiosity. My question is -- where/how should I start to familiarize myself with Banh Mi? Would you recommend that I jump right into the cookbook and start experimenting (I have pretty good access to Asian ingredients) or should I first seek out a restaurant that does a great job with Banh Mi (NOT so easy here in the 'burbs) to get a sense of what I'd be striving for?

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: CindyJ

                    Not Andrea but I'd say jump right in!!! She has so many variations in the book that it would be hard not to find versions that you'd like. We don't like cucumbers so out THEY went. We do like pate' so added that (and now I keep small amounts frozen). The mayos are super and easy. Just had lunch and I'm hungry again :)

                    1. re: CindyJ

                      May I ask where you live? The straight up answer is to find a Vietnamese banh mi shop. On the other hand, there's banh mi in all kinds of unexpected places. For example, two culinary school grads in Crescent City, CA, are serving banh mi alongside Cubanos at an Italian deli. In downtown, LA, there's Korean-owned Hero Shop serving up banh mi. My local Santa Cruz Whole Foods disguises banh mi a "Pacific Rim" sandwich. In Dallas, the parent company of Taco Bell is testing a Banh Shop concept. Seriously.

                      People have told me that once they start looking, they see banh mi in many spots.

                      1. re: Andrea Nguyen

                        I'm in Philadelphia's western suburbs -- about 35 miles outside the city. Not exactly a hot spot for Asian cuisine. There is a small Vietnamese restaurant I'm fairly familiar with that's about 35 miles to the east, in Lancaster, PA. called Rice and Noodles. I go there for the Pho, but they do have what looks like a nice selection of Banh Mi. Time for a trip!

                        1. re: CindyJ

                          Sounds like you have a banh mi expedition in mind. Engage them in conversation?!

                          1. re: Andrea Nguyen

                            Exactly! I just posted an inquiry on my local Philadelphia board.

                    2. Lovely

                      I have been in love with Banh Mi ever since being whisked to Midtown Houston for "Vietnamese po-boys" decades ago

                      They are my special weekend treat on my way to the Italian Market in Philly.

                      Very timely it is amazing though how Banh Mi are trending - I can think of at least 3 neighborhood spots that have them on the menu right now as compared to 0 last year in addition to the new trendy hipster Pho place makes them only on weekends and sells out. The more the merrier it is one of my favorite sandwiches.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: JTPhilly

                        JTPhilly -- do you know of any places in the western 'burbs that do a decent job with Banh Mi?

                        1. re: CindyJ

                          sorry, no I go to Washington Ave in South Philly. You may ask on the Philadelphia board as there are lots of 'burbanites who post there -

                          1. re: JTPhilly

                            I had the same thought. I asked you, though, because you're obviously in the area.

                      2. Wow, I am a little starstruck that you have taken the time to share your process. I have "Into the Vietnamese Kitchen" and love the pho recipe there especially. As I live in a very rural area, my access to Vietnamese food is limited to city visits and what I attempt to make with specialty ingredients gathered from those urban visits.

                        Does the banh mi bread recipe have special ingredients that are Vietnamese specific? I think this cookbook would be worth it for that recipe alone.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: healthytouch101

                          Yowza, thank you for the flattery!!! "Into the Vietnamese Kitchen" was my first born and I love that book. I'm delighted that it is part of your repertoire.

                          The banh mi recipe is unusual but I will tell you that it does not utilize rice flour. You don't need it. I baked everyday for about 3 months to get the recipe down and it's a fascinating recipe to use and play with. Some of the recipe testers returned to the recipe over and over just to play with it. The backstory on the recipe spans years. So yeah, I'd buy the book for the bread recipe alone. If you get the book, I'd love to get your feedback!

                          1. re: Andrea Nguyen

                            I loved the "back story" on the bread. You really went above and way, way beyond to come up with that one :)

                        2. Wow, what a lovely looking book! I love Bahn mis and know I will enjoy trying all of your savory sounding recipes with different ingredients. I currently enjoy making traditinal type of bahn mis when i have leftover roast pork tenderloin, and i go out and buy some liverwirst for my pâté filing. My husband enjoys them so much, and I actual,y crave them regularly.

