Banh Mi

I don’t know exactly what made me decide to make banh mi for dinner recently. I think I was craving them and knew that I had some carrots and cucumbers in the fridge. So I went on a Google quest to look for recipes on how to make banh mi at home. There is a surprisingly few amount of Vietnamese banh mi baguette recipes out there–I went for one that was detailed and reasonably easy to make. I’m not going for 100% authenticity here, mainly because I know it’s not possible to do at home. But the results of this baguette recipe were SO FREAKIN’ GOOD. Crispy on the outside with a nice and fluffy interior. Please ignore my total bread scoring fail; we don’t have any sharp cutters or razors to slash the dough well enough…

I whipped up the pork with some fail-proof Asian seasonings and it was the perfect pairing with the pickled carrots and onions. I also had some leftover roasted garlic aioli I made the day before and used that as the mayo-based sauce. It was honestly so delicious–I was incredibly pleased with this meal. I don’t often say that about my cooking but this is a definite winner in my book. J and I both had 1.5 sandwiches because we’re gluttons it was that good. Don’t let the daunting amount of components deter you!! I promise it’s worth it.

Ingredients

Roasted Garlic Aioli

  • 1 bulb of garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup mayonaise
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced

Pickled Carrots/Onions

  • 1 carrot
  • 1 small sweet onion
  • 1 small daikon
  • Salt
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons pure cane sugar

Seasoned Pork

  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 pound pork loin, minced
  • 1 small sweet onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon five spice seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • Red chili flakes, optional

For Assembly

  • 1 small cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 1 small fresh jalapeno, thinly sliced
  • 1 handful cilantro, chopped

Instructions

Baguette

I followed Danang Cuisine’s recipe to a T. Her video is really helpful too.

Roasted Garlic Aioli

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F.
  2. Chop off the top of the garlic bulb just so the tops of the cloves are showing. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with salt.
  3. Wrap in aluminum foil and roast for 30-40 minutes until golden brown.
  4. Carefully remove the cloves of garlic into a small bowl.
  5. Add the mayo and lemon juice and stir until all is incorporated and the garlic cloves are mashed. Season to your liking with salt and pepper.

Pickled Carrots/Onions

  1. Cut up carrot, onion, and daikon into small matchsticks and place in small bowl.
  2. Sprinkle a generous amount of salt over the veggies and massage for a few minutes until the salt starts to draw moisture out. Let sit for 5-10 minutes until liquid pools at the bottom.
  3. Strain the vegetables and rinse thoroughly with water.
  4. Return back to bowl and stir in vinegar and sugar until dissolved. Cover and let set for at least an hour before serving. Place into a jar and refrigerate for storage.

Seasoned Pork

  1. Heat oil in a skillet and add onions and garlic. Saute over medium heat until translucent and fragrant.
  2. In a bowl, mix together the pork and all the rest of the ingredients.
  3. Turn the heat high and add all of the pork mixture into the skillet. Let the pork cook and caramelize on the bottom before flipping. Turn the heat down to medium and cook the meat until brown and fully done.

Assembly

  1. Slice the baguettes in half, leaving a “hinge” to stuff the ingredients in.
  2. Add a layer of the roasted garlic mayo, then add the pork.
  3. Stuff the rest of the sandwich with your desired amount of the pickled veggies, cucumber, jalapeno, and cilantro. Enjoy!

Steamed BBQ Pork Buns (Cha Shao Bao)

I’ve been wanting to make homemade cha shao bao for a while now. I finally got my hands on some good BBQ pork (thanks mom!) and asked my grandma for her amazing man tou (steamed bread bun) recipe. Combine the two, and voila! You get these steamed pork buns.

When I called my grandma asking about her recipe, I should’ve expected that she would say she doesn’t have one. She just eyeballs and throws a bunch of things together. I was trying to listen to her list off her “recipe” in mandarin and translating it into something I could put numbers to. She said things like 3 spoons of oil and an unknown amount of warm water haha. I decided to give it a shot and it actually turned out!

This was my first time making them so they definitely didn’t come out 100%. I’ll continue learning with each time, but they’re still tasty either way. My first steam batch was a huge fail. I called my mom to ask what could’ve happened and she made me realize that I didn’t let the buns rise long enough the second time. My grandma didn’t mention a second rise so I’m glad my mom came to the rescue with that, saving the rest of the buns!

