Sandwiches really are a beautiful thing… and when they’re done right they really are perfect in so many ways. I’ve realized that try as I may, I just can’t deny the fact that I love bread – it’s really not possible to make a good sandwich with bad bread… it just isn’t. And similarly, good bread makes a sandwich.
Recently I discovered that the market by my house which carries a large amount of Vietnamese ingredients, happens to sell amazing French rolls that are perfect for banh mi. I’ve always just walked right past them but lately I’ve started taking them up on the too-good-to-be-true seeming 3 for a dollar price.
They also carry lots of fresh fish that usually doesn’t look particularly fresh but on the day I made this sandwich there must have been a good haul because the whole fish were looking particularly clear-eyed. So I grabbed a tilapia – I was making a quick lunch so I didn’t have time to go catch it myself, you know… sorry, Alice!
This sandwich was really more like a banh mi meets torta. Imagine the first interlude on Ms Pacman but with two sandwiches bouncing toward each other… “they meet! <3". Two of my favorite sandwiches, squeezed into one roll. The thing that distinguishes the banh mi from other sandwiches though, is the pickled carrot, daikon and fresh cilantro. Vietnamese and Mexican flavors play really well together… lots of cilantro, lime and heavy heat in both. So I figured I might as well throw some avocado, mayo and lime in there, as if I was making a torta. And I smashed and toasted the bread a little bit too.
But I digress – back to those pickles… the pickled carrots and daikon are what really sets banh mi apart and they are so quick and easy to make it’s crazy. You can use them for so much more than just sandwiches, too. For these I just used the basic sweet vinegar mix I’ve been using that I adapted from D Chang’s Momofuku book. You just julienne the carrots and daikon and toss them in the vinegar mix before you do anything else. By the time you’re ready to put them on the sandwich they’ll have soaked up plenty of flavor and they’ll only get better the longer they sit (within reason… at least a week or so in the fridge).
So after filleting the fish, dredging the fillets in flour and pan frying them, I assembled my masterpiece…
Good slather of mayo on the bread, smashed and toasted for a few minutes in the oven. Sliced avocado spread across the top half, topped with the pickled carrots and daikon. Tilapia fillet on the bottom half topped with fresh cilantro and then all doused with lime juice. Smash together, slice and eat.
The only thing missing was the sliced fresh jalapenos…