                          Now I know what cookbook I am going to ask for for my birthday next month! Thank you so much for sharing this.

                           
                          1 Reply
                          1. Here's some audio to go along with Andrea's beautiful pictures. The link below is to a 2009 7-minute radio feature on the San Francisco banh mi scene broadcast on KALW-FM's Crosscurrents with interviews of Andrea Nguyen, Chowhounder Melanie Wong and Charles Phan of Slanted Door. The story by David Ross starts at about the 1:00 mark:

                            http://mediabydavidross.com/files/Ban...

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: zippo

                              Ah--- thank you for digging up that audio! That was a fun interview. I'm taping some stuff with NPR so stay tuned for more in the near future...

                            2. Andrea:

                              Great post!

                              Here in NJ, we're seeing all sorts of Asian sandwiches. Vietnamese of course, and takes from China and India too. They're the sorts of foods we never think of making at home, but should.

                              Thank you.

                              1. This looks like a great book. The pictures you have posted are amazing. I am still working my way through your Asian Dumplings book so it may be a bit before I can get to this one.

                                I see that one of those pictures above is from Portland, OR. My favorite banh mi is in Portland at An Xuyen Bakery. Are you familiar with it?

                                15 Replies
                                1. re: jpc8015

                                  I've not been to An Xuyen and hope to return to PDX soon. Do you live there?

                                  1. re: Andrea Nguyen

                                    I live about an hour South, just outside of Salem.

                                    1. re: jpc8015

                                      My mom had Viet friends who settled in Salem. They moved to San Jose a number of years ago. Viet people are everywhere. If there's a nail shop, it's likely owned by Viet people, for example. ;-)

                                      1. re: Andrea Nguyen

                                        Salem has a very good Vietnamese population. There are enough Vietnamese folks that the Catholic church down the road from my office does a Mass in Vietnamese at least once weekly.

                                        Sadly, the banh mi has not followed the Vietnamese population to Salem. There are a couple places to get one but none are great.

                                        1. re: jpc8015

                                          That's so interesting. The Catholics should have post-mass pho or banh mi socials!

                                          You seem to know what you like so take banh mi matters into your own hands and make them yourself. Maybe you can show them a thing or two...

                                          1. re: Andrea Nguyen

                                            I think I will crash the Vietnamese Mass to see what they have afterwards. Good call.

                                            1. re: jpc8015

                                              crashing Catholic coffee hours for Vietnamese food... this is the best smile of the day.

                                              1. re: smtucker

                                                I'm Catholic so it wouldn't really be crashing a Mass.

                                            2. re: Andrea Nguyen

                                              I just found a banh mi sandwich at Saigon Restaurant in Salem, OR. I got the chicken curry banh mi which was really messy. Next time I will order the roast pork. But, it is easily the best banh mi sandwich I have had in Salem.

                                              1. re: jpc8015

                                                Nice tip. It was messy -- like there was too much sauce? That's not good banh mi construction. If you venture to make your own from the handbook, check the Sri Lankan black curry chicken banh mi recipe. I think it's up your alley!

                                                Here's a reference shot from when I worked on the book.

                                                 
                                                1. re: Andrea Nguyen

                                                  You are evil! I'm really hungry and reading and looking at that is torture.

                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                    You have the book so it's time to cook @c_Oliver!

                                                    1. re: Andrea Nguyen

                                                      Yes, ma'am. Been too busy cooking for my post-pancreatitis, 15 y.o. dog :)

                                                      Got the daughters, SILs and grandbabies coming in next week. That Hanoi grilled chicken is already on the menu.

                                                  2. re: Andrea Nguyen

                                                    Yeah, there was way too much curry sauce on the chicken. I expected it to be more like a marinade but this was very saucy.

                                                    Like I said though, my options are limited so I will try them again. I will just get the roast pork or grilled chicken next time.

