Crockpot Banh Mi Sandwiches are a great work-ahead strategy for delivering exotic, truly fantastic party food. They’re also a great meal-prep strategy for an upscale picnic lunch or dinner.
Crockpot Banh Mi Sandwiches: background
Banh Mi Sandwiches are like a history of the French colonialism in Indochina—specifically Vietnam—in miniature, edible form. Traditional Banh Mi combines bits and pieces of both cuisines into an unforgettable sandwich that offers a riot of different—but complementary—flavors and textures. From the French, we have pâté, mayonnaise, and baguette. From the Vietnamese, we have jalapenos, pickles (made out of a variety of possible ingredients, including onions, radishes, and carrots), cilantro, and a variety of condiments.
I decided to create a Crockpot Banh Mi sandwiches recipe based on a surprisingly flavorful sandwich I tried at a local restaurant and grill in (surprise!) Middleton, WI. I have to admit that I am not a fan of pâté, so I left it out of my recipe. It’s easy to come by, though, so I encourage you to find some if you do like it (or even make it!) and spread a thin layer on your bread: it does add an extra depth of flavor.
I enlisted Old Faithful, my crockpot, to make the shredded pork that’s the star of Crockpot Banh Mi Sandwiches. Being able to use the slow-cooker combined with the fact that the pickled onions are made ahead of time, means that these sandwiches are very easy to make. All of the ingredients for can also be packed into small plastics, so they travel very well. As a result, these Crockpot Banh Mi Sandwiches made their debut for a gourmet picnic at Opera in the Park in Madison, WI during the summer of 2015. I am now planning to feature a Banh Mi bar at my next football party.
Crockpot Banh Mi Sandwiches may look intimidating, but trust me: they’ll be easy to prepare. I can bang out the pickle and the meat the day before and keep it refrigerated. The meat gets pulled out of the fridge and popped back in the crockpot so it’s warm by game time. Then the meat, buns, and condiments can all be set up buffet-style—easy peasy!
Crockpot Bánh Mi Sandwiches
FOR THE PORK:
- 4 lb bone-in Boston butt roast
- 3 cloves garlic, - sliced lengthwise into skinny wedges
- 3/4 cup beef broth
- 1 tbsp salt
- 2 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tbsp sugar
- 2 tbsp Chinese 5-Spice powder
- 1 tbsp ground ginger
- 1.5 tbsp cayenne pepper
FOR THE PICKLED RED ONION (see Recipe Note 1):
- 3 tbsp rice vinegar
- 3 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp fish sauce - e.g., Three Crabs brand
- 1 red onion - sliced thinly into rings
FOR THE BANH MI SAUCE:
- 2 tbsp sesame oil
- 1 medium onion, - minced
- 4 cloves garlic, - minced
- 2- inch square of fresh ginger, - peeled and finely grated
- 1 cup tomato sauce
- 3 tbsp soy sauce
- 3 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 1/4 cup Asian sweet chili sauce
FOR THE SANDWICHES:
- 1 cup cilantro leaves
- mayonnaise - (to taste)
- soft French rolls
- 2-3 jalapeno peppers, - cut into very thin rings (seed them if you're heat-averse)
- 1/2 English cucumber, - cut into thin slices
- 1/2 cup liver pâté - (optional, see Recipe Note 2)
PREPARE THE PORK:
- Mix all ingredients for the rub. Prep your pork butt by removing excess fat. Using a paring knife, make incisions all over the roast and slip your garlic wedges into the cuts. Apply rub liberally to the roast, and put it in the crockpot. Add the beef broth, set the crockpot to low, and let cook for at least 6 hours.
MAKE THE SAUCE:
- Heat the sesame oil in a pan over medium-low heat. Add the onions; sauté until softened, 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger; cook for 1 more minute. Add the remaining ingredients; simmer for 2 minutes. If the sauce is too thick, you can thin it out with a few tablespoons of water.
PULL AND SAUCE THE PORK:
- The pork should be falling off the bone, which you can now throw away. Pull the pork, removing any remaining fat and discarding garlic wedges. At this point you can either combine the meat with the sauce and serve, or refrigerate overnight. To reheat, return the pork to the crockpot and add the sauce. Bring up to temperature on low heat.
ASSEMBLE THE SANDWICHES:
- Apply a thin layer of mayonnaise on the inside of each half of a French roll. Line one half with cucumber slices, and the other half with jalapeno slices. Add a generous helping of pork and top with the pickled onion and some cilantro leaves. Enjoy!
- DO AHEAD! Make the pickled red onions: Simply mix all ingredients in a container with a tight-fitting lid. Close and shake to combine. Refrigerate overnight, turning the container from end to end occasionally. The onions will keep up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.
- Traditional banh mi sandwiches include a thin layer of liver pâté on one half of the French roll. I don't care for it, personally, so I leave this option up to you.
These sandwiches played the starring role of our snooty picnic food spread for Opera in the Park 2016. Made a day in advance, they couldn’t be easier.