Besides Vietnamese pho, banh mi is also a popular dish in this Asian country. This Vietnamese sandwich is one of the best street foods in the world. Wherever I go in Vietnam, the vibrant banh mi carts and stands never fail to catch my eye. The beauty of this Vietnamese sandwich lies in its perfect combination of taste, affordability, nutrition, variety, and convenience.
Banh Mi Meatballs Recipe
The name “banh mi” actually refers to the bread itself, which is a legacy of French colonial influence in Vietnam. The Vietnamese adopted the baguette and made it their own Vietnamese baguette, resulting in a lighter, airier version with a crispy crust and soft interior.
What makes me excited about the dish is the combination of fillings that go inside. It features a protein element, often grilled pork, chicken, pork bologna, meatballs, fishcake, fried egg, fish, meat floss, or pate, complemented by a symphony of fresh vegetables. Common additions include cucumber, cilantro, pickled carrots, daikon radish, and sliced chili for an extra kick.
Each bite is a burst of flavor, a harmonious blend of crispy baguette, savory meats, fresh vegetables, a delicious spread of pâté or mayo, and a drizzle of soy sauce.
I understood why McDonald’s struggles to make it big in this country. Who needs fast food when there’s a healthier and more delicious alternative readily available?
I tried many types of banh mi and love the one with pork bologna (Banh Mi Thit Cha Lua). However, since I couldn’t find true Vietnamese pork bologna, I decided to make my second favorite – Banh Mi Meatballs (Banh Mi Xiu Mai).
Here is the recipe for Banh Mi Meatballs in Tomato sauce:
Banh Mi Meatball with Tomato sauce
- 1 lb ground pork
- 1 lb tomato diced
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
- 150 g onion sliced
- 5 bulbs shallot minced
- 1/4 cup finely chopped green onions
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- Baguette or banh mi rolls
- Fresh cilantro for garnish
- In a large mixing bowl, combine ground pork, breadcrumbs, green onions, half of minced garlic and shallot, fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar, and black pepper. Mix until well combined and marinate it for 15 minutes
- In a large skillet or pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add minced garlic and shallot and sauté until fragrant.
- Add the diced tomatoes and onion to the skillet and season with salt and pepper. Bring the sauce to a simmer. You can add more water if needed
- Shape the mixture in step 1 into small meatballs.
- Gently place the meatballs into the simmering tomato sauce. Cover the skillet and let the meatballs cook in the sauce for about 20 minutes, or until the meatballs are cooked through and the sauce is thickened.
- While the meatballs are cooking, prepare the banh mi rolls by cutting them into slices.
- Ladle the tomato sauce and meatballs into a bowl and top it with cilantro and chopped green onions. Now you can enjoy the dish by dipping banh mi slices into the sauce and eating it along with meatballs.
Banh Mi Variations
What’s fascinating about banh mi is its adaptability. You can create different fillings and stuff them in the bread. Besides some popular fillings I listed below, here are some interesting banh mi varieties:
- Banh Mi Chao is a very special type. Instead of stuffing fillings inside the bread, they cook these fillings in a pan. These fillings often include fried eggs, pate, ham, sausage, grilled pork, etc. You will dip the bread to the sauce in the pan and eat it with the fillings.
- Breadstick (Banh Mi Que) is a simple version with only one filling – pate. However, it’s still the favorite one thanks to the harmonious flavors: crispy on the outside and fatty and soft on the inside.
- Vegan Banh Mi: This type of Vietnamese banh mi is quite special to me. Upon first glance, you might assume this banh mi recipe is brimming with meat, but it’s actually completely vegan. It’s a mystery to me how they achieve it, but the fillings mimic the textures of pork bologna and fishcake so convincingly. Not only does the Vegetarian Banh Mi look the part, but it also boasts a taste that rivals, or dare I say, surpasses the real deal.
- Banh Mi Ep: The fillings for this pressed bread are pork bologna, ham, and meat floss,… served with coriander and pickles. But what makes this bread special is that it is pressed and baked, making it incredibly crispy and delicious.
- Chili Grilled Banh Mi (Banh Mi Nuong Muoi Ot): The bread is greased and coated with a special chili-salt sauce. It’s then grilled over charcoal and served with cheese, pork floss, shrimp floss, scallion oil, mayonnaise, sausage, and pate.
- Banh Mi Pha Lau is stuffed with cucumbers, green onions, and pha lau filling. Pha lau is a dish that includes pork organs like the stomach, intestine, ears, and nose of the pig. The bread is drizzled with chili sauce and sauce from the pha lau dish.