The Lunch Break Times

November 23, 2011  |  By
Filed under: Projects/Series

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Artist Sharon Lockhart reflects on the presence of the individual in the context of industrial labor through film, photography, and printed matter. For Lunch Break (2008), she spent a year at a naval shipbuilding plant in Maine, and the exhibition — now on view — examines the workers’ activities during their time off from production. SFMOMA is also distributing Lockhart’s newspaper, The Lunch Break Times, which relates stories about labor and lunch breaks. Every Wednesday, at NOON, we’re posting one of the articles here.………………………….


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THE BELOVED BANH MI ~ ~

Andrea Nguyen

Forget the PB&J, the BLT, and even the panini. We submit that the banh mi, invented in Vietnam, is the world’s greatest sandwich. Wanting to learn more about banh mi, we went straight to the source: Andrea Nguyen. Andrea is a celebrated author and cooking teacher based in Northern California. A contributing editor to SAVEUR magazine, her work also appears in the Los Angeles Times. Her publications include Into the Vietnamese Kitchen: Treasured Foodways, Modern Flavors (Ten Speed Press, 2006); Asian Dumplings: Mastering Gyoza, Spring Rolls, Samosas, and More (Ten Speed Press, 2010); and Asian Market Shopper (Chronicle Books, 2011). We’re eagerly anticipating the publication of her next book, Asian Tofu, in 2012, also published by Ten Speed Press. Andrea’s website, Viet World Kitchen, is an indispensable repository of information on Vietnamese cooking, as well as on the social significance of food in Vietnamese culture. Andrea generously shared her master banh mi and daikon and carrot pickle recipes with us. Thanks, Andrea!

Whenever I bite into a banh mi sandwich — whether it’s on a street in Vietnam, sidewalk of Little Saigon, or in my home kitchen — I am ingesting Vietnamese history and culture. The bread, condiments, and some of the meats are the legacy of French and Chinese colonialism. But in its entirety, the beloved banh mi is 100 percent Viet, full of self-determination, resourceful craftsmanship, and culinary magic. It often costs little but deserves a hefty sum for all the care involved.

Banh Mi Sandwich

Banh mi sandwich moments before being consumed by the photographer. Photo Luong (Mike) T. Ly.

For each sandwich:

1 petite baguette roll or a 7-inch section cut from a regular-length baguette, purchased or homemade

Mayonnaise, real (whole egg) or homemade mayonnaise

Maggi Seasoning sauce or soy sauce

Your choice of boldly-flavored meat or tofu, sliced and at room temperature

3 or 4 thin seeded cucumber strips, pickling or English variety preferred

2 or 3 cilantro sprigs, roughly chopped

3 or 4 thin jalapeño pepper slices

Everyday Daikon and Carrot Pickle (Do Chua) (recipe follows)

1. Slit the bread lengthwise, and then use your fingers or a bread knife to hollow out the insides, making a trough in both halves. Discard the insides or save for another use, such as breadcrumbs. If necessary, crisp up the bread in a toaster oven preheated to 325ºF, and then let it cool for a minute before proceeding.

2. Generously spread the inside with mayonnaise. Drizzle in some Maggi Seasoning sauce or soy sauce. Start from the bottom portion of bread to layer in the remaining ingredients. (As with all sandwiches, you’ll eventually develop an order for layering the filling so as to maximize the interaction between flavors and textures.) Close the sandwich, cut it in half crosswise for easy eating, and enjoy.

Daikon and Carrot Pickle (Do Chua)


 

Try this daikon and carrot pickle recipe once and then tweak the recipe to your liking. Variations include adding tangy-sweet-pungent pickled shallots (cu kieu) to the mixture, as well as making heavier on the carrot side than the daikon side. I prefer to keep a higher ratio (say 2:1) of daikon to carrot as I like the mild bite of daikon radish. I like a tangy-sweet flavor whereas you can alter the ratio of sugar to vinegar to make the brine sweeter, and hence affect the pickle’s flavor.

Makes about 3 cups

1 large carrot, peeled and cut into thick matchsticks

1 pound daikons, each no larger than 2 inches in diameter, peeled and cut into thick matchsticks

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons plus 1/2 cup sugar

1 1/4 cups distilled white vinegar

1 cup lukewarm water

1. Place the carrot and daikons in a bowl and sprinkle with the salt and 2 teaspoons 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. The vegetables should have lost about one-fourth of their volume. Drain in a colander and rinse under cold running water, then press gently to expel extra water. Return the vegetables to the bowl if you plan to eat them soon, or transfer them to a 1-quart jar for longer storage.

2. To make the brine, in a bowl, combine the 1/2 cup sugar, the vinegar, and the water and stir to dissolve the sugar. Pour over the vegetables. The brine should cover the vegetables. Let the vegetables marinate in the brine for at least 1 hour before eating. They will keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 weeks. Beyond that point, they get tired.

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Andrea Nguyen is the acclaimed author of Into the Vietnamese Kitchen, Asian Dumplings, Asian Tofu (forthcoming 2012), and the Asian Market Shopper iPhone app. Andrea’s work appears in the Los Angeles Times and SAVEUR, where she is also a contributing editor. She is a regular guest on food radio programs and has been an invited speaker at the Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium and Yale University. Andrea resides in the Bay Area and publishes Vietworldkitchen.com.

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