Bahn mi tron sandwich

bahn mi
Yes I have just just returned from 3 weeks in the North Eastern reaches of Western Australia and yes I’ve got some stories to tell about fish and crocodiles and cooking on the coals of an open fire. Proper Crocodile Dundee shit. But that’s on hold for now. It’s a time thing. It’s not you it’s me. You know?

Besides, we had bahn mi for lunch today so I thought I could quickly tell you about that. That will be plenty easy, right?

We had a bit of cooked pork belly, prawns, some home made pate and a baguette all congregating in our kitchen. All at the same time.

Do you know what that means?

I will tell you what that means through a direct quote straight from the mouth of my 9 year old son, Obi.

“We should make bahn mi for lunch”.

Yes Obi, yes we should.

I understand that it’s not going to be too often the occasion that these ingredients just happen to be hanging out in the kitchen, like those robot lions, just waiting to form Voltron… or in this case, bahn mi tron. So it is totally feasible to go to the shop or the market or where ever it is you buy things to eat and purchase a little sliced roast pork, cooked prawns and a bit of pate… and you can get yourself a baguette while you’re there, ay.

Then you can put it all together pretty easily and let the memories of your Vietnam holiday come flooding back.
IMG_7256

The cucumber is best if it's sliced with the same type of hand held double mandoline thingy that is used all over the streets of Vietnam. This invention would've charged a few finger tips for sure...
The cucumber is best if it’s sliced with the same type of hand held double mandoline thingy that is used all over the streets of Vietnam. This invention would’ve charged a few finger tips for sure…
We had some left over roast pork belly which I crisped up in the pan
We had some left over roast pork belly which I crisped up in the pan
Getting crazy with all that pate and shit
Getting crazy with all that pate and shit

Can you see what I was so excited about?
Can you see what I was so excited about?

BAHN MI (per sandwich)

1 single serve baguette or a long baguette for 4 people (and then quadruple this recipe)
3 slices roasted pork of some description. Belly, shoulder, leg, neck… they all work well
3 medium cooked prawns (shrimp), peeled and deveined
1 tablespoon pate
3-4 thin slices cucumber
A few sprigs each fresh coriander, mint and basil
A good splash of bahn mi dressing (recipe follows)

• Slice baguette open
• Spread pate over the inside of the baguette
• Layer pork, then prawns, then cucumber and then herbs in the baguette and then dress with a good splash of that bahn mi dressing
• Dear good lord that is some delicious shit, non?

BAHN MI DRESSING

3 tablespoons sambal oelek
1 tablespoon fish sauce
a splash light soy sauce
1 tablespoon chilli vinegar
(All available from your local friendly Asian super market)

• Mix it all together
• Remaining dressing will last for at least a couple of weeks. Use it to dress a chicken salad or toss through some noodles or just dip a carrot or an actual stick in it for some low-cal eating if that’s how you’re rolling

It got all smooshed up and doesn't look too crash hot but believe me this is some tasty shit
It got all smooshed up and doesn’t look too crash hot but believe me this is some tasty shit

Still banging on about Vietnam… and a recipe for Pho

vietnamese pho noodle soup
One thing that is very noticeable in Vietnam is the hawkers… every densely populated area (which is in fact every square meter of ground in this country) has it’s hawkers and those hawkers will hit the streets in force and advance on the populace, both local and foreign, and will all try and convince you that they are selling exactly what you need; a book, CDs, donuts and other sweet coated fried bread products, cigarettes, cigarette lighters, wallets, hats, trinkets (I don’t even know what a trinket is, but it seems like something these people would sell), watches and other bits and pieces.

For the most part they are in fact selling nothing that you need, but they will not believe you when you tell them this, so you need to walk on (see “the cardinal rule when dealing with hawkers”).

The only hawkers that truly have something that you might want are the ones who are selling the donuts. Sweetened little balls and fingers (not actual body parts) of tasty fried bread goodness, these guys are doing you a favour. But, if you do in fact make a purchase from one of these vendors you are faced with another set of problems because you have in fact communicated and, dare I say, looked the hawker in the eye and in doing so, you have broken the cardinal rule when dealing with hawkers – if I may bring it to your attention – DO NOT ACKNOWLEDGE OR LOOK AT HAWKERS.

As much as you are a nice and decent human being and they are people too and you have your obligation to be kind to your fellow man and blah blah blah. Well you need to realise that these people are the lion and you are the antelope, and if you falter, even for a second, they will pounce on you, drag you to the ground and rip you to shreds, then more of their kind will come and squabble over your remains.

