Pork Banh Mi Sammie

I've never been a fan of Vietnamese food since I have always associated it with Pho and I've never been able to get used to the taste or smell of it. But nowadays, it seems like you can't drive down the street without seeing a Pho/Vietnamese restaurant. You know the ones I'm talking about. You probably see them everyday on your way to work. They almost always start with the word "Pho" followed by some numeric number. Such as "Pho 99," or "Pho 2000." I've even seen really creative ones like "Unphoghettable" or "Simply Pho You." Just for kicks I think someone should open a Vietnamese/Italian fusion restaurant called, "Pho-get about it." LOL - sorry, nerdy blogger humor. I on the other hand, didn't want to have anything to do with Vietnamese food unless it was going to be "Pho"-reaking awesome :D okay, I digress. But the other day, lobster took me to a random hole in the wall in Downtown LA and the food was actually pretty good. Perhaps I've developed a palate for salty-sour foods over the years, but some of the dishes were quite good and I actually started to crave them after a while. Hence, what inspired tonight's dinner for Banh Mi sammies.

I found the following recipe on Epicurious and while I didn't make the meatballs, I did make all the accompanying counterparts. For the pork, I used leftovers from the other night when lobster made Mongolian pork chops which had a fantastic marinade. They were perfect for the sammie since they had a similar flavor profile. The sandwich was a blend of complex flavors, starting from the pork, to the pickled carrot and daikon relish, along with the spicy KICK from the jalapeno. All the flavors married together well and hit all your taste buds - sweet, spicy, sour, salty - the whole sha-bang! So next time you're feeling a bit adventurous, give a nudge to the East and try this sammie on for size.

Note: Even though I didn't make the meatballs, the sandwich received great reviews on the website if you want to give it a try.

Pork Meatball Banh Mi Sammie
Recipe from Epicurious
4 servings

Hot Chili Mayo:
* 2/3 cup mayonnaise
* 2 green onions, finely chopped
* 1 tablespoon hot chili sauce (such as sriracha)*

* 1 pound ground pork
* 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
* 4 garlic cloves, minced
* 3 green onions, finely chopped
* 1 tablespoon fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)*
* 1 tablespoon hot chili sauce (such as sriracha)
* 1 tablespoon sugar
* 2 teaspoons cornstarch
* 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
* 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

* 2 cups coarsely grated carrots
* 2 cups coarsely grated peeled daikon (Japanese white radish)**
* 1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
* 1/4 cup sugar
* 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
* 1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
* 4 10-inch-long individual baguettes or four 10-inch-long pieces French-bread baguette (cut from 2 baguettes)
* Thinly sliced jalapeño chiles, desseded
* 16 large fresh cilantro sprigs

Hot Chili Mayo:
Stir all ingredients in small bowl. Season with salt. do ahead Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

Line rimmed baking sheet with plastic wrap. Gently mix all ingredients in large bowl. Using moistened hands and scant tablespoonful for each, roll meat mixture into 1-inch meatballs. Arrange on baking sheet. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

Toss first 5 ingredients in medium bowl. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour, tossing occasionally.

Preheat oven to 300°F. Heat sesame oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of meatballs. Sauté until brown and cooked through, turning meatballs often and lowering heat if browning too quickly, about 15 minutes. Transfer meatballs to another rimmed baking sheet. Place in oven. Repeat with remaining meatballs.

Cut each baguette or baguette piece horizontally 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 jalapeños, then cilantro, in bottom halves. Fill each with 1/4 of meatballs. Drain pickled vegetables; place atop meatballs. Press on baguette tops.

*Available in the Asian foods section of many supermarkets and at Asian markets.

**Available at some supermarkets and at Asian markets.