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.

{ 52 comments… read them below or add one }

Erica@PinesLakeRedhed November 7, 2010 at 6:51 am

Oh, I love that you’re not perfect! When I watch Andrew Zimmern suck up roasted eyeballs or stewed testicles I squirm and wonder how many antibiotics he takes every day. Your little rant about chicken skin has suddenly made me very AWARE and Icurrently have the heebie jeebies.

The only “mainstream” foods that give me the willies are ones with odd mouth-feel like cooked okra (slimy) or lima beans (pasty). Sure I stay away from fish, caviar, and tofu but that’s due to allergies. However, I love liverwurst and pate. Can we still be friends?


Maria November 7, 2010 at 7:55 am

Listen, some stuff just wasn’t made for human consumption…Innards, caviar, pate, raw fish= YUCK!!!

Food should not be scary, yo. And that stuff is scarier than what the mounds of Halloween candy sitting on my counter will do to my ass!

Regardless, thank you for tweaking the sandwich for us regular joes who think mysterious foods should not be consumed!


girlichef November 7, 2010 at 7:57 am

LOL, you make me laugh!! I gotta admit, I looooove me some paté! I’m totally addicted to braunschwager…hmmm…but you say that I at least didn’t dig the tripas, yeah? Your sandwich sounds perfectly delicious…and perfectly safe ;)


girlichef November 7, 2010 at 7:58 am

…and by “say” I meant “saw”. DUH.


Winn November 7, 2010 at 8:03 am

Don’t feel bad; there’s a lot of normal food I can’t eat either. Anything with pork, for instance: I was raised basically on kosher, and I still can’t eat pig, including bacon. Even the smell… or a taste of the grease…. gag! I ordered a burger once that I didn’t know came with bacon. They just took the bacon off and gave it to me. Gross! I couldn’t eat it. I sent it back and had them redo it. Aside from the grossness that is pate, it’s cruel how it’s made, so I’m with you there. But… have you tried salmon roe? It’s a good kind of caviar: nice and garlicky.
Other bad (for me) foods: dates (unless in mincemeat or christmas cake), cooked mushrooms, green olives, brussel sprouts, raw carrots, sushi, non-kosher fish, bleu cheese (and basically anything else that has mold in it).
Love the funny anecdotes. :)


Stephane November 7, 2010 at 8:37 am

At least most of what AB puts in his mouth poses as passing for real food, and I don’t know why but I think that man is HOT. However, I. CAN. NOT. WATCH. Andrew Zimmerman. Since it’s my husband’s and two boys favorite evening entertainment–and I’m hopelessly outnumbered–you can often find me cowering in my bedroom with a book and the cat for comfort, desperately trying NOT to think about WHAT that man is willing to put in his mouth! So you get bonus points for being willing to watch someone else eat what you can’t abide.

No winter squash, eh? Oops. ; )


Lyndsey November 7, 2010 at 8:53 am

That sandwich looks awesome! Even without it’s authenticity. :D I’m not big on pate, but I do like braunschwager, I remember my grandpa made me my first sandwich with a thin slice of onion and mustard! But I can’t do pate. I have a texture issue… my yuck is the greek yogurt, or soft boiled egg. The wiggly whites of an undercooked egg gives me “the willies”. Or the little whole fish that they eat for snacks in the Asian Market. In New Zealand they have this whole tiny fish called white bait, and it was supposed to be a delicacy, but I just couldn’t eat it.


Stephane November 7, 2010 at 8:54 am

Oh, and while it doesn’t give me the creeps, I really don’t “do” wine. Me, a *woman,* and a temporarily displaced but always-and-forever home-to-me-in-my heart Northern Californian.


Phoo-d November 7, 2010 at 9:46 am

I can’t do skin either. We were at a place, famous for 50+ years for their fried chicken, last night and I couldn’t manage more than a few bites of skin before pushing it all off in a pile on the plate. Even greasy, salty, and crispy, it’s still gross.

Do you think you would fear pate if you made it yourself? I’m skeeved by it too unless I know exactly what is in it and totally trust the cook. Then, well, the flavor is pretty awesome!


K Odell November 7, 2010 at 10:21 am

You are two steps away from being a vegetarian! Which is a whole other range of delicious cooking!

I once ate pigs blood (it looked like red tofu)- it wasn’t great and I wouldn’t eat it again. I also once ate a soup I think had guts in it- after I found out what it had in it, my tummy turned. weird how we react to something like that. But in other countries it’s no problem. Like eating those half formed birds in an egg. ewww.

we can make good food without adding stuff we consider yucky or strange.


