Lemongrass Eggplant Bánh Mì

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Have we ever discussed sandwiches??? I don't think so. Sandwiches are sort of a point of contention in the Cho-Alt household. You see, Reuben could probably eat a sandwich every single day of his life and be the happiest Reub in all the land. Seriously. I think he dreams of hoagie bread and deli slices. Me on the other hand, I dream of dumplings and could probably not eat a sandwich for the rest of my life and be pretty okay. I don't know why, but I've never really loved sandwiches. However, when I do have a sandwich it will mostly likely be a roast beef sandwich on a sourdough roll, NOT toasted, with provolone, tomatoes (maybe), a little bit of mayo, and avocado if I'm feeling fancy or willing to spend an extra dollar. Part of being in a relationship though is making sacrifices. So I eat sandwiches a little more often than I like to. Things could be worse. He could be obsessed with video games or be into racing or something... The hardest thing is when he wants a sandwich for dinner and I just can't do it. Sandwiches just don't feel like a real dinner for me. I believe in breakfast sandwiches and lunch sandwiches. But dinner sandwiches are a little weird. Paninis and bánh mìs sort of fall in that dinner sandwich grey area though. 

Something real weird happened to me last week. I had a craving for a sandwich. GASP. I! Kristina! Me! Sandwich! Reuben was shocked and delighted. I picked up a deli sandwich for lunch and then it just snowballed into this really weird week where I just kept eating sandwiches everyday. I feel weird about it. I don't know what came over me. One day it was a deli sandwich, the next day I made pesto chicken sandos for dinner, Reuben made me an East Coast hoagie, then we got burgers (which is a sandwich I think... hot dogs are not sandwiches though), then I made these bánh mìs, I got a Chick-Fil-A sandwich yesterday, and then more bánh mìs! Holy, Carb. Do you think I've had enough slices of bread yet? The answer is yes.

Let's talk about these Bánh Mì before I can't even stomach the idea of another sandwich. I love a classic bánh mì đặc biệt, which has Vietnamese cold cuts, head cheese, and some a pate. It's the best! But I also love me a tasty vegetarian bánh mì. Crispy eggplant is so incredibly good piled in between crusty bread, sweet and tart pickles, and addictive lemongrass sauce. Eggplant always makes a great meaty/non-meat alternative.

Some important things to note about a great bánh mì. BREAD. Like any great building, you need a great foundation. Bread is the foundation of a great sandwich. The bread needs to be light, soft, and toasty. I recommend going to your closest asian market and picking up some soft french rolls. Or hoagie rolls if those are hard to find. You could use a french baguette, but I really think the texture is too dense and chewy. Next thing is pickled daikon and carrots! I use this Serious Eats recipe and it is so freaking easy to make and super delicious. They add the perfect crunchy, sweet, and sour punch. Lastly, the sauce! I'm not normally a saucey person. I'm actually a pretty dry food person. But this sandwich needs sauce. This lemongrass sauce is super addicting. It's quick to throw together and also works as an awesome marinade for meats! If you check the boxes on all these, you'll guarantee yourself pretty tasty sandwich that even the non-sandwich-loving person in your life will love!


Lemongrass Eggplant Bánh Mì

makes 2 bánh mì

Materials:

1 large Chinese eggplants
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 soft french rolls
1 sliced jalapeno pepper
Cilantro
Pickled Daikon and Carrots

Lemongrass Sauce:

2 lemongrass stalks
1 1/2" chunk of grated ginger
1 tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup hoisin
1 tbsp Sriracha
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper

To Prepare the Lemongrass Sauce:

1. Begin by preparing the lemongrass sauce. Peel the hard outer layers of the lemongrass stalk until you reach the pale yellow inner layers. Cut off the bottom 2" inches of the stalk, which is the bulb. Finely slice the 2/3 up the stalk. Save the top 1/3 of the stalk for future soups or broth!

2. Place sliced lemongrass and chunk of ginger in food processor. Pulse in the food processor for 1 minute until finely chopped and almost pasty. Add in olive oil, hoisin, Sriracha, salt, and white pepper. Pulse a few more times until well mixed.

3. Place the sauce in a glass container and refridgerator until ready to use.

To Prepare the Bánh Mì:

1. Slice the eggplant at a steep angle into 1/4" slices. Place the slices in a large bowl. Add cornstarch and salt to the bowl and toss eggplant until it is evenly coated.

2. Heat vegetable oil in a skillet until hot.  It should be hot enough so that once the eggplant hits the oil it should instantly start to sizzle. Add in a few slices of eggplant to the pan. Do not overcrowd the pan, you want one single layer. Fry for 3 minutes on each side until crispy. Remove eggplant from the oil and allow to drain a paper towel. Repeat until all the eggplant has been fried.

3. Toast up the soft french rolls in the oven for about 4-5 minutes. Smear a little bit of the lemongrass sauce on the roll. Layer on a few slices of fried eggplant, add a little more sauce, then the pickled daikon and carrots, a few slices of jalapeno, and then a few bits of cilantro. Add more Sriracha or hoisin based on taste and enjoy!