                                                    I do intend on getting this book though. It looks great.

                                                    1. re: jpc8015

                                                      I've experienced just what you described. The chicken is floating in sauce and they pluck it out of the warming pan and put it into the bread. They think it's good to go but it really isn't.

                                                      Baguette is often served as a side for Viet chicken curry so a chicken curry banh mi is a good idea. However, you have to tweak things a bit to put that chicken into bread for a sandwich.

                                    2. How exciting to have Ms. Nguyen joining us here! I just got this book and can't wait to get started making my own Banh Mi. I'm fortunate to have a great Asian market nearby, so I can out my hands on everything that I'll need. I can tell this book is going to be at the top of my stack of favorites.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: alliegator

                                        Yay! I bet your banh mi will soon be the best in the neighborhood.

                                      2. A döner kebab banh mi! Whoda tunk!!!

                                        I would totally eat that.

                                        8 Replies
                                        1. re: linguafood

                                          Right?! That shot made my mouth water and wish it were in a town near me.

                                          1. re: rabaja

                                            And in Saigon, no less. I wonder how the döner kebab idea made it to Vietnam?

                                            Andrea, could you shed any light on this?

                                            1. re: linguafood

                                              With all the Australians in Vietnam I wouldn't be surprised if they were the conduit based on its popularity "Down Under".

                                              1. re: torty

                                                See, I had no idea döner kebabs were popular in Australia, either.

                                                Shows what I know.

                                              2. re: linguafood

                                                The story is that a Vietnamese guest worker goes to Germany ... (sounds like the beginning of a joke but it's not) and ends up eating lots of doner kebabs, falling in love with the Turkish-German rendition. The person returns home to Hanoi and opens up a doner kebab business outside of the Goethe Institut. After a while, the idea migrated to Saigon. It's often served in baguette. I have a recipe for a home-style doner kebab banh mi in the book. A friend in Berlin helped me out with it. Crazy, right?

                                                1. re: Andrea Nguyen

                                                  That is awesome, and sounds insanely delicious. Great mashup of 2 foods I really enjoy.

                                                  1. re: EatFoodGetMoney

                                                    You could really say that its a world tour of cuisines considering the banh mi is a result of Vietnamese flavors and French influence.

                                          2. can't wait for my copy of the book to arrive at my library-I am #5 on the list.

                                            1. What a great post Andrea and I cannot wait to read your handbook. An expert like you would probably consider this an abomination, but I once made Banh Mi with, among the typical ingredients, grilled bratwurst. It was actually very good.

                                              16 Replies
                                              1. re: Fowler

                                                There's a place sorta near me that I just realized has brisket banh mi. Have yet to go, thinking about driving out there this afternoon though. they have all sorts of banh mi.
                                                http://www.yehyehs.com/index.php?page...

                                                Brat sounds solid though, what kind of pickled veg did you throw on it?

                                                1. re: EatFoodGetMoney

                                                  The only pickled vegetables I made/used were daikon, kohlrabi and carrots. I am sure there are plenty of other pickled vegetables that would work as well.

                                                  1. re: EatFoodGetMoney

                                                    And Yeh Yeh's has a Philly Cheesesteak banh mi too! Shazam.

                                                    A friend in Seoul contributed a recipe in the book for a Korean beef banh mi. If you do it a certain way, cheese can be involved too.

                                                  2. re: Fowler

                                                    Some of the Viet charcuterie is like giant bratwurst! Chicago's Wrigley Field had a banh mi hot dog a few years ago, I think.

                                                    It's not like anything goes but if you keep certain concepts in play, you can create a bunch of banh mi. I hope you won't think less of me for admitting that... ;-)

                                                    1. re: Andrea Nguyen

                                                      I was just thinking about the minimum required for a sandwich to be a banh mi. Pickled vegetables, a flavored mayo, some type of meat spread (oops, that's not vegetarian)?

                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                        I was wondering the same thing, C. I am guessing bread and possibly cilantro would be some but not all of the minimum requirements.

