Bahn mi, at home (part 1)

Bahn mi (aka Vietnamese poboys, Mekong subs, or various other names) rank as one of my favorite things to eat.  Crisp, feathery-light bread stuffed with robust flavors, the sandwiches’ cost is inversely proportional to their deliciousness–local prices for bahn mi range from $2 to $6, depending on the fillings.  At Dong Phuong Bakery (14207 Chef Menteur Hwy, New Orleans, LA), a sandwich, stuffed with pate, homemade rolled ham, cilantro, pickled carrots & diakon radish, lemony mayonnaise, hot peppers, and cucumber will set you back around $3.

So why would I make bahn mi at home, if they’re so inexpensive and abdundant?  It is, as usual, the problem of distance.  I have to drive at least 15 miles to get one, making the round-trip fuel costs greater than the sandwich’s price (not a very green proposition).  Fortunately, bahn mi bread (a light, small baguette, with a texture very much like classic New Orleans style french bread) is available at the aforementioned Dong Phuong, as well as Chez Pierre in Kenner, Hi-Do Bakery on the West Bank, and Hong Kong Supermarket (925 Behrman Hwy, Terrytown, LA).

Once armed with a nice, light loaf, homemade bahn mi are easy–just split the rolls and stuff with your favorite toppings and garnishes.  I’m partial to ga nuong (marinated, grilled chicken; see recipe here), but when I’m feeling really lazy, I’ll make sandwiches with the succulent, boneless red-cooked pork sold on weekends at Hong Kong Market.  A big batch of pickled carrot and daikon, a tangy and (to me) necessary component of an ideal bahn mi, will keep for a month (click here for Andrea Nguyen’s easy recipe).

Coming soon in part 2:  homemade Vietnamese-style baguettes, with rice flour….

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