March 25, 2021

Banh Mi Chicken Sandwiches

In summers past, the kids and I would sometimes meet up with my husband in town at lunchtime on Thursdays to watch an outdoor family concert while we enjoyed a picnic. Sometimes I'd pack food, but more often we took the opportunity to patronize a new food truck that was right nearby selling Cambodian food. We liked their sandwich especially, with a choice of protein and pickled vegetables and cilantro on top. Later, that food truck became a restaurant, and we get delicious takeout from there now and then. 

One day I was looking for fun sandwich ideas as I was planning our dinners for the coming week, and I came across this Vietnamese banh mi sandwich. I'm a sucker for anything involving rice vinegar, soy sauce, lime, and cilantro, so I had to try it. It was so good (and so easy). It reminded us a lot of the yummy food truck/takeout sandwiches we'd enjoyed. We've had it several times since and most recently because my son remembered and requested it. It is the absolute best if you love quickly-pickled vegetables and a tiny bit of spice. But the nice thing is this sandwich is simply a base of deliciously marinated chicken that everyone likes, and the other stuff can just be brought to the table as optional toppings so everyone can finish their own sandwich the way they like. The last time we had this, we happened to have leftover pickled onions from a recent taco night and those were a fabulous addition. 

We generally take this meal (and most any sandwich night) as an excuse to eat potato chips on the side. (And if you're not a bread/sandwich person, I'm sure this same basic recipe for the chicken, vegetables, and toppings would be as amazing on a salad or on a bowl of rice.) 

Vietnamese Banh Mi Sandwiches 
slightly adapted from Little Spice Jar 
(serves 4)

for pickled vegetables:
1/2 C water
1/2 C rice vinegar
1/2 C sugar
2 t salt
cucumbers and carrots or other vegetables on hand, all thinly sliced into 1/4-in.-thick matchsticks* 
          *(original recipe called for 6 oz. daikon, 6 oz. carrots, and 2 Persian (small) cucumbers, but since 
          the first time we made this, I've skipped the daikon and used more carrot instead or added onion, 
          depending on what we had)

for chicken and marinade:
about 1 lb. chicken breast, sliced in strips
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 C soy sauce 
1 T sugar
1 T mayo
1/2 t lime zest 
2 t Sriracha (we use Cholula instead)

for sandwich assembly and toppings:
4 Vietnamese bread rolls or French baguettes (we buy "European Ciabatta Rolls" from Hannaford, which are the perfect size)
sliced jalapeno or more Cholula
chopped cilantro
For vegetables: 
Combine liquids, sugar, and salt until sugar/salt dissolve. Add vegetables. Allow to pickle while stirring occasionally for an hour, or up to 24 hours in the refrigerator.

For chicken: 
Combine marinade ingredients. Add chicken and allow to marinate for 20 minutes, or up to 24 hours in the refrigerator.

Cook in a skillet until cooked through. (I don't worry too much if the marinade can't sit for long, since the chicken cooks right with its tasty marinade.)

For sandwiches:
Slice baguettes in half lengthwise and toast. Spread with mayo. Top them evenly with chicken. Serve at the table with sides of pickled vegetables, chopped cilantro, and jalapeno slices or hot sauce (and pickled onions if you have them). We eat potato chips on the side. 

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