Main Course, Pork, Sandwiches

Pork Meatball Banh Mi

1 Comment 23 July 2014

I recently saw a cartoon somewhere on the internet that made fun of the, um, I guess you could call it “flowery language”, that food bloggers tend to use. Eh, I kind of know what they’re referring to, and I’ve even been called out before on Twitter by online friends for some of my descriptions. Look, I think most of us are just trying to have fun with our food blog posts and convey the genuine (at least ours is, pretty sure of that) enthusiasm we have for the way a recipe turned out. But, I suppose I can understand if others feel food bloggers are being too descriptive in incredulous ways. So today’s post is just going to give it to you straight. No fuss, no muss, no overly enthusiastic and over-the-top food descriptions.

This post is about meat and it’s about balls. Combining that? Meatballs.

Pork Meatball Banh Mi-1

Banh Mi refers to a traditional Vietnamese and French mashup sandwich, typically using a baguette style of bread. I grabbed the bag of hoagie rolls because they were convenient. I’m lazy like that. Look, we’re making meatballs, which sometimes end up being a lot of work. It doesn’t hurt to cut a corner or two as a result in other areas. Just not the meatballs. Make sure those get the full treatment.

Pork Meatball Banh Mi-2

Guess what? You get to pickle some veggies to go with your balls. Your meatballs, that is. This is not your grandma’s pickling method – and I daresay me likey. Have you ever had a fabulous selection of pickled vegetables at a Korean restaurant? This will likely remind you of those. And while we love daikon (Asian radishes), I didn’t have time to search any out. We subbed cucumbers instead and they were wonderful. They taste really good with the meatballs. I was going to say they “take the sandwich to the next level” but I’m trying to hold back here. But, you know…they really do.

The pickling itself can be started at the beginning of the recipe, a little slicing, stirred occasionally and by the time the balls ‘o meat are done, the veggies will be, too. This is…nice. Yeah, that’s it. Definitely not wonderful or exciting. Who finds pickled veggies that are ready quickly, exciting? Pfffftt.

Pork Meatball Banh Mi-3

There’s also a sriracha mayo that we rec making at the beginning as well so that flavors have a chance to meld. Not tango, meet-and-greet or anything food bloggerishly cutesy. Calm down for gosh sakes. Just… let ’em have time to, you know, join.

Pork Meatball Banh Mi-6

If you wind up, as we did, being a little paranoid that your pork meatballs didn’t cook completely in the pan, you can do as we did and pop them in the oven for about ten to fifteen minutes at around 350 degrees, just to make sure. This may or may not be necessary for you, it depends on how they turn out in the pan. We weren’t sure. It’s pork. We wanted to be sure!

By the way, these were very delicious balls. Some of the best meatballs we’ve made homemade yet, and that is for real. Swearz.

Pork Meatball Banh Mi-7

Sandwich assembly time! Really, just put these things together however you prefer, but the recipe wants you to basically turn your bread into boats, like above. If you do this, you can save the torn out bread in the freezer for later breadcrumb use.

Pork Meatball Banh Mi-8

Yes, that’s cilantro. And yes, I know it tastes like soap to some of you. If you’re one of the Cilantro Soap People, I hear ya. Just leave it off, or if you want to replace it with something, I recommend flat-leaf parsley for at least a little herb-y flavor. It’s your ball sandwich. Do whutcha wanna do.

Pork Meatball Banh Mi-9

Time for the meatballs and pickled veggies! Put as many of those balls on there as you can handle. Actually, we were about a four to five-baller. Next time I’m definitely piling on more pickled veggies. Good. Stuff.

Pork Meatball Banh Mi-16

This is quite the delicious sandwich. No, really! As one usually wants their meatballs to be, these are tender, juicy and full of flavor. We used sweet basil direct from my garden, and combined with the fish sauce and green onions, the meatballs are not only flavorful, but kind of unique. Much better than Italian-style meatballs, IMO. I really can’t praise the pickled veggies enough either, and can see them being a great additive to other recipes, such as salads. We won’t lie – this recipe is a little more work-involved than we anticipated at first. It would be a good recipe to make ahead and assemble and serve later when guests arrive or the family is ready. I’m also glad that I picked a softer roll like the hoagie because as tender as the meatballs are, they’d get squished too much by a chewier baguette. All in all, a unique, delicious sandwich that we’ll be making, and enjoying, again.