Sherri November 7, 2010 at 10:56 am

I am with you! I do not do wings – no skin – in fact…. I am one step further than you …. nothing on the bone – no red in my meat (if I do meat at all). I, too, watch Anthony Bourdain and watch in awe as he eats like sheep head – and blood sausage – and….. who knows….. with relish, as you said. Amazes me.

I do have some poached chicken recipe recipes that always turn out great plus really dig all the tangy this recipe seems to promise, so…. this sandwich looks so good….. SO good….


Contemporary Troubadour November 7, 2010 at 11:35 am

Food phobias! Oh this is a fun topic. Let’s see — even though I grew up watching my relatives eat fish eyeballs and chicken feet, neither will I consume. Not a big fan of chicken skin unless roasted to a crisp on the bird (Mom has taught me how, so I’m still managing there). Offal in general — no. I’ll pass on the kidneys, gizzards, brains, etc., of any animal. Oh and raw shellfish, especially oysters? HELL NO. This is considered a sin of no small proportion in at least two cities where I’ve lived (Boston, Seattle). Sorry, but the mouth on this Troubadour is closed to those slimy gourmet morsels.

And then the totally ordinary food I hate: milk. Call it trauma or what else you will, but once you’ve drunk the watery, warm waste that comes out of the cartons that don’t require refrigeration (Hong Kong, circa 1986), you’d be scared to go near anything called milk again for at least a decade or three.


Yuliya November 7, 2010 at 12:04 pm

Tragically I love pate and can’t eat it because of my stupid gallbladder.
Food phobias let’s see, well I’m from the Ukraine so my family has practically disowned me for some of the cultural delicacies I won’t touch, like tongue, the fatty part of the bacon (we call it “salo”), herring, beef jello…just to name a few. The “normal” food I won’t touch with a ten foot pole is cooked cabbage, can’t even stand to be around it when it’s being cooked.


tasteofbeirut November 7, 2010 at 1:20 pm

I understand your reticence regarding certain foods; I want to assure you though that if you had a really good figs, plucked fresh from a fig tree, you might change your mind about them.


Heather November 7, 2010 at 1:41 pm

You need not be ashamed my dear! Any part of innards is just plain nasty! If you know the job of the liver you would NEVER eat it again!! There are a lot of other foods on your list that I refuse to touch as well. I think you’re in good company here:)


Cheryl @ Mommypants November 7, 2010 at 2:10 pm

The thing about pate is also how they get it. It’s about as inhumane as you can get so there’s no way I would touch it (disclaimer: I don’t eat red meat but I do eat poultry – except nasty duck – and fish).

It is good to hear I’m not the only one with aversion to foods others seem to love. Hubs made mushrooms the other night and the smell almost sent me over the edge.

Of course, I do have my weird aversion to almost all fruit, but I know that’s not normal!


Katybeth November 7, 2010 at 3:01 pm

You are so not alone. My kid eats all the pate, caviars, Foie gras and things that wiggle or slime in your mouth…I don’t. He was introduced at a very young age-by the family I married into. I was introduced at a young age to Chicken Fried Steak and Froot Loops.
I tell people, I’m not a picky eater…I’m just a very ordinary eater, a sensible eater.


Aging Mommy November 7, 2010 at 4:17 pm

What an unusual sandwich. My husband is the real lover of offal and all such things – foie gras being his absolute favorite treat. He also loves, loves, loves sweetbreads. On vacation in Austria ski-ing one time they had a “stew” on the menu. It consisted entirely of offal, including parts of an animal’s body you really would not expect in any stew. My husband ordered it – he was the only person in the hotel to do so that night. I confess I could not bring myself to even so much as taste it.

As for chicken, you would definitely not like the way chicken is served in China – they chop up the entire carcass, so you have lumps of bone, meat and skin and the meat is not cooked to the bone so is all bloody around the bones :-) Rule #1 of survival there, don’t eat the chicken – unless you rather fancy a dose of salmonella :-)


jc November 7, 2010 at 4:18 pm

It’s that mumbled jar off on the floor for $1 that gives me the shivermetimbers. That cartoon is exactly what my dinner choices looked like when I was overseas. Instant weight loss plan. Bourdain can have all the pate and innards he wants.

I switched to organic chicken and eggs last year and won’t go back to who-knows-what-was-injected ever again.


Nancy C November 7, 2010 at 6:29 pm

After my second pregnancy, I had issues with texture…slightly brown bananas, yogurt, sour cream…it triggered my gag reflex.

A few months later, it was gone.

So, yes, I understand your “issues.”


Diana November 7, 2010 at 7:19 pm

I have a recipe or two that requires anchovy paste. I hate the look (reminds me of cat poop) or even thought of it, but still eat the final product. I’m surprised you won’t even taste some of that stuff! My husband refuses to eat anything off the bone. I have to cut his T-bone steak off. Silly!!


