Saturday, September 20, 2014

Why making Banh Mi at Home Sounds like a Good Plan


Why making Banh Mi at home sounds like a good plan

Reading around lately I noticed a number of pretty contradicting trends in the American fast food businesses. Pizza Hut announced to forgo their plans to introduce ‘skinny’ healthy pizzas. Dominos tried to introduce healthy pizzas earlier, but apparently they also hit a wall of non –acceptance from the public, same reason why Pizza Hut abandoned the idea. 

I noted a couple of articles ago that one of the food trends of 2014 was healthy Gourmet Pizza’s, a trend seemingly growing fast in the US, the move sounded therefore surprising.

A few days later, Vietnamese sandwich outlets were introduced by Yum, owners of Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell, among other famous fast food brand names, in an effort to introduce healthier items on the menu.

Why, Pizza Hut’s owners abandon healthy ‘skinny pizzas’ because they are rejected by the public and they believe that healthy Vietnamese sandwiches will be accepted is somewhat