Banh Mi Bowls With Quick Pickles

The banh mi is one of those sandwiches that transcend cultures, class, and character. Like a grilled cheese or a po’ boy, or even a philly cheesesteak, it’s the sum of its parts that results in an iconic sandwich loved by nearly all who try it.

A common Vietnamese street food, the banh mi stands out for its contrast of textures and flavours. It is a result of the French influence in Vietnam; here the French introduced white flour baguettes and mayonnaise. These, matched with spicy sauce, crunchy fresh and picked vegetables, and heaps of aromatic cilantro, make this Vietnam’s answer to a fully loaded burger. The protein in a banh mi is typically pork, but variations of chicken and tofu can easily be found.

Here the banh mi is taken out of its bun and served ‘naked’ atop a bed of steamed rice. The dynamic flavours and textures inherent in the banh mi make eating it in this way an engaging experience.

This sandwich is normally served with pickled daikon, a large white radish. Here we recommend using a mix of icicle and watermelon radishes because, unless you have a use for the remainder of a daikon, it can end up being thrown out. Also, the watermelon radish gives the bowl a vibrant pop of colour. If icicle and watermelon radishes are unobtainable, opt for traditional red radishes.

(Serves 4)


Quick Pickles

1 large carrot

5 icicle radishes

1 watermelon radish

1 large jalapeño (or two small)

2 tablespoons (30 ml) of Kosher salt

1 tablespoon (15 ml) of white granulated sugar

1 ½ (375 ml) cups of distilled white vinegar

½ (125 ml) cup of water

Pork Tenderloin

1 pork tenderloin – trimmed of fat

1 teaspoon (5 ml) of salt

1 tablespoon (15 ml) of vegetable oil

½ cup (125 ml) of Korean barbecue sauce

1 tablespoon (15 ml) of gochujang

1 tablespoon (15 ml) of soy sauce

1 teaspoon (5 ml) of fish sauce

1 tablespoon (15 ml) of hot sauce of your choice (add more if you like it spicy)

Spicy Mayo

½ cup (125 ml) of mayonnaise

3 tablespoons (45 ml) of Sriracha (or more if you like it spicy)

To serve:

2 cups of rice, cooked according to package directions

Fresh cilantro leaves

½ of a cucumber, julienned into matchsticks

Toasted sesame (optional)

Lime wedges (optional)


Obtain four small re-sealable containers and julienne the carrots and icicle radish, then place the carrots in one container and the radish in another. Peel the watermelon radish, halve it, cut it into thin half moons, and then place these in the third container. Slice the jalapeño into thin rounds and place in the last container.

In a large measuring cup combine the salt, sugar, vinegar, and water, and stir until the salt and sugar are dissolved.

Pour the vinegar mixture over each of the vegetables in their respective containers until they are covered. Seal the containers and store in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

Prepare the spicy mayo by combining the mayonnaise and Sriracha, and if you have one handy, store in a squeeze bottle for easy serving.

Meanwhile, set a large cast iron pan over medium heat and preheat the oven to 350F. Rub the pork tenderloin with one teaspoon of salt.

In a bowl, combine the barbecue sauce, gochujang, soy sauce, fish sauce, and hot sauce. Stir to combine.

Once the pan is hot, add the vegetable oil and sear the pork on each side until browned, about 2 minutes per side.

Remove the pork from the pan and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Smother with half of the barbecue sauce mixture and bake in the oven for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, turn on the broiler and broil for 5 minutes.

Remove the pork from the oven and let it rest.

When you are ready to serve, slice the pork into ¼ inch thick slices and brush with the remaining sauce.

Set out all of the pickles, matchstick cucumbers, cilantro, sesame, lime, spicy mayo, pork, and rice. Have fun letting everyone build their banh mi bowls to their liking!

Camille Llosa
Camille Llosa is a freelance writer and editor who is food-obsessed. She holds a degree in Print Journalism from Sheridan College and her work focuses on finding the connections between our everyday common experiences and how they can impact our life, wellbeing, perception, and purpose.