It is like opening your door to a gypsy; you only see one initially and think that’s going to be fine, next minute your house is over-run and you find yourself renting your own Toyota Camry from a small man with a decisive limp and an uncanny way with goats…

Legit as heck - pho getting served in the streets of Hanoi
Legit as heck – pho getting served in the streets of Hanoi

Another thing that is very easily noticeable is the love of pho.

Everywhere you go in this place there are piles of the freshest, tastiest rice noodles you have ever had the pleasure of placing in your face, just laying there, quietly dormant, patiently waiting for their ovation once swimming in the clear, mothers-milk of a stocky broth that will finally allow this dish to be known as pho.

Breakfast, lunch, dinner, summer, winter, special occasion, regular midweek dinner or lonely Friday night in for one, this noodle soup is anytime food, comfort food, party food and food to be consumed from your girl friend’s body all in one.

If you are smart you will make this, or something very similar. If you are not smart you are probably sitting at the dinner table trying to eat soup with a knife and fork.

Carry on.

Charring the onions and ginger. A cake rack over a flame works a treat
Charring the onions and ginger. A cake rack over a flame works a treat

Spices about to get slapped around a bit
Spices about to get slapped around a bit
Clear and scum-free is the result you are looking for
Clear and scum-free is the result you are looking for
Herbs. Heaps of herbs
Herbs. Heaps of herbs
The beef version
The beef version
Herbs and sprouts and other shit that goes in your pho
Herbs and sprouts and other shit that goes in your pho

The chicken version
The chicken version

PHO –BEEF or CHICKEN. YOU CHOOSE (serves 6-8)

I feel that before you embark on this mission you should know that eating pho is a life style choice. Other things that, say, the Australian Prime Minister says are a lifestyle choice, may in fact not be a lifestyle choice at all and are indeed just more words that seem to fall effortlessly from his lips with the express purpose of embarrassing the Australian people.

FOR THE BROTH
2kg beef bones (or 4-5 chicken frames)
1kg brisket (or ½ chicken. You can freeze the other half for later, eat it for dinner tomorrow, or even make a double recipe of pho so you can feed the neighbourhood… I can’t believe I need to tell you this)
500g onions
1 thumbsized piece ginger (approx. 50g)
1 cinnamon stick
3 black cardamon pods
1 star anise
2 cloves
10 black peppercorns
1 stalk lemongrass, light part only, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
Water

TO SERVE
500g dried rice noodles
1 bunch garlic chives, chopped
250g bean sprouts
4-5 spring onions, chopped
A large pile of picked fresh herbs (I used mint, basil, coriander and purple shiso)
Lime quarters
Some kind of fresh chilli or chilli condiment
Sweetened fish sauce

• Put the bones and meat in a large pot with enough water to cover. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Strain and discard water
• Grill onions and ginger over an open flame for 5-10 minutes until nicely charred. Chop roughly
• Combine all broth ingredients in a clean pot (you could probably just clean the other pot out and use that…) and cover with approx. 4lt water
• Simmer broth for 2 hours or so, skimming a few times to remove scum from surface
• Strain through a fine sieve or muslin or even a clean chux, and return to heat. Remove meat and chop to serve (pick chicken from bones first if using)
• Check seasoning and adjust if necessary
• Soak rice noodles in hot (but not boiling) water for 2 minutes or until starting to soften. Drain
• In a wire basket/sieve, blanch bean sprouts in broth for 20 seconds
• Put it all on the table for people to help themselves to whatever
• Put “go to Vietnam” on your bucket list

Soz for all of the Asia talk that’s coming up and a recipe for Smoky Eggplant and Pork (kinda knicked from Morning Glory Restaurant, Hoi An)

smoky eggplant, pork, morning glory, vietnam, hoi an
As you may or may not know, Jennee and I have spent the last three weeks with our two boys, Seba and Obi, travelling around the Mid-North of Vietnam and Laos – get a bit of culture and a whole heap of good food into us, yeah?

Well, now we’re back and I feel I should semi-apologise for the talk of these countries that will ensue on this blog over the next while… but not really…

While we were travelling I wrote some stuff down in a small brown writing book that had off white pages and faint black lines to keep my writing neat. How clever of the journal making people. I carried my writing book and a black pen with me in a backpack. I wrote words about the things I saw, heard, touched, smelled and more importantly, ate.

