Creating recipes isn't a pastime—it's a passion. And a lot of fun.

The rules are few: Use 99% fresh ingredients (or thereabouts); make the dish simple but flavorful; make the dish flavorful but simple; be creative, not silly.

With this blog, I want to share new recipes, along with tips on ingredients and preparation, and, hopefully, show new cooks (and non-cooks) the pleasure in setting the table with a delicious homemade meal. The Briny Lemon is about fresh, simple, flavorful ingredients and easy cooking methods that help you bring the best to your family table. Your comments are welcome!

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Ground-Pork Banh Mi

These flavor-loaded sandwiches from Vietnam are a meal all by themselves. The most common fillings are pork, fresh and pickled vegetables—usually cucumber, carrot, and radish—and leafy cilantro.

But perhaps the most important feature of the sandwich is the bread. Banh mi is actually a Vietnamese term for a variety of breads, although its westernized meaning refers to this meat-filled roll with veggies and a bold sauce.

In both Southeast Asia and the West, banh mi is simply a small baguette—a little crusty and chewy, though the Vietnamese version tends to have a thinner crust. If you can’t fine single-serving baguettes, buy a long one and cut it into 5-inch pieces.

In this recipe, I used ground pork cooked with a bold, slightly sour, slightly spicy sauce. Since the sauce is cooked into the meat, you don’t need additional condiments.

In keeping with tradition, I topped the pork with pickled, shaved carrot and radish, along with fresh cucumber slices and cilantro. This is one tasty sandwich with big flavor in every bite.

Tip: How do you shave a radish? First, use large ones. Hold the pointy end in your fingertips and press the other end against a cutting board. Tilt the radish at an angle and use a vegetable peeler to shave off thin slices. Not every slice will be perfect, and that’s the beauty of home cooking.

Shaving the Radish
Serves 4


For the Sauce
  • 2 serrano chiles, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1-in piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp light brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp sambal oelek (ground fresh chile paste)
For the Pork and Vegetables
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp white sugar
  • 2 tsp fine salt
  • 4 medium-small carrots, peeled and shaved (about 2 cups)
  • 4 large radishes, shaved
  • 2 tsp peanut oil
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 5-inch baguette rolls, centers hollowed out (tops and bottoms)
  • 24-30 very thin slices of seedless cucumber
  • cilantro leaves with small stems, for serving
Shaved Carrot and Radish

For the Sauce
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, stirring well to dissolve the sugar.
Chile, Ginger, and Garlic
Banh Mi Sauce
For the Pork and Vegetables
  1. Whisk both vinegars, sugar, and fine salt in a bowl until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Add the shaved carrots and radishes, pressing to submerge. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours (or up to 8). Drain well before serving.
Carrots and Radishes Beginning to Pickle 
Pickled Carrots and Radishes
Drained Vegetables
  1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add the peanut oil. Add the pork and onions and season with salt and pepper. Cook, breaking up the pork, until just cooked through, 8-9 minutes.
  2. Add the sauce to the skillet and stir well to combine. Cook until most of the liquid is absorbed, 7-8 minutes.
Pork and Onions Beginning to Cook
Cooked Pork and Onions
Sauce Added to Pork
Cooked Pork Mixture
  1. Lay the hollowed baguette pieces on a work surface. Divide the pork mixture and fill the bottom halves. Divide the drained carrot and radishes, cucumber slices, and cilantro on top. 
Ready to Assemble
Place the tops on the sandwiches and press to close. Serve right away.

Ground-Pork Banh Mi


  1. Oh yeah! Thanks for this. It looks great! I'm putting ground pork on my shopping list right now :)

  2. Fantastic, Lydia! I don't think you'll be disappointed---this dish is flavor-town on a roll!

    Thanks much for your comment.