I am addicted to Num Pang, the small Cambodian banh mi joint right off Union Square. Their sandwiches have actually become a bad influence. One afternoon Cara and I were already running late to a meeting in the area, but then we passed the storefront and just couldn't resist. The hands of the guy we were meeting with probably smelled like pulled duroc pork after we shook them.
A few weeks later, I picked up a Zip Car a block away, and decided to get a pulled pork banh mi to go for my trip out to Long Island for a book-related photo shoot. Bad move. I showed up on Cara's doorstep reeking of chili mayo, the driver's side upholstery covered in sauce.
It goes without saying that I've been dying to try my hand at banh mi at home. And regardless of the portability problem I mentioned above, I thought they'd be the perfect sandwich to bring on board Sophie's boat, which has once again made the summer heat wave all the more bearable.
To cut down on the mess, I went with a non-traditional variety of the banh mi, while staying true to the signature accouterments: picked carrot, cilantro sprigs, and, best of all, chili mayo. Instead of the pulled pork, I grilled chicken breasts and then dressed them in some leftover coconut peanut sauce to create a moist, juicy chicken satay. This allowed me to use less chili mayo, while keeping the intense flavor of the sandwiches.
I put such a small amount of chili mayo on the baguette that our captain, James, didn't even notice it was there at all. James has an irrational mayo phobia, and actually went so far as to thank me for leaving it off. (Sorry buddy.)
The good news is for mayo-haters: these chicken satay banh mi sandwiches are so saucy and flavorful, you don't even need the extra condiment. Better yet, for the cooks and cleaner uppers, you eliminate the fatty mess of pulled pork grease by using chicken, which tastes (almost as) delicious.
But regardless of taste, these banh mi's are arguably better for you. If not, thanks to num pang, the best ever.
--Phoebe Lapine of Big Girls, Small Kitchen
Chicken Satay Banh Mi
Makes 6 sandwiches
If you're a less staunch believer than I, feel free to leave the mayo out altogether. But I'm a lover, people.
For the chicken:
1 lime, juiced
1/2 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
2lb chicken thighs
1/2 cup coconut peanut sauce
For the pickled carrots:
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 medium carrots, cut into 1/8-inch match sticks
For the sandwiches:
2 baguettes, sliced in half lengthwise
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon siracha
1 bunch cilantro, woody stems removed
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the lime juice, sugar, salt, and olive oil. Add the chicken and toss until well coated. Set aside to marinate for 20 minutes.
In the meantime, whisk together the vinegar, sugar, and salt in a medium mixing bowl until dissolved. Add the carrots and toss until combined. Set aside to pickle for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Brush a grill or indoor grill pan with olive oil and place over a high flame. Grill the chicken in batches: cook for a few minutes on the bottom, rotate a quarter turn, and cook for a few minutes more. When there are nice grill marks formed in a cross-hatch, flip the chicken and repeat on the opposite side. Cook until the chicken is firm to the touch. Set aside to cool. When the chicken is no longer piping hot, toss it together with the peanut sauce in a medium mixing bowl.
In a small mixing bowl, combine the mayonnaise and the siracha. Season with a sprinkle of salt.
Toast the bread on a cookie sheet under the broiler for a few minutes until crusty, but not browned. Slather the top half of bread with the mayonnaise. Arrange the chicken on the bottom half of the bread, cutting the larger pieces to fit. Top with the carrots, making sure to leave behind any excess liquid so that sandwich doesn't get soggy, and a handful of cilantro leaves. Press down the top half of the bread and cut into sandwiches.
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