Bring Me More Banh Mi – Instant Pot
Tangy, sweet, and savory this sandwich has it all.
Chicken Banh Mi is hands down one of our favorite dishes. It’s one that we have been making and collecting ideas on for a while. This Vietnamese sandwich is the perfect blend of sweet and savory, wholesome and fresh, filling and light.
Arguably the most important part of any sandwich is the bread itself. Surprisingly, we have no strong opinions about this! This is also a difficult piece to analyze since many recipes do not report an explicit brand or bread type. So, pick up the bread that makes your sandwiches perfect and perhaps we will circle back to the topic of sandwich bread in a future post. For us, the perfect bread for this recipe is flavorful, airy, and chewy. We find that best success with Hoagie Rolls or French Steak Torpedo Rolls in the bakery section of the grocery store. Banh mi is loaded, so having too hard of a bread we have found makes it slightly more difficult to bite into, and the lighter breads help absorb some of the rich marinade and pickling juices for more flavor-packed bites.
What is easier to analyze in banh mi is the protein. Pork, beef, and chicken are the typical ones you will find at a restaurant. We chose chicken, specifically thighs, since they are on the less expensive side and still have a great flavor. Chicken and beef were about as common in the analysis, but the winner goes to pork, which accounted for about 50% of the sandwiches.
For the protein marinade / sauce specifically, lemongrass and fish sauce are the too unique flavors you’ll find in almost all of the recipes. Fish sauce keeps for a while and is used in many Asian dishes, so we usually have this on hand. That is not necessarily the case with lemongrass and as such have subbed it out for ginger. We think this provides a slightly different take on Banh mi that is equally as tasty.
The pickled vegetables are another distinct feature of banh mi. Carrots and cucumbers don’t usually add a huge amount of flavor to a sandwich. But, when those carrots and cucumbers have been pickled in brown sugar, salt, and vinegar, well now they have a ton of flavor. Many pickling recipes call for other vegetables, so ours is quite sparse by comparison. However, have found that adding in things like radishes (the most common in our dataset aside from carrots and cucumbers), that nothing drastic changed. Cucumbers and carrots on their own soak up enough of that sugary vinegar to get the sweet taste in the sandwich. This, however, is up to you. Feel free to add more vegetables if you would like.
Finally, there is the method of cooking. The most popular is either to make meatballs boiled down in a banh mi marinade, or to grill your protein of choice. Our banh mi days started in college, no fancy grill, and no time to make meatballs. Our method of cooking is thus the Instant Pot. This makes an incredibly delicious sandwich also incredibly accessible. The chicken gets marinated and then cooked down in that marinade, making it very easy and clean to throw together. Plus, the pressure-cooking process guarantees the chicken will stay nice and moist as it cooks. So, while you could go for the grilling route with the chicken, we say save yourself some time and just whip it up in the Instant Pot and then the broiler with some oil to combat a soggy sandwich.