Bring some wow to your next party (or dinner table) with these little buns packed with taste! In this modern summer take on the banh mi, these Cha Siu Pork Bao Mi’s pillowy bao buns are piled high with sweet and savory roasted red pork, a crunchy summer slaw built for the ballpark, and fresh cilantro, all topped off with spicy sriracha and sesame seeds.
An Ode to the Banh Mi
Let’s admit it, the banh mi is finally having it’s moment. A very well deserved moment to say the least. I might be a tad bias though, considering it’s one of my favorite sandwiches in the world. Sweet, salty, sour, spicy, and savory all tied into one glorious package. It’s what Vietnamese cuisine and cuisine throughout Southeast Asia is known for. A perfect balance of flavor.
My husband is Vietnamese, and before meeting him, I had never had Vietnamese food. Gasp! Our first date was actually at a Vietnamese restaurant, and I was so lost, he had to order for me. But once he took me over the threshold, there was no going back. I was hooked.
In 2015 we traveled together to his home country where we wandered the streets in search of delicious delights following our noses along the way. Aunties served up hearty bowls of pho, bún thịt nướng, and bún bò huế, with meat grilling over charcoal embers around every corner.
When we arrived in Saigon (aka Ho Chi Minh City), it was late, hot, and we were starving. Loc directed the cab driver to stop at his favorite late-night banh mi joint to pick up a couple of sandwiches. I often heard Loc lament over his love of the banh mi and how the ones in the states were never the same, but I was skeptical. It was just a sandwich after all. We quickly checked in to the hotel eager to fill our bellies, and unrolled the baguettes wrapped in paper and held together with a rubber band. The first bite albeit super spicy, was still magical. The crunch of the bread followed by the softness of the meat, sweetness of the pickled veggies, and freshness of the cilantro was a flavor explosion. This wasn’t the bland and sad lunchmeat sandwiches I was used to.
There are dozens of varieties of the banh mi, but traditionally it consists of a freshly toasted French baguette roll, slather of pork liver pâté, various cuts of pork and cold cuts (pork belly, Vietnamese sausage, grilled pork, grilled pork patties, pork floss) or other meats, head cheese, fresh cucumber slices, cilantro, pickled carrots and daikon (đồ chua), and topped with condiments include spicy chili sauce, sliced chilis, or mayo. It’s not uncommon for some sandwiches to have up to 15 different ingredients!
As we traveled from city to city, we made a point to try a banh mi in each (for research purposes of course). But still none compared to that first experience in HCMC. Now, a few years later, and much wiser when it comes to Vietnamese food, my favorite variety has to be the Thit Xa Xiu Bahn Mi aka cha siu roasted red pork. It’s traditionally roasted over an open flame, but it’s equally as good roasted in the oven. In Vietnam cha sui is used in everything from sandwiches and noodle soups to over rice or wrapped in rice rolls, and is super-easy to make. Just be sure to leave extra time for marinating!
How To Make It
In this recipe, the traditional banh mi is adapted to a finger food with a fun summer twist with the use of Reser’s new ballpark slaw which has a distinct combination of fresh cabbage, mayonnaise, mustard, sweet and dill relishes, ketchup and a dash of hot sauce, along with pillowy bao buns. It captures the essence of my favorite sandwich in a portable, snack-able form.
Cha Siu Bao Mi
Bring some wow to your next party (or dinner table) with these little buns packed with taste! In this modern take on the banh mi, these Cha Siu Pork Bao Mi’s pillowy bao buns are piled high with sweet and savory roasted red pork, a crunchy summer slaw built for the ballpark, and fresh cilantro, all topped off with spicy sriracha and sesame seeds.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes, plus time for marinating
- Cook Time: 40 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour, plus time for marinating
- Yield: 12 buns
2lbs pork (cut of your choice, tenderloin or shoulder/butt work well)
4 pieces of red fermented bean curd (available at Asian markets)
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons chinese shaoxing wine or dry sherry
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 teaspoons 5-spice powder
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
2/3 cup sugar
4 tablespoons garlic
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1- 15oz container of Reser’s Stadium Cole Slaw
1/2 cup pickled daikon and carrots, chopped (plus more for topping)
(If you can’t find this ingredient, you can make your own!)
1 teaspoon sriracha (to taste)
1 package of lotus leaf bao buns (available at Asian markets)
- Prepare pork for marinating by cutting into long 2 inch strips
- In a medium bowl, combine fermented bean curd, honey, shaoxing wine, soy sauce, oyster sauce, 5-spice powder, white pepper, sugar, garlic, and sesame oil.
- Place prepared pork in a ziplock bag and pour over marinade. Massage meat well to ensure even coating of marinade. Seal bag, and squeeze out as much air as possible. This helps with the marinating process.
- Place the ziplock bag inside of a large bowl to catch any leaks, and put in the fridge. Marinate overnight. If you’re on a time crunch, allow to marinate a minimum of 2 hours, but the longer the better.
- After pork has had ample time to marinate, bring meat to room temperature then preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Line a baking sheet with foil (believe me, you’ll thank me!) and place a cooling rack on the cookie sheet to keep the pork from touching the pan directly and help with the roasting process.
- Evenly place the pork onto the prepared pan and roast for 40 minutes, flipping the meat halfway through. Reserve the remaining marinade.
- Place the marinade in a small sauce pan and heat over medium heat until sauce thickens (about 8-10 minutes). Set aside.
- While meat roasts, combine Stadium Slaw, chopped daikon and carrots, and sriracha in a medim bowl. Mix well, and place in fridge until pork is ready to help marry the flavors.
- When 10 minutes of cook time remain, generously brush the pork with the marinade sauce on both sides, and allow to brown. This gives the cha siu it’s signature rich color and caramelized flavor.
- When the cha sui is golden brown and fully cooked, remove from oven and set aside to cool.
- In the meantime, line bamboo or metal steamers with a small square of parchment paper for each the lotus leaf buns to avoid sticking, and steam for 8-10 minutes if thawed or 12-16 minutes if frozen. If you don’t have steamers at home, worry not, these can microwaved as well, just refer to the instructions on the package.
- Once pork is cooled, thinly slice crosswise in 1/4-1/2 inch pieces.
- To assemble the buns, spread a small amount of marinade sauce on both sides of the bun, layer on a few slices of pork, and top with stadium slaw mixture. Finish off with more pickled daikon and carrots, cilantro and sriracha if desired. Sprinkle with sesame seeds for a little extra crunch.
- Serve and enjoy!
By the way, the new Reser’s Stadium Cole Slaw is easy to grab and go! Enjoy at the dinner table, a campfire, a picnic, a tailgate or a roof-top party. They don’t have any high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors or colors, and are available at retailers nationwide, including Meijer stores throughout Michigan.
*DISCLOSURE: This is a sponsored post on behalf of Reser’s Fine Foods. All opinions are my own, and I share them here for your benefit.