25, Mar 2007
Banh Mi and Seaweed Sandwich Rolls

Using ingredients inspired by vietnamese food, particularly banh mi, I made seaweed rolls and baguette sandwiches to eat for lunches this week.

– 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
– 3 celery stalks, cut in long narrow strips
– 2 carrots, peeled and cut in long narrow strips
– 3 leaves romaine lettuce, cut in long narrow strips
– bean sprouts
– green onions, with heads and tails trimmed, in long strips
– pickled ginger, cut in strips
– cilantro, italian parsley, thai basil
– soft baguette (not a style that’s too crusty)
– about 6 sheets seaweed
– sauces

Vegetables: in general, it’s easier to make the rolls and the sandwiches if things are cut long and narrow. Wash and trim the celery and cut each stalk in about 4 narrow strips. Similarly, peel and trim the carrots, cut crosswise in long flat slices, and then cut those into strips. With the parsley and cilantro, I pulled them off the larger stalks, but kept some of the smaller stalks (they’re less likely to fall out of the rolls on stalks than as individual leaves).
Chicken: heat olive oil on high in a skillet. add the chicken breasts and sprinkle the top lightly with black pepper. Sear for 1-2 minutes, then flip and sear again for 1-2 minutes. turn heat down to medium, cover, and cook until done, about 10 minutes. Slice the breasts horizontally into two flat slices, and then cut those in long strips. Put in the fridge for a while before working with them.
Sauces: I wanted to add a creamy sauce with a bit of bite for additional flavor to complement the mostly simple, fresh ingredients. My first sauce was on a base of 2:1 nonfat plain yogurt and lite mayonnaise, with a good bit of sweet hot mustard and some sriracha. I added a bit of soy sauce and black pepper. My second sauce was more vietnamese in flavor. Again, a base of 2:1 yogurt and mayo, with a fair amount of nuoc cham and lime juice. I also added some sriracha for spice, and a few spoonsful of ground peanuts.
Assembling the rolls: arrange all the ingredients around in easy reach. Include a bowl of warm water and a couple of paper towels handy. Use a cutting board covered with wax paper for a work surface. Take a sheet of seaweed and lay it in front of you with the shiny side down, with the fold lines running left-right. Spoon out some of the sauce along the seaweed, an inch or two in from the end near you. Lay strips of chicken on top, and then add whatever combination of other ingredients sounds good. Fold the seaweed end close to you over the ingredients and then roll until you’re a couple of inches from the end. Dip your fingers in the water and run them along the edge of the seaweed, to provide a seal when you finish rolling.
Sandwiches: cut a baguette about 8 inches long, and then cut in half partway across. Lay the baguette open in a V and then fill it in the same order as the rolls. The bread I used was a soft french baguette. I usually prefer crustier bread for sandwiches or just eating plain, but the softer bread is better to avoid having the sandwich fall apart.
I haven’t actually had the rolls yet but the sandwiches are delicious. The whole thing is a bit of work, just because you have to prepare everything and lay it out, but from those modest ingredients I made about 6 rolls and three sandwiches, which is a lot of lunches.
Use whatever vegetables you want. Red onions, red bell, anaheim, sweet, or jalapeno peppers, different kinds of lettuce or greens, etc. The sauces could be almost anything, though you want to make sure whatever you use in the rolls at least is thick enough that it wont all slide out the far end. Of course, the chicken could be replaced with thin-sliced grilled beef or pork, like traditional banh mi.