CL approved: The Banh Mi Handbook by Andrea Nguyen

Here in the Test Kitchen, we’re lucky to have access to a great number of new cookbooks. When we received The Banh Mi Handbook, I immediately knew I wanted to give some of the recipes a try. Andrea Nguyen has written some amazing cookbooks about Vietnamese cuisine (like this book) and I had a feeling this one would not disappoint.

banh mi handbook

The banh mi is one of the most well-known Vietnamese dishes — second perhaps only to Pho noodle bowls — and is found in various forms all around the country. Traditionally built on a French baguette (a result of the French influence in the region) it’s generally filled with crisp, pickled veggies, cold cuts, a flavourful sauce and fresh cilantro. The art of the perfect banh mi is to find the right balance between all of these elements and Andrea Nguyen shows you how to do just that.

red and radish pickle

Before making the sandwich, the first step is to make the pickled veggies. There are different recipes to choose from in the book (from the classic daikon and carrot pickle to green tomato and lemongrass or citrusy red cabbage). I chose to try the red radish and carrot. It’s essentially a quick-pickle that’s both sweet, sour, crunchy and absolutely delicious. Here’s how to make it!

radish pickle

Andrea Nguyen’s Red Radish and Carrot Pickle
Makes: about 3 cups

1 pound (450 g)  carrots, cut lengthwise, then thinly cut the halves on the bias
6 ounces (180 g) radishes, cut them into a generous 1/8 inch (8 mm) thick
1 teaspoon salt, fine sea salt preferred
2 teaspoons plus 1⁄2 cup (3.5 oz / 105 g) sugar
1-1⁄4 cups (300 ml) distilled white vinegar
1 cup (240 ml) lukewarm water

Put the vegetables in a bowl. Toss with the salt and 2 teaspoons of the sugar. Let sit for about 10 minutes, or until vegetables start to soften and bend,

Flush with running water, then drain in a mesh strainer or colander. Press or shake to expel excess water. Transfer to a 4-cup (1 l) jar.

For the brine, stir together the remaining 1⁄2 cup (105 g)  sugar with the vinegar and water until dissolved. Pour into the jar to cover well. Discard any excess brine. Use after 1 hour or refrigerate for up to a month.

Recipe excerpted from The Banh Mi Handbook byAndrea Nguyen. Copyright © 2014 by Andrea Quynhgiao Nguyen. Reproduced by permission of Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company. All rights reserved. Photography Ten Speed Press (top) Jennifer Bartoli (bottom).