A symphony of flavours in a delicious Vietnamese sandwich

Pork soboro baguette sandwich uses Vietnamese fish sauce and lemongrass for a refreshing twist. PHOTO: THE JAPAN NEWS
Pork soboro baguette sandwich uses Vietnamese fish sauce and lemongrass for a refreshing twist. PHOTO: THE JAPAN NEWS

(THE JAPAN NEWS/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Disparate flavours meld beautifully in a Vietnamese-style sandwich on a French baguette: savoury ground pork, sour vinegared vegetables, fresh coriander and more. Chef Masumi Suzuki, who specialises in Vietnamese cuisine, shared her recipe with The Yomiuri Shimbun. It makes a tasty and filling meal just right for a picnic.

In Vietnam, it is common for people to buy baguette sandwiches at street food stands on the way to work or school. Ingredients used for the sandwiches are different depending on the area or food stands. Rolled omelette is popular in the north while meatballs and liver paste are often used in the south.

"One of the characteristics of these sandwiches is having a strong flavour," Ms Suzuki said. "It also means using a large amount of vegetables."

The main ingredient of the recipe included here is ground pork soboro. The recipe uses nuoc mam (Vietnamese fish sauce) and a simply named "seasoning sauce" similar to soy sauce on the ground pork. If you do not have those on hand, substitute nam pla (fermented fish sauce) and soy sauce. Lemongrass is also added for a refreshing twist on the sandwich.

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Vegetables used for the sandwich include namasu (a salad of julienned daikon radish and carrot lightly pickled in sweetened vinegar), cucumber and fresh coriander - an herb also known as cilantro or pakuchi.

"Since the pork soboro has such a strong taste, the sourness of namasu and the flavour of fresh coriander will give a good balance to the dish," Ms Suzuki said.

  • Pork Soboro Baguette sandwich

  • INGREDIENTS

    Two 20cm baguettes
    1/2 cucumber
    6 stems fresh coriander
    Mint leaves and mayonnaise to taste
    Black pepper
    150g daikon radish
    50g carrot
    2 Tbs sugar
    21/2 Tbsps vinegar
    2/3 Tbsp nuoc mam
    200g ground pork
    20g lemongrass (white part)
    30g onion
    1/2 clove garlic
    1 Tbsp nuoc mam
    1 Tbsp seasoning sauce
    1 Tbsp sugar
    1 Tbsp toasted white sesame seeds
    2/3 tsp doubanjiang (chilli bean sauce) chilli paste

  • METHOD

    1. To make namasu, peel the daikon radish and carrot and cut into thick strips 5 cm long. Sprinkle a teaspoon of salt over them and leave them until they soften. Wash the vegetables in water and squeeze out excess water.

    2. Put 2 1/2 Tbsps of water and 2 Tbsps of sugar in a pot and heat it. When the sugar dissolves, turn off the heat and let the ingredients cool until mixture is lukewarm. Add vinegar and nuoc mam and mix the ingredients to make a sauce. Soak the vegetables from Step 1 in the sauce and marinate for two or three hours.

    3. To make pork soboro, cut lemongrass into round slices and then chop finely. Mince onion and garlic and mix them with lemongrass and ground meat and remaining seasonings in a bowl. Stir fry in a pan with 1/2 Tbsp of cooking oil over medium heat until cooked through.

    4. Heat the baguettes in an oven for one or two minutes. Cut open and spread mayonnaise over cut surface. Cover bottom half of the baguette with soboro pork and add diagonally cut slices of cucumber, namasu, 1-cm pieces of fresh coriander and mint leaves, in this order, and sprinkle black pepper over it all.

    Lemongrass oil
    Chopped lemongrass can be used for various dishes. For example, a fish sprinkled with salt and chopped lemongrass will take on an Asian flair. Chef Masumi Suzuki recommended "lemongrass oil," cooking oil heated in a pan with an equal amount of lemongrass until it becomes lightly browned.

    "You can use the oil to stir fry vegetables and rice," Ms Suzuki said.

    Frozen chopped lemongrass can be stored for two or three weeks, and the oil can be stored for about a week at room temperature, according to Suzuki.

    Serves two

Ms Suzuki used a corrugated kitchen knife to cut daikon radish and carrots into thick sticks with wavy edges.

"This type of kitchen knife is often used in Vietnam," she said. "Serrated vegetables look good and mix well with sweetened vinegar." Sprinkle salt over the vegetables to remove excess water, then rinse the salt off from them. The vegetables will be too salty if you only squeeze the water out.

Choose a soft baguette to make the sandwich easy to eat.

When eating the sandwich, the combination of the savoury taste of the ground meat, refreshing flavours of namasu and cucumber, and the flavours of the lemongrass and other ingredients fill the mouth. With a good balance of ingredients, one may feel quite satisfied with this sandwich all on its own.