Total time: 50 minutes (plus 30 minutes chilling time)
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS Banh mi is an iconic Vietnamese street food, consisting of a soft-style Vietnamese baguette split in half and loaded with all kinds of meats and vegetables. Variations abound, but in all of them, the true star is the pickled daikon radish and carrots. We set out to develop a recipe with the perfect balance of sugar, salt, tang, and depth—and with the perfect crunch. We tried rice vinegar, but most tasters found this too sweet. For a fresher approach, we tried lime juice with a touch of sugar; we loved this flavor. A splash of fish sauce provided a savory note. We paired the pickles with lightly charred, marinated pork and decadent chicken liver pâté. A simple sriracha mayo plus plenty of cucumbers, jalapeño, and cilantro completed a rich, satisfying flavor profile. You can find pâté in the gourmet cheese section of most well-stocked supermarkets. Be sure to use a smooth-textured pâté, not a coarse country pâté. Avoid pickling the radishes and carrots for longer than 1 hour; the radishes will begin to turn limp, gray, and bitter.
1½ teaspoons fish sauce
1½ teaspoons packed dark brown sugar
½ teaspoon grated lime zest plus ¼ cup lime juice (2 limes)
¼ teaspoon salt
8 ounces daikon radish, peeled and cut into 2-inch-long matchsticks
1 small carrot, peeled and cut into 2-inch-long matchsticks
1 (12-ounce) pork tenderloin, trimmed and halved crosswise
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon grated lime zest plus 2 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
⅓ cup mayonnaise
4 teaspoons sriracha sauce
6 ounces chicken or duck liver pâté
1 (18-inch) baguette, ends trimmed, cut crosswise into 4 equal lengths, and halved lengthwise
½ English cucumber, halved lengthwise and sliced thin
1 jalapeño chile, stemmed and sliced thin
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves and stems, trimmed and cut into 2-inch lengths
- For the pickles Whisk fish sauce, sugar, lime zest and juice, and salt in medium bowl until sugar and salt have dissolved. Stir in radish and carrot and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes or up to 1 hour. Drain vegetables and set aside for serving.
- For the banh mi Meanwhile, place pork pieces between 2 layers of plastic wrap and pound to ¼ inch thickness. Whisk fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, and pepper flakes in large bowl until sugar has dissolved. Add pork and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 hour.
- Remove pork from marinade and pat dry with paper towels. Heat oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add pork, reduce heat to medium, and cook until pork is well-browned and registers 140 degrees, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer pork to cutting board and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Whisk mayonnaise, sriracha, and lime zest together in small bowl. Slice pork ¼ inch thick. Spread pâté evenly over cut sides of baguette, followed by mayonnaise mixture. Layer pickled vegetables, pork, cucumber, jalapeño, and cilantro evenly over bottom halves. Top with baguette tops and serve.