We don't really associate sandwiches with Asian food, unless we're talking about bao buns. Mmmmmm, one thing I need to invest in is a steamer, I love a good bao bun. But in all seriousness, is there any more evidence of historical occupation that what food comes out of it.
Vietnamese food is becoming a very popular thing in Britain at the moment. Most famously, people will go to Vietnamese restaurants to eat Pho. In fact there is a chain of restaurants in England called "Pho" and they serve just that. It's a rich, flavourful broth topped with mountains of fresh herbs and vegetables and either succulent wafer thin seared beef or perfectly barbecued chicken or pork.
One thing the Vietnamese didn't have before the French occupation in the 1800s was bread. The French initially went to the far east as missionaries. How do you explain "the bread of life" without the knowledge of what bread is? Not being funny, but logically, one would change the analogy from "bread" to "rice". In Vietnamese, Korean and Japanese culture, rice is THE food staple. Just like we have bread.
Instead, the French introduced bread into Vietnamese culture. This gave birth to many new dishes, one of them being banh mi, which actually means "bread" - bet you didn't think you'd get a history lesson today. Banh mi is quite common as street food (because it's a sandwich and obviously easy to eat on the go) but it's so easy to make at home. The first time I made it was for Christmas Eve dinner before Midnight Mass. I knew I'd have to make it again after seeing not just how easy it was to make, but how delicious it is to eat.
You can use any kind of French bread for this but I like to use the "finish baking it yourself" mini baguettes that you get in the supermarket. That way the bread is already portioned up for you and it's almost like eating fresh bread. Well, I suppose technically you are eating fresh bread. I've used pork belly but you can marinate steak or chicken instead. This one is by far my favourite.
Char Siu Pork Banh Mi
2 pork belly strips
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp shoaxing wine (if you can't get this, try a little white wine vinegar)
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce
1 tsp 5 spice powder
1 pinch of pepper
6 cloves garlic, grated
8 tbsp sugar (yes, that's not a typo)
1 large French loaf or 6 French rolls
1 nest rice noodles
12 thin slices cucumber
2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
2 spring onions, chopped
Cut the skin off the top of the pork belly. Try to keep as much fat on the top as possible while removing the skin. In a bowl big enough to fit the pork belly in, mix the honey, shaoxing wine, 1tbsp soy sauce, oyster sauce, 5 spice, pepper, garlic and sugar. Marinate the pork belly in the sauce for at least an hour but it's better if you can leave it overnight.
Preheat an oven to 200 degrees C. Lay the slices of pork upside down on the rack of a roasting tray so that the fat can drip down and brush with half of the remaining sauce. Once the oven is hot, put the pork in for 15 minutes.
In the meantime, soften the rice noodles according to the packet instructions and then drain. Mix in the remaingin soy sauce and sesame seed oil.
Take the pork out of the oven, turn it over, brush with the remaining sauce and return to the oven for another 15 minutes. This is a good time to cook your bread rolls if you need to cook them. Once the pork is finished cooking, you can start assembling the rolls as they rest.
Cut your bread open and brush each base with sweet chilli sauce. Then place 2 cucumber slices on top, followed by as many noodles as you dare (about a forkful), sprinkle on some spring onions and then cut each pork belly slice into three and place a bit on top of the noodles. Very carefully close the sandwich and secure with a skewer.
Serve this with a peppery Asian salad and enjoy. These are actually a perfect addition to a summer picnic. Just wrap them in greaseproof paper and secure with foil or string.