                                                        1. re: Fowler

                                                          The holy grail of banh mi questions.
                                                          hopefully it doesn't turn into "Is a hotdog a sandwich?".

                                                          1. re: EatFoodGetMoney

                                                            Wash your mouth out with soap!

                                                            Fowler, I did make myself one on sourdough toast after I ran out of bread. Andrea said that was fine :) I do believe pickled something and I wouldn't leave out cilantro but there are those 'tastes like soap' folks :)

                                                            1. re: EatFoodGetMoney

                                                              A hot dog banh mi sounds awesome. And it would be a sandwich.

                                                              1. re: jpc8015

                                                                I just don't see it with pickled vegetables, cilantro, pate', etc. but to each his own!

                                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                                  I would totally be down with that.

                                                        2. re: Andrea Nguyen

                                                          Doggy Style in Alameda has a banh mi hot dog, too. I've been craving it since i saw it on TV. Too bad it's the wrong coast.

                                                          http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-ENFZS9kbjO4...

                                                          1. re: chowser

                                                            That looks like ketchup on it. Or is that some sort of chili sauce?
                                                            If ketchup, no thanks.

                                                            1. re: EatFoodGetMoney

                                                              While it is hard to tell, from the Doggy Style website it appears probably to be BBQ sauce.

                                                            2. re: chowser

                                                              The name. The name of that business. Bet you could create that yourself!

                                                              That sauce is likely Sriracha -- maybe mixed with ketchup, put into a squirt bottle for pretty patterns.

                                                            3. re: Andrea Nguyen

                                                              Oh, I think more of you for it. Though I love several of the traditional banh mi, (dac biet, meatball, lemongrass pork, bi) one of the most pleasing I've had was with leftover takeout fried chicken and biscuit (not even a good quality biscuit) with mayo+soy, do chua (from your online recipe), cucumber, and cilantro. It definitely had banh mi character.

                                                          2. The Banh Mi cookbook has a chapter in the beginning of the book that gives a "standard" for building the sandwich layer by layer. Really very good to refer to. In other words items that ought to be included as you make your own rendition of the sandwich. As of this date we've made 8 banh mi sandwiches and every one has been 5 stars. As she says, "...the recipes are deliciously doable". I know we're going to work through the book recipe by recipe.

                                                            Andrea, I just so happy you are here and lending your authentic note of expertize to this forum. I have all your books and love each for their different focus and delicious results. BTW: I'm JDP on FB if you can figure that out. Keep on cooking Andrea, and I'll be right there to sample

                                                            3 Replies
                                                            1. re: Gio

                                                              Gio, what kind of rolls are you getting? I know I'm just not going to make them every time. Although with just the two of us, I can freeze. Heading back to the cooler lake tomorrow so maybe some more rolls. They're actually quite fun to make and with Andrea's always so good written instructions and photos, even I (Bread Virgin) acquitted myself quite well if I DO say so myself :)

                                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                                We've been using baguettes or sometimes an Italian rustic loaf or rolls from a local bakery. It's certainly not authentic and we know that but I spent many years baking our bread every week then had to stop a few years ago.

                                                                1. re: Gio

                                                                  I recently had banh mi in Saigon and the bread had a lovely chew, like regular bread. I asked the woman who owned the banh mi shop about it. She said her customers prefer a heartier bread. It's how her family has done it since um... 1963.

                                                            2. Andrea, I just want to add my thanks to you for writing "The Banh Mi Handbook"! I managed to get a copy from my local library just so I could take a look before I order a copy. I love the simplicity of your instructions. One of the most thrilling discoveries for me is the inclusion of a recipe to make head cheese, and that pig ears are part of the ingredients!

                                                              I am so looking forward to trying your recipes, thanks again!
                                                              Karen M.

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: RWCFoodie

                                                                Karen, I love the fact that you went to the library to check out the book before buying it. That's what I used to do!!! So smart. I also love librarians.

                                                                I had to work hard on those instructions because of the limited amount of space on the page. Enough detail but not so much as to put you off from diving in. That's the spirit of banh mi and sandwiches in general!

