Note to Self: It's 9:31 am. I'm starting this post and I'm dead tired. There is never a good explanation for going to bed at 2 am the night before. Unless you can think of one right now. I'm too tired to think of one. But today is a busy day. A rainy, wet, cold, busy day. So, stay positive! The weekend is coming early this week and Thanksgiving is tomorrow! (Insert inspiring song here.)
I've finished talking to myself, I promise! On to trying new things! We all have shameful secrets. Ones we are super embarrassed of but can't let go of no matter how hard we try. I'm going to tell you mine. I love the show "Diners Drive-Ins and Dives". I know Guy Fieri is annoying, and the food is a crazy level of heart attack, but I like the show. I like it so much that I watched it while I was in labor with my daughter for 12 hours. (I did all the good stuff you are supposed to do also, don't worry. The praying and the psalms and the sleeping.... ya, I slept yo!) But what I love about the show is seeing new things. Many of us don't have the opportunity to drive around the country in a red Camaro chasing the best food in the country. We barely have time to taste food from our own kitchens. Lucky enough for us, Guy does it and films it all. The places featured always have some ridiculous looking burger, or wings, or sandwich. Most of the time I'm thinking, "Well that looks gross and he is a gluttonous pig.", but every once in a while I will see something and say, "Hey, that’s interesting, I can make that!"
The other day, as I was shamelessly indulging in my dirty little secret, I had one of those moments. Some Asian place Guy found (in one of the square states in the middle probably) made something called a Banh Mi Burger. I don't know what you have heard on Banh Mi recently, or if you have heard anything at all but let me give you a little run down here just in case. Recently, the Banh Mi has become very popular with many places making their own version of this tasty sandwich. It's one of those things that has officially earned the term "latest food craze". What is it though? Well here's the funny thing, it's actually not anything specific.
The Banh Mi originated in Vietnam and means bread or more specifically the baguette which was introduced to the Vietnamese by the French in their Colonial Period. The term has become synonymous with a Vietnamese version of the Hoagie but they aren't too specific on the fillings. The sandwich can be filled with pork, chicken, meat or even tofu and a combination of sauces, herbs, and vegetables. There is even a Banh Mi made with ice cream and topped with chopped nuts. Because this sandwich is so versatile, people enjoy creating their own version and enjoying their take on the popular dish.
It was definitely about time that I tried my own version. The meat inside was obviously going to be chicken for me, (cause-diet, people!) and since I was making a burger, ground chicken it was. Because it was the first time making this dish and I had no clue how it was supposed to taste, I mostly followed a recipe I found online. The first time I try something I never tasted before, I never try and experiment. I need to establish a baseline before I can have my own take on a recipe.
This recipe has some crazy ingredients. Lemongrass, Thai chili paste, daikon, they all require a trip to an Asian market. I wish I could tell you I had a good substitute for any of them, but I don't and I have been searching high and low for a good one. If you have a good substitute please comment below! For kosher Thai chili paste I use this one (below). Of course, it means you have to order it in advance and then you have this weird paste in your house that you don't know how to use, but I use it so often I'm already in need of a second bottle! My go-to London broil recipe uses it and I could make that recipe almost every week!
My husband happened to have found lemongrass in the grocery this past week. The way I acted with that lemongrass, you would think I was a fat kid with a lifetime supply of free candy. If you happen to find it, stock up! Literally, buy out the store! It's one of those things that you don't find very often but it freezes beautifully so you can have it forever! Well, not really. But a long time.
The smartest thing I did was making all of this in advance. All I had to do to actually make dinner last night was toast buns, cook the patty and assemble. Dinner was ready pretty quickly and I had enough energy to prep the next night's dinner after my daughter went to sleep. If this cycle actually caught on it would be pretty awesome to keep up.