TKW November 7, 2010 at 8:04 pm

Holy Moses, you readers have me laughing my ass off. I love you. Every gross-out story is gold. Thank goodness I’m not alone in the food aversion department.

Diana–so happy to see you!


Jennifer November 7, 2010 at 8:11 pm

This makes me feel so less guilty about my food issues (no tomatoes? no melon of any kind? yes, even watermelon).


Rudri November 7, 2010 at 8:18 pm

My husband is such a fan of the shows you mentioned. My eyes are so wide at the various things people eat. My husband remind me that there is probably a large segment of the population who think being vegetarian is strange. To each their own I guess.


bryan November 7, 2010 at 8:26 pm

My only two foods that I can’t take are black licorice and (big surprise comming up…) gin! Fish eggs, pate, animal skins (that includes pork rinds right?) and raw fish are all on the list of lower life forms that I enjoy as lower spots on the food chain. Still your sandwich looks great! as always you make smile.

I loved your interview by the way! I like seeing what makes TKW tick ;~)


TheKitchenWitch November 7, 2010 at 9:18 pm

Bryan, you don’t do GIN? How do remain in lovely Amy’s good graces? Give her a monster hug from me.


Meister @ Eat This Neighborhood November 7, 2010 at 8:32 pm

This is so funny — Banh Mi sandwiches are on the top of a list of Foods I’ve Never Eaten But Find Myself Craving™. And I’m not big on pate, either, though I don’t really know why. Isn’t it just kind of the rich man’s liverwurst?

Also funny — tomorrow night we’re having friends over, and I’m making Cuban-style turkey sandwiches: roasted turkey, turkey salami, pickle, mustard, Swiss cheese.


theUngourmet November 7, 2010 at 8:35 pm

I’ve never braved pate but I don’t mind fish eggs on sushi. No innards for me either…or skin and definitely no slimy fat. Icky! I love green olives in a nice chilled gin martini. They can be stuffed with pimentos or garlic.

This is one good lookin’ sandwich! A few jalapenos are a must.


TheKitchenWitch November 7, 2010 at 9:20 pm

Ungourmet–olives are a completely different beast when they grace a martini. :)


Christine @ Fresh Local and Best November 7, 2010 at 9:08 pm

I didn’t know you feared figs! I’ve seen plenty of banh mi’s without pate, so this is authentic in my book. It looks good.


Heather of the EO November 8, 2010 at 6:27 am

ok. Since I’m preggers, there are a gazillion things I have an aversion to right now. So I can’t judge :) But even when I’m not pregnant, I can’t do meat on the bone. Nope…not for me. I just can’t get CARCASS out of my head when I try. Right now, about all I want is noodles, potatoes and sometimes cheese. What a wile and crazy eating life I’m living :)



Futureblackmail November 8, 2010 at 6:34 am

Oh – there’s a whole list of stuff I won’t eat. A lot that’s on my list, is on your list too but also included on my list is pickles, olives, feta, hummus….I could go on and on.


Belinda November 8, 2010 at 6:35 am

This sandwich looks delicious and like you, i love Vietnamese food. This post reminded me that, as you may know, Filipinos do have a dish of innards cooked in pig’s blood. The authentic version is black when it’s cooked. Then there’s a glammed up version that looks a little reddish. There’s also this half-grown egg called “balut”. There’s a fully formed chick with eyeballs, beak, feathers, etc. inside the egg when you crack it open. It’s a delicacy that i for one can’t stomach.


Wendi @ Bon Appetit Hon November 8, 2010 at 7:29 am

I can’t abide olives or pears because of their textures. And despite trying to get past my sushi aversion, I just can’t. At first I thought it was just the seaweed wrapper that was preventing me from enjoying sushi. So I tried some raw fish on rice. Nope, had to spit it out and accept that sushi and I are not meant to be together.


Alexandra November 8, 2010 at 8:12 am

“Fear of Pate,” you are SO much more eloquent than I am.

“Grosses me out,” that’s what you hear from my lips.


Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday November 8, 2010 at 9:07 am

I kinda like pate, actually. It’s rich and quite decadent.

I had never heard of banh-mi before. My knowledge of vietnamese cuisine starts and ends with pho. (And yes I pronounce it “Fo”, long O)


Jody November 8, 2010 at 9:12 am

All the aversions I can think of are things I already tried once and hated. Abilone gut sushi – that was gross – although in gerenal I am a big fan of sushi. And you know about me and cataloup.


