Grilled Chicken Bahn Mi

One of the most frustrating things about keeping a food blog is photographing everything (or most things) that you cook. No matter how many shots I took of this AMAZING bahn mi, the pics just are not pretty. The contents spill out in an awkward way. The plate is messy. It won’t win any beauty contests, but it’s insanely good.

A bahn mi is a Vietnamese sandwich that combines hot, sour, sweet and crunchy. It is a little like a salad between two pieces of toasted French bread. I won’t kid you. Making one can be time consuming. It involves pickling carrots and daikon radish. Then you must marinate, chop, grill and assemble. And finally, it’s time to take a bite. The combination of flavors and textures is incredible.

Jeff and I have been doing a lot of Vietnamese cooking this summer. Lime juice, cilantro, fish sauce and chiles have a cooling effect when its 90-degrees outside, and we’ve had too many of those so far this year. The marinade , which combines hot, salty, sour and sweet, makes killer chicken. Keep in mind that it has lime juice, so don’t let the chicken soak longer than three hours. Citrus can do funky things to protein if given more time.

I’m also including rough instructions for a Vietnamese chicken salad, which can be assembled in 15 minutes with leftover grilled chicken and the pickled veggies. No cooking required.

Grilled Chicken Bahn Mi
slightly adapted from Food & Wine, June 2008

1 cup Asian fish sauce
1 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup sugar
8 garlic cloves, minced
4 red Thai chiles, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon kosher salt
8 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (3 1/2 pounds)

MAKE THE MARINADE: In a bowl, whisk the fish sauce with the lime juice, sugar, garlic, chiles and salt. Put the chicken in a resealable plastic bag with all but 1/4 cup of the marinade. Reserve the remaining marinade for the Vietnamese Chicken Salad (recipe follows). Seal the bag and refrigerate the chicken for 3 hours.

Pickled Vegetables:
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Pinch of crushed red pepper
2 large carrots, julienned
2 to 3 ounces daikon radish, julienned

PICKLE THE VEGETABLES: In a small saucepan, bring the water, vinegar, sugar, salt and crushed red pepper to a boil. Transfer the brine to a large bowl and let cool to room temperature. Add the carrots and daikon and cover to keep them submerged. Refrigerate the vegetables for at least 30 minutes and up to 3 days.

Bahn Mi
Four 8-inch baguettes, split and grilled
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 cucumber, thinly sliced lengthwise
10 large cilantro sprigs
1 jalapeño, thinly sliced

MAKE THE BANH MI: Light a grill. Remove the chicken from the marinade and pat dry. Grill the chicken over moderate heat, turning once, until just cooked through, about 14 minutes. Transfer to a work surface and let rest for 5 minutes.Drain 1 cup of the pickled vegetables. Slice 6 of the chicken breasts. Reserve the remaining pickled vegetables and 2 breasts for the Vietnamese Chicken Salad. Spread the cut sides of the baguettes with mayonnaise. Arrange the cucumber slices on the bottom halves. Top with the chicken and the pickled carrots and daikon. Garnish with the cilantro sprigs and jalapeño. Close the sandwiches and serve.

Vietnamese Chicken Salad
Food & Wine, June 2008

(The only essentials are the marinade, oil, greens and chicken. Mix and alter this as you like and the result will no doubt be incredible.)

1/4 cup reserved chicken marinade
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Green cabbage, romaine lettuce, or other sturdy greens
2 reserved grilled chicken-breast halves, sliced 1/3-inch thick
1 medium shallot, thinly sliced
1 cup reserved pickled carrots and daikon, drained
1/4 cup finely chopped mint
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a large bowl, whisk the reserved chicken marinade with the vegetable oil. Add the cabbage, chicken, shallot, pickled carrots and daikon and chopped mint and cilantro and toss well. Season with salt and pepper.


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