Oh, the mighty bánh mì. It’s one of my absolute favorite foods in the entire world. Bánh mì are kind of like the Vietnamese version of a submarine sandwich. They can have many different ingredients, but they usually have some sort of fatty meat, juxtaposed with tangy pickled vegetables, and spicy jalapeño. And even though bánh literally translates to cake or bread, I decided to take those classic bánh mì flavors and make them into a bowl-style meal instead of on bread. Hence the somewhat contradictory name of “bánh mì bowls.” But if you do want to make this a sandwich, just serve all these items in a baguette instead of on a bowl of rice.
What’s in a Bánh Mì Bowl?
Bánh mì can be filled with any sort of meat (cold cuts, char siu, liver paté, chicken, meatballs, whatever), but I decided to use the yummy meatballs that are in my Teriyaki Meatball Bowls. I made a couple of small changes to the meatballs to account for the fact that they’re not drenched in teriyaki sauce, but you could drench them in teriyaki sauce and still put them on the bánh mì!
Also, I didn’t have any daikon (radish), so I added some onion to my pickled carrots. I know, I know… not traditional, but “tastes good” trumps “traditional” in my book.
You’ll want to add some sort of sauce to the bowls for moisture, but I didn’t add that into the price because A) I don’t know what kind you want to use and B) I don’t know how much you’ll want to use. Here are some suggestions: sriracha, soy sauce, sriracha-mayo, or teriyaki sauce. If you are making an actual bánh mì sandwich, make sure to slather the bread with mayo and a sprinkle of soy sauce because that’s just how it’s done.
What’s in a Real Bánh Mì
Traditional bánh mì are so incredibly good that I don’t want you to leave here without at least looking at a real bánh mì recipe. Hopefully, it will whet your appetite enough to make one at home or at least try one at a local restaurant. And I’m sure you’ll learn more about the rich history and culture behind this amazing sandwich while you’re at it. Check out these traditional bánh mì recipes:
- Bánh Mì Recipe from Hungry Huy
- Master Bánh Mì Sandwich Recipe from Viet World Kitchen
- Chicken Bánh Mì from The Woks of Life
Bánh Mì Bowls
- 2 carrots ($0.27)
- 1 onion ($0.32)
- 1/2 cup rice vinegar ($0.25)
- 1/4 cup white sugar ($0.08)
- 1/2 tsp salt ($0.03)
- 1/2 cup water ($0.00)
- 1 lb ground pork ($3.47)
- 1 large egg ($0.25)
- 1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs ($0.17)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced ($0.16)
- 2 inches fresh ginger, grated ($0.34)
- 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce ($0.06)
- 2 green onions ($0.17)
- 6 cups cooked jasmine rice ($1.04)
- 1 cucumber ($0.79)
- 2 jalapeños ($0.40)
- 1/2 bunch cilantro ($0.38)
- Make the pickled carrots first. In a small sauce pot combine the vinegar, sugar, salt, and water. Heat over medium flame and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Turn the heat off. Shred or julienne the carrots and slice the onion as thin as possible. Combine the carrots, onion, and vinegar mixture in a container. Make sure the vegetables are fully submerged in the liquid and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (up to one week).
- Next, get the rice started. Combine 2 cups of dry jasmine rice and 3 cups of water in a medium sauce pot. Place a lid on top and bring it up to a boil over high heat. As soon as it reaches a full boil, turn the heat down to low and let it continue to simmer for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, turn the heat off and let it sit, undisturbed with the lid in place, for an additional 15 minutes, or until you’re ready to use it.
- After the rice is started, begin making the meatballs. In a large bowl combine the ground pork, egg, breadcrumbs, minced garlic, grated ginger, soy sauce, and sliced green onions. Mix these ingredients thoroughly (your hands are best for this job). Begin to preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray it lightly with non-stick spray. Make about 30 meatballs, approximately 1 tablespoon each, and place them on the prepared baking sheet.
- Bake the meatballs in the fully heated oven for 25 minutes. While the meatballs are cooking, thinly slice the jalapeno and cut the cucumber into quarter rounds (cut it into thin spears if you’re making this in sandwich form). Pull the cilantro leaves from the stems.
- Once the rice and meatballs are both finished cooking, you’re ready to assemble! Place about 3/4 cup rice in the bottom of a bowl, add about 4 meatballs, about 1/4 cup of pickled carrots and onions, some cilantro leaves, cucumber, and jalapeno. Add a splash of soy sauce, sriracha, or mix up some sriracha mayo to top the bowls. Enjoy!
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How to Make Bánh Mì Bowls – Step By Step Photos
You’ll want to start pickling the carrots first because they need at least 30 minutes to marinate. Pickled carrots (and usually daikon) are what give bánh mì a really unique taste. They’re sweet and tangy, which makes a fantastic contrast to the meat. Add the vinegar, sugar, salt, and water to a small sauce pot. Heat and stir the mixture until the sugar is fully dissolved, then turn off the heat.
You want to cut the carrots really, really thin to get that nice texture. I decided to brave the scary mandoline again, but got too scared of shredding my fingers and abandoned it half way through… I mean, look at the teeth on that thing! How am I supposed to clean it without shredding my sponge?!
So, I tried a couple other options. I used a large-holed cheese grater and that seemed to work the best. I also tried shaving ribbons with the vegetable peeler, but I liked the grated carrot better. You’ll want to do about two carrots total, or about 1 cup shredded. Also thinly slice one small onion (about one cup).
Add the vegetables and vinegar mixture to a container and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (make sure vegetables are fully submerged).
Next get the jasmine rice started. Look for these big 5 lb. bags of jasmine rice for the best price. You’ll want about 6 cups total once cooked, so use 2 cups of dry rice and 3 cups of water. Follow the cooking instructions on the package.
The last thing to make is the meatballs. These are really easy. Just add the ground pork, egg, breadcrumbs, minced garlic, grated ginger, sliced green onions, and soy sauce to a bowl. Then, mix it all up. (I use a vegetable peeler to remove the peel from the ginger, then a small-holed cheese grater to grate it.)
Mix the ingredients up really, really well. Get your hands in there (then wash them well). Oh, and start preheating the oven to 400 degrees.
Make about 30 meatballs, about 1 tablespoon each. Place them on a baking sheet covered with foil and lightly spritzed with non-stick spray.
Bake the meatballs in the fully preheated oven for 25 minutes, or until they’re golden brown. Remember, if you make your meatballs bigger, you’ll need to cook them longer. Open up one of the biggest meatballs just to make sure they’re cooked through.
While you’re waiting for the meatballs to cook, prepare the rest of the toppings. Pull the cilantro leaves from their stems, thinly slice the jalapeno, and cut the cucumber into quarter rounds. If you’re making traditional bánh mì (sandwich form), slice the cucumber into thin spears.
And then it’s time to assemble the bowls! Use about 3/4 cup rice in the bottom of each bowl, then add about 4 meatballs, about 1/4 cup pickled carrots and onion, some fresh cilantro, jalapeno, and cucumber. YUM! Drizzle with a little soy sauce, sriracha, or a mixture of mayo and sriracha.
OR, you can just stuff it all inside a baguette. Vietnamese baguettes > French baguettes for this because they use a rice/wheat flour mix, which makes them much lighter. If you can get them, it’s worth it (this is a regular French baguette in the photo)! Make sure to slather on some mayo and a splash of soy sauce. NOM.