For many years, my husband’s cousin and wife hosted an annual neighborhood “Grill Off.” It was essentially a large block party with all of the neighbors wheeling their grills into the street and setting up shop like a mini street fair. Each year there was a different theme, from Burgers to Hawaiian, to Meat-on-a-Stick to Pork and the winners yield a coveted trophy and bragging rights. Although we don’t live in the neighborhood we were always invited to compete and were sometimes paired up with one of the neighborhood “roadies.” The “Pork” year, we were paired up with some good friends. While we tossed around some more traditional ideas, like grilled pork barbecued ribs, or smoked pulled pork sliders, we ultimately decided to execute something a little outside of the box. We settled on a Vietnamese pork sandwich called a Bahn Mi in hopes of wowing the judges and gaining an upper hand in the unique and creative category. “Bahn What” you are thinking? The Vietnamese term bahn mi has become synonymous with one specific type of bread, Vietnamese style baguettes (baguettes were introduced to Vietnam during the French Colonial period of the early 20th Century). A Vietnamese baguette is typically very crusty yet lighter and less dense on the inside than the French variety. A Bahn Mi sandwich is known to be a Vietnamese baguette filled with sliced pork (usually of the cold cuts variety), pickled carrots and daikon, cilantro, mayo, some hot sauces, some fresh lime, jalapeños, onions, etc. The flavors are outrageous! The version we made for the competition was adapted from a Food Network Recipe (we added our own touches like a wasabi mayo). Our Bahn Mi sandwich, however delicious and deserving it was, didn’t win the competition that year but still garnered a lot of attention for effort and uniqueness and has stuck in my mind as something I’d like to recreate.
My inspiration to make a Bahn Mi style taco the other night came from noticing that I had a bag of shredded carrots that I needed to use up. My eyes scanned the fridge to see what other ingredients were begging to be used….the pork loin in the back corner, still wrapped in the plastic grocery bag was a definite culprit. I noticed the small white flour tortillas in the bottom drawer. Considering I keep most Asian ingredients on hand all the time, I knew I could put together a Bahn Mi style taco. Incidently I was cooking this meal for my husband’s birthday dinner so I wanted him to love it. He did! He actually grilled the pork for me and it was grilled to perfection. The marinade was awesome — reserving a little unused marinade to toss with the pork after it’s grilled helped boost the flavor. This is a fun meal to make and serve with the variety of toppings and if you are inspired by the actual Bahn Mi Sandwich, all you have to do is replace the flour tortillas with baguettes (French or Vietnamese). Plan ahead because the longer you can marinate the pork, the better. Enjoy!!! And P.S. if anyone has a recommendation on where I can find the best Bahn Mi sandwich in Columbus, please let me know!
Vietnamese Pork Tacos (Serves 6-8)
2-2.5 lbs pork loin, sliced thin
5 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
zest of one lime
juice of one lime
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp seasame oil
1 tsp siracha
1 tsp chili garlic sauce
diced cilantro and thinly sliced green onion
1/4 cup mayo, sour cream, greek yogurt
1-2 tsp siracha
1 tsp lime juice and a little zest
salt and pepper
Tortillas and Garnishes:
12-16 small flour or corn tortillas
cucumber or daikon**
**Pickled Carrots and Cucumbers/Daikon (1 cup carrots plus 1/2 cup sliced cucumbers with 2 Tbsp Rice Wine Vinegar, 2 Tbsp water, 1/2 tsp sugar — mix in a small bowl and let sit in refrigerator)
sliced fresh jalapeños
sliced green onions
extra lime wedges
(NOTE: You’ll want to marinate the pork for at least 2 hours or up to 12 hours)
Put pork in freezer about 15-30 minutes prior to slicing it (this will make it firm so it is easier to slice thin). When ready, slice pork into very thin pieces and place in a large zip lock bag. In a small bowl, mix together marinade. Pour about 2/3 of the marinade into the bag with the pork. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Reserve the other 1/3 of marinade to pour over the pork once it is grilled. Prep the Siracha mayo/greek yogurt and the pickled carrots and cucumbers. Slice all other garnishes.
Preheat grill to med-high heat, about 400 degrees. Grill pork pieces about 2-4 minutes per side or until cooked through. Remove from grill and drizzle remaining marinade over pork. Cover with foil and allow to stand for 5 minutes. Serve pork and all ingredients and toppings.