Friday, February 5, 2016

Vietnamese Shrimp Baguette

 Last Year's Post: Sea Bass in Papillote
Two Years Ago:   Raspberry Dark Chocolate Wonton Cups

If you like Vietnamese food you're sure to love this sandwich.  Similar to a Banh Mi (the famous pork-based Vietnamese sandwich - recipe here) this sandwich is served on a crisp and light baguette and includes several vegetables for crunch.  However, instead of meat in an Asian-type barbecue sauce, this sandwich has shrimp sauteed in an immensely flavorful and moderately spicy puree made from lemongrass, garlic, vinegar, serrano pepper, ginger and cilantro.  The result is lighter but punchier than the pork version, if that makes any sense.

Ever wondered how chefs make those beautiful carrots strips?  You can buy a peeler at Bed, Bath and Beyond (and I'm sure elsewhere) with serrated edges.  All you do is run it down the carrot for perfect strips every time.

And here's another interesting thing I learned along the way - the sushi chef at my local grocer informed me that the pink pickled ginger you can buy in jars is "the cheap stuff" and that sushi chefs use white pickled ginger (shown below on the upper left).  He sold me a small container of his secret stash.  Ask the next sushi chef you run across if you're interested, or you can find white pickled ginger in jars at some natural foods stores.

I find myself on the slippery slope of spiciness again.  Just how spicy is "moderately spicy"?  Enough so you notice some heat, but not enough to make your lips burn. And not enough to cover up the other flavors in the sandwich.  The original recipe that I adapted called for a bird's eye chile, which I couldn't find so I decided to substitute a serrano chile instead. Then I did a little research to figure out how they compare in heat.  I found this very handy chart that lists the heat level of pretty much every pepper you can think of, and was surprised to find that bird's eye chiles are quite a bit hotter than a serrano.  I think I'm glad I didn't find the bird's eye chile.

The sauce on the shrimp has bold flavors but the carrots, radishes, pickled ginger and cilantro all add flavor complexity and crunch as well.  The mayonnaise tones things down and adds creaminess, and of course there's that great crisp baguette.  All in all, I would call this one of the great sandwiches right up there with the Banh Mi.

printable recipe
Vietnamese Shrimp Baguettes
Makes 2 sandwiches
8 ounces peeled and deveined raw shrimp, tail shells removed
10 cilantro stems, divided
2 cloves garlic
1 serrano chile, stem cut off
2-3” lemongrass stalk
5-6 thin slices fresh ginger
1 teaspoon fish sauce
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons olive oil
½ carrot, cut into thin matchsticks
2 tablespoons pickled ginger, chopped
1 green onion, thinly sliced
4 radishes, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 small baguettes

Chop the shrimp and set aside.

In a small food processor, combine 8 stems of cilantro, the garlic, chile with seeds, lemongrass, fresh ginger, fish sauce and rice vinegar and puree.  Toss the puree with the chopped shrimp.

Heat a nonstick frying pan over medium-high and add the oil, then add the shrimp mixture and cook, turning several times, for about 4 minutes or until lightly browned and cooked through.

Split the baguettes and spread with mayonnaise.  Stuff with the shrimp and top with carrot, pickled ginger, green onion, radishes, and the leaves of the remaining 2 cilantro stems.

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