Pork Banh Mi for a New Year's Twist

Right about now, most people are mapping out their Christmas menus. I should be doing the same. Instead, my mind is on New Year’s Eve. Last year, bad weather forced us to cancel plans with friends and stay home. It was our quietest New Year’s Eve—and by far the best. We’d spent Christmas in California and had eaten plenty of holiday food. While we were away, I found this recipe for Pork Meatball Banh Mi in Bon Appetit’s January issue. With pork meatballs, pickled vegetables and hot chili mayo on fresh baguettes, it sounded casual, spicy and a nice break from the flavors that usually dominate December.

So, when our New Year’s Eve plans with friends changed at the last minute, we had to come up with a plan B kind of quick. Pregnant with my second child at the time and craving Asian flavors, I remembered this recipe.

A bit labor intensive, it was fun to make with my husband Daniel and perfect for a laid-back, celebratory night at home. With a few meatballs per sandwich and a tangy pile of pickled carrots and daikon on top, one per person was more than enough. We tried to hold back, but ended up splitting another. They were that good, and just as delicious the next day on regular sliced bread since we’d used up all the baguette.

I’m not sure how we’ll ring in 2011 this year, but something tells me these banh mi might become a tradition.

Pork Meatball Banh Mi
From Bon Appetit

Hot Chili Mayo
2/3 cup mayonnaise
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon hot chili sauce (such as sriracha)*

1 pound ground pork
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 green onions, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)
1 tablespoon hot chili sauce (such as sriracha)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

2 cups coarsely grated carrots
2 cups coarsely grated peeled daikon (Japanese white radish)**
1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
4 10-inch-long individual baguettes or four 10-inch-long pieces French-bread baguette (cut from 2 baguettes)
Thinly sliced jalapeño chiles
16 large fresh cilantro sprigs

*Available in the Asian foods section of many supermarkets and at Asian markets.
**Available at some supermarkets and at Asian markets.

Hot chili mayo
Stir all ingredients in small bowl. Season with salt.
Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with plastic wrap. Gently mix all ingredients in large a bowl. Using moistened hands and scant tablespoonful for each, roll meat mixture into 1-inch meatballs. Arrange on baking sheet.
Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

Toss first 5 ingredients in medium bowl. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour, tossing occasionally.

Preheat oven to 300°F. Heat sesame oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of meatballs. Sauté until brown and cooked through, turning meatballs often and lowering heat if browning too quickly, about 15 minutes. Transfer meatballs to another rimmed baking sheet. Place in oven. Repeat with remaining meatballs.

Cut each baguette or baguette piece horizontally in half. Pull out enough bread from each bread half to leave 1/2-inch-thick shell. Spread hot chili mayo over each bread shell. Arrange jalapeños, then cilantro, in bottom halves. Fill each with 1/4 of meatballs. Drain pickled vegetables; place atop meatballs. Press on baguette tops.

Lia Wiedemann is a writer who loves food and her two little boys. She leads Brooklyn food tours for new moms and shares favorite recipes and restaurants on her blog, This Little Piglet.


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