When I saw The Banh Mi Handbook in my library last month, I immediately picked it up as all of the food pictures looked amazing. Ironically though when checking out, one of my library’s somewhat elderly and crotchety workers (there’s a slew of them, unfortunately), remarked along the lines that the pictures (the ones in the cookbook) didn’t make her want to try the foods being shown. Umm, okay? I didn’t know I was soliciting feedback over what I was borrowing…
Sadly, I’ve never had a Bánh mì, a Vietnamese-style sandwich (in the Vietnamese language, Bánh mì is a term for all kinds of bread). What I like most about the cookbook is that it offers a plethora of recipes ranging from the traditional variety (Classic Chicken) to more adventurous sounding ones (Star Anise and Lemongrass Sloppy Joe). It also includes recipes for Bánh mì (how to make the actual bread) and a slew of mayonnaise, sauce, and pickle recipes (mayonnaise of course being a legacy from Vietnam’s days as a former French colony).
While none of the recipes seem particularly difficult (a la Mastering the Art of French Cooking), many are a bit long. For the first recipe I tried, I went with one of the most non-traditional Bánh mì recipes, beef and curry sliders (and also one that was extremely simple). The author Andrea Nguyen immigrated to the United States with her family from Vietnam as a child and she writes that “hamburgers were a novelty food that we’d enjoy for a special Sunday brunch, but today I make these mini cross-cultural patties.” The cross-cultural label of course refers to the countries of China, Vietnam, India, and the United States all being represented in the recipe.
I can’t say that I’ve ever had sliders with cucumber slices on top, nor tried Laughing Cow cheese before (this is dangerously addicting), but between those two things and the melange of gentle spices in the ground meat that you could really taste with your first bite of the slider, I really enjoyed them. Sometimes, there is nothing better than taking a slightly tired food and reinventing it in the kitchen (and for your stomach’s pleasure too!).
Beef & Curry Sliders
Recipe courtesy of The Banh Mi Handbook by Andrea Quynhgiao Nguyen
1 1/2 pounds ground beef, 80 percent lean preferred
2 cloves garlic, minced and mashed with a knife blade or put through a press
1/3 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1/4 plus 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon Madras curry power (this is available in any Asian market)
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon oyster sauce (I omitted this)
About 2 tablespoons canola oil
Cucumber slices, chopped cilantro for garnish
-Put the beef in a bowl and add the garlic and onion. Use a fork to gently mix and loosen the beef. Add the salt, pepper, curry powder, fish sauce, and oyster sauce. Mix with the fork to combine well, taking care not to compress the ingredients.
-Shape the meat into 12 patties, about 1/2 inch thick and slightly bigger than your slider buns; they will shrink. Be gentle or the patties will compact too much and not cook up to a nice juiciness. To prevent sticking, brush or rub oil on the patties.
-To cook, heat a heavy skillet or stove-top grill pan brushed with a little oil over medium high-heat and cook the patties in batches, about 2 minutes on the first side. The second side needs about 1 minute for medium-rare, 1 1/2 minutes for medium. Let rest and cool for a few minutes before assembling the sliders.
-For extra richness, spread Laughing Cow cheese (a part of Vietnam’s colonial past) atop the patties after cooking along with cucumber slices.
-Makes patties for 12 sliders, for 4-6 people. Takes about 30 minutes