This Beef Banh Mi offers so many interesting flavors and textures in one bite. This recipe for a banh mi sandwich starts with a crusty roll that’s piled high with tender grilled beef, pickled vegetables, and fresh herbs.
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Banh Mi is a Vietnamese sandwich that has depths of flavor. Banh Mi has its origins in French colonialism in Vietnam, with bread being brought into the country by the French. The Banh Mi became popular when it was sold on street corners as an inexpensive fast food option for workers who needed to eat on-the-go. It’s popularity has resurged recently with new versions of Banh Mi, using other proteins such as beef, shrimp, or tofu instead of pork, providing even more flavor options!
In culinary school, one of my practicals for my World Cuisine class I was assigned to Vietnam and had to make a dish highlighting the flavors of that cuisine. I went with a more traditional Banh Mi, using pork, daikon radish, shrimp paste, and making the bread from scratch!
I added my own twist to the classic, swapping out pork for beef while still maintaining the traditional Vietnamese flavors.
History of Vietnamese flavor profiles
Vietnamese cooking is all about balance. The five flavors of Vietnamese cuisine are sour, bitter, spicy, salty and sweet. Interestingly enough, recipes vary from region to region and city to city but share a common theme of contrasting flavors and textures.
The food of the north is heavily influenced by China. As you move south, there is more flavor-blending with Thailand and Cambodia. The tropical climate down south sustains rice paddies, coconut groves, jackfruit trees, and herb gardens. Southern Vietnamese food tends to be sweeter than northern Vietnamese food: sweeter broths for pho; use of palm sugar in savory dishes; and popular taffy-like coconut candies made with coconut cream are made from a mix with milk and sugar.
Staple Ingredients of Vietnamese Cuisine
You may have some of these staple Vietnamese ingredients already in your pantry. Here are a few ingredients you will most likely find in any Vietnamese recipe.
- Fish Sauce: Fish sauce is a condiment made by fermenting fish with salt. It has an intense, salty flavor which when combined with the sweetness of Vietnamese dishes help balance out flavors
- Shrimp Paste: This potent paste is made from fermented shrimp or krill that has been mashed together with salt then dried to produce the salty, pungent paste.
- Pickled Vegetables: Pickled vegetables are a staple in Vietnamese cuisine. Pickling is an ancient preservation technique that doesn’t require refrigeration and has been used for centuries across the world to preserve food.
- Oyster Sauce: Oyster sauce is a condiment made from oysters that are cooked and mashed.
- Sambal Oelek (chili paste): A chili paste usually consisting of chopped red chilies, garlic, shallots and vinegar. It’s used as a spicy flavoring for dishes such as satay or fried rice but it also makes an appearance in many Vietnamese recipes including Banh Mi!
- Hoisin Sauce: Hoisin sauce is an Asian condiment made from soybeans, garlic and spices. The sauce provides sweet and salty flavors as well as some heat but not too much!
- Cilantro: Cilantro is a herb that has a citrusy, peppery flavor. It’s often used in Vietnamese cuisine because it can be added to dishes without overpowering the other flavors.
- Lemongrass: The herb is most commonly used to braise meats, often with fish sauce, sugar, and chilies. It adds lemony, bright, and citrusy notes.
Ways to tenderize beef
Beef is a very hearty and rich meat with a natural taste of umami. It’s also popularly used in Vietnamese recipes. When using leaner cuts of beef, they contain less fat, so marinating the meat to maximize flavor and help tenderize the meat is key.
A marinade works by breaking down the muscle fibers and helping to soften connective tissues. Some ingredients that are good for marinating beef include: soy sauce, ginger, garlic, vinegar or lime juice. This recipe uses Vietnamese flavor profile utilizing:
- soy sauce
- fish sauce
- brown sugar
- sesame oil
Tips for marinades
- You will need approximately 1/4 to 1/2 cup of marinade for every pound of beef
- Always marinate in the refrigerator, not at room temperature
- Before cooking, remove beef from marinade and pat dry with a paper towel to promote even browning and prevent steaming
For this Banh Mi recipe, follow these few tips listed within the recipe below.
- To help easily slice the sirloin, place in the freezer for 10-15 minutes. Use a sharp knife and cut across the grain. Cutting across the grain means to slice perpendicular to the fibers, so the fibers in cut pieces of meat become much shorter, making it easier to chew them.
- Use the white part of the lemon grass. Peel away the hard chewy parts, and mince the softer middle white part of the stem.
- Utilize a peeler to create carrot ribbons or use a mandolin to create julienne slices.
While this recipe may look like a lot of mini recipes within one recipe, it’s worth it. You can thank me later as you are chowing down 😉Print
Adding a twist to the classic Beef Banh Mi by swapping out pork for beef while still maintaining the traditional Vietnamese flavors.
For the pickled vegetables:
3/4 cup radish, thinly sliced
3/4 cup carrot, peeled and julienned
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 tablespoon water
1/4 teaspoon salt
For the beef:
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons lemongrass, white parts only, finely minced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 lb. sirloin, thinly sliced
For the sauce:
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon garlic powder
For the sandwiches:
1 French baguette, cut into 4 pieces, then split lengthwise, toasted if desired
1/4 cup cilantro leaves
1/2 cup English cucumber, thinly sliced
- Combine carrots and radishes in a bowl; set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together the rice vinegar, sugar, and salt, until sugar dissolves. Pour over vegetables. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
- In a bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, fish sauce, brown sugar, lemongrass, garlic, sesame oil, and salt. Add the thinly sliced steak and coat with the marinade. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
- In a large skillet, heat canola oil over medium heat. Add the marinated beef. Cook without stirring for 4 minutes. Give it a stir and continue to cook for 1 minute.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, hoisin sauce, and garlic powder.
- Spread mayo mixture on bottom half of the bread. Layer cucumbers, cilantro beef, then pickled veggies. Place on the top half and slice crosswise before serving.
- Use a mandolin to help easily slice the radishes, carrots, and cucumber.
- To easily slice beef into thin slices, place the sirloin in the freezer for 10-15 minutes before slicing, then slice across the grain.
Keywords: banh mi, sandwich, beef banh mi, beef recipe