banh mi ga
In my quest to master the art of Grilling Edible Food, I meant to explore a number of different marinades and glazes for chicken - we tend to eat a lot of chicken breast which really needs a bit of a kick to be worthwhile. Unfortunately, the first thing I stumbled upon was this recipe for five-spice chicken in vietnamese sandwiches, and we've pretty much been eating just this nonstop since. The marinade works wonderfully on chicken and almost as well on pork ribs, and it's pretty much perfection regardless of how you prepare it - grill, oven, pan.
Despite all the times we've had these sandwiches lately, they've been almost impossible to photograph. Not because they're ugly, it's just that the photos don't... happen. (If you come here for the pretty pictures, please be advised that the one above was taken around 9 PM while I was walking the cat. Also: yes, after three weeks of constant sunbathing, I'm still this pale.)
The meat is all well and good, then, but banh mi are really so much more. Thinly sliced meat chucked into a mayo-slathered baguette* along with cucumber, just lightly pickled julienned carrot and daikon, thinly sliced red onion and jalapeno peppers may not sound like the best summer meal ever, but believe me, it IS. In general I'm not much of a fan of pickled things, but together with the spicy-salty chicken... it's just divine. Everyone I've served them to has loved them.
I know julienning this much carrots and daikon radish may seem like a lot of work - I happen to find it soothing - but making a big batch is definitely worth it as they'll keep for several days in the fridge. (I just had some on a slice of sweet-ish rye bread. Talk about fusion.)
*you're meant to use light bread and I must say I prefer it, but sometimes you've just got to make at least a game attempt at health-consciousness, hence the more rustic baguette in the pictures.
Vietnamese Grilled Chicken Sandwich
adapted from Bon Appétit, Dec 2005, serves 4
3 skinless, bonless chicken breasts
2 tbsp soy sauce
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 shallots, chopped
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp five-spice powder
1 star anise, ground
100 ml sugar
100 ml white wine vinegar
pinch of salt
½ l julienned carrots
½ l julienned daikon radish
4 20-cm (or so) pieces of baguette
thinly sliced red onion (soak in cold water for milder taste)
thinly sliced cucumber
1 jalapeño chile, thinly sliced
Mix together the ingredients for the marinade in a bowl. Turn the chickens in it to coat and let marinate in the fridge for a few hours.
Stir the ingredients for the "pickle" marinade until the sugar's dissolved. Mix in the julienned vegetables and let stand in the fridge for at least a few hours, or overnight. Drain well before serving.
Grill the chicken on medium/high heat until cooked through. Let cool just a bit and slice thinly.
Cut the baguette slices open and grill the cut sides until slightly crispy. Spread mayo on the bottom half of the baguette, top with chicken, cucumber strips, carrot-radish pickle, red onion and (if using) cilantro. Sprinkle with jalapeño and worchestershire sauce, top with the top half of the baguette and eat.
(As for the original epicurious recipe: if you live in an area with ready access to "skinless boneless chicken thighs" please don't tell me about it, because I'm going to CRY.)