Vietnamese sandwich a tasty snack

Gretchen McKay
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

There's nothing like a great hand-held snack when you've got the munchies but also don't want to spend a lot of time fooling around in the kitchen.

Fresh and full of savory goodness, this simple sandwich made with pantry Asian ingredients can't help but hit the spot. It's a TikTok take on the famed Vietnamese street snack typically made with tender slices of barbecued pork. Only here, roasted chicken thigh is marinated in a sticky, spicy-sweet mix of soy and hoisin sauces and honey kissed with Chinese five-spice powder tucked under the pickled vegetables.

I couldn't find daikon radish — a long, crispy white radish with a mild taste — so I substituted regular red radish. I also used bagged shredded carrots as a shortcut. Sliced cucumber, spicy jalapeno and fresh cilantro add a light and crunchy finish.

Be sure to hollow out each baguette after cutting it open on one side (you want it to be able to hinge open, like a book). That will make the sandwich easier to stuff. Also essential: toasting the loaves in the oven for a few minutes before making the sandwiches, to ensure that signature crunch.

For added spice, add a little sriracha to the mayo before slathering.

Served on a hollowed-out baguette, a chicken bahn mi is one of Vietnam's most famous street foods. (Gretchen McKay/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/TNS)

CHAR SIU CHICKEN BANH MI

For chicken

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon dark sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese 5-spice powder
  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

For vegetables

  • 4 ounces carrots, peeled
  • 4 ounces daikon radish, peeled
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar

For banh mi

  • 4 6-inch baguettes
  • Mayonnaise, for slathering bread
  • Thinly sliced cucumber, for garnish
  • Thinly sliced jalapeno pepper, for garnish
  • Cilantro sprigs, for garnish

Make the char siu chicken: In a medium bowl, mix garlic, hoisin, soy sauce, honey, ketchup, sesame oil and 5-spice powder. Set aside about 1/4 cup of the finished sauce in another small bowl.

Trim any fat off chicken thighs. Score the underside of the chicken by making shallow, crisscross cuts on the thickest part of the thighs and press flat, so chicken is roughly the same thickness all over.

Add chicken to marinade and toss to coat. Marinate for 20 minutes at room temperature or up to overnight, covered, in the fridge.

Make the pickled veggies: Cut carrot and daikon into matchsticks and transfer to small bowl. Add sugar and salt and massage it all together. Stir in rice vinegar and 1/4 cup water. Let pickles sit at least 20 minutes or up to overnight, covered, in fridge.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a sheet pan with foil or parchment paper.

Put chicken on prepared pan and bake until the chicken is completely cooked through and the marinade is starting to caramelize, 20 to 35 minutes, depending on size of thighs.

Remove from oven and slather with the reserved char siu sauce. Let chicken rest for 5 minutes so the sauce thickens from the residual heat, then thinly slice or chop into bite-sized pieces.

Prepare banh mi: While oven is still warm from chicken, stick in the rolls to warm up. Remove after 5 minutes.

Split the toasted rolls horizontally in half, but not all the way through. Scoop some of the crumb out from the middle of the bread to be able to add more filling to the sandwich.

Spread each roll with mayo all over the inside. Add 1/4 of the chicken to the bottom of each roll and top with cucumber, pickled veggies, jalapeno and cilantro. Close up and serve right away,

Makes 4 sandwiches.

— Adapted from "As Cooked on TikTok" (Clarkson Potter, 2022, $20)