Lately I have been on the hunt for the Los Angeles food truck with the best banh mi sandwich, a Vietnamese sandwich that features French bread, sweet pickled vegetables, cilantro, and a protein such as chicken or tofu. So far I haven’t found my dream sandwich on a truck, so I’m happy I found this sensational recipe for banh mi in The Great Pepper Cookbook by Melissa’s Produce.
I went to the cookbook launch party and learned some interesting facts about peppers from Robert Schueller, who is a walking encyclopedia of produce knowledge. I learned that the hottest part of the pepper is the veins; next hottest is the seeds. This is helpful for me to know since I am wimpy and now know what parts to cut out. I never knew before that there are peppers with zero heat, like bell peppers and veggie sweet minis. The cookbook has a helpful Scoville scale chart that maps out every kind of pepper from zero heat to ridiculously hot and everything in between. In case you are ever on the game show Jeopardy or anything like that, I will let you know that the hottest pepper in the world is the Scorpion. Oh, and peppers are technically a fruit because they have seeds.
I loved how Robert explained that the idea behind the cookbook is to use peppers to give food flavor, not necessarily heat. I never thought of peppers that way before, and hearing that encouraged my wimpy-self to try all sixteen of the recipes at the party that were made using the cookbook recipes. I really enjoyed the food, especially the albondigas soup, the pollo en crema, and the chile-chocolate mole truffles. Here’s some of the action from the cookbook launch party:
I’m really impressed with all the attention to detail in this first-rate cookbook. Most of the recipes have gorgeous color photos showing the finished dish. All recipes have a helpful tip or shortcut box filled with useful information. Many of the recipes are Latin and Asian, which are a natural fit with peppers, but there are also American standards that are jazzed up with peppers. The recipes even suggest alternative peppers to suit your preference of spicy or mild. If you like your food with a kick of heat, this book helps match the right type of pepper to each dish.
The first recipe that I wanted to make out of the cookbook was the banh mi sandwich. This is a genius recipe: it delivers the right flavors and does so with a shortcut method. Normally, this dish calls for pickled vegetables that take time to brine. Instead, in this recipe the vegetables take a quick soak in a marinade, then with the addition of sweet chili sauce, all the right flavors are there. This sandwich has perfect balance: sweet and savory, soft and crunchy. It can even have a kick if you’d like.
|Banh Mi Sandwich from The Great Pepper Cookbook by Melissa's Produce|| |
- 1 small carrot, cut into thin strips (about ⅓ cup)
- 2 red and 2 yellow veggie sweet mini peppers* (no heat), seeds and stem removed, cut into thin strips (about ⅓ cup)
- 2 ounces daikon radish, cut into thin strips (about ⅓ cup) (or substitute cucumber)
- 1 green onion, thinly sliced (about ¼ cup)
- 2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
- 1 scant tablespoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
- 1 couple grinds of freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 18-inch French baguette, cut in half lengthwise
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
- ¼ cup sweet chili sauce (I used Trader Joe's brand)
- 2 cooked chicken breasts, sliced (or baked tofu)
- ⅓ cup chopped fresh cilantro
- * if you like peppers with some heat, use 2 fresh cherry bell chiles for mild heat, or use fresh jalapeño chile pepper for medium to hot heat.
- In a bowl combine the carrots, peppers, daikon, and green onion. (If using cucumber, don't put it in yet.) Pour the soy sauce, oil, and vinegar over the vegetables. Sprinkle the black pepper. Set aside to marinade for 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees Farenheit. Place the baguette on a baking sheet, and bake until lightly toasted, about 10 minutes. Spread a layer of mayonnaise and then a layer of chili sauce on the cut sides of the bread.
- Arrange chicken (or tofu) slices evenly on the bottom piece of baguette. (If using cucumber, quickly dip it in the vegetable marinade.) Take the vegetables out of the bowl leaving the marinade behind. Spread the vegetables evenly over the chicken. Next, Sprinkle the cilantro. Place the other piece of bread on top. Cut the sandwich into 4 portions. Serve immediately.
By the way, our food truck search has not been a total loss. We did find excellent pizza at the Urban Oven food truck in the Los Angeles area.
Photos from the cookbook provided by Melissa’s Produce. I received a copy of this cookbook and a sample of veggie sweet mini peppers from Melissa’s Produce. All opinions expressed are my own.
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