The 99 Cent Chef picked a damp day to shoot his latest lunch truck video and was amply rewarded with a huge and tasty $5 sandwich. This ain't no Subway - it's a whole lot better. L.A.'s latest addition to its booming taco truck culture is the neon green Nom Nom Truck, specializing in a Vietnamese sandwich called Banh Mi, pronounced "bun me." The truck was started last month by three UCLA alumni who were fans of, and inspired by, Kogi Korean BBQ Taco Truck (which the Chef video reviewed earlier-- click here).
These French-influenced unique and tasty sandwiches are filled with a bountiful mix of unusual ingredients including: sweet pickled slivers of carrot and diakon, sliced cucumber, jalapenos, and bbq pork, all on a crunchy baguette slathered with pate, mayo and butter. A standout is the rice flour baguette. Make sure to spread the sandwich's paper wrapping wide because your first bite will scatter shards of crunchy crust in all directions. The bread is incredibly light and springy - a satisfying start to a complex sandwich journey: from crunchy tangy veggies and tender sweet bbq pork, to spicy slices of jalapeno and rich earthy pate.
You can get Lemongrass Chicken along with a Vegetarian Tofu and, of course, they carry tacos, Vietnamese style, with the same fillings for $2.50 each, or 2 tacos for $4.
In the Chef's latest taco truck video, Nom Nom co-owners David Stankunas and Misa Chien will entertain you by describing their Bahn Mi Sandwich and also take your order. It is a real hands-on operation. Rain or shine, this Chef will pull over for their Banh Mi Sandwich anytime.
Nom Nom's truck hours vary - they are usually closed on Sunday. Visit their Twitter feed here to learn their current location, and to see the website for a complete menu and more - click here.
Nom Nom Vietnamese Truck - Video
Play it here - 4 minutes
Play it here - 4 minutes
As a bonus, The 99 Cent Chef shows you how to make your own Banh Mi at home. Now, it will not be as good as Nom Nom Truck's, but it will be quite tasty. What makes this sandwich unique is the julienned vegetables soaked in vinegar and sugar. They retain their freshness and add a sweet slaw flavor to this sandwich.
Banh Mi can come filled with many types of meat, even cold cuts. I made a simple marinade that works for sauteing sliced chicken and pork cutlets, ground pork, beef, chicken or turkey - all are inexpensive cuts of meat. Instead of pate, I used liverwurst, which tastes similar. Carrots and cucumber are inexpensive at any market. Go totally vegetarian and substitute the meat with sauteed tofu (and leave out pate, of course). Regular French rolls work well; if you have access to a local bakery, even better.
The one tricky ingredient is diakon radish, usually found at Asian Markets. If you can find it, use it. What I did was spoon out the seeds from a cucumber, and thinly slice the white flesh as a substitute for diakon. It works quite well. Cilantro adds a coolness to contrast with a few slices of jalapeno - I've made these sandwiches without both, though.
Once you have the veggies in the marinade, it is just a quick stir fry for the meat, and everything is ready to simply assemble.
Ingredients (4 sandwiches)
- 12 oz. or 1 lb. breakfast sausage - OK to substitute chopped chicken, pork cutlets, ground chicken or turkey; for vegetarian, saute 1 package of tofu. And for a "no cooking" method, just use your favorite cold cuts.
- 4 French rolls -each about 6 inches in length.
- Liverwurst or pate (optional) - enough to smear on one side of French roll.
- Mayo for bread
- 1/4 onion - chopped
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 1 tbsp. chopped garlic - from jar or fresh
- 2 tbsp. lime or lemon juice - fresh or from bottle
- 1 tbsp. soy sauce
- 1 tbsp. oil for sliced chicken or pork cutlets, or ground turkey and chicken.
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 large cucumber - shredded or thinly chopped. Use white flesh (scoop out seeds with a spoon), and OK to leave green skin on.
- If you use diakon, then thinly slice cucumber, seeds and all, to add to sandwich last, like you would with a sliced tomato.
- 1 large carrot - shredded or thinly chopped
- 1 bunch of cilantro (optional) - remove larger stems
- 1/2 cup rice vinegar (any vinegar will do)
- 1 tbsp. sugar
- 2 tbsp. water or enough to just cover shredded veggies.
Directions for Veggie Topping
Chop or shred cucumber, carrot and diakon (optional). In a large bowl add veggies with sugar, vinegar and water - mix well. Let set for 30 minutes in the refrigerator. Drain out liquid before adding to sandwich.
Directions for Banh Mi (sandwiches)
Saute meat, onion and garlic until meat is done, about 10 minutes. Pour in lemon or lime juice, soy sauce and sprinkle with 1 tsp. of sugar, mixing well. Cook a few more minutes to evaporate liquid. You may need to drain meat mixture of grease, depending how lean sausage is (tofu, chicken or pork cutlets are lean and ready to serve on French rolls, once cooked).
To assemble sandwiches, first split French roll, leaving it connected on one side. Tear out some of the bread on the inside of the round top side, so it will hold the sausage. Smear mayo and liverwurst (or pate) on inside of rolls. Add meat and top with picked sweet veggies (make sure to drain them first) and cilantro. Finally sprinkle in a few slices of jalapeno, if you can take the heat.