Banh Mi Ga ~ Vietnamese Chicken Sandwich

banh mi ga

The very first time I came across these delightfully flavourful, fragrant, spicy sandwiches was at my local Asian store in Houston. Unfortunately, I couldn’t try them back then because for one, I couldn’t communicate with the little old lady making them to ask her which ones, if any, didn’t have pork. All I know is that they looked so colourful and appetising as she handed them over to the person ordering, and I knew I had to research them so I knew what to ask (providing I could communicate with the person), next time I had the opportunity.

I never did get to try one. After I researched the banh mi, I found out that most are based around meat, though there is an occasional vegetarian one and ones made for breakfast that have eggs, but they too have some sort of meat, usually pork, that I could not eat. Even the chicken ones usually have a pâté smeared inside and that puts it out of my reach. So, the only way to satisfy my craving for these wonderful morsels was to make them myself.

They have been on my “to do”  list for a good two or three years now! I just never got around to making them. I have been fortunate to live close to a fabulous Asian stores each time I’ve moved (4 times in 5 years). I have a great store close to me now with a big variety of Asian foods and delicacies available from bronzed, glistening ducks, smoked sausages and pastries to an array of fresh Asian vegetables that are so lush and fragrant but whose names I cannot pronounce nor read most of the time! 

What’s great about this store is the bakery; you are almost certain to be met with a heavenly aroma of baked goods as soon as you enter the store, drawing you towards the various kinds of freshly baked breads, pastries and cakes. Once again, I am at a loss with the signs. 

One of the things I can read and see clearly without translation, is their French baguettes, made specially for these banh mi. In Vietnamese, the banh mi refers to bread in general. The popularity of these sandwiches have now made the banh mi a label for sandwiches, not just bread.

Sandwiches became popular in Vietnam during the French colonisation. The French colonised Vietnam in the middle of the 19th century until 1940 and influenced Vietnam’s food scene. The Vietnamese became experts in French pastries and breads. Some of the best pastries I had in Houston came from a Vietnamese baker, an acquaintance of my brother. 

The baguettes that are made for these banh mi are a little different from regular French baguettes in that these are very light and extra crispy. I believe they have some rice flour added to aid in the crispiness and airiness. The extra airy insides allows you to fill the sandwich to the brim with the goodies and still keep the bread crisp.

If possible, seek out the Vietnamese baguettes but if that’s not possible, use small, individual, regular baguettes and pull out some of the insides to allow room for stuffing. I would make these which ever way you can! They are so good that you should not wait to find the right kind of bread just to make them.

I mentioned above some of the varations you can find of banh mi, the vegetarian and breakfast one with eggs. Other popular ones are made with BBQ’d beef, pork or chicken, or ones smeared with pâté and filled with pickles and chillies; another popular banh mi is the one filled with meatballs. Cilantro, green chillies, pickled daikon and carrots are popular condiments to accompany the meat inside the sandwich, all tied together with a spicy mayonnaise. 

My recipe was adapted from Andrea Ngyuen. She has a wonderful blog,Viet World Kitchen and is the author of many great Vietnamese cook books. Whenever I need a Vietnamese recipe, I turn to her website.

banh mi ga

banh mi ga

Banh Mi Ga ~ Vietnamese Chicken Sandwich

Prep time: 

Cook time: 

Serves: 6 sandwiches

Adapted from Andrea Nguyen
Ingredients
BANH MI SANDWICHES
  • 6 Vietnamese style baguettes
  • lemongrass grilled chicken
  • daikon carrot pickle
  • 1 large English cucumber, sliced in long slices/thin wedges
  • cilantro or mixed herbs
  • spicy mayonnaise
GRILLED LEMONGRASS CHICKEN
  • 2lbs/1kg boneless chicken breasts
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 2 tablespoon chopped shallot or yellow onion
  • 2 stalk lemongrass, trimmed and finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoon oil
CARROT DAIKON PICKLE
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into thick matchsticks
  • 1 pound/454g daikon,around 2 inches in diameter, peeled and cut into thick matchsticks
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup + 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 11/4 cups/230mL distilled white vinegar
  • 1 cup/230mL lukewarm water
Instructions
GRILLED LEMONGRASS CHICKEN
  1. Fire up the gas or charcoal grill (can use the oven too, 400℉/200℃ and finish on broil)
  2. Make deep gashes on the chicken breasts.
  3. Mix the brown sugar, garlic, onion, lemongrass, soy sauce, and fish sauce together in a bowl.
  4. Add the chicken breasts and marinate for at least an hour.
  5. The chicken will start taking on a nice brown colour.
  6. Remove the chicken from the marinade and toss in the oil.
  7. Place on the hot grill and cook.
  8. Grill until golden brown on the outside and cooked through, about 20/30 minutes.
  9. In the oven, bake until cooked through and then broil until brown and slightly charred.
  10. Let cool before slicing for sandwiches.
CARROT DAIKON PICKLE
  1. Place the carrot and daikons in a bowl and sprinkle with the salt and 2 teaspoons of the sugar
  2. Use your hands to knead the vegetables for about 3 minutes and releasing the water.
  3. Stop kneading when the daikon is flexible but does not break when bent.
  4. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold running water, then press gently to expel extra water.
  5. Return the vegetables to the bowl if you plan to eat them soon, or transfer them to a 1-quart jar for longer storage.
  6. To make the brine, in a bowl, combine the ½ cup sugar, the vinegar, and the water and stir to dissolve the sugar.
  7. Pour over the vegetables allowing the brine to cover the vegetables completely.
  8. Let the vegetables marinate in the brine for at least 1 hour before eating.
SPICY MAYONNAISE
  1. 1 cup mayonnaise
  2. Sriracha hot sauce or any preferred hot sauce, to taste
  3. Sweet garlic and chilli sauce, to taste
ASSEMBLING BANH MI
  1. Slice open a baguette and smear liberally with spicy mayonnaise.
  2. Add slices of grilled chicken.
  3. Stuff with cucumber slices, carrot daikon pickles and cilantro or choice of herbs.
  4. Enjoy!
Notes
The grilled lemongrass chicken is adapted from Andrea Nguyen recipe for her Grilled Lemongrass Pork In her recipe, she makes the marinade into a paste, I didn't and left everything whole. My marinade was still amazing with all the flavours transferring to the chicken beautifully. The carrot daikon recipe is also adapted from Andrea's recipe

