August was National Sandwich Month but I didn’t really think about them until September. It may have been because the pho cookbook had me fixated on rice noodles all summer. Now that I’ve met a major benchmark in writing the manuscript and Rory has started a new semester of teaching, I have time and motivation to wander back to banh mi. I baked a batch of bread last week and put them in the freezer. While I was thinking of back-to-school banh mi, Traca and Tim – both from Seattle coincidentally with names that begin with the letter “T”(!), pinged me about banh mi party tips.
Since The Banh Mi Handbook came out last year, I’ve been making a lot of sandwiches for casual and formal events. I’ve entertained guests with them at my home and done private and public events focused on the national sandwich of Vietnam. My experience includes feeding banh mi to 4 to 300 hundred people. It’s doable and fun and I’ve written about some of my adventures on this site. Traca and Tim got me to revisit some of the banh mi party ideas and think up new ones. Here we go –- and please don’t hesitate to share your party tips so we may all benefit.
Dainty banh mi are good for nibbling as appetizers. I’ve made pretty banh mi tea sandwiches which my neighbor, a former Navy man with a linebacker’s body, thoroughly enjoyed. This summer, I made banh mi crostini for dinner guests, letting them assemble their own. I set out liver pate, French butter, pickles (daikon and carrot, and green tomato), cilantro, and salt and pepper. The crostini was cut extra thin and I only used a third of a baguette for the four of us. Our guests were Francophiles and loved the Viet-French canape. He was a historian who’d researched the American South and the green tomato pickle tickled him enough for him to ask for the recipe (I’ve only known him to mix Margaritas).
For a large and diverse crowd, do what I did for the banh mi book launch in San Francisco: set up a banh mi bar. Give a quick demo and then let people dive into the banh mi fray. See this post for tips. Use crostini if space is limited or set up multiple stations with small baguette-style rolls for guests to fill. Offer sandwich spreaders to make the mayo work go faster.
Last Saturday on the way back from the farmer’s market, we drove past a Korean-owned Mexican market where a church group was holding a soul food and barbecue fundraiser. We u-turned for what turned out to be a generous half slab of smoky pork ribs. We couldn’t eat it all. Rory suggested I make something with the leftover 2 large ribs. The meat was super tender and I immediately thought of barbecue rib banh mi. I guess you could call this a Viet McRib sandwich but I reckon this may taste better(!):
If you want to make the barbecue rib banh mi, use tender cooked ribs. If you’re having a big barbecue (or just go buy some), set aside a few ribs. Pull the meat off the bone and discard cartilage pieces along the way. Warm the pork in a skillet. Daikon and carrot pickle was in the above sandwich, with homemade sriracha mayo, jalapeno, cucumber and cilantro. There was Maggi seasoning, of course. I ate green tomato pickle on the side. For this sandwich, I used the meat from just 1 of the largest ribs; a half slab of spareribs will likely be good for 5 or 6 banh mi sandwiches.
For a crowd, whip up giant banh mi and cut them into smaller pieces. Use whole baguettes (this one came from Safeway, I think). I filled the one below with the Korean beef and kimchi and cheese recipe on page 99 of the banh mi book. The Hanoi grilled chicken and Chinese barbecue pork can be made in advance and reheated for sandwiches; recipes are on pages 57 and 89. Lots of advance prep tips are tucked into The Banh Mi Handbook. If you can’t find suitable large baguettes, use smaller ones and cut each into 3 or 4 pieces. Get guests involved in assembling sandwiches.
You can also use something light-ish, like the above Sheepherder’s loaf, and cut the sandwich into wedges. It can be a little cumbersome if you arrange the filling like a flower petal, radiating from the center. Each wedge should have the same components as the others.
For a Meatless Monday Night Football gathering, serve vegetarian banh mi. I recently wrote up a bunch of meatless banh mi ideas that should appeal to a diverse range of eaters. This is the lemongrass sriracha tempeh banh mi.
Yesterday at a hardware store I spotted a small grills and smokers marketed for tailgating. I envisioned hot dog banh mi or little banh mi sliders (see pages 59 and 96 of the handbook for recipes). The lemongrass pork sausage banh mi would work too. When traveling with banh mi pickles, I drain them of the brine and put the pickles in ziptop plastic bags. Under refrigeration, they keep well in the bag for a couple of days. They’re pickled!
Like a good suit, treat the recipes in The Banh Mi Handbook like a clothing ensemble. Mix and match. Wear the jacket with jeans, the pants with a hoodie (or maybe not). Maybe the skirt will look fabulous with a casual-nice t-shirt and a pair of Vans sneakers? Go ahead and be creative with banh mi.
Got any banh mi party tips or ideas to share? Don't hold back from us!