Banh Mi-Style Chicken Sandwich

November 7, 2010

Although I consider myself a food-lover, and a pretty adventurous eater, there are some foods that just kind of…give me the willies. I am fairly ashamed of this.

I watch guys like Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmerman tuck into soups with innards and chicken feet, bravely plundering concoctions boiled in pig’s blood or bug juice, and feel a little jealous. How rock-star cool are they? Nothing skeebs them out. After all, it’s just food, right?

Well, I’m no Bourdain. Even some things that perfectly normal people eat with relish–say, chicken wings–won’t pass my lips. I don’t eat the skin of things. I just…don’t. The last time I ate  chicken skin was about 4th grade, and that skin was on Gramma Rhetta’s bitchin’ fried chicken, so it was totally worth it. But when Gramma Rhetta died, fried chicken–and the skin that went with it–died too.

Now I don’t really feel bad about not wanting to consume skin, but other foods that I won’t eat leave me red-faced. What kind of Foodie won’t eat caviar? Caviar is the nectar of the Gods, right? My friend Hilarie craved caviar so badly during her pregnancy that she nearly went berserk, and as soon as that baby was squalling in a cradle, Hilarie was digging into a tin of Beluga with a spoon. I watched her smack her lips and swoon with delight and felt like a total pansy. A nauseated pansy.

More things I cannot stomach: acorn or butternut squash, polenta, hard-boiled eggs, innards of any kind, pimiento-stuffed olives, figs, raw fish, and any meat served on the bone (even ribs).

Bloody awful! How can any self-respecting gourmand reject sushi? Or Memphis barbecue? Or chicken at a picnic?


I think one of the things I’m most ashamed about is my unadulterated fear of pate. Pate is gray and squishy and suspicious. And even though I know what’s in there, I’m still afraid that the cook is hiding some other kind of hideous drek in the pate. Minced liver is bad enough–what else could be lurking in that little jar of potted muck? Confession: I went to freaking Paris and wouldn’t eat pate. I should relinquish my Foodie papers right now.

The saddest thing about my Fear of Pate is that it’s keeping me from trying a Banh Mi, a traditional Vietnamese sandwich of grilled pork, lightly pickled vegetables, jalapenos and…pate. I love Vietnamese food! It’s my favorite type of cuisine–my comfort food, even–how can I profess to adore it if I reject the Bahn Mi, one of its culinary cornerstones?

Sorry readers, I suckit.

However, I will try to  make it up to you by sharing the recipe for this sandwich. A Banh-Mi Style Chicken Sandwich. Notice I said “style.” Because this sucker has zero pate in it, so it’s not really authentic, but I greedily consumed it. It’s delightful. A blatant bastardization, but delightful.

The heart of the sandwich is good crusty bread–don’t skimp. If you can, use organic chicken; yeah, I think there’s a difference. I love the interplay of sweet, salty and spicy in this sandwich. If you fear the spice,  just add a wee tad of jalapeno, but don’t skip it altogether. A little kick never hurt anyone. And don’t fear the fish sauce! I know, I know, fish sauce sounds scary but in small quantities, it’s lovely. It balances out the sugar/agave and the lime juice–trust me.

We made a lovely lunch of this with some nice salty chips and some Asian beer–even without the pate, the flavors definitely satisfy.

Banh Mi-Style Chicken Sandwich

serves 2

recipe courtesy of Lynne Char Bennett

1 medium jalapeno

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (about 2 juicy limes)

2 tablespoons tamari

2 teaspoons agave nectar or granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon Asian fish sauce

3 to 4 ounces Napa cabbage, cut crosswise into ribbons

2 medium carrots, thinly shredded (about 1 cup)

2 (6-inch long) sandwich rolls


1 poached chicken breast (about 6-8 ounces), cut into slices

kosher salt and black pepper to taste

2 tablespoons cilantro

Mince 1/2 teaspoon jalapeno and cut the remainder into thin slices. Set aside. Whisk together the minced jalapeno, lime juice, tamari, agave/sugar, vinegar and fish sauce; set aside. In a medium bowl, combine cabbage, carrot and enough of the jalapeno dressing to coat. Let this mixture sit for about 5-10 minutes.

Slice rolls in half horizontally and toast lightly. Spread both halves with mayonnaise. Layer bottom half with chicken; season with salt and pepper. Add some of the salad and top with cilantro and jalapeno slices. Press down top layer of bread, cut in half, and serve.

Anyone want to make me feel better? Share your food phobias in the comments section…please? I don’t want to be the only wuss in the woods.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Lanita November 9, 2010 at 10:35 am

I guess that means pork rinds are out?


The Curious Cat November 9, 2010 at 11:37 am

Nope, hardly any phobias for me besides innards and macaroni – but I imagine I would try both if someone said they tasted good and should give it a go. When I was a kid/teen I was very fussy but then I began to find things I used to despise actually tasted better than they did when I was younger. So I adopted the attitude of always trying something – and to keep trying it – until I liked it (and if I didn’t well…keep on trying every so often anyway). If I ever have kids I will use this approach too as your taste buds do change a lot over time. And I also believe life is to short to miss out on any good food pleasure. I mean I used to detest mushrooms….now I am in heaven with those babies…and stilton…I didn’t like that as a kid but now I have to stop myself from eating a whole block as each piece I break off gives me such an overwhelming feeling of happiness…. Texture is the harder thing to deal with compared to taste…that is something the mind has trouble getting its head round – especially with things like raw fish and fish eggs and brains etc…but it is just a way of thinking…I think it could be overcome if we really wanted to.

By the way the sandwich above looks LUSH! Really original to me! xxx


Bonnie November 9, 2010 at 4:50 pm

I don’t eat squirrel but give me a well prepared sweetbread and I’m on cloud 9! Can we still be friends?



Jane November 9, 2010 at 5:59 pm

You have a fear of pate? Call me terrified!


camilla November 9, 2010 at 11:09 pm

yep- this would rock my world too! (although I will now try it with pate).
Love your honesty as always


Chiara November 10, 2010 at 11:16 am

I love pate… always have!
But I do have my own phobias. I cannot stand eating chicken skin either…


rebecca @ altared spaces November 11, 2010 at 10:23 am

I was introduced to pate at Sardi’s restaurant in NYC. I don’t know if I really liked it or it was the thrill of the place that flavored my palate, but I’ve been scooping it up ever since.

As for polenta…barf!


Paula (Salad in a Jar) November 12, 2010 at 4:40 am

You are the sandwich-meister! Somehow I rarely get past a bacon and tomato sandwich but yours look totally delicious.

And I’m not big on raw oysters.


r ci November 13, 2010 at 8:36 am

You do realize that “asian fish sauce” is made from fish innards? Vietnamese call it “nouc mahm”


From Belgium November 18, 2010 at 3:31 am

Since I am a belgian I eat just about anything. But I am disgusted by celery, hate it, won’t touch the stuff.
And sea – urchins. If you ever had one your plate – alive, the way they are ment to be eaten – you will never ever touch them again. The thing couldn’t stop moving


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