March in the Midwest brings some dreary rainy days, and dreary days scream for soup! One of my favorite soups is the Vietnamese soup Pho (pronounced fuh).
Pho is a beef broth-based soup flavored with star anise, ginger, cardamom and cinnamon with rice noodles and thinly sliced beef. It also comes with various accoutrements, such as cilantro, bean sprouts, lime, Thai basil and Sriracha. Pho is delicious and warming for any gray day. Another great accompaniment for Pho are Banh Mi sandwiches.
Banh Mi, also Vietnamese, is a sandwich on French bread traditionally made with pate, daikon radish, pickled carrot, cucumber, jalapeño and mayonnaise. What makes Banh Mi sandwiches stand out are the French ingredients. The sandwich is a product of French colonialism in Vietnam with its use of French bread, pate, and mayo. There are many subtle French influences in Vietnamese cooking, most namely in the Banh Mi sandwhich but also in Pho and it's heavy use of beef, which was made popular by the French. Pho is often considered a main course, but the two dishes together are an amazing combination of flavors perfect to chase away the rainy day blues!
Lemongrass Chicken Banh Mi
Yield: 4 sandwiches
Active time: 45 minutes
Start to finish: 1 hour, 15 minutes
For the chicken:
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 stalks lemongrass, finely minced
1 cloves garlic, crushed
1 Thai chili, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons grapeseed oil
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
Additional grapeseed oil for cooking
For the vegetables:
1/2 pound daikon radish, peeled and grated
1 carrot, peeled and grated
1/2 seedless cucumber, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 to 2 tablespoons sriracha
Four 8-inch crusty sandwich rolls, or 1 French baguette cut into four portions
Fresh cilantro sprigs
1 jalapeño, thinly sliced (optional)
- Place the chicken thighs in a resealable bag. Whisk together the lemongrass, garlic, chili, 1 tablespoon fish sauce, soy sauce, grapeseed oil, honey and sesame oil in a small bowl. Pour this marinade into the bag with the chicken, and seal. Rotate the bag to fully coat the chicken in the marinade. Refrigerate for at least an hour, or overnight.
- In a medium-size bowl, mix together the daikon radish, carrot, cucumber, rice wine vinegar, sugar, 1 tablespoon fish sauce and salt. Stir well and allow the vegetables to marinate for 20 minutes or more.
- Heat a large, heavy pan over medium heat, and add the grapeseed oil. Remove the chicken thighs from the marinade, and set them in the pan. Cook until well caramelized on the bottom, 3 to 4 minutes. Flip and cook on the other side until nicely browned and almost cooked through.
- Pour the marinade into the pan. Continue to cook, turning the chicken in the sauce, until the sauce becomes thick and coats the chicken pieces. Remove from the heat.
- Allow the chicken to rest for 5 minutes, and then cut into thick slices.
- In a small bowl, stir together the mayonnaise and sriracha.
- To assemble the sandwiches, spread the spicy mayonnaise on one side of the bread. Top with three or four slices of the lemongrass chicken. Spoon a generous amount of the vegetable mixture on top of the chicken followed by several fresh cilantro sprigs, and jalapeño slices, if desired.
If you don't want to make your own Banh Mi sandwiches or Pho, make your way to Argyle street. The crossing of Broadway and Argyle in the Uptown neighborhood is the hub of southeast Asian culture and food in Chicago.
If you want to learn how to bake the delicious bread used to make a Banh Mi sandwich, join The Chopping Block for How to Bake Bread hands-on cooking class on Saturday, March 18 at our Lincoln Square location. If you love street food like Banh Mi is considered, don't miss our Street Food class on Monday, March 20 at the Merchandise Mart. And if you want to learn more about the flavors of Thai food, be sure to attend Vegetarian Thai on Monday, March 13 at Lincoln Square. The menu consists of Mango and Cucumber Spring Rolls with Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce, Tom Kha Gai (Mushroom and Coconut Milk Soup), Vegetarian Pad Thai, Sweet Potato and Eggplant Yellow Coconut Curry with Steamed Jasmine Rice. It just happens to be vegan too!