Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Banh Mi Obsession, and whatnot....

So, thanks to a friend of mine posting on the FaceBook about his favorite new Vietnamese place (The friend = Richard Wolfgramm, the place = Oh Mai Vietnamese Kitchen), I have been obsessed with pickled daikon radish. So, you know what that means....searching the wide wide world of web and playing with new recipes. I have made the same flavors serve my appetite in spring roll, noodle salad, and sandwich form!

Step One: Carrot & Daikon Pickle

So, this one's simple but intense. Also, daikon stinks something fierce. Just a friendly warning :-)
Cut a large daikon and a couple of large carrots into matchsticks.
In a small saucepan, bring 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 cup rice vinegar to a boil. Fill jars or tupperware with veggies and pour the slightly cooled liquid over them. Let sit for a hour before using and will stay good in the fridge for at least 4 weeks. One recipe I tried had you salt the veggies and let them soften until they would bend in half without breaking, then rinse, dry, and pour on the sauce sans salt. I didn't detect much of a difference between the two kinds myself, and I'm lazy :-)

Step Two: Vietnamese Curry Powder, from

  • 4 large bay leaves
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds (or 1/2 teaspoon ground)
  • 2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds (or 1 teaspoon ground)
  • 1 teaspoon whole fennel seeds
  • 4 star anise
  • 1 teaspoon annatto powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder (or to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons turmeric
  1. Heat a non-stick pan over medium heat.
  2. Toast whole spices for 30-45 seconds by placing them in the hot pan and occasionally shake the pan or stir the spices with a wooden spoon or chopsticks to prevent them from burning.
  3. Place whole spices in an electric spice/coffee grinder and grind to a fine powder.
  4. Add the powdered spices to the grinder and pulse for a few seconds to mix well.
  5. Store in airtight container away from direct sunlight.
Makes about 1/2 cup of curry powder. I used cayenne for the "chili powder" since it didn't specify what kind. Also, I didn't have annatto powder, so I simply left it out.

Step Three: Sweet Chili Dressing

4 garlic cloves
2 red jalapenos, or 2 tsp red chili paste from the jars with the lime green lids
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon potato starch (cornstarch would work just fine)

Throw everything but the starch in a blender. Blend it up! Bring to a boil in small saucepan, then make a slurry of starch plus 2 tablespoons water (slurry= watery paste, blended well with fork or whisk). Add slowly to sauce while stirring. Cook until it thickens a bit.

Step Four: Currify something as a base

There's many options here. I've done onions, mung bean sprouts, tofu, and rice noodles in various combinations.

1 tablespoon oil
1 tablespoon vietnamese curry powder
1 tsp salt
2 cups whatever you want to curry.

Warm oil, saute powder for a few minutes until nice and fragrant. Add salt and whatever else, keeping in mind that onion would work better cooked for much much longer than the rest of the options (when doing onions, I turn the heat way down and cover the pan for a while, stirring occasionally until they are super soft). Taste and adjust curry powder and salt.

Step Five: Assemble!
Really, let your imagination go wild. My crucial ingredients are listed below:
Cucumber, sliced
Cilantro and other fresh herbs if you've got 'em, like thai basil, mint....
Jalapeno, thinly sliced
Lettuce or Arugula

Baguette for Sandwich-style
Rice Paper wrappers for spring roll-style
Tortillas for taco-style

Go nuts! And...Enjoy!

Here's the Taco version I made at work!

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