Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Gluten Free Vietnamese Meatball Sandwiches (Banh Mi)

I know you must be in shock that I can cook something besides dessert. Thanks to my wife, I am a recent subscriber to Bon Appetit magazine. In the first issue that I received, the cover featured meatballs and included "5 Amazing Recipes" for them. I don't know about you and your relationship with meatballs. For me personally, meatballs have been challenging. I've made them a few times for pasta and I'm always disappointed. I'm worried that they will be raw or undercooked in the middle so I tend to cook them into little dried out prunes. But hey, I'm always up for a challenge. When I saw "5 Amazing Recipes" to choose from, I had to go for it. I decided to make Pork Meatball Banh Mi sandwiches. As with any gluten free sandwich, the biggest obstacle is the bread. I did something that I can't believe I haven't thought of before. I made my French bread recipe but divided the dough into 4 smaller sub-sandwich sized loaves in the pan.
The original French bread baking instructions call for 35 minutes of baking, cover with foil, and bake another 35 minutes. I reduced the time by 5 minutes before covering with foil and reduced by 5 minutes after covering with foil for a total 60 minutes of baking. The results turned out great. I ended up with 4 hearty, rustic, sub-sandwich loaves.
Here is the recipe for the inner working of this incredible sandwich:
Pork Meatball Banh Mi
inspired by Bon Appetit
Hot Chili Mayo:
2/3 cup mayonnaise
2 green onions (finely chopped)
1-1/2 tsp Sriracha hot chili sauce (I used Huy Fong brand)
1 pound ground pork (not Italian sausage)
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil (I used 3 Tbs dried basil)
4 garlic cloves (pressed)
3 green onions (finely chopped)
1 Tbs fish sauce (mmm mmm good)
1-1/2 tsp Sriracha hot chili sauce
1 Tbs sugar
2 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp salt
1 cup coarsely grated carrots
1 cup coarsely grated peeled daikon radish (I used red radishes)
1/8 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1/8 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbs sesame oil
4 GF loaves of bread(see above)
1 thinly sliced jalapeno chili
16 large sprigs of cilantro

Prepare the hot chili mayo in a small bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least an hour, even 1 day ahead of time. I reduced the amount of sriracha sauce from the original recipe. I like spice and flavor but I don't like to burn my mouth off. (The amount listed in the recipe above is the amount I used.) Feel free to add more or less as you see fit.
In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients for the meatballs. Mix thoroughly with your hands.
Line a baking sheet with plastic wrap. Using a Tablespoon, scoop out 1 spoonful of meatball mix and shape into a roughly 1 inch diameter meatballs. Note: use a little water in the palm of your hand to help roll the meatballs without them sticking to your hand. Also, try to roll the meatballs just until firm and held together. Avoid compacting the meatballs too tightly. Place the finished meatballs on the plastic wrap lined pan. Cover the raw meatballs with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes prior to cooking. The meatballs could even be made the day before you plan to eat them.
For part of the sandwich filling; combine the carrots, radish, rice vinegar, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
To cook the meatballs, heat 1 Tbs of sesame oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Working in batches, cook the meatballs, leaving plenty of space between each one. Turn the meatballs frequently to cook all sides. it should take about 15 minutes per batch of meatballs. I used an instant read thermometer to check the internal temperature. Pork should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees F. Preheat your oven to 300 degrees F. As the batches of meatballs are cooked, placed the finished ones in a baking dish in the oven to stay warm.
Let's put it all together. Slice the bread in half lengthwise, leaving the back of the loaf attached like a little hinge. Spread the hot chili mayonnaise on the inside top and bottom of the bread. Drain the liquid from carrot/radish mix. Place 1-2 heaping spoonfuls of carrot/radish mix along with 4-5 warm meatballs inside the sandwich. Add a few sprigs of cilantro and some slices of jalapeno (if desired.) I can't even begin to accurately describe how all the flavors explode in this sandwich. You get some heat from the sriracha, a little sweetness from the pickled carrots and radish, tenderness from the meatballs, and crunch from the bread. This is one incredible sandwich. I can't wait to try some of the other amazing meatball recipes from Bon Appetit. Enjoy!!!


  1. Mmm, sounds good! What a great all-purpose french bread recipe you have =D.

  2. OMG this is the craze on the internet right now! Banh Mi!

  3. It looks and sounds absolutely delicious! I'm still in awe when you make bread. It looks great. In the meatball dept., being the fabulous gourmet that I am, I've always relied on frozen.

    Very impressed mista!

  4. Mmm, meatballs. Thanks Brian!

  5. This won't work for your Vietnamese sandwich. But an Italian friend showed me how to make super tender meatballs when using marinara. Shape the meatballs and simmer in the sauce. Don't brown them first, they cook just in the sauce.

    And a trick I like to do for gluten free meatballs is to use minced mushrooms in place of bread crumbs or other "lighteners". You can have half meat and half veggies. These will be featured in a guest post at Healthy Eats blog later this month. :)

  6. That looks like a restaurant creation. You're a great cook Brian!

  7. Oh my heck, cornstarch! I have been making the worst meatloaf and meatballs ever and trying all these different ingredients with major failure. I'll have to give that a try!

  8. Brian,
    That looks so good.
    I bet my husband would like that sandwich also.
    Great job.

  9. Fantastic, Brian! I do like a good meatball sub and it's been many years since I've had one.


  10. WOW! Must-eat-this-sandwich!!!! I just showed the recipe to my husband, he can't wait to try it as well!

    Looks like it is finally time for me to break down and buy a french bread loaf pan!

    Thanks for the great recipe Brian...