banh mi ga

banh mi ga

If you have not tried these sandwiches, you do not know what you are missing! Find yourself a good Asian store or restaurant and buy them or make them. They are so easy. Start with my very easy and delicious Banh Mi Ga and go from there!

Hope you are all having a great week and spring has inspired you to create!

As I write this, I am getting ready for a blizzard expected tonight (which means I am scouring my cook books for something to bake tomorrow :))

  1. I love these French/Vietnamese rolls. It’s such a great blend of cultural cuisine. The flavour and the texture is such a great combination. Good on you for making some yourself that you can enjoy – you don’t want to miss out! xx
    Hotly Spiced recently posted..Cooking with SunbeamMy Profile

    • Thanks Charlie and you’re right! I don’t want to miss out!If something looks good but I can’t eat it..I try my hardest to find a way around it!

  2. That sandwich looks delicious and healthy.
    One question, could you clarify the amount of distilled white vinegar needed for the carrot and daikon pickle? Thanks.

    • Hi Norma! Sorry about the measurement, it’s difficult trying to do fractions on this recipe card thingy…but it’s supposed to 1 and 1/4 cup of distilled vinegar. The daikon pickle is wonderful, I couldn’t stop eating just the pickle.

  3. I love this sandwich! But it’s one I’ve never made myself – why is that, I wonder? Yours looks terrific, and I really should assemble the ingredients and make this at home – I’m sure it’d be habit forming. 😉 Good stuff – thanks.
    john@kitchenriffs recently posted..Salade Frisée aux LardonsMy Profile

    • Thanks John! It’s so easy you must try it at home. Knowing you, you’ll come up with some fabulous filling.

    • Thanks Juliana! I love mine with lots of pickles and cilantro too. Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Love the sandwiches in whichever mode, but really like your way of flavouring the chicken and with plenty of lemongrass growing in the garden ahall make some grilled thighs with a Vietnamese salad for tomorrow’s lunch. Thank you 🙂 !

    • Thanks Eha and lucky you! You have lemongrass growing! Thankfully, it’s not too pricey here so I can get some easily, but free in my garden would be better! Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!

    • If you can find a gluten free roll, you must make these…they are so fresh and flavourful.

  5. Your initial experience at your local Asian store, Nazneen, mirrors mine here. I’m surrounded by a number of Asian markets but have no idea what most of the items are. I have asked, a number of times, but have a real talent for finding individuals with no knowledge of English whatsoever. In fact, the last time I needed help finding something, I asked a stock boy of Latin descent. He ran and got someone to help me because he couldn’t speak English. I would love to sit in on one of that store’s staff meetings! 🙂
    I do know of a few Vietnamese restaurants, though, and should stop by to try their banh mi. So fresh and flavorful, they sound like the perfect lunchtime sandwich.
    ChgoJohn recently posted..Bourbon & Cola Sauced HamMy Profile

    • Your comment made me laugh so hard John! It’s true, as much as I love perusing the aisles of that store, I am pretty much at a loss most of the time. I dare not even ask for help! I am now just going to learn Chinese, or Thai or Korean…or maybe all of them!

  6. Wow, those look fabulous! I keep hearing about an Asian store near you, but I haven’t quite found it yet; Is it Pacific Ocean? Hubby keeps asking me to hit H mart when we’re in Denver, but by then we’ve already hit four different stores for just our basic groceries. You know how it goes… I think I need to add an Asian place to our list, though, because every time I pick up lemongrass from King Soopers it’s moldy. I wonder if I can make Pho at home too? Hm. Yum. Thanks for posting. Can’t believe this weather we’re having.

      • She is great Mariyam. She has wonderful recipes and let me know if you try out the pho….you are but a short drive from me 😉

    • That’s good to hear that you can get them there. Is there a big Viet community in the UK now?

    • Oh, the pickle is wonderful! I think you’ll really like it and its so easy to make. I warn you though, it can get really stinky the longer it sits…just air it out and you’ll be fine.

  7. These sandwiches look out of the world Nazneen. The Asian twist makes it all the more special. I have quite a few Asian stores where I stay and I am very intrigued by the products on display. Most of the labels are not even in English but out of curiosity I keep trying them out. I have to admit though that never dissapoint..they are full of flavour and so aromatic. I can relate to your post and Lemongrass ranks very high amongst my favorite ingredients. Cant wait to try out the grilled chicken!
    Sugar et al recently posted..White chocolate and Macadamia Caramel Cookies.My Profile

    • Thanks Sonali! It’s good to hear you’re like me! We are not easily defeated at the Asian market!

  8. Nanzeen, these sandwiches look like an amazing hearty meal but yet light with the delicious carrot diakon pickles and zippy mayo. I think that the chicken sounds delicious just even all on its own. I am sorry to hear that you are expecting a blizzard tonight, we just have had over 3 weeks of rain in HK. I can’t wait to see what you are baking. Take Care, BAM
    Bam’s Kitchen recently posted..Diakon Salad with Sesame DressingMy Profile

    • Thanks Bobbi! The pickles were so good and the zippy may made a huge difference. The chicken was really good too and most def can stand on its own as a meal.