Photo: Paige Green © 2014
Vietnamese cooks love to grill thinly sliced pork; it's no wonder banh mi thit nuong is one of the ubiquitous options at Vietnamese delis. The flavor is often more sweet than savory and dryish in texture. When I make the sandwiches at home, I marinate rich-tasting pork shoulder with elemental southern Vietnamese flavors -- lemongrass, garlic, shallot, and fish sauce, then cook it on skewers. It's an easy breezy path toward banh mi heaven.
- 1 1/2 pounds (675 g) boneless pork shoulder
- 3 large cloves garlic, chopped
- 1/4 cup (1.1 oz / 35 g) coarsely chopped shallot
- 1 fat stalk lemongrass, trimmed and coarsely chopped (1/3 cup / 35 g)
- 1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, or 2 1/2 tablespoons firmly packed light brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons dark soy sauce, or 1 1/2 teaspoons regular soy sauce plus 1/2 teaspoon molasses
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 tablespoon canola oil, plus more for grilling
Cut the pork across the grain into strips, each about 4 to 5 inches (10 to 12.5 cm) long, 1/4 inch (6 mm) thick, and 1 inch (2.5 cm) wide. Set aside in a bowl.
Put the remaining ingredients in a mini or full-size food processor. Whirl into a semicoarse puree. Pour over the pork, then use your hands to massage and coat the meat well. Thread onto skewers, covering most of each skewer. (With 10-inch / 25-cm bamboo skewers, you'll fill 4 or 5 of them. If you plan to cook on the stove top, cut skewers in half to fit the grill pan, or employ short skewers.) Give each skewer a gentle squeeze so the pork hugs the skewer and retains its succulence during cooking. Set on a plate, cover, and marinate at room temperature for 1 hour. For best flavor, refrigerate the skewers overnight or up to 24 hours; let sit out at room temperature for 45 minutes to remove some of the chill before grilling.
To cook, prepare a medium-hot charcoal fire, preheat a gas grill to medium-high, or use a stove-top grill pan heated over medium-high heat with a little oil brushed on. Right before grilling, brush oil on the skewers. Cook for about 12 minutes, turning frequently and basting with oil, until the pork is slightly charred and done. Nick a piece to check. Briefly cool before sliding the pork off the skewers. Keep as nuggets or thinly slice to better distribute in sandwiches.
- This meat goes well with any of the mayonnaises and pickles. Experiment with your grilled pork banh mi.
- To make grilled lemongrass chicken, use boneless, skinless chicken thighs. Follow the prep and cooking instructions for chicken sate but use this marinade.
[Related: Andrea Nguyen's interview about banh mi basics]