Vietnamese Banh Mi has become almost as famous around the world as Pho (Phở). But there are many different versions of Bánh Mì in Vietnam. Crispy pork belly banh mi, or banh mi heo quay, is one of my favourites. The key ingredients here are the crispy roast pork belly and the hoisin based sauce.
Not far from my old day job was this Bánh Mì Heo Quay street-side stall. It was so good, people travelled from well out of their way to buy the delicious crispy roast pork belly in a Vietnamese baguette from this vendor.
The roast pork belly
I had some roast pork belly leftover from this Kimchi consommé with crispy roast pork belly. Combining pork belly with a kimchi consommé was decidedly non-traditional. On the other hand, crispy pork belly banh mi is a ubiquitous snack or meal in Vietnam. A reliable method of how to prepare the pork belly is described in that article.
The special sauce
Like many great burgers, an important part of the magic is the “special sauce”. However, no street vendor will tell you what is in their special sauce recipe. It’s their competitive advantage. Our sauce required some experimentation to ensure it worked well in this baguette context. The sauce described here is very simple: hoisin sauce and a fermented chilli sauce like Tabasco or Sriracha. It was probably nothing like what the street vendor used, but it did work so well in this pork belly baguette.
The street vendor probably used tương đen as the base for their sauce. Tuong den is a Vietnamese sauce made from a base of fermented soybeans. Essentially a Vietnamese version of Hoisin sauce.
The pickled carrot and fennel
In Vietnam, most banh mi variations, including the banh mi heo quay that this recipe is inspired by, incorporate pickled carrot and daikon, or đồ chua in Vietnamese. Here we substitute the daikon for a thinly sliced fennel bulb. This adds a subtle anise character to the pickle. Should you have an aversion to the anise flavour or can’t source fennel, substitute in julienned daikon. It, too, is delicious. Pickled carrot and daikon also feature in this Vietnamese braised pork belly taco.
Crispy pork belly banh mi – Banh Mi Heo Quay
Pickled carrot and fennel
- 1 carrot
- 1 fennel bulb
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp sugar
- 1 cup rice vinegar
- 1 cup warm water
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 4 baguettes
- 2 cups crispy pork belly cut into 5x5xDmm to 10x10xDmm where D is the depth of the cooked pork belly
- 1/2 cup coriander leaves
- 1 medium cucumber or 2 small, Japanese cucumbers preferred
- 1/4 cup pâté pork liver pâté or pâté de foie work well
- 1/4 cup hoisin sauce
- 1 tsp chilli sauce I prefer a Tabasco style sauce, such as Kaitaia Fire from New Zealand. Sriracha works too.
Pickled carrot and fennel
- Wash and julienne the carrot
- Trim and halve the fennel and remove the tough core. Finely dice the rest.
- Add the vegetables to a collander and sprinkle on 1 tsp salt and 2 tsp sugar. Toss then let the vegetables sit for 30 minutes.
- Rinse with water and allow to drain while prairie the pickling liquid.
- Stir together the rice vinegar, warm water, and 1/3 cup of sugar until the sugar is dissolved.
- Add the carrot and fennel to the pickling liquid and allow to pickle for at least 2 hours.
- Slice the cucumber length-wise.
- Mix the chilli sauce into the hoisin sauce.
- Halve a baguette.
- Smear on some pâté.
- Add half a cup of crispy pork belly, some sliced cucumber, some pickled carrot and fennel, and some coriander leaves.
- Drizzle with some hoisin chilli sauce.