A French-Vietnamese Classic
Tomatoes Meet Wine Meet Fish Sauce
This French-Vietnamese classic combines Western ingredients such as Tomato Sauce and White Wine, with Asian ones like Fish Sauce and Soy Sauce. When it is used to make Vietnamese Banh Mi sandwiches, and you a dd French Bread or slices of Baguette, the Fusion aspect is carried one level further. This version is adapted from Charles Phan of the Slanted Door restaurant in San Francisco. Phan often adds a touch of Kimchi when he makes this, which makes the result even more Fusion, if possible.
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon Vegetable Oil plus more for brushing
2 large Garlic cloves, minced
2 Thai Hot Chilies or 1 large Jalapeño, minced
1 large Shallot, finely sliced
3 tablespoons Rice Wine or dry White Wine
4 tablespoons canned Tomato Sauce
3½ tablespoons Fish Sauce
1½ pounds Ground Pork
½ cup minced Onion
4 large Water Chestnuts, minced — canned is all right
3 tablespoons Cornstarch
2 tablespoons chopped Cilantro leaves, plus 1 large sprig Cilantro
2 teaspoons Soy Sauce
1½ teaspoons freshly ground Black Pepper
½ teaspoon Sesame Oil
1 large Egg, beaten with 2 tablespoons Water
Six 10-inch Bamboo Skewers
While the skewers are soaking, begin the preparation by heating 2 tablespoons of the Vegetable Oil in a medium skillet. Add the Garlic, Chili Peppers and Shallot and cook over medium heat until they are softened, about 3 minutes.
Then add the Wine and bring to a boil. Stir in the Tomato Sauce and simmer, stirring occasionally until it is thickened, about 10 minutes more. Then stir in 1 tablespoon of the Fish Sauce.
Next, in a large bowl, mix the Ground Pork with the Onion, Water Chestnuts, Cornstarch, Chopped Cilantro, Soy Sauce, Black Pepper, Sesame Oil, beaten Egg and the remaining teaspoon of Vegetable Oil and 2½ tablespoons of the Fish Sauce.
With moist hands, roll the mixture into 30 meatballs. Thread the meatballs onto the skewers, 5 to a stick and refrigerate them until they are well chilled.
Next, light a grill and lightly brush the meatballs with a little Vegetable Oil and grill them over a hot fire until they are browned and cooked through – about 10 minutes.
To serve, top the meatballs with a bit of the enhanced Tomato Sauce, and garnish with a few sprigs of Cilantro leaves. The recipe makes 6 servings and takes about 40 minutes of active preparation, with total time about an hour and a half, including chilling time before grilling. If desired, the meatballs can be chilled overnight.
To use these in a banh mi sandwich, a couple additional steps are involved — we’ll cover it separately. This is a very nice dish in warm weather and a welcome addition to any picnic.