Pork Meatball Banh Mi (Vietnamese Sandwich)

Tonight I made friends with Asian food.

Perhaps I should explain. I'm a huge Asian food lover, particularly of Vietnamese cuisine. Sometimes there's nothing better than a hot, steaming bowl of Pho or a barbecued pork and vermicelli salad bowl. Unlike Americanized versions of Chinese food - think heavy, saucy dishes like Sweet & Sour Chicken and Beef & Broccoli – Vietnamese food is filled with grilled meats, fresh vegetables and fragrant spices. Some of my favorites Vietnamese flavors are basil, cilantro, carrots, radish, sesame oil, rice vinegar, pork, chicken, etc. It's Asian cuisine you can eat and not feel too guilty about your caloric intake post-meal.

While I absolutely love Asian food, I've never really made it before. Honestly, it always seemed complicated and intimidating, requiring woks and special ingredients like unseasoned rice vinegar, fish sauce and sesame oil. So I've always used my lack of ingredients or intimidation of Asian cooking techniques as half-assed excuses.

Last night that all changed. I was at the grocery store, about to check out when I saw it: a cover shot of the most amazing meatball dish you've ever seen. As a marketer, it's kind of ridiculous that I'm a marketer's impulse purchase dream. But I couldn't resist and grabbed the Bon Appetit, lured in by the cover shot and lead story: "MEATBALLS: 5 Amazing Recipes."

Turns out I have Bon Appetit to thank for innocently and inadvertently persuading me to take a stab at mastering Asian cuisine. Okay, maybe not master but at least try. I turned to the Meatball recipe section, looking specifically for the mouth-watering cover photo. Instead, I found Meatball Recipe #1: Pork Meatball Banh Mi, essentially a spicy pork meatball sandwich. It's one of my favorite Vietnamese dishes and after scanning the recipe, I thought to myself, "I can definitely make that!"

Photo courtesy of BonAppetit.com

So tonight's dinner was planned, 24-hours in advance. It really turned out amazing, if Bryan's first-bite "MMMM!" and fist-pump is any indication. The meatballs were so tender and flavorful filled with pork, basil, scallions, garlic and fish sauce. The saltiness of the meatballs was cut perfectly by refreshing crunch of the rice vinegar- and sugar-marinated carrots and radishes. The meatballs and marinated veggies even got to lay their delicious little heads on freshly-baked bread from our local bakery. Deeee-licious!

Here's how you make it:

Hot Chili Mayo
  • 2/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon hot chili sauce (such as sriracha)*
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)
  • 1 tablespoon hot chili sauce (such as sriracha)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 2 cups coarsely grated carrots
  • 2 cups coarsely grated peeled daikon (Japanese white radish)**
  • 1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
  • 4 10-inch-long individual baguettes or four 10-inch-long pieces French-bread baguette (cut from 2 baguettes)
  • Thinly sliced jalapeño chiles
  • 16 large fresh cilantro sprigs
*Available in the Asian foods section of many supermarkets and at Asian markets.
**Available at some supermarkets and at Asian markets.

Make the Hot Chili Mayo: Stir all ingredients in small bowl. Season with salt. The mayo can be made one day ahead. Cover and chill.

Make the Meatballs: Line rimmed baking sheet with plastic wrap. Gently mix all ingredients in large bowl. Using moistened hands and scant tablespoonful for each, roll meat mixture into 1-inch meatballs. Arrange on baking sheet. The meatballs can be made one day ahead. Cover and chill.

Assemble the Sandwiches: Toss carrots, radish, rice vinegar, sugar and salt in medium bowl. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour, tossing occasionally.

Preheat oven to 300°F. Heat sesame oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of meatballs. Sauté until brown and cooked through, turning meatballs often and lowering heat if browning too quickly, about 15 minutes.

Transfer meatballs to another rimmed baking sheet. Place in oven. Repeat with remaining meatballs. Cut each baguette or baguette piece horizontally in half. Pull out enough bread from each bread half to leave 1/2-inch-thick shell.

Spread hot chili mayo over each bread shell. Arrange jalapeños, then cilantro, in bottom halves. Fill each with 1/4 of meatballs. Drain pickled vegetables; place atop meatballs. Press on baguette tops.

Update: I made Banh Mi sliders for a Super Bowl party and they were a hit! Check them out below:


  1. great job! Vietnamese food is really simple once you get beyond the mystique of some of the ingredients....the banh mi looks great!

  2. Your photos and presentation is divine!!!

  3. Thanks guys! I'm really looking forward to the leftover meatballs today...just have to figure out what to do with them! Have a great weekend!

  4. I just had this sandwich for dinner, it was killer! Bryan was right to fist pump, thanks for sharing :-).

  5. I made these last night and they were delicious. My husband can be a bit picky and he loved them. Thanks for the great recipe!

  6. Mary & Anon - So glad you made the sandwiches and loved them! If you have any meatballs left; they're great tossed in a salad with some soba noodles and Asian dressing! :)

  7. Looks really delicious! I'm going to have to try to make them now :)

  8. Hi Christie,
    Thanks so much for stopping by and visiting Apricosa! Yes, this recipe is fantastic, yum yum. :) I love your idea of making the sandwiches as sliders...they look so cute!

  9. Wow! Yummy. Where did you buy the mini buns for the mini sliders? What a great idea!

  10. Hi Zoe! I made these sliders but can also buy mini sliders at Trader Joes. many supermarkets are beginning to sell them as well. Ask at your local bakery counter and they should be able to help you!

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