Ingredients

Steamed Bun Dough

  • 3 cups (360 g) all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 tablespoon pure cane sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon yeast
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup warm water (90-110 F)

BBQ Pork Filling

  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 small sweet onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine or dry sherry
  • 3/4 pound BBQ pork, diced
  • 1 tablespoon corn starch
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon five spice powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon white or black pepper
  • Red chili flakes, optional, to taste
  • 2 bunches scallions, chopped

Instructions

  1. In a large bowl, mix together all the ingredients for the dough with a wooden spoon or chopsticks. It should come into a shaggy ball and most all the flour should be absorbed. Add more water or flour in small increments as necessary if not the right consistency.
  2. Place dough on clean surface and knead until smooth and elastic, just a few minutes.
  3. Return dough to a well-oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel to rise for about an hour or until doubled in size.
  4. In the meantime, make the filling. Add the sesame oil into a large pan and saute the onion and garlic on medium heat until translucent and fragrant, several minutes. Add in the rice wine and let it cook and evaporate. Then, add in the pork and cook together for a few minutes.
  5. In a small bowl, combine all the rest of the filling ingredients except for the scallions. Stir well to dissolve corn starch and make a slurry.
  6. Pour the sauce mixture into the pan and cook until filling has thickened. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Add in the scallions and stir. Set aside.
  7. Cut up 16 little squares from parchment paper or gather 16 cupcake liners.
  8. Once done rising, remove the dough from the bowl and divide into 16 equally sized balls. Cover with a towel and let rest for 10 minutes.
  9. Roll each dough ball into rounds that are approximately 3.5″ diameter, making the middle portion thicker than the edges.
  10. Add 1 tablespoon of filling into the center of the round. Fold by pleating the tops and then pinching it all together at the center.
  11. Place the bun onto a parchment square and set aside. Repeat for all 16 buns and cover with a damp towel. Let rise until double in size, between 15-60 minutes, depending on the temperature.
  12. Prepare steamer (preferably bamboo) with water and place over high heat to get it boiling. Add buns to the steam basket and steam for 12 minutes on high heat. Be sure not to check on the buns/remove the lid.
  13. Turn the heat off and let sit for another 5 minutes before enjoying!

Quick No Knead Crusty Bread

I bake a lot of bread because if J could choose one food to eat exclusively, it would be bread (followed closely by cheese). I have a classic no knead bread recipe that I use all the time–it’s foolproof and produces an amazing loaf every time. That recipe is not this one, haha. But this one is good in that it produces a great loaf in a shorter amount of time if you’re crunched for time!

We invited my sister-in-law and her boyfriend for dinner and board games one night and I had planned to make my normal crusty bread with soup and pasta. I totally forgot to prepare the starter the night before though and had to improvise last minute. That’s when I found this recipe for a no knead crusty bread. While I do like the other one slightly better, this one is quick and easy and still produces a great loaf of crusty bread. We also left half of the starter in the fridge to develop and baked it off after 6 days. It has a wonderful flavor after sitting and fermenting!

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Ingredients

  • 3 cups (680g) lukewarm water
  • 6 1/2 – 7 1/2 cups (907g) unbleached all purpose flour
  • Scant 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons (14g) instant or active dry yeast

