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OISHII / A symphony of flavors in a delicious Vietnamese sandwich

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Ground pork baguette sandwich

The Yomiuri ShimbunPork soboro baguette sandwich

In this column, chefs and cooking experts share recipes that are easy to prepare at home.

Disparate flavors meld beautifully in a Vietnamese-style sandwich on a French baguette: savory ground pork, sour vinegared vegetables, fresh coriander and more. Chef Masumi Suzuki, who specializes in Vietnamese cuisine, shared her recipe with The Yomiuri Shimbun. It makes a tasty and filling meal just right for a picnic.

In Vietnam, it is common for people to buy baguette sandwiches at street food stands on the way to work or school. Ingredients used for the sandwiches are different depending on the area or food stands. Rolled omelet is popular in the north while meatballs and liver paste are often used in the south.

“One of the characteristics of these sandwiches is having a strong flavor,” Suzuki said. “It also means using a large amount of vegetables.”

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    Clockwise from bottom left, lemongrass oil; fresh lemongrass and chopped lemongrass

The main ingredient of the recipe included here is ground pork soboro. The recipe uses nuoc mam (Vietnamese fish sauce) and a simply named “seasoning sauce” similar to soy sauce on the ground pork. If you don’t have those on hand, substitute nam pla and soy sauce. Lemongrass is also added for a refreshing twist on the sandwich.

Vegetables used for the sandwich include namasu (a salad of julienned daikon radish and carrot lightly pickled in sweetened vinegar), cucumber and fresh coriander — an herb also known as cilantro or pakuchi.

“Since the pork soboro has such a strong taste, the sourness of namasu and the flavor of fresh coriander will give a good balance to the dish,” Suzuki said.

Suzuki used a corrugated kitchen knife to cut daikon radish and carrots into thick sticks with wavy edges.

“This type of kitchen knife is often used in Vietnam,” she said. “Serrated vegetables look good and mix well with sweetened vinegar.” Sprinkle salt over the vegetables to remove excess water, then rinse the salt off from them. The vegetables will be too salty if you only squeeze the water out.

Choose a soft baguette to make the sandwich easy to eat.

When eating the sandwich, the combination of the savory taste of the ground meat, refreshing flavors of namasu and cucumber and the flavors of the lemongrass and other ingredients fill the mouth. The complex taste and flavor never grew old. With a good balance of ingredients, one may feel quite satisfied with this sandwich all on its own.

Recipe for pork soboro baguette sandwich

Ingredients (serves 2): 

Two 20-cm baguettes

½ cucumber

6 stems of fresh coriander

Mint leaves and mayonnaise to taste

Black pepper

For the pork soboro

200 grams ground pork

20 grams lemongrass (white part)

30 grams onion

½ clove of garlic

1 tbsp each nuoc mam, seasoning sauce, sugar and toasted white sesame seeds

⅔ tsp doubanjiang chili paste

For namasu

150 grams daikon radish

50 grams carrot

2 tbsp sugar

2½ tbsp vinegar

⅔ tbsp nuoc mam

Directions:

1. To make namasu, peel the daikon radish and carrot and cut into thick strips 5 centimeters long. Sprinkle a teaspoon of salt over them and leave them until they soften. Wash the vegetables in water and squeeze out excess water.

2. Put 2½ tablespoons of water and 2 tablespoons of sugar in a pot and heat it. When the sugar dissolves, turn off the heat and let the ingredients cool until mixture is lukewarm. Add vinegar and nuoc mam and mix the ingredients to make a sauce. Soak the vegetables from Step 1 into the sauce and marinate for two or three hours.

3. To make pork soboro, cut lemongrass into round slices and then chop finely. Mince onion and garlic and mix them with lemongrass and ground meat and remaining seasonings in a bowl. Stir-fry in a pan with ½ tablespoon of cooking oil over medium heat until cooked through.

4. Heat the baguettes in an oven for one or two minutes. Cut open and spread mayonnaise inside each baguette. Cover bottom of the sandwich with soboro pork and add diagonally cut slices of cucumber, namasu, 1-centimeter pieces of fresh coriander and mint leaves, in this order, and sprinkle black pepper over it all.

Lemongrass oil

Chopped lemongrass can be used for various dishes. For example, a fish sprinkled with salt and chopped lemongrass will take on an Asian flair. Chef Masumi Suzuki recommended “lemongrass oil,” cooking oil heated in a pan with an equal amount of lemongrass until it becomes lightly browned.

“You can use the oil to stir fry vegetables and rice,” Suzuki said.

Frozen chopped lemongrass can be stored for two or three weeks, and the oil can be stored for about a week at room temperature, according to Suzuki.

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