One of my favorite things to do this summer was to go hiking in Kanawha State Forest. My friend and I would head out there in the morning before it got hot, hike, and then stop in South Charleston for lunch. Our favorite place to go was a tiny four-top Banh Mi place called Yen’s Sandwiches. For $7, you could get bubble tea and a lemongrass beef banh mi. The bread was perfect, because cooked in on site every morning. The beef was tender and flavorful, and the veggies fresh and delicious.
Obviously, I had to try my hand at making banh mi for myself. If you do a google search for banh mi, you’ll find hundreds of recipes. Each claim to be the absolute best, and many have some obscure, expensive ingredient they claim is absolutely necessary for authentic banh mi. Obviously, that may be true. I’ve never been to Vietnam and don’t claim that anything I make is authentic. All I want to do is bring you easy, cheap, unfussy recipes that taste delicious. I want to work around specialty ingredients and emphasize healthy ingredients used simply. I want to show you how to cook meals. Many of my friends are just now moving out on their own and are still intimidated by the kitchen. I want to show you that cooking doesn’t have to be for Instagram models and stay-at-home moms.
To that end, I wanted to make lemongrass beef for these sandwiches, but when I went to the store, I couldn’t find any lemongrass. I’m sure that even if I had, I wouldn’t have bought it because it would have been to expensive to justify for one recipe. So, this recipe calls for marinating the beef with a full lemon. You’ll cut it into quarters, squeeze out the juice, and then just stick the whole peel in with the beef. Simple, but effective enough.
Also, this recipe calls for quick-pickled carrots. I wanted something that was easy and fast. To that end, you’ll cut the carrots into thin strips, and then boil in vinegar for 4 minutes. To cut the carrot, start by carefully cutting off one side so you have a flat surface to work with.
Then, just cut it into strips and then more strips.
Difficulty: Medium. The indiviual steps are easy, but there are a lot of them.
- 1/2 pound steak (I used chuck roast, it’s cheap to begin with and cheaper on manager’s special)
- 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons white sugar
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 loaf french bread (I like to get the ‘takenbake’ kind. It’s half-baked in store and you finish it at home)
- 3 large carrots
- 1/2 cup white vinegar
- 1 medium cucumber
- 1 bunch cilantro
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes (or more or less to taste)
- Marinate the steak. Slice the steak as thin as you can, against the grain. Place in a bowl. Slice the lemon into quarters, and then squeeze into the bowl with the steak. Place the lemon rind in with the steak as well, then add the soy sauce, sugar, and garlic. Marinate for an hour or so.
- Bake the bread. Bake the bread according to the directions on the package.
- Quick pickle the carrots. Slice the carrots as described above. Place the vinegar and sliced carrots in a pan, and place over high heat. Boil for about 5 minutes, or until kind of soft. Let cool. Make sure that your kitchen is well-ventilated when you do this.
- Slice the cucumber. Slice the cucumber as thin as you can.
- Make the mayonnaise. Mix the mayonnaise and red pepper flakes.
- Cook the beef. Heat a pan over medium-high heat. Add a teaspoon of oil, and once the oil starts to shimmer, and add the beef. Cook for about 6/7 minutes, or until cooked thoroughly.
- Assemble the sandwich. Slice the bread lengthwise. Spread the mayonnaise on the bread, add the cucumber, beef, and carrots. Add the cilantro, and serve and enjoy!