                                                                What's headcheese without some part of the head, right?! Thank you.

                                                                  1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                    All I want to be is an enabler for good cooking. Thank you.

                                                                    1. re: Andrea Nguyen

                                                                      Consider yourself an enabler! I've ordered it.
                                                                      Actually, I was one of those folks who said "a whole book on banh mi--hmm, do I really need that?" But yes, yes I do. I can see that now.

                                                                      The first time my husband and I were in Paris together, we had banh mi for almost every lunch. So I have many happy banh mi memories!

                                                                      I can't wait for this to arrive.

                                                                      1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                        plus one :) I bought it because I have her other books and attended one of her Asian dumpling classes last year. She's a teacher.

                                                                          1. re: Andrea Nguyen

                                                                            You are definitely an enabler -- in a very good way. This book is my next click on Amazon. I live in the DC area, and there are many banh mi options, but I'd love to make it myself, too.

                                                                              1. re: Chocolatechipkt

                                                                                The freedom of saying 'hey, I think I'd like banh mi tonight' is pretty fun.

                                                                  2. Looks fantastic. Kudos to you for your hard work and research. You should send a copy to Anthony Bourdain and see if it sparks anything.

                                                                    1. i am so excited about this book. you have no idea. i loved into the vietnamese kitchen (it helped bridge many gaps between what i learned in my mom's kitchen and what i had tasted in restaurants and other vn homes). thanks for this article and looking forward to getting this book!

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: nguyenthivietnam

                                                                        Awesome! I look forward to hearing about your banh mi exploits.

                                                                      2. Love the book! Waiting for my new jars to be delivered to make the pickled vegetables.

                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                        1. re: BBY

                                                                          When you start, consider making the green tomato variation on the lemongrass and snow pea. It's my current summer favorite. Here it is with the Chinese barbecue pork (char siu pork) and cilantro Maggi mayo. My lunch today...

                                                                           
                                                                        2. When I ordered this last night, it was rated as number one seller in burgers and sandwiches---Congratulations!

                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                          1. re: healthytouch101

                                                                            That's amazing, isn't it? Who would have thunk? Not me when I thought of writing this book. It makes me happy on so many levels. Thank you!

                                                                          2. All I can say is WONDERFUL. Thanks, Andrea for another useful and topical book!

                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                            1. re: Discerning1

                                                                              The banh mi pleasure is all mine. Thanks so much for the solid thumbs up!

                                                                            2. Last night we made the Hanoi grilled chicken banh mi and I have to tell you it was fantastic. The flavor of the chicken after the short marinade was a sweet, tart, citrusy, bite of juicy tender meat. We used a bread roll that looked very like the one pictured in the book: lovely crisp crust with a soft crumb. Made the carrot and daikon pickle, and added all the usual accompaniments. I can see this chicken used on its own with a vegetable and rice. Thanks Andrea, it was one great meal!

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. re: Gio

                                                                                Gio, I had the exact reaction you did to this chicken. It won't be going just into sandwiches! And SO quick and easy.

                                                                              2. Oh, I am so buying this book! I love banh mi, and I didn't even know what it was prior to a year ago. Thanks for the lovely book, and the interesting article on the process of writing it.

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: Spaceechik

                                                                                  You put a huge smile on my face! Thank you. Hope you enjoy lotsa banh mi in the near future!

                                                                                2. I am wondering if you would be able to recommend any Vietnamese desserts that combine bananas and coffee/espresso? I have heard that these two pair very well together, for some reason, and would like to try a few; espresso banana bread and baked bananas in coffee syrup are some that I had in mind.

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: rosik929

                                                                                    I don't know of any Viet sweets that combine banana and coffee. There's a popular banana cake that's almost like a baked custard. While I could see putting a dark chocolate swirl or chips in the batter, coffee would disperse too much. You could eat the cake with iced Vietnamese coffee and that would be splendid. Or, a Vietnamese coffee ice cream as part of a banana split? That seems so simplistic, right? Lemme think on this....

