Sub, hoagie, cheesesteak, and grinder, meet the new sandwich in town: bánh mì. Its tender grilled meat, pickled daikon, and fresh cilantro remember the flavors of its native Vietnam. Its crispy baguette and cool mayonnaise capture the nation's French colonial past. Its simple, paper-wrapped presentation borrows from its origins as street fare. "It's very cheap, it's very quick, it's very good," says Trang Nguyen of Saigon Remembered (5857 York Rd., 410-435-1300). The restaurant's menu offers 13 variations, ranging from tofu ($5.50) to ham ($6.95). Nguyen's favorite features pork tenderloin marinated in garlic and browned on the grill. Bánh mì (pronounced BUN-mee) has also touched down at Hamdpen hot-spot Rocket to Venus (3360 Chestnut Ave., 410-235-7887), where the country pâté-stuffed version is served with jalapeño, romaine, carrots, cucumber, mint aioli, and a side of fries. "I knew in other towns it had a buzz," says chef David Carleton. "I wanted to make it available here." At first, the dish was a slow mover. Now, it holds its own against wimpies and falafel. It also can be made with blackened catfish, grilled chicken, Buffalo-fried tofu, or Korean beef bulgogi, all $11. "I like popular styles of food rather than high-end," says Carleton. "I like mixing them up from wherever I find them."
Vietnamese Pork Sandwich
1 small daikon radish
1/2 Cup water
2 Tablespoon white vinegar
3 Tablespoons sugar, divided
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon chopped lemongrass
1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds
1 pound pork tenderloin
1 small bunch cilantro
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 Cup mayonnaise
Pickle: Slice carrot into thin coins, using the crinkle function on the mandoline, if one's handy. Slice the daikon in half lengthwise, then into thin crescents, crinkled if you like. Aim for about as much daikon as carrot. Mix water, vinegar, and 2 tablespoons sugar in a small glass or plastic storage container. Add sliced vegetables, seal, and refrigerate overnight.
Marinate: In a medium bowl, stir together remaining 1 tablespoon sugar, fish sauce, garlic, lemongrass, and sesame seeds. Trim any fat or clingy membrane from the tenderloin. Slice meat in half lengthwise, then into thin slices crosswise. Toss meat with marinade, cover and chill at least 2 hours (or as long as 24).
Prep: Slice onion, root to stem. Peel and slice into thin crescents. Peel cucumber, leaving a few decorative strips of skin, zebra style. Halve lengthwise. Halve crosswise. Scrape out seeds. Slice each quarter into long strips. Soak cilantro in cold water, spin dry, and discard tough stems. Cut baguette into 4 (8 inches or so) lengths.
Grill: Set a ridged grill pan over two burners. Turn heat to medium-high. When hot, pour vegetable oil over one half. Add sliced onion and marinated meat to heated oil side. Brown, stirring constantly, until darkly colored and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, set the baguette chunks on the un-oiled portion of the pan. Heat, flipping once, until warmed through and nicely tattooed with grill marks.
Assemble: Split each baguette bun-style. Hinge open. Spread with mayonnaise. Pile on grilled meat. Top with chilled carrot and daikon, lifted from the pickling liquid. Tuck in cucumber strips and decorate with sprigs of cilantro. Wrap each sandwich in waxed paper. Squish, gently. Enjoy warm with Vietnamese iced coffee.
Vietnamese Iced Coffee
3 Tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
1/3 Cup ground chicory coffee
Pour sweetened condensed milk into a tall, heat-resistant glass. Set a coffee-filter cone directly over the glass, fit with a paper filter. Measure in the ground chicory coffee (such as New Orleans's Café du Monde). Drizzle in freshly boiled water until glass is half full. Add ice and stir.
Both recipes adapted from Saigon Remembered restaurant, 5857 York Road, 410-435-1300.