It was an interesting experience to be doing the old pen on paper thing again full time for three weeks. Interesting and good. Really good. Although from time to time I ended up feeling like a student who was completing his away-from-school-journal that his nasty assed parents were making him write about his experience because he was missing school… a lot like what we did to our children, except we got work sheets from the school as well *insert absolutely sinister, deriving way to much pleasure from the children’s suffering, parent laugh here*.

As it seems like it may take me a day or two to properly decipher and amalgamate said journal, I shall get straight into the cooking side of things. The last few weeks have been easily the longest time I have spent out of the kitchen in the last 10-15 years purely because… well… let’s face it, there was soooo much really fucking good food, getting cooked on every street corner in Vietnam, all being sold at what can only be described as ridiculously low prices, like, eat some cracking food and get a beer for the same price as a coffee is going to be in Australia, that there was no way I was going to be cooking on this trip. No effing way.

Now is time for me to return to my rightful place at the stove and off load some of the pressure that has been building in my brain due to the sensory overload that was Vietnam and Laos.

This is an attempt (the first of many I am sure) at the reincarnation of a dish we ate at Morning Glory Restaurant (don’t worry, there’s a post all of its own coming for this little gem of a place… sexual innuendo included) in Hoi An. It was the tastiest little smoky eggplant number and, if you love the tasty of smoky charred eggplant as I do, then you will love this dish. Unless you don’t like pork, in which case you will not like this dish at all. You should leave the pork out. Yes, for those of you amongst us who are of the predisposition that does not for what ever reason believe in the consumption of pork, we here at foodisthebestshitever recommend you omit the pork from this dish.

Also, I have added a little rice to the pork mince in the recipe, which the more astute amongst you may notice is not in the pics. This is because as I was winging this recipe I neglected to look at the photos I had taken of the original dish at Morning Glory and realised later that the OG dish did indeed appear to have a little rice mixed through the pork mince. This little number was damn tasty but I think it was just missing the rice to help the pork stick together a little. Anyway, this shit is fully easy, tasty, good. Get on it!

Grill the eggplant over an open flame so it gets all black and delicious looking
Grill the eggplant over an open flame so it gets all black and delicious looking

Get some rice cooking in a rice cooker. This shit is legit
Get some rice cooking in a rice cooker. This shit is legit
Eggplant peeled, cut and looking sweet
Eggplant peeled, cut and looking sweet
Porky goodness slapped on top
Porky goodness slapped on top

Garnished with the good stuff and ready to hit the table
Garnished with the good stuff and ready to hit the table

SMOKY EGGPLANT with PORK MINCE (serves 4 with sides)

500g pork mince
3 medium eggplant
1 large or 2 small onions, finely sliced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
½ teaspoon castor sugar
½ teaspoon ground pepper, black is what they use in ‘nam
A splash of stock or water
1 cup of cooked rice (you can use the stuff you’re going to serve it with)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
Crisp eshallots* and sliced green chilli to garnish
Stir fried vegetables with garlic and steamed rice to serve

• Grill the eggplant on an open flame as you would for a babaganoush or something similar, except don’t quite cook it all the way through as you will finish the cooking process in the pan. Peel and cut into thumb-sized pieces
• Lay the eggplant pieces in a pan and set aside while you get the pork ready
• Heat oil and cook onions over med-high heat for two minutes or until starting to brown. Add fish sauce and garlic (I feel a knob of ginger, finely julienned, would also be a great addition right now) and cook out for another minute. Set aside
• In same pan stir fry pork mince over high heat until cooked. Season with black pepper. Stir through onion mix including all of the oil, and also stir through one cup of cooked rice… I hope you have some rice cooking**…
• Now to get it all together
• Dress eggplant with soy sauce, sugar and a splash of stock/water and the spoon pork mix over the top
• Cover and simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes, or until eggplant is fully cooked
• Check seasoning and add a little more soy sauce if necessary
• Garnish with a heap of chilli and crisp eshallots, and serve

*Crisp eshallots are available everywhere you look in Vietnam, or Asian grocery stores and probably even major supermarkets in whatever country you live in

**It is totally legit to use a rice cooker. I recommend using a rice cooker. Asians use rice cookers. In Asia it was not uncommon for us to wake to the sound of tens of thousands of rice cookers being simultaneously switched on around the city. True story. Get a rice cooker today.