                                                                                  2. So I just received the book (yay) and started reading it. We're having a big group of ski friends over soon and since we're known for bringing banh mi to share w/ everyone, I thought this would be perfect to serve. I'm sure I'll have questions along the way but my first is about the bread. I bake bread fairly frequently, although baguettes less frequently than Italian breads like focaccia or ciabatta. You say to use less vital wheat gluten if using king arthur flour because of protein content. Did you try this bread w/ bread flour (I use KA bread flour) instead of using vital wheat gluten? I rarely use vwg in baking and would love to get away w/ just using what I have. The last time I bought vwg, I ended up throwing away most of the bag. Thanks!

                                                                                    I think I'll do a make your own set up w/ maybe a chicken, pork, meat. It'll be hard to narrow down which of the recipes to use--they all sound mouthwatering!

                                                                                    12 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: chowser

                                                                                      I didn't get a lofty-enough rise with bread flour alone. VWG gives you the rise with a cottony, tender-chewy crumb. The dough is stronger but not tough.

                                                                                      To buy a small quantity of VWG, try the bulk section at health food stores (co-op like ones, not typically Whole Foods). In Northern California where I live, the bulk bin usually says that VWG comes from Giusto's: http://giustos.com/

                                                                                      I suppose if you had to buy a pound of it, you could make seitan. I thought of that as a filling for the book but didn't have space.

                                                                                      1. re: Andrea Nguyen

                                                                                        Thanks and I really want that pillowy texture of the bread so I'll get some. I can always freeze it, too, if I can't get smaller amounts. You have so many more options in No California than most of the country!

                                                                                          1. re: jpc8015

                                                                                            I had a bag but only used it occasionally. I just threw it out because it was old so I wanted to avoid that if possible.

                                                                                            1. re: chowser

                                                                                              How much would you use in a typical recipe? It is something that you add to flour...right? It is not a flour replacement IIRC.

                                                                                              1. re: jpc8015

                                                                                                I add about a tablespoon or two to bread dough to help w/ texture. It's really the flour protein that helps w/ structure. But I have used tiny amounts to add to flour when I want to increase the protein, eg. when I only have cake flour but need AP, I'll add a tiny amount. But, I practically threw out a bag a couple of months ago because I use it so infrequently. LOL, it's the opposite of what gluten free people would use!

                                                                                                1. re: jpc8015

                                                                                                  I add a tablespoon of vital wheat gluten per cup of flour when making a 100% whole wheat flour loaf, for example. I also add some to my pita dough which I make with a whole wheat pastry flour. The results are soft yet structured enough to puff. It is also a good addition to a rye bread dough since Rye doesn't have enough gluten on its own for a sandwich loaf.

                                                                                                  1. re: smtucker

                                                                                                    Vital wheat gluten is pretty amazing for bread baking. You hit it on the head @smtucker by saying that it adds structure but yields soft results. VWG gives a great assist to certain bread products.

                                                                                                    I found it worked wonders for the banh mi rolls.

                                                                                            1. re: c oliver

                                                                                              I imagine that you could store vital wheat gluten in the freezer to prevent it from going bad. At room temperature, I keep it for 6 to 9 months in an airtight container. I suppose you could refrigerate it too.

                                                                                              1. re: Andrea Nguyen

                                                                                                What happens if it "goes bad"? As you may know, I'm completely new to bread baking so please pardon my ignorance.

                                                                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                  I've not experienced this, but because it's not a huge amount that's used in the dough, what would happen is that the rolls wouldn't rise as much. There are other ingredients in the dough to boost loft. I don't think the flavor would change. It's akin to having one of the tripod legs slightly off kilter. Your tripod would still work more or less.

                                                                                        1. my copy of the book finally arrived this morning - at the library waiting to be picked up-
                                                                                          looking forward to making some of the dishes

                                                                                          1. Just got home and have spent some quality time with this book. I now see why I had to have it! Hanoi chicken is on this weekend but, alas, it won't be in a bahn mi as, once again, we're lo-carbing for a while. As soon as I fall off that wagon, I'm heading out to Dong Phuong Bakery in New Orleans East for the rolls they're known for. I don't know if they're as good as yours, AN, but they are good and look very similar. Bread baking is out of the question until temperatures drop a bit. So lettuce wraps, here we come.

