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BOB HART: VIETNAMESE ROLLS ON THE BARBIE

MML

VIETNAMESE ROLLS ON THE BARBIE

Banh mi, those glorious Vietnamese rolls that can be built around just about anything provided there is a crisp, white, baguette-like roll, some pickled vegies and Maggi Seasoning sauce involved, are brilliant when you buy them from a diligent Vietnamese baker. Who can resist the fiery flavour surprises, and all that crunch?

They are even better, however, when you whip up your own on a gas or charcoal grill ? different, perhaps, but quirky and absolutely delicious. And provided you make the effort to pickle, very simply, some carrot and daikon sticks and have invested in a bottle of the ubiquitous (Maggi) sauce at your local Asian market, you will be entranced. And the added char and smoke flavours you will impart to the meat? Magical?

For my favourite banh mi, I use pork fillets. For four servings (mini-baguette rolls), buy about 500g of these ? it could be two or three fillets. Cut them in half, across the grain, and make a marinade with a couple of cloves of minced, chopped or pressed garlic, ? tsp five-spice powder, ? tsp caster sugar, 2 tsp roasted sesame oil, 1.5 tbs soy, 2 tbs tomato ketchup, 2 tbs honey and 3 tbs hoisin sauce. Mix well, and reserve 2-3 tbs of this mixture for use later. Tip the rest into a resealable plastic bag, add the pork, coat the meat well with the marinade in the sealed bag and refrigerate overnight. But remember to take it out of the fridge a couple of hours before you intend to cook it.

Now, prepare the all-important banh mi pickles (below). Also, slice thin discs or ovals of English cucumber. And ensure you have plenty of fresh coriander leaves and some thinly sliced (in discs) red chillies ? you can decide how hot, but I find serrano or jalapeno to be ideal – on hand. Now, put the pork fillets on a hot, oiled, gas or charcoal grill with, in the case of charcoal, some hickory chips to the fire.

Move the fillets through 90 degrees after about 2 minutes ? less if the fillets are very small ? and turn them over and repeat after another 2. Roll them across the grill and cover again, briefly, to ensure they are cooked through with some dark grill marks. Do not overcook as there is very little fat in a fillet, and they can quickly become tough and dry if you mistreat them. Take them off when the internal temp hits 65C. When rested, slice into 5mm thick discs across the grain. (You can easily substitute, or add, if you promise not to tell anyone, really good pork sausages ? blanched, cooled and dried and then lightly oiled before crisping on that same grill and sliced into discs: I often use the incomparable pork and fennel snags from master-butcher Leo Donati in Melbourne’s Carlton).

Now, after having prepared a quantity of banh mi mayo by stirring some Sriracha and some seasoning sauce into some Best Foods mayo, split 4 fresh, crisp mini-baguette rolls ? I like to warm them on the grill ? and open them up like hot-dog rolls. Brush the cut sides with banh mi mayo, pile in some pickled carrots and daikon, discs of cucumber and the char-grilled discs of pork. Drizzle with a touch of the reserved marinade and aprinkle a touch of the Maggi Seasoning sauce over everything. Top with fresh coriander and a few of those chilli slices. Eat loudly with a very cold beer or three.

BANH MI PICKLES: Peel a large carrot and an even larger daikon (white radish) and slice into thickish (chopstick thickness is a good guide), 8cm sticks. Place these together in a bowl and toss with 1 tsp sea salt and 2 tsp caster sugar. Massage for about 3 mins, or until the daikon becomes bendy. Rinse well, drain off excess water and transfer to a resealable jar. Add a simple brine made by stirring ? cup caster sugar into 300mls distilled, white vinegar and 1 cup lukewarm water. Pour into jar to cover the vegetables. They will be ready to use in an hour, or they will keep for up to a month in the fridge.

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