Let's get on to how this thing actually tasted! It was so crazy insane good! I loved that it was light and fresh with lots of great veggies inside but still filling and hearty! Like imagine feeling full, but not the gross kind of full from eating a mayo-loaded burger. The flavors- let's discuss those! First you have the Asian flavored patty that is juicy and has notes of lemongrass, chilies and soy sauce. Then you have that curry aioli with the little Indonesian notes and spice, sure to woo even the biggest curry haters. You have the insane fresh herbs like mint, cilantro, and basil, which gave the burger a fresh and light taste and the pickled carrot and daikon, which provide a good crunch and sweet tang. And then that dipping sauce, Oh that dipping sauce!!! Sweet and spicy with some heat and packed with umami (a fifth taste that can only be described as when you eat something and go MMMMMM!) the sauce totally made this! The regular hamburger buns I used were pretty good for the sandwich, but a sweet roll bread like a sweet dinner roll, would have made this! (No! Not the one with the sweet crumbs on top! Don't you DARE!)
Is this something I would make again? Most definitely! Am I adding it to my weekly rotation of dinners? No way BEANS! This is the kind of thing you serve on special occasions or when you feel you need to switch things up or try something new. It's not technically challenging, its just time consuming and requires a lot of strange ingredients. But don't knock it off your list! It’s worth trying! Also, it tastes fantastic! Like, if you don't have it your missing out on something. I don't know how many of you suffer from FOMO (Fear of missing out) but I'm appealing to those of you who have it, evilly so.
Banh Mi Burger
Makes 4 Burgers
Burgers: 1 lb. ground chicken
Banh mi marinade: 1 cup soy sauce, 3/4 cups sugar, 1/4 cup Thai curry paste, 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon lime juice, 1/2 teaspoon pureed ginger, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric, 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced, 1 stalk lemongrass, thinly sliced on the bias, 1/2 red Thai chili, seeds removed, thinly sliced, 1/2 shallot, thinly sliced, 3 sprigs fresh basil, leaves only, torn (Thai basil preferred), 3 sprigs fresh mint, leaves only, torn
Curry Aioli:1/2 cup mayo, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 tablespoons lime juice, 1/2 tablespoon curry powder, 1/2 teaspoon ginger, 1/2 teaspoon Sriracha, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
Nuoc Mam Dipping Sauce: 1/2 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons cup hot water, 1/2 cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon pureed garlic, 1/2 Thai chili, seeds removed, finely diced
Pickled Vegetables: 3 carrots, peeled and julienned, 1 daikon, peeled and julienned, 3 tsp. kosher salt, 4 Tbs. sugar, 1 cup rice vinegar, 1 cup water
Assembly: 4 sweet bread buns, 8 ounces green leaf lettuce, Mint leaves, Basil leaves, Cilantro leaves, Sliced jalapeño
For the patties: Portion into the chicken into four burger patties and refrigerate for 1 hour or until ready to use.
For the banh mi marinade: In a large mixing bowl, whisk the soy sauce and sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Add the curry paste and whisk until it's completely broken up. Add the lime juice, ginger, turmeric, garlic, lemongrass, chili, shallot, basil and mint and mix well.
For the curry aioli: Combine the mayo, sugar, soy sauce, lime juice, curry powder, ginger juice, Sriracha and turmeric and whisk until smooth. Set aside and chill.
For the nuoc mam sauce: In a mixing bowl, whisk the sugar and hot water until dissolved. Add the soy sauce, vinegar, garlic and chili and mix well.
For the pickled vegetables: In a bowl, stir together the carrots, daikon, 1 tsp. of the salt and 1 Tbs. of the sugar. Let stand for 5 minutes until the moisture begins to seep out from the vegetables. Rinse well under cold running water, then drain.
In another bowl, whisk together the vinegar, water, and the remaining 2 tsp. salt and 3 Tbs. sugar until the salt and sugar dissolve. Add the carrots and daikon and let stand for at least 1 hour before using, or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. (The flavor will intensify as the vegetables stand.)
To assemble: Preheat a grill or stainless steel pan to medium to medium-high heat. Dip the patties into the banh mi marinade and grill or pan fry for 4-5 minutes in each side or until an internal thermometer reaches at least 165 degrees. As you grill or pan fry the patties, continue to dip the patties in the marinade to form a flavorful crust on the outside of the patties.
Grill or toast the buns.
Place a burger patty on the bottom bun. Add 1 teaspoon curry aioli, and then the pickled carrots and daikon. Finish with the lettuce, sliced jalapeño, and the top bun. Repeat with the remaining ingredients. Serve the nuoc mam on the side as a dipping sauce.