Instructions

  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Mix and stir everything together to make a very sticky, rough dough. If you have a stand mixer, beat at medium speed with the beater blade for 30 to 60 seconds. If you don’t have a mixer, just stir until everything is combined.
  3. Next, you’re going to let the dough rise. If you’ve made the dough in a plastic bucket, you’re all set — just let it stay there, covering the bucket with a lid or plastic wrap. If you’ve made the dough in a bowl that’s not at least 6-quart capacity, transfer it to a large bowl; it’s going to rise a lot. 
  4. Cover the bowl or bucket, and let the dough rise at room temperature for 2 hours. Then refrigerate it for at least 2 hours, or for up to about 7 days. (If you’re pressed for time, skip the room-temperature rise, and stick it right into the fridge). The longer you keep it in the fridge, the tangier it’ll get; if you chill it for 7 days, it will taste like sourdough. Over the course of the first day or so, it’ll rise, then fall. That’s OK; that’s what it’s supposed to do.
  5. When you’re ready to make bread, sprinkle the top of the dough with flour; this will make it easier to grab a hunk. Grease your hands, and pull off about 1/4 to 1/3 of the dough — a 14-ounce to 19-ounce piece, if you have a scale. It’ll be about the size of a softball, or a large grapefruit.
  6. Plop the sticky dough onto a floured work surface, and round it into a ball, or a longer log.
  7. Place the loaf on a piece of parchment (if you’re going to use a baking stone); or onto a lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Sift a light coating of flour over the top; this will help keep the bread moist as it rests before baking.
  8. Let the loaf warm to room temperature and rise; this should take about 60 minutes (or longer, up to a couple of hours, if your house is cool). It won’t appear to rise upwards that much; rather, it’ll seem to settle and expand. Preheat your oven to 450°F while the loaf rests. If you’re using a baking stone, position it on a middle rack while the oven preheats. Place a shallow metal or cast iron pan (not glass, Pyrex, or ceramic) on the lowest oven rack, and have 1 cup of hot water ready to go.
  9. When you’re ready to bake, take a sharp knife and slash the bread 2 or 3 times, making a cut about 1/2″ deep. The bread may deflate a bit; that’s OK, it’ll pick right up in the hot oven.
  10. Place the bread in the oven — onto the baking stone, if you’re using one, or simply onto a middle rack, if it’s on a pan — and carefully pour the 1 cup hot water into the shallow pan on the rack beneath. It’ll bubble and steam; close the oven door quickly.
  11. Bake the bread for 25 to 35 minutes, until it’s a deep, golden brown.
  12. Remove the bread from the oven, and cool it on a rack. Store leftover bread in a plastic bag at room temperature.

Adapted from King Arthur Flour.

Day Old Bread Croutons

In my endeavors to make less waste in the kitchen, I’ve been taking day old bread and making them into croutons, one of my favorite snacks! While stale bread may not be particularly enjoyable, just adding some olive oil and seasonings instantly transform it into a delicious snack or topping on salads.

For this batch, I used the butts of the whole wheat challah I made.

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Ingredients

  • Day old bread, cut or ripped into small pieces
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic powder
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Dried oregano
  • Additional seasonings like paprika, chili powder, parmesan cheese, whatever you want!

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat.
  2. Layer your bread pieces on the sheet into a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with seasonings, to taste.
  3. Toss with hands to make sure all the pieces are evenly coated.
  4. Bake in preheated oven until croutons start turning brown and crisp, around 10-15 minutes.
  5. Let cool and then toss in salads or eat as a snack!

Pumpkin Yeast Bread

This is the perfect Thanksgiving or holiday bread, or if you just love pumpkin and spices. It’s a yeast bread, so it’s more like a pumpkin-scented sandwich bread as opposed to a quick bread that’s sweet and dessert-like. It’s great for French toast, dinner rolls, or snacking with honey butter. I think it would also be great to use for chicken salad sandwiches and the like.

So I fricken love King Arthur Flour. You’ll find that I use a lot of their recipes, especially when it comes to bread. I just wish I could actually afford their flour more often–I can only buy it when it’s on sale, and even then, it’s a stretch for their organic versions. Either way, I trust their recipes. Use them if you get a chance!

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons instant or active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup (113g) lukewarm milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups (340g) puréed pumpkin, either fresh or canned
  • 2 Tbsp (25g) oil
  • 6 1/2 cups (780g) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/4 cup (52g) brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

Instructions

  1. Place all of the ingredients into a large bowl, and mix and knead — by hand, using a mixer, or in a bread machine set on the dough cycle — to make a smooth, soft dough.
  2. Put the dough into a lightly greased bowl. Cover and let it rise until doubled, about 60 to 75 minutes.
  3. Gently deflate the dough, and turn it out onto a lightly oiled work surface. Divide it in half.
  4. Shape each half into a loaf, and place in lightly greased 9″ x 5″ loaf pans. Alternatively, shape half into a loaf, and the other into 12 to 16 rolls, which can be placed into two 8″ round pans, or into a 9″ x 13″ pan. Or, simply shape all of the dough into 24 to 32 rolls. (The ones pictured are three strand braids. Divide the loaf into three strands and braid one strand over the other like you would normally braid hair and place into the loaf pan).
  5. Cover the pan(s) and let the loaves/rolls rise until almost doubled, about 45 minutes. Toward the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.
  6. Bake the bread for 30 to 35 minutes, or until its crust is a deep golden brown, and a digital thermometer inserted into the center registers about 190°F. Bake the rolls for about 20 minutes, until golden brown.
  7. Remove the bread from the oven, and turn it out onto a rack to cool. Store completely cool bread or rolls well-wrapped, at room temperature, for several days; freeze for longer storage.

Adapted from King Arthur Flour.