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Bánh Meatloaf: A Vietnamese sandwich gets an American makeover

Pork and beef meatloaf is flavored with basil, scallions, garlic, and Chinese five-spice powder. Top it with pickled carrots and daikon and then serve with baguette slices for this American take on Vietnamese bánh mì sandwiches.

By Blue Kitchen / April 9, 2013

Give meatloaf a twist with this Vietnamese-American fusion recipe. Top the meat with pickled carrots and daikon, or white radishes.

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We love border-crossing cooking. When ingredients and techniques travel across boundaries and cultures, food gets interesting. Vietnamese cuisine is a perfect example. Not only does it share herbs and spices with its Asian neighbors, but it borrows from its culinary past as a French colony.

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Blue Kitchen

Terry Boyd is the author of Blue Kitchen, a Chicago-based food blog for home cooks. His simple, eclectic cooking focuses on fresh ingredients, big flavors and a cheerful willingness to borrow ideas and techniques from all over the world. A frequent contributor to the Chicago Sun-Times, his recipes have also appeared on the Bon Appétit and Saveur websites.

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A family favorite here at Blue Kitchen is Marion’s Vietnamese Beef Stew. The slow cooked, meaty, multi-spiced dish is served with a French baguette instead of rice and eaten with forks and spoons, not chopsticks. Similarly, bánh mì — in the West, delicious, usually meaty Vietnamese sandwiches — are served on baguettes. In Vietnam, the term bánh mì actually means bread or, more specifically, French bread.

Bánh mì — the sandwich — comes in many forms. The most popular is made with roast pork, but beef, chicken, tofu, and other varieties are generally available in the sandwich shops that have sprung up in cities across the United States. It is virtually always served with pickled carrots and daikon, a mild white radish popular in the cuisines of Japan, China, Korea, Vietnam and India. It’s often served with sliced peppers too, jalapeño being a readily available choice, and topped with cilantro sprigs.

We first sampled bánh mì meatloaf served as the classic sandwich at The Butcher & Larder, our favorite Chicago butcher shop. Made with their own ground pork (and perhaps beef—I don’t remember), it was delicious. About halfway through, though, we stopped eating it as a sandwich, opening it up and concentrating on the meat and toppings with the occasional bite of bread. And that gave me the idea to dispense with the sandwich altogether and create a mash-up of the Vietnamese favorite and the ultimate American comfort food: bánh meatloaf.

Bánh Meatloaf
Serves 4 to 6

For the pickled carrots and daikon—makes about 2 cups:
Make this at least three hours ahead of making the meatloaf to let the vegetables marinate. Will keep for up to three weeks in the fridge. See Kitchen Notes for a couple of thoughts on ways to use the jalapeño pepper.

1/2 cup warm water

4 teaspoons sugar

2 teaspoons salt

1/2 cup rice vinegar (or distilled vinegar)

1 cup carrot matchsticks (or julienned or coarsely grated—see Kitchen Notes)

1 cup daikon matchsticks (see Kitchen Notes)

scant 1/2 cup thin slices of jalapeño pepper (optional—see Kitchen Notes)

Add sugar and salt to warm water and stir to dissolve. Stir in vinegar. Set aside and let cool while you prepare carrots, daikon and jalapeño pepper. Combine in bowl with vinegar mix. Set aside to let vegetables marinate at room temperature, stirring occasionally, for at least 3 hours. For longer than 3 hours, refrigerate.

For the meatloaf:

1 pound ground pork

1 pound ground beef (see Kitchen Notes)

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil

3 scallions, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon fish sauce (see Kitchen Notes)

1 tablespoon hot sauce (such as Sriracha)

1 egg, beaten

1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon Chinese five-spice powder

6 tablespoons bread crumbs (I used panko)

cilantro sprigs

baguette slices

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