Banh mi-style sandwiches seem to be popping up everywhere lately. While I love this — because I love a good banh mi — I’ve got one big bone to pick. Most of the ones I’ve had are simply not good.
Now, before the rotten fruit starts flying, just hear me out! There are a couple of key elements to the flavor profile of the banh mi that I feel many restaurants try to cheat out and cut corners on. It’s in that moment that bad sandwiches happen and days are ruined.
Nowhere near a feat of rocket science-level engineering, the combination of mayonnaise with Sriracha is a thing of sheer magic. It’s creamy, spicy and satisfying light-years beyond plain-old original mayo. Do your banh mi condiment a favor and give it some Sriracha lovin’.
Pickled Daikon Radish and Carrots
I can understand the temptation of a line cook in haste to simply swap out the traditional pickled daikon radish/carrot combo for some pickled red onions. They’re already on the line, they’re both kind of sourish — what’s the big deal? The big deal is balance, my friend! The peppery radish and sweet carrot bring harmony to the spice of the mayo and savory of the meat. You can swap red radishes for the daikon if your market doesn’t have any, but please don’t mess with the equation of tastes. The banh mi must have spicy + sour + savory + sweet.
I hate to say it, corner sandwich shop, but simply putting some of your deliciously tender roast pork between two pieces of crusty bread will not get the job done. Not this time. Fish sauce — that miracle elixir of Southeast Asian flavor — must find its way into the seasoning of the sandwich’s meat (or tofu). Garlic and basil help, too, but leave the sandwich feeling incomplete without fish sauce’s sweet, savory and aromatic enchantment.
That’s it. I’m stepping down off the soapbox. Take these lessons and go forth — spread the remarkable flavors of the banh mi, one Dinner Rush meal at a time.
Banh Mi Turkey Burgers
Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Active Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
For the Pickled Vegetables
4-inch piece daikon radish, peeled and grated
1 medium or 2 small carrots, peeled and grated
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
For the Turkey Burgers
1 1/2 pounds ground turkey
1 tablespoon Sriracha
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon fish sauce
3 to 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped or grated
1/4 cup basil leaves, finely chopped
Salt and ground black pepper
1 tablespoon sesame or vegetable oil
For the Sriracha Mayo
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Sriracha
4 crusty rolls or 4 (4-inch) sections baguette, split open
20 sprigs cilantro
Sliced jalapeno peppers, optional
To prepare the pickled vegetables, in a medium mixing bowl, stir together the radish, carrots, vinegar and sugar. Cover the bowl and let the mixture marinate at room temperature for 15 minutes. (This can be made up to one day in advance and stored, covered, in the refrigerator.)
While the vegetables are marinating, prepare the turkey burgers. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the meat, Sriracha, cornstarch, fish sauce, garlic, basil, and some salt and pepper. Divide the mixture into four equal portions and shape each portion into a burger.
Place a large skillet over medium heat with the sesame or vegetable oil and cook the burgers, flipping once, until cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes per side.
While the burgers are cooking, prepare the Sriracha mayo. In a small bowl, stir together the mayonnaise and Sriracha. Set aside.
To serve the burgers, divide the Sriracha mayo between the four rolls. Top with a burger patty, a scoop of pickled vegetables, 4 to 5 sprigs of cilantro and some sliced jalapeno (if using).
NOTE: You can use whatever type of meat you like to make this burger. Lighter meats — like turkey, chicken and pork — will carry the flavors of the sandwich better than ground beef.
Patrick W. Decker’s life revolves around food. Always has, probably always will. As a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America and past member of the culinary teams for Food Network stars Rachael Ray, Sandra Lee, Bobby Deen and Paula Deen, he now works as a food stylist and producer in NYC by day and a food writer and recipe developer at his home in New York’s Hudson Valley by night. You can see what he’s up to by following his latest tweets on Twitter at @patrickwdecker or visiting his website at patrickwdecker.com.