I had the good fortune of growing up within a 20-minute drive of Los Angeles' Little Saigon, where it was common to find freshly baked baguettes cradling perfect slices of barbecue pork or pâté to the tune of three for $5. I've always wanted to try making my own.
However, the gap between my cooking experience and dining experience with Vietnamese cuisine could not be further apart than New York and Saigon. So, when I set out to create my bánh mì, I knew that I could not hope to recreate an traditional version that would do those sandwich shops justice. I set out to create my own version.
This recipe aims to be easier and more accessible in terms of ingredients. Instead of barbecue pork or pâté, I used roast chicken (which I made myself, but can easily be substituted with store-bought rotisserie). And in place of the mysteriously addictive butter (MSG anyone?) with equally mysterious ingredients, I made a simple homemade mayo. And lastly mint — bánh mì aficionados might find this strange (I myself have never seen mint in bánh mì before) but mint in general is used often in Vietnamese cuisine, and I think it's a nice touch.
But, in the end, I think the most important thing is the bread. The bread still makes the sandwich, no matter what kind of sandwich it is. So make sure to find a truly excellent baguette that makes that crackling sound when you tear off a piece.
Note: You'll probably have leftover mayonnaise, so save it for the next time you want to make this sandwich (or use it on other sandwiches).
Combine the rice vinegar and sugar in a leakproof container and stir. Add the carrot and daikon pieces and make sure they are fully submerged. Seal the container and shake to combine. Place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or overnight.
Add the egg to the bowl of a food processor and process until beaten. With the machine running, slowly stream in all of the vegetable oil. The mixture should reach a thick and creamy consistency. Add the lime juice, ginger, and garlic. Season aggressively with salt. Set aside.
Slather both sides of the baguette generously with the mayonnaise. Arrange the chicken in a single layer on the bottom slice, followed by the cucumber, jalapeño, pickled carrot and daikon, mint, and cilantro. Top with the other slice, plate, and garnish with additional sprigs of mint and cilantro.