Bay Area author Andrea Nguyen, who wrote the classic Into the Vietnamese Kitchen is back with a much smaller tome, a manual of sorts, on how to construct the perfect Vietnamese sandwich.
If you're one of those thinking, "A cookbook for a sandwich? Slap some deli meat and sliced cheese on some bread with lettuce and tomato, mustard and mayo and you're done," you might want to investigate further.
The Banh Mi Handbook: Recipes for Crazy Delicious Vietnamese Sandwiches, gives numerous options for the possible fillings, spicy spreads, pickled vegetables and herbs, as well as the all-important ratio to make up what is indeed the "crazy delicious" sandwich of the title.
She also, of course, explains how this famous sandwich came to be. The French, who ruled Vietnam from 1883 to 1954, brought their baguettes to the country with them. Naturally, the Vietnamese began to use the foreign bread as a base for their own pork pates and other meats, which then evolved into adding fresh herbs and pickles as well.
A short section is devoted to the right and wrong kinds of bread to use, and if you are up to the task, Nguyen recommends making your own (of course, a recipe is included). But if that sounds too daunting, no worries. A store-bought baguette may be used, as can slider rolls, sandwich bread, Kaiser rolls and multiple others; what cannot are dense rustic breads with a thick crust, as they tend to overpower the fillings inside.
The pickle section goes from the most common, like carrot and daikon, to the exotic, like snow pea and lemongrass.
While the Vietnamese do love their pork and this book reflects that, veggie-friendly options are also included, for example, edamame pate can be used instead of meat. Lemongrass sriracha tempeh can be swapped for the protein. Plenty of seafood options are given too, like herbed salmon cakes, or Viet oyster po' boy.
And while the perfect banh mi is indeed a sandwich to behold, many of these fillings sound tasty enough to be eaten on their own.
A book launch party will be at Omnivore Books at 6:30 p.m. on July 14, complete with Banh Mi Bar and special party favors from Red Boat Fish Sauce and Ten Speed Press. Cocktails created by Jeff Bareilles of Manresa will also be served.