When my boys were young, they weren’t always easy to feed. Unlike most kids, however, mine weren’t stuck in the mode of wanting only a few favorite foods. My boys were the opposite. They would tire of eating food, even something they clearly liked the first time, before we could finish the leftovers.
Maybe that’s because they grew up having to eat all kinds of different foods, since I tested recipes for books, articles or classes. Maybe they just got bored quickly. Who knows? What I do know is their distaste for the same food often caused me problems when it came to meals that were supposed to be easy, like with sandwiches.
While other mothers could slap together a PB&J and have their children rejoice, mine would give me a ho-hum look, take one bite and lose interest. That was OK. I knew they wouldn’t starve, but as someone who liked a culinary challenge, I was constantly looking for different combinations of fillings to wedge between two pieces of bread.
These didn’t have to be groundbreaking. Even taking the usual sandwich suspects and mixing up their traditional partners, or adding an unexpected twist would often do the trick. One day it would be ham and cheese, with thin slices of green apple. Another day it might be turkey with a little mango chutney mixed into the mayo, or almond butter with honey and bananas.
One sandwich my kids loved was the bánh mì. While bánh mì is actually a type of Vietnamese bread, here in the U.S., it usually refers to a sandwich filled with anything from roasted seasoned pork belly, Vietnamese sausage or spreadable pork liver pâté to grilled chicken. It’s often topped with fresh cucumber slices, cilantro and/or mint leaves and pickled carrots and daikon in shredded form.
Over the years, I have tried all kinds of bánh mì filling options. My basic strategy is to quick-pickle some shredded carrots and diakon, mix up a little mayo with Sriracha sauce, and have fresh herbs and sliced chile peppers ready. The meat element is usually whatever I have on hand. Sometimes it’s thinly sliced leftover pork roast or roasted chicken. Sometimes I’ll make a hot filling, like this slightly spicy ground chicken version.
The combination of the sweet/tangy pickled vegetables, creamy/spicy mayo, meat and fresh herbs made my boys happy, as long as I didn’t make it too often.
Chicken Bánh Mì
Makes 4 sandwiches.
Note: Diakon is a Japanese radish that looks like a large parsnip. It can be found in the produce section of most grocery stores, but if you can’t find it, just substitute with extra carrots. From Meredith Deeds.
• 1/2 c. shredded carrots
• 1/2 c. shredded daikon radish
• 2 tbsp. unseasoned rice wine vinegar
• 2 tbsp. sugar
• 1/4 tsp. salt
• 1 tbsp. olive oil
• 1 lb. ground chicken
• 4 garlic cloves, minced
• 1 tbsp. fish sauce (also called nam pla or nuoc nam, available in Asian section of supermarket)
• 2 tsp. Sriracha
• 1 tbsp. sugar
• 1/4 c. low fat mayonnaise
• 1 tbsp. Sriracha
• 4 small hero rolls or 1 baguette cut into quarters and split
• Fresh mint leaves
• Cilantro leaves
• Jalapeño, thinly sliced, optional
To make the pickled vegetables: In a bowl, toss together the carrots, daikon, vinegar, 2 tablespoons sugar and salt, and let stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Drain in a colander.
To prepare the chicken filling: Heat the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken and cook, breaking up lumps with the back of a spoon, for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, fish sauce, 2 teaspoons Sriracha and 1 tablespoon sugar and cook, stirring, for another 2 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.
To prepare the Sriracha mayo: In a small bowl, mix together the mayonnaise and 1 tablespoon Sriracha.
To assemble sandwich: Spread the mayo on both sides of roll or cut baguette. Divide the meat among the rolls. Top with the pickled vegetables, mint, cilantro sprigs and jalapeño, if using.
Nutrition information per serving:
Calories 400 Fat 14 g Sodium 1,070 mg
Carbohydrates 47 g Saturated fat 3 g Total sugars 12 g
Protein 22 g Cholesterol 65 mg Dietary fiber 2 g
Exchanges per serving: 2 starch, 1 carb, 2 medium-fat protein, 1 fat.
Meredith Deeds is a cookbook author and food writer from Edina. Reach her at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @meredithdeeds.com.