Vietnamese Style Pork Chops and Coconut Rice

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Hey! Happy hump day, guys! We are going to make it! 

Quick Unimportant Updates: Reuben and I watched Ratatouille over the weekend and it was wonderful! Next Food Network Star is back on and my desire to try out/practice has been reignited. I think Giada would be into me. Russell Sage tapped out on Naked and Afraid XL and the the women who watch this show (is it just me?) rejoiced! Ever since Reuben started @beermeatsbread, we've been collecting the beer cans in a nice clean bag and handing them over directly to the sweet old asian ladies/gentlemen that collect cans. You should do it too! It makes them so happy and their happiness will make you so happy!

My Love Hate Relationship with SF Update: Lately, I've been really overwhelmed/overstimulated by downtown San Francisco. My new work commute and new office location is a lot more "active" than it was before. The bus I take now is more cramped with a constant flow of people squeezing on and off. I walk right through the tourist center downtown to get from my bus stop to work and there are so many crazies! There is woman at my bus stop that hisses at everyone. And ugh. The smells. This past week alone (it's only Wednesday) I've see some nasty (I mean real nasty) things doing down on the block my new office is on. I'll spare you the details. I don't know if I'm just being a wimp or if anyone else who works downtown feels this way, but it's just a lot! I cry a little inside when I have to leave the safety of my Inner Richmond apartment... jk... but sort of.

I've talked about this before, but I'm an easily over stimulated person and I have to really work on including daily routines and rituals into my life that calm and center me. SF stresses me out. I juggle a lot of random passions and I don't want to give up any of them. I try to be a good friend/girlfriend/daughter/sister/niece/cousin. I hate disappointing or saying no to anyone. A lot of times, I feel like all these things pull me into every direction, but I just want to stay wrapped up in my blanket... alone. Sometimes, my emotions get the best of me, but I try my best to keep my mind balanced and in check. Although, this overwhelming feeling is the reason why I paint and cook. It's how I focus my thoughts and relax. Chopping vegetables and watching watercolors move on paper is so cathartic. Mental health and wellness is so so so so so important and I wish more people made maintaining their own mental health a priority!

If I told you mental health included making pork chops, would that make you take it seriously? 😜

Just a little perk! These pork chops are juicy and pack a flavor punch after some sweet caramelization in the pan. But, the unexpected star of this plate is the coconut rice. It is incredible! I want to take a nap on a bed of this coconut rice and never take the bus downtown again! For real though, this rice plate is I'mgoingtoinhalethis good. It's just like those giant meat and rice plates you get from your favorite Vietnamese place. I'm sure this will be on my dinner menu rotation if we move out of SF into the rural Ohio countryside. Aaaa the dream.

Make a pork chop, paint some flowers, dance your pants off, run 10 miles, watch Say Yes to the Dress, do what you got to do to keep your mind in tip top shape!


Vietnamese Style Pork Chop and Coconut Rice

serves 4

Step:

1. Start by making your coconut rice. Add rice to the bowl of your rice cooker or pot and rinse under cold water until the water runs clear. Add coconut milk, water, brown sugar and salt to the rice and mix to combine. If cooking in a rice cooker, cover with lid and simply press "cook" and wait until it pops to "warm". If cooking in a pot, bring the pot to a boil and then cover with lid and reduce to a simmer on low heat. Cover and allow to cook for 40-45 mins. In both instances, once the rice is done cooking fluff with a fork of rice paddle and cover again to sit for another 20 minutes. The rice will still seem really wet, but after 20 minutes it will be light and fluffy.

2. While your rice is cooking, mix together shallots, garlic, brown sugar, fish sauce, dark soy, rice vinegar, and black pepper.

3. Season your pork chops on both sides with salt and poke them with a fork to help the marinade soak in. Transfer pork chops to a gallon size ziplock bag and pour your marinade into the bag. Seal bag and allow the pork chops to marinade at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.

4.  Heat up oil in your skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium high heat. Once hot, add your pork chops in to the pan. 2 can normally fit. Sear on one side for 3-4 minutes. Flip and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Remove pork chops from heat and allow to rest for 5 minutes.

5. Serve pork chops with coconut rice and some refreshing thinly sliced cucumbers!

Bonus step : sear some green onions in the skillet with the leftover oil and pork drippings and serve with the meal... so good!

For Pork Chops:

4 - 1/2" Pork Chops

1 finely chopped small shallot

3 finely chopped garlic cloves

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup fish sauce

2 tbsp dark soy sauce

2 tbsp rice vinegar

1 tsp black pepper

salt

2 tbsp olive oil

1 cucumber thinly sliced 

green onions - optional

 

For Coconut Rice:

2 cups Jasmine Rice (my fav)

1 - 13.5 oz can coconut milk

3 cups water

2 tbsp brown sugar

1 tsp salt