Ghetto Banh Mi

6 Jan

Awhile back I wondered, if I could only eat three things for the rest of my life, what they would be (not taking into account nutrition and calories). It took a lot (OK 5 minutes) of soul searching, but this was my eventual list:*

  • Fish and chips
  • Pepperoni pizza
  • Salmonella buns

When I was a kid mum would take me and Cat to Victoria street in Richmond and we would go to LeeLee’s bakery and gorge ourselves. All I knew these rolls by was what mum called them – “yue lan mian bao” (Vietnamese sandwich). And then there was a salmonella outbreak in Victoria street which made the news and I was all like “hey I eat those sandwiches!” so Cat and I started calling them salmonella buns. It took another 10 years before I discovered that everyone (except the Vietnamese) calls them banh mi.

Unfortunately my salmonella buns are few and far between, because even though Richmond is geographically quite close, I’m too lazy to head there just for the rolls. But about a month ago I discovered how to make my own!

Well they’re not proper salmonella buns, but the rough flavour profile is there.

It’s only slightly more work than a regular sandwich, and worlds better. It does require a bit of forethought though, and you need to have some pickled carrots and daikon radishes on hand. This is the Everyday Daikon and Carrot Pickle from Andrea Nguyen’s Into the Vietnamese Kitchen.


  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into thick matchsticks
  • 500g daikons, each no larger than 2″ in diameter, peeled and cut into thick matchsticks
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp plus 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups distilled white vinegar
  • 1 cup lukewarm water


  1. Place the carrot and daikon in a bowl and sprinkle with the salt and 2 tsp of the sugar. Use your hands to knead the vegetables for about 3 minutes, expelling the water from them. They will soften and liquid will pool at the bottom of the bowl. Stop kneading when you can bend a piece of daikon so that the ends touch but the daikon does not break.
  2. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold running water, then press gently to expel extra water. Transfer them to a large jar for storage.
  3. To make the brine, in a bowl, combine the 1/2 cup sugar, vinegar and water, and stir to dissolve the sugar. Pour over the vegetables. The brine should cover the vegetables. Let the vegetables marinate for at least 1 hour before eating. They will keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks.

In the photo I used marinated grilled chicken for my protein. Sometimes I use leftover roast chicken or turkey slices, depending on what I have on hand. The marinade recipe I got from an online forum (you may have to be a member to view, not sure):


  • 2 TBSP oyster sauce
  • 1 TBSP fish sauce
  • 2 TBSP minced lemongrass (about 1 stalk)
  • 1 TBSP sugar
  • sriracha (chilli garlic sauce) to taste


  • Combine marinade ingredients in a bowl and marinate chicken for half an hour.
  • Grill over high heat, 4 minutes a side.

James likes the taste of this marinade, but is not overly fond of cooking it on the barbecue since the sugar makes it stick to the grill.

The other necessary elements:

  • Mayonnaise
  • Maggi Seasoning
  • Coriander
  • Bun

And the nice but not essential parts:

  • Cucumber
  • Spring onion

The bun is supposed to be quite important – it’s supposed to be shattery on the outside and soft on the inside, but to be honest the bun isn’t a huge part of it for me. I’ve used ciabatta and plain white rolls, and they’re both fine. I think I actually prefer the soft rolls, since they’re easier to eat. And after a couple of days, crusty bread gets a bit stale and hurts the roof of my mouth.

I like to use copious amounts of mayo, maggi and coriander for that “wooh! Flavour party in my mouth!” feeling, but you can adjust to taste.

James detests salmonella buns (he doesn’t like the copious amounts of lard or whatever it is they use – homemade mayo?) so he was convinced he wouldn’t enjoy this. I had to force him to take a bite, and he kind of got this surprised look on his face. And he went for a second bite when I offered it to him. =D

I don’t think salmonella buns will ever make James’ top 3, but I’m pleased that I was able to take a sandwich that he dislikes and turn it into something he requests!


* In case anybody is curious, James’ list was lamb vindaloo, chocolate cake, and supreme pizza. I remember asking Cat as well, and her preliminary list included 2 kinds of pizza, and James was like “Cat is stupid! She should just get supreme and pick bits off!”



4 Responses to “Ghetto Banh Mi”

  1. Cat January 9, 2011 at 11:32 pm #

    Bah, that’s a lie! I updated my list. It’s now:

    – Pizza with the lot
    – Salmonella bun
    – Blue cheese

    • pamperedhousewife January 10, 2011 at 9:19 am #

      You copied my salmonella bun! Also James is glad to see that you have incorporated his pizza idea.

  2. Brian Goosen September 2, 2015 at 6:07 pm #

    Today I realized I was out of lettuce, but had plenty of cilantro, so I thought, what the heck…

    Ghetto Banh Mi:
    Two slices white bread
    1 red radish, sliced paper thin
    1 small carrot, sliced lengthwise
    1 single serve package of honey ham
    approx 1 cup cilantro leaves
    peppercorn ranch dressing
    Layer the ham, radish, and carrots onto the bread such that the sandwich won’t completely fall apart when handled, put the other slice on top and bake the whole thing for 10 minutes at 450 degrees (or until the bread is darkly toasted).
    Open the sandwich up and add the cilantro and ranch.

    This turned out much better than I’d hoped. Enjoy your white-boy-from-Arkansas version of a banh mi sandwich!


  1. Saigon Bistro: Like the Worst Banh Mi Ever « Diary of a Pampered Housewife - August 17, 2012

    […] love banh mi; they are one of my top 3 favourite foods. I’d heard that Seattle has great Vietnamese food (and was eager to compare it with […]

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