Pork Meatball Banh Mi

by Jeanne Thiel Kelley via

Prep Time: 20-30 minutes    Cook Time: 15 minutes per batch of meatballs     Level: Easy   Makes: 4-6 sandwiches

For the chili mayo:

  • 2/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon hot chili sauce (such as sriracha)

For the meatballs:

  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 green onions, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)
  • 1 tablespoon hot chili sauce (such as sriracha)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

For the sandwiches:

  • 2 cups coarsely grated carrots
  • 2 cups coarsely grated peeled daikon (Japanese white radish)**
  • 1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
  • 4 10-inch-long individual baguettes or four 10-inch-long pieces French-bread baguette (cut from 2 baguettes)
  • Thinly sliced jalapeño chiles
  • 16 large fresh cilantro sprigs

To make the mayo: Stir all ingredients in small bowl. Season with salt. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

To make the meatballs: Line rimmed baking sheet with plastic wrap. Gently mix all ingredients in large bowl. Using moistened hands and scant tablespoonful for each, roll meat mixture into 1-inch meatballs. Arrange on baking sheet. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

For making the sandwiches: Toss the carrots, daikon, rice vinegar, sugar and kosher salt in medium bowl. Let stand at room temperature 1 hour, tossing occasionally.

Preheat oven to 300°F. Heat sesame oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of meatballs. Sauté until brown and cooked through, turning meatballs often and lowering heat if browning too quickly, about 15 minutes. Transfer meatballs to another rimmed baking sheet. Place in oven. Repeat with remaining meatballs.

Cut each baguette or baguette piece horizontally in half. Pull out enough bread from each bread half to leave 1/2-inch-thick shell. Spread hot chili mayo over each bread shell. Arrange jalapeños, then cilantro, in bottom halves. Fill each with 1/4 of meatballs. Drain pickled vegetables; place atop meatballs. Press on baguette tops.


It took us about 40-45 minutes to cook the meatballs in our pan in batches.

Even though pickling the veggies is low in the order of making the recipe, we decided to do that step first so that the veggies would actually be pickling while we made everything else. This way they were ready by the time we were ready to assemble everything. The mayo should be made next and refrigerated till ready to use as well.

As noted above, we popped our meatballs in the oven to cook a little more at 350 degrees. One reason was because they browned a little quicker than we wanted them too and were then unsure that they’d cooked enough, barring actually cutting every single meatball open. They came out of the oven just perfect. You may or may not want to or need to do that, though. Up to you.

I think the meatballs could be cooked, the mayo made and the veggies pickled a little ahead of time if you’re planning to serve these to guests, say an hour or two. Reheat the meatballs for about ten minutes in a 350 degree oven on a parchment-lined baking sheet. This way you’re not having to do all this while your guests are there or right up to the point they arrive.

I like sriracha, but one tablespoon in the mayo mixture was a little too much for me. If you too need to tread carefully with spicy things, maybe add a little at a time to get it to taste. If you’re going to let guests assemble their own sandwiches, consider making extra mayo and veggies just in case. They’ll be of use later if there are leftovers.

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- who has written 347 posts on Full Fork Ahead.

Wife, mom, indulgent reader and Day Job Do-er, who occasionally likes to think she can cook. Sometimes she's right, sometimes she's wrong.

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1 comment

  1. Kimberly says:

    To comment on the sandwich — it really was quite tasty. So tasty several of my friends are making it soon!

    To comment on food blog writing — the above is happening because of your writing, and your great pictures. Part of your job as a food blogger is to help folks “taste” and “smell” and all that so that they want to try these recipes as well and, hopefully, enjoy them. Enthusiasm in descriptions ought to be encouraged, not poo-pooed.

    Of course, I’m your sister, so I’m biased. 😉

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