I lived in Seattle a few years ago. Not only was it one of the friendliest, most beautiful places I’d ever been, it was also one of the most delicious! One of the greatest culinary treasures was the overabundance of Vietnamese restaurants. You didn’t have to look far to find a great bowl of pho or tasty banh mi.
My searching led me to the holy grail of banh mi sandwiches. Yeh Yeh’s Vietnamese sandwich shop. If you are within 1000 miles of the Seattle area, you need to go to this restaurant. I’m not lying or exaggerating when I say that I ate there at least 3 times a week (typically more) and often would eat there twice a day. They really are that incredible. Anytime a friend or family member visits the Emerald City, I demand that they go to Yeh Yeh’s. All have gone, all are obsessed.
Moving back East, I’ve yet to find a comparable banh mi. I’ve found good versions, including a new spot that recently opened in the neighborhood my office is located in. Lucky for me, that banh mi is pretty scrumptious. I have to admit, it’s no Yeh Yeh’s… but is a worthy contender.
My younger brother, a Yeh Yeh’s convert, gave me the The Banh Mi Handbook for Christmas last year. I couldn’t wait to start making my own banh mi at home! Making this sandwich does require some planning and extra work, it’s definitely worth it though! The roll, which is usually the biggest hurdle in finding a great banh mi, is completely delicious. Fresh baked rolls and bread always elevate any meal to another level and this sandwich is no exception. The beef is seasoned perfectly and has just the right amount of sweet and salty. The carrots, daikon, cucumber and cilantro bring everything together. The sandwich is light and refreshing but also comforting.
If you haven’t had a banh mi, make this today! If you’ve had banh mi and love them, make this today! I promise you will not regret it!
Beef Banh Mi
Adapted from The Banh Mi Handbook
1 lb sirloin steak, thinly sliced
1 recipe banh mi rolls (recipe below)
1 recipe pickled carrots and daikon (recipe below)
1/2 large onion, thinly sliced
2 green onions, cut diagonally
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons raw white or brown sesame seeds
3/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 1/2 tablespoons sake or dry sherry
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 cucumber, sliced into flat spears
1 cup cilantro leaves, washed
1 jalapeño, thinly sliced
garlic aioli or mayonnaise
Makes 4-6 sandwiches
Begin by cutting the sirloin into small, thin strips. Put in a bowl and add the sliced onion and green onions. Set aside.
Using a small skillet, toast the sesame seeds over medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Shake or stir the seeds frequently so they don’t burn. Cool slightly before transferring to a mini food processor. Add the pepper and sugar to the food processor and pulse until the mixture is a sandy texture. Add the garlic, sesame oil, sherry and soy sauce. Pulse until everything is combined into a smooth marinade.
Pour the marinade over the beef and onions. Mix together by hand until very little moisture remains. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 24. Before cooking, pull the beef from the fridge and let it come to room temperature for 30 minutes.
To cook the beef, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of canola oil to the pan and cook the beef for 30-60 seconds on each side before removing from the pan. Cook the beef in 2-3 batches, adding more canola oil each time. Leave the onions in the bowl, you’ll cook these later.
After cooking the beef, lower the heat slightly and add the onions to the skillet. Cook for 3-4 minutes, or until the onions turn a golden color. Add the beef back to the pan and toss everything together.
To make the banh mi, begin by hollowing out your roll. Removing some of the excess breading will make the elements of the sandwich more balanced. Spread a thin layer of garlic aioli across the bottom of the roll. Add your beef and onion mixture, pickled carrots and daikon, jalapeños, cucumber slices and cilantro.
Banh Mi Rolls
500 mg vitamin C from a capsule or crushed tablet
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons instant dry yeast
2 tablespoons lightly packed vital wheat gluten, plus more if needed
3 cups + 3 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more if needed
1 1/2 tablespoons shortening, room temperature
1 1/4 cups very warm water, 110 F
Put the vitamin C, salt, sugar, yeast, vital wheat gluten and flour in the bowl of a stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, mix the dry ingredients on the low for 1 minute. Add the shortening halfway through. Stop the mixer and add the water. Continue mixing on low for another 1-2 minutes or until a shaggy ball forms around the paddle. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes, uncovered. Lightly oil a bowl to transfer to dough.
Attach the bread hook to the mixer. Mix the dough on medium speed for 2 minutes, until smooth. The dough should pull away from the sides of the bowl, forming a ball. If the dough wraps around the hook, add a little more vital wheat gluten to stiffen the dough.
Transfer the dough to an unfloured work surface and knead into a ball. If the dough feels soft and moist, lightly dust the work surface with flour and knead into the dough ball. The finished dough will feel slightly tacky and when pressed, it should bounce back- leaving a slight indentation. Put the finished dough into the oiled bowl, turning to coat the dough with the oil. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place to rise. The dough will double in size in about 45 minutes.
After the dough has doubled in size, remove the plastic wrap and turn the dough out on your work surface. Divide the dough into 6 equal sized portions.
To shape the dough into rolls, round each piece with your hands. Pull, tuck and gather the edges towards the center of the dough ball to form a small mound. Put the dough, seam side down and cover with a towel or plastic wrap. Repeat with remaining dough pieces. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes. While the dough is resting, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Uncover the mounds and shape each piece into a roll. Put the dough, smooth side down on your work surface. Press and pat into a thick disk (like you are forming a hamburger patty). Pull the top of the dough halfway down to the middle. Pull the bottom of the dough half way up to the middle. Do this twice, pressing firmly to seal the seam. Pinch the top and bottom together to form a seam in the center… Pinch the ends closed as well.
Gently rock the dough back and forth, stretching into a torpedo shape, tapering the ends slightly. If the dough resists, let it rest a few minutes before re-rolling. Place the rolls, 2 inches apart, seam side down on the lined baking sheet. Loosely cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap and let them rise for 1 hour, or until they are more than doubled in size.
20 minutes into the final rise, preheat your oven to 475 F.
45 minutes into the final rise, remove the plastic wrap and let the rolls finish rising uncovered. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Fill a spray bottle with tap water and set aside. Grab a glass bottomed casserole pan for the boiling water and set aside.
After the rolls have finished rising, it is time to bake! Score each roll down the center about 1/8 – 1/4 in deep.
Mist the rolls 5-6 times with the spray bottle. Place the baking sheet onto a baking stone or baking steel. Pour the boiling water into the casserole dish and place below the rolls. This will help get a crispy, crackly texture on the rolls. Lower the heat to 425 F and bake for 20-22 minutes or until golden brown, rotating the pan halfway through bake time. When finished, the rolls will sound hollow when you tap on them. Turn the heat off and let the rolls sit in the oven for an additional 8-10 minutes. Remove and let the rolls cool on a rack for 45 minutes.
Pickled Daikon and Carrots
1 medium daikon
1 large carrot
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons plus 1/2 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups distilled white vinegar
1 cup lukewarm water
Peel and cut the carrots and daikon into small sticks, about 3 inches long and 1/8 – 1/4 inch thick. Put the vegetables in a bowl and toss with salt and 2 teaspoons sugar. Massage the vegetables until you can bend a piece of daikon and the tips will touch without breaking, about 3 minutes. Rinse with water and drain in a colander. Transfer the vegetables to a pint jar.
Mix 1/2 cup sugar, vinegar and water together until the sugar is dissolved. Pour over the vegetables and seal. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. This will keep for up to a month.