Lime Marinated Pork Banh Mi (Vietnamese Sandwich)

I’ve been working in the city for awhile now; I’ve worked downtown, midtown, union square (my favorite). I’m shocked at how hard it is to get a decent sandwich in most areas of the city. I don’t want a boring turkey sandwich with lettuce and pale flavorless tomato or a pre-made, frozen chicken cutlet sandwich for lunch. Maybe I’m just too demanding, but I get bored real fast and need to seek out new food. Granted, Union Square was by far the best area for food that I ever worked in but even then, after 3 year of working there, I was getting bored. So when I read about this little sandwich shop near Union Square, a place I probably passed a 100 times without even noticing, I sensed there was hope for finding a new gem. As soon as I realized their signature item just so happened to be my favorite thing in the world, pork belly and they offered a watermelon juice similar to the one I recently posted on this site, I knew this place was going to be good times. The name of this place is Num Pang Sandwich Shop on 12th st and University, south of Union Square. If you go, here are my suggestions…5 Spice Pork Belly, Skirt Steak with coriander and peppercorn, Catfish and definitely get some watermelon juice, in fact, drink watermelon juice whenever you can, its a magical drink. I’m so into this  place it inspired me to try and make my own version of one of their sandwiches. I would have used pork belly but I couldn’t find any, so I just decided to try it with marinated pork tenderloin. Pork is a bit healthier too. This sandwich works on all levels. The vegetables add crunch and acidity, the pork is juicy and flavorful (if you cook it properly), the cilantro adds a nice freshness and the jalapeno and spicy mayo add a kick. I would not be upset if you told me I was only allowed to eat this for the rest of my life. It’s just that good.

Ingredients:

1 lb Pork tenderloin

5 Limes, zested and juiced

2-3 Medium carrots, shredded

1 Daikon radish, shredded

4 Scallions, sliced

1 bunch of fresh cilantro, chopped

1 Kirby Cucumber, shaved with a vegetable peeler

3-4 cloves of garlic, half grated, half chopped

A thumb-sized knob of fresh ginger, grated

1/4 cup of Soy Sauce

1/4 cup of Rice Wine Vinegar, plus a little extra if needed

1 Jalapeno, sliced

1/4 cup of mayo

1 tablespoon of Sriracha Sauce (Asian chili sauce)

2 tablespoons of Canola oil

6 tablespoons of sugar

2 tablespoons of agave

Salt & pepper

Large Fresh Baguette

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You want to get the meat marinating first so it can absorb all the flavor. You could use a large tupperware container or even better, a heavy duty, over-sized ziplock bag to marinate in. Then, start creating the marinate in whatever container you choose.

Grate the garlic and the ginger.

Chop up the cilantro and then slice the scallions and add them to the garlic and ginger. Reserve some of the scallions for the shredded vegetable mix.

Zest and juice 4 limes and add the soy sauce, red pepper flake and either sugar or honey. Mix is all up.

Pork tenderloin is a really lean meat, however, in most cases, there is a piece of connective tissue that needs to be removed. To do this, take out your sharpest, skinniest knife and thread it through the meat so that your knife separates the connective tissue from the meat and cut in on direction. Be careful, don’t cut yourself.

Then take the loose end of the tissue, angle your knife slightly upwards and wiggle the knife down and the connective tissue almost peels off the meat.

Once the tenderloin is cleaned, toss it in the marinade and let is sit in the fridge for 1-2 hours at least, turning it half way through. Now you go prep everything else.

A pickled cucumber is optional…but I like it. I’ll admit, its a little redundant if you have shredded carrot and daikon that’s made in the fashion of a quick pickle but I like, I think it adds a texture contrast. Just take a vegetable peeler and peel thin slices. Put it off to the side until you make the quick pickling liquid.

Then shred the daikon radish and the carrots into a bowl and add some of the scallions you sliced earlier for the pork marinade.

The quick pickling liquid is really easy to make. First, finely chop up 2 cloves of garlic. Then add some red pepper flake, about 3 teaspoons of sugar and 1/2 cup of rice wine vinegar and about 1/4 cup of water. Taste it, if its too diluted, add some more vinegar, you want it to be nice an acidic. Mix it all up and then pour half the liquid over the carrots and diakon mixture and then soak the sliced cucumber in the remaining liquid.

You gotta have some spicy mayo. Take about a 1/4 cup of mayo in a small bowl and then add a tablespoon of Sriracha sauce along with 1-2 tablespoons of honey or agave, depending on how spicy you like it. Season it with a little salt and pepper, mix it all up and put it off to the side until you’re ready to assemble the sandwich.

Preheat your oven to 425º. Take the pork out of the marinade and pat it dry with a paper towel. In an oven proof saute pan that’s been sitting over medium-high heat, sear the pork tenderloin on all sides. Should take about 2-3 minutes for each side. Once it’s nice and brown, throw it in the oven for about 15-20 minutes, or until the center of the pork reads 150º. That would be medium rare, which results in a slightly pink and juicy center. Now, most people are scared of eating pork when its juicy, they’d rather eat it when it’s dry and tasteless all because they don’t think it’s safe to eat pork when its slightly pink.. And because of this, a lot of people never really know how delicious pork tenderloin can be. So please, trust me, pink is safe in pork. But don’t guess, use an instant read thermometer and you will always have perfectly cooked meats. Take the pork out when the thermometer hits 150º, let it sit on a cutting board or a plate for 5-10 minutes and it will be perfect!

While the pork is resting, prep your sandwich, slice up some jalapenos, or if you have pickled jalapenos, that’s a good time as well. Also,  cut the tips off of a large french baguette and the halve the baguette so you have two big pieces for two nice, hefty sandwich. Heat them up in the oven for a few minutes.

Once the pork is rested and all the juices are redistributed through out the meat, slice it up. Take a look at the pink center in the pictures below. That means the meat is juicy, delicious and SAFE to eat.

Now its time to assemble. Take one of the baguettes and schmear the spicy mayo all over both sides of the bread…

…then add a layer of the pork…

…then a layer of jalapenos. Put as much or as little as you like.

Next, take a big ole’ handful of the shredded pickled vegetable mix and stuff it in the sandwich.

Follow that with another big handful of fresh cilantro…

…and finally, the sliced pickled cucumber.

There is something about this sandwich, not this one in particular, as good as it is, but Vietnamese banh mi style sandwiches in general. I just happen to think it’s the most perfectly conceived sandwich I’ve ever tasted. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, try this sandwich, or visit Num Pang Sandwich Shop in Midtown or down by Union Square…no doubt some of my favorite sandwiches in the city.

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