cheat’s vietnamese pork rolls | banh mi

As Soph pointed out, I’m on a bit of a Vietnamese roll at the moment.

I have a thing for fresh bread rolls, especially the baguettes you find in Vietnamese bakeries – light as air on the inside and crispy on the outside. Vietnamese cuisine is heavily influenced by the French (from years of colonial rule) and you won’t go a block without finding a Banh Mi stand selling fresh baguettes loaded with anything from pate and cucumber to roast pork loaded up with herbs.

One of the best food memories I have is when travelling through Vietnam years ago in my carefree uni days. Talk about roughing it. I can remember missing a bus and having to sleep on the floor at the local bus station with Ali and a few other backpackers. Having to get up at the crack of dawn the next morning to catch the next bus, I was woken by the smell of sesame oil.

A local Vietnamese woman who spoke very little English came out of the kitchen bearing gifts that this very grateful, hungry, tired and cold traveller will never forget. A meal of a fresh baguette with a simply whipped up omelette cooked in loads of sesame oil, it was so lovely and thin and to this day I can still taste it!

I will often whip up a similar omelette cooked in sesame oil at home on mornings where we need something that little bit greasy to get the day started. (Think one too many drinks the night before).

And after eating delicious pho and rice paper rolls in Sydney over the weekend, I was busting to get home and cook up some of my favourite mid week cheat meals, inspired by these traditional Vietnamese dishes. I had fresh mint and coriander left over from my pho last night which I couldn’t see go to waste, hence the pork rolls today.

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Now nothing beats a Vietnamese pork roll. Usually made with roast pork, I went for some easy pork mince meatballs instead. Affordable, lean and tasty, this is a great recipe to make when you have friends round on the weekend. A casual Friday night meal that can be made ahead of time and one that you can lay out in the middle of the table and let your guests dig in to themselves. It’s a winner.

Don’t be deterred by the list of ingredients – all of the steps are so easy and can be made ahead of time too. I remember flicking through a magazine somewhere years ago (I think it was a Donna Hay) where she used pork mince in a Banh Mi. I threw in some of my usual suspect ingredients that I seem to use a lot when cooking Asian inspired dishes – those being some fresh ginger, garlic, chilli and my secret ingredient – Chinese five spice. Teamed up with heaps of fresh mint and coriander and my easy Sriracha mayo – you’ll be reaching for a second, that’s for sure.

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cheat’s vietnamese pork rolls | banh mi (feeds 4 adults)

pork meatballs
500 grams of pork mince
1/2 a Spanish onion, finely chopped
2 x garlic cloves, crushed
A knob of fresh ginger (about the size of a 20 cent piece), peeled and minced
1/2 a teaspoon of chilli (from a jar)
A good sprinkling of Chinese five spice
Salt and freshly cracked pepper
Good dash of peanut or vegetable oil, for shallow frying

cheat’s pickled carrot
3 x carrots, peeled and then cut in to long thin strips (I use a speed grater to do this)
1 x tablespoon of rice wine vinegar (can also use white vinegar)
2 x teaspoons of white sugar
A good pinch of salt

sriracha mayonnaise
3 x good tablespoons of whole egg mayonnaise
A good squirt of Sriracha (to taste)
The juice of half a lime
Salt and freshly cracked pepper

Fresh long rolls, for serving, sliced in half lengthways
1 x Lebanese cucumber, shredded, to serve
Fresh mint leaves, to serve
Fresh coriander leaves, to serve
Shallots, finely chopped, to serve
Extra Sriracha, to serve

  • In a mixing bowl combine the pork mince, onion, garlic, ginger, chilli, Chinese five spice and season with salt and pepper.
  • Roll in to small balls, doing your best to keep them all the same size and place them on a tray.
  • In a large non stick fry pan, heat a generous amount of oil and fry the meatballs until nicely browned on all sides*. Set aside.
  • While this is happening, get on to making the pickled carrots. To do this – simply peel and discard the carrot skins and then using a speed grater, make long thin carrot strips.
  • Place the carrot in a small mixing bowl and add the vinegar, sugar and salt and toss. Set aside.
  • Now to make the Sriracha mayo – simply mix together the mayonnaise, Sriracha** and lime juice and season with salt and pepper.
  • When you’re ready to eat, smear a generous amount of the mayo over the roll and load up the meatballs, cucumber, carrots (squeezing out any excess moisture), shallots, fresh mint and coriander. Serve with extra Sriracha.

Lo’s tips

  • *Make sure that you don’t have the heat turned up too high or otherwise the meatballs will burn on the outside and won’t cook all of the way through.
  • **Sriracha is a popular chilli sauce that can be bought at most good supermarkets. Start by adding a little bit and taste as you go. You don’t want to make it too spicy if you don’t have a high tolerance to spice. You can always serve the rolls with extra Sriracha for the spice lovers.
  • Make sure that you use really fresh rolls. If you have a Vietnamese bakery near you, then definitely shop there. Alternatively – Bakers Delight have some nice long rolls that work well too.

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If you make these Vietnamese pork rolls, please leave your comments below. xx

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