Leslie November 8, 2010 at 9:21 am

Well, I’ll never say no to the salty skin of bitchin’ fried chicken. But pate? No thank you. I’ve tried to like the liver-y flavor – I can remember my parents fighting over the giblets – but I just don’t. Bastardizations are our friends, I think – especially those that do end-runs around the less delectable parts. :)


Jenna November 8, 2010 at 10:52 am

Oh man–you don’t love sushi!?!?!?
I’m reeling more with pity than shock. =)
Anyway, your sandwich looks great, and (as usual) your writing is hilarious.


kludgymom November 8, 2010 at 11:22 am

I’ve got a few weird aversions. I love foie gras, but not a huge fan of pate. hate most meats on the bone, except for ribs. Love a piece of barely seared tuna, but can’t stand the texture of a huge piece of raw sushi in my mouth.

Desperately want to like artichokes but can’t stand their taste. or their texture.

I couldn’t get within 1000 feet of Bourdain or Zimmerman. Just not that cool. Or brave.


Naptimewriting November 8, 2010 at 11:39 am

Oh, darling, my list of heebie foods is LONG. Everything someone else has mentioned here, I second it. Yes, even the milk and banana phobias above. I’ll eat squashes and black licorice, though.
It’s a lovely thing that you’re pate-averse. Naturally slimy is one thing (roe, which skeeves me, is at least naturally occurring.) Pate, though? “Twice daily a tube is pushed into the birds’ throats and large amounts of grain are then forced down, resulting in an enlarged liver with a high fat content…the extent to which the liver swells causes the abdomen to expand and the legs to become displaced.” Nasty, cruel stuff.
Enjoy the cruelty-free version you’ve created. Sounds delicious.


Tiffany November 8, 2010 at 11:57 am

Pate definitely gives me the heebie jeebies. I can’t think of anything else that does.


Camille Brightsmith November 8, 2010 at 12:56 pm

I wish Pate gave me the heebers! Its awfully cruel the ways its done – truly sick. BUT IT TASTES SO EFFING GOOD!

I love the sound of this sand – nice one.


faemom November 8, 2010 at 1:04 pm

Pate scares me too. But I think the sandwich sounds amazing!


Emily Z November 8, 2010 at 1:37 pm

Don’t worry, we ALL have foods we get the heebie jeebies about. I could never be as brave as those guys, either. Heck, I have a hard time eating Brussels Sprouts. In fact, I DON’T eat them. And while that might not sound as extreme as something’s liver, it’s right up there for me!


Biz November 8, 2010 at 2:06 pm

That’s weird – in all the Bahn-Mi sandwich recipes I’ve found (and I’ve made) I never saw pate as an ingredient – it would ruin the deliciousness of the sandwich I think!

My brother AND sister cannot eat any meat off the bone – when I tell my sister to buy bone in chicken breasts because they are cheaper, she’d rather spend $5 a pound for Purdue chicken that’s already cut and ready to go.

Mmmm….now I want chicken wings!


Eva @ EvaEvolving November 8, 2010 at 3:12 pm

Ha! I don’t like meat on the bone either – I’m SO GLAD I’m not alone in this. Mostly, I don’t like poultry on the bone. Too many identifiable body parts. Ewww!

There is a new Bahn Mi restaurant close to my work that I’ve been meaning to try – I’ve heard great things – but I actually didn’t realize pate was involved. Yikes! I think I’ll need to reconsider.

(As I write this, I laugh – because I love food. Really love food. And there are so many things I love now that I didn’t even eat 10 years ago. Olives, guacamole, black beans. So I’m sure I would do fine with the pate. But I kind of wish I didn’t know – I would just assume it’s some awesome “special sauce.”)


Christine November 8, 2010 at 4:54 pm

I eat 0, I mean 0 food items that live in any form of water. Nothing, natta, not even a fish stick (are they real?)

But I have to say, I do love me a hard boiled egg. Mmm mmm. Lived on them in university.


Mrs.Mayhem November 8, 2010 at 6:48 pm

Andrew Zimmerman is a freak of nature. Makes for good entertainment, but I don’t think you need to feel guilty for not living up to his, ahem, standards.

I am the queen of food aversions, the largest being any sorts of meat, poultry, or fish. Yep, that’s a biggie.


Amber November 8, 2010 at 9:51 pm

I still think you are a foodie. You are pretty much awesome in my book. : )


diane and todd November 8, 2010 at 10:06 pm

wow! this looks great, my mamma will be proud when I show her!
no worries about the pate, I know people who ask for it off the sandwich too.
You gotta come down to see us, we’ll show you some seriously kick ass banh mi! xo


FatFighterTV November 8, 2010 at 10:45 pm

You are definitely not alone. I do not eat pate, raw fish, caviar, or innards. I also despise cilantro and goat cheese. And most meats. That’s it, I think.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: