Five Spice pork for Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches

Add the pork from this authentic recipe to a baguette with some fresh cut veggies and you have the classic Vietnamese street food: a banh mi sandwich. 

The Ravenous Couple
Crisp, colorful veggies, well-seasoned pork, and fresh, crusty baguettes make up the three elements of a Vietnamese banh mi sandwich.

The popularity of a classic Vietnamese sandwich, called a banh mi sandwich, has taken off well beyond small enclaves of Vietnamese-American communities as it now makes an appearance on restaurant menus and even the parent company of Taco Bell and KFC is planning a banh mi shop. Essentially a banh mi sandwich incorporates Vietnamese prepared vegetables and meat inside a single-serving crusty baguette.

"The Banh Mi Handbook: Recipes for Crazy-Delicious Vietnamese Sandwiches" by Andrea Nguyen provides a foundation for making classic versions of banh mi as well as a source of  inspiration for unique banh mi interpretations. It’s divided into recipes for the banh mi pantry, bread, condiments, main fillings which comprise the vast majority of the book.  Recipes in the fillings ranging from cold cuts, pork and beef, seafood,  and vegetarian fillings.  The last section has alternative interpretations, encouraging experimental versions of bánh mì. It’s a relatively short book at 125 pages, but is packed with over 50 recipes.

As one of America’s foremost experts on Vietnamese cuisine, Nguyen has an introductory banh mi 101 section on the history of banh mi and sprinkles enjoyable personal tales among the recipes.  While her cookbook covers the classic recipes for banh mi, such as banh mi thit nuong, the majority of the book’s recipes are nontraditional recipes – think beef doner kabobs, Panko crusted talipia, caramelized shrimp, and coconut curry tofu. Similarly the recipes for traditional condiments such as pickles, pate, and mayo are covered, but again Nguyen adds other interesting twists such as snow pea and lemongrass pickles, and edamame pate. Nguyen implores cooks to expand banh mi’s boundaries and to "love it for what it is: a super tasty sandwich."

Reading "The Banh Mi Handbook" and it’s gorgeous photos did make us crave some banh mi and we were glad to see a recipe for Five Spice barbecue pork, thit xa xiu, was included.We love the sweet and sticky texture of xa xiu as it complements the sour pickles and richness of mayo and pate so well. It’s one of our favorite banh mi fillings.  The flavors of the recipe are spot on. One suggestion: Reserve more of the marinade for glazing as this recipe makes plenty of marinade and slather it on as you grill the meat.

Five Spice barbecue pork (xa xiu)
From "The Banh Mi Handbook" by Andrea Nguyen 

Makes 6 sandwiches

1-1/2 lbs pork shoulder/butt
2 cloves garlic minced and mashed
1/2 teaspoons Five Spice powder
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1-1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
canola oil, for grilling

1. Cut pork into 3 chunky strips about 2 inches thick and 6 inches long. Set aside.

2. In large bowl, combine the garlic, Five Spice powder, sugar, sesame oil, soy sauce, ketchup, and hoisin. Reserve 2 tablespoons of marinade (or more) for brushing.

3. Add the pork to the marinade and coat well. Marinate for 1 to 24 hrs, turning 2-3 times.

4. To grill the pork, set grill to medium. Lightly oil grates and cook for 16-20 minutes turning frequently. During the last 5 minutes, baste with reserved marinade. Cool on cooling rack. If roasting, preheat oven to 475 degrees F. and roast in top third of oven for 30-35 minutes. Baste with marinade every 10 minutes. Regardless of cooking method, the xa xiu should have a glazed look with charred exterior and internal temperature of 145 degrees F. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing into banh mi.

See related post on The Ravenous Couple: Miến Gà Vietnamese Chicken Glass noodle soup 

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