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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.

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A quick note: don’t overwork the meatloaf mix—it will become mealy. To help achieve this, only roughly mix the pork and beef together before adding the rest of the ingredients. Mix the basil, scallions and garlic in a small bowl beforehand; do the same with the pepper, salt, sugar and five-spice powder; this will minimize mixing once they’re added to the meat.

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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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Also, I skipped the loaf pan and baked the meatloaf mixture in a hand formed loaf shape on a flat surface. This allowed it to brown on the sides as well as the top and gave it a pleasing loaf shape. Marion has used this technique in the past; I learned my version of it from Ben Bettinger, executive chef at Portland Penny Diner.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Wrap the top of a wire rack with aluminum foil and set it over a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. With a paring knife, poke slits into the foil on the rack.

Using wet hands, quickly work pork and beef together in a large bowl. Add remaining ingredients and, using your hands, work everything together until just combined.

Form meatloaf into an oblong loaf and transfer to foil-wrapped rack. Bake in the oven until an instant read thermometer inserted in the center registers 150 – 160 degrees F, about 1 to 1-1/4 hours, rotating once halfway through. Remove from oven, tent with foil and let it rest for five minutes.

Slice crosswise and plate, topping with pickled carrots and daikon and sprigs of cilantro. Serve with slices of a crusty baguette (see Kitchen Notes).

Kitchen Notes

Preparing carrots and daikon. It’s easy (if time consuming) to hand slice them into matchsticks — a good knife skills exercise too. You can also use a mandolin or coarsely grate them.

About that daikon. You can find it in Asian markets. They’re often huge, far more than you’ll need. But if you’re lucky you can find smaller sizes. If you can’t find daikon, you can substitute jicama (if you can find that) or white radishes. Or you can skip the daikon altogether and double the carrots. But do try to find it — its spicy crunch is delicious.

Jalapeño options. If you’re totally heat averse, one option is to skip it, or completely remove the heat-bearing seeds and ribs. Adding the jalapeño slices to the vinegar mix will share their heat with the carrots and daikon, but I like what the vinegar does to the pepper slices, making them seem a little less raw. Another option is to put them in a separate small bowl and drizzle some of the vinegar on them. Then, when you’re ready to serve, pass the pepper slices at the table, letting those who like spicy foods add them to their plates.

Beefy choices. The ground pork I got for this recipe was nicely marbled with fat, so I went with less fatty sirloin for the beef. If the pork looks lean, choose chuck for the beef.

Fish sauce, such as nam pla or nuoc nam, is a staple in many Southeast Asian cuisines. It imparts a wonderful umami flavor to dishes. You can find in in Asian markets and many supermarkets. If you can’t find it  — or if any of your diners have seafood allergies — try using soy sauce and a squeeze of lime juice.

Have a sandwich. If you opt for actual bánh mì sandwiches, try to track down Vietnamese baguettes. The crust is thinner. And tear out some of the bread inside the crust to accommodate the filling. If you go the sandwich route, be sure to add a little mayo—you could use the sriracha mayonnaise from this recipe for a little extra kick.

Related post on Beyond the Peel: Vietnamese beef stew

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