                                                                                            Also have my eye on the chicken sausage patties and the sri lankan black curry chicken and the edamame pâté ! And the gateway chicken liver pâté. And my husband spotted the photo of the banh mi buns and remembered some w/various grilled meats we'd had (and loved) in a restaurant. He's likely to push me off the wagon soon.

                                                                                            Thanks for this thread!

                                                                                            13 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                                              I just checked the ebook out from the library and I agree, lots of delicious looking recipes! I wouldn't be inclined to serve them as banh mi either (too much work for my current lifestyle, and my kids can't handle thick sandwiches) but so many of the filling recipes looked like great simple preparations to serve with rice and stirfried greens.

                                                                                              1. re: Westminstress

                                                                                                Used sliced bread instead of rolls. Maybe not toast it too much. That's why my mom sometimes did when I was young! The Hanoi grilled chicken has been a hit with my friends' kids, as is the oven baked chicken katsu.

                                                                                                1. re: Andrea Nguyen

                                                                                                  I think I mentioned that I fixed one on lightly toasted sourdough. Still great.

                                                                                                  Having the Hanoi grilled chicken tonight. With the grandkids here (toddlers) figured that would work better.

                                                                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                    Was it a heavy sourdough or a light one? Great idea!

                                                                                                    1. re: Andrea Nguyen

                                                                                                      I don't know :) It's Truckee sourdough and comes sliced not too thick.

                                                                                                      BTW, served the Hanoi grilled chicken on its own tonight and our daughters and grand-toddlers loved it. Thanks as always.

                                                                                                      1. re: c oliver

                                                                                                        Wow, if only those grand-toddlers could write reviews on Amazon! Thank you.

                                                                                                        I had a bad habit of sneaking bits of that chicken off the grill. Ouch, the stuff can be rather hot.

                                                                                                        1. re: Andrea Nguyen

                                                                                                          I admit that I stole a few bit also :)

                                                                                                  2. re: Andrea Nguyen

                                                                                                    Thanks! Hanoi grilled chicken is going straight on The List....

                                                                                                    1. re: Westminstress

                                                                                                      We had a couple left and made ourselves chicken sandwiches with the cilantro Maggi mayo. :)

                                                                                                    2. re: Andrea Nguyen

                                                                                                      I'll bet they'd be good on steamed buns like Taiwanese hamburgers.

                                                                                                        1. re: Andrea Nguyen

                                                                                                          I just got to the part of your book where you recommended using steamed buns and then I noticed the picture in your OP. Thanks for not spoiling the end of the book for me!;-)

                                                                                                  3. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                                                    Love it. Thanks! I've heard good things about Dong Phuong. Believe or or not, I've never been to NOLA. I know... roll your eyes.

                                                                                                    Buy their bread then bake your own when you have time. I don't bake mine for banh mi all the time!

                                                                                                    Look forward to getting more reports from your banh mi exploration. Thank you.

                                                                                                  4. just finished preparing the recipe for pickled shallot-
                                                                                                    I used red onion but I will make with shallots next time but with less sugar- tasted a little sweet
                                                                                                    easy to prepare -

                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                    1. re: jpr54_1

                                                                                                      Add a little vinegar to counter the sweetness. It depends on the onion too. Shallots are more aggressive. Love that beautiful pickle!

                                                                                                    2. I am planning to make the crispy drunken chicken tomorrow but I don't want to deep fry the chicken thighs-
                                                                                                      cast iron skillet or roast them

                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                      1. re: jpr54_1

                                                                                                        Look at "Notes" on page 67, that suggests using the oven-fried chicken katsu. You could go that route and cut up the chicken and drizzle on the sauce.

                                                                                                      2. We had daughters and grandchildren in for a long weekend. Today's lunch was deli turkey, sliced cheese, iceberg lettuce on toast. Spread one side of the toast with the cilantro Maggi mayo.

                                                                                                        1. I've now made the Hanoi Chicken--so simple and delicious--and the Sri Lankan Black Curry, as well as carrot and daikon pickle (and my cheater's version of sriracha aioli). Had the Hanoi Chicken w/said pickles, aioli, cucumber, and cilantro in lettuce wraps. Excellent (though I did miss the bread). We ate the curry with brown rice (I didn't shred that time); were I too serve it that way again, I'd cut back on the mace and cloves. With the leftovers, however, I did shred the chicken and cook the sauce down as the recipe suggests--and made banh mi (after I broke down and picked up a loaf of New Orleans-style "French bread," which is much more like a Vietnamese banh mi roll than a true French baguette). The condiments balanced the pronounced flavors in the curry. Next on my list: chicken sausage patties, grilled lemongrass pork, crispy drunken kitchen. And probably giving up on carb control!

                                                                                                          I enjoyed your segment on "The Splendid Table" last week, AN.

                                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                                          1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                                                            Thanks for catching that Splendid Table interview! We had a hilarious time recording it. They've been great supporters of my work since the first book. I'm lucky for that.

                                                                                                          2. I made the grilled Hanoi chicken, delish! I did the pickled carrots and daikon but sadly had no daikon on hand so it was carrots only. Still tasty! Served as bahn mi, next day served leftover chicken with rice, carrots, other fresh veggies, and nuoc mam sauce.

                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                            1. re: meerastvargo

                                                                                                              For the daikon and carrot pickle, feel free to sub radishes or turnips. Thanks for reporting about your banh mi adventures.

                                                                                                              1. Folks, this past week, I launched the Banh Mi Selfie Contest. What are the prizes? There will be 5 winners and each person gets a copy of the book and an awesome apron that my mom is sewing. (My mom is 80 years old and loves to support Vietnamese food and cooking!)

                                                                                                                Contest details are here: http://bit.ly/1qMpQEP

                                                                                                                You enter via FB, Twitter or Instagram. In the gallery of entries you'll see a couple of photos from c oliver! Thanks for sharing your love of sandwiches.

                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                  1. re: jpc8015

                                                                                                                    I thought I responded to you on this while I was traveling last week but the response didn't post. Anyway, it's not a banh mi. It's a rice paper roll. Viet people can use the same ingredients for banh mi as they would to roll up in rice paper. You have to draw a line in the sand. What was your thought?

                                                                                                                  2. I'm hoping someone has made the cilantro maggi mayonnaise! I'm making bahn mi for a party of 20 so have been working hard and made the rolls (look good), daikon carrot salad (also good and I can taste this), marinated barbecue pork and have the hanoi chicken ingredients ready to go. But, tasting the cilantro maggi mayo, I think it's bitter. I was very accurate about measuring, weighed each ingredient. I've only added half the maggi so far but I'm wondering if the maggi could be making it bitter. I added some salt which helped and more lemon juice. Any suggestions?

                                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                                    1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                      I've made it twice and absolutely love it. Didn't find it bitter at all and used the full amount of Maggi. I can truly eat if off my finger. Do you suppose it's the pepper or the cilantro? If you taste just the Maggi maybe that will give you a clue. I've used it as a dip for chips and in place of half the mayo on a plain ole sandwich.

                                                                                                                      1. re: chowser

                                                                                                                        Boy, I've not had it taste bitter in any trial. The Maggi is umami/savory. It could be the cilantro you're using? Or, maybe the lemon juice, though usually, I get bitter or off flavors with old limes, not lemons. Arggh. Add a touch of sugar to counter the bitter?

                                                                                                                        If you take photos of your event. do submit something for the Banh Mi Selfie contest: http://bit.ly/1qMpQEP

                                                                                                                        Each of the five winners will get an apron (my mom made them) and copy of the book (use it as a holiday gift, if you like...). Just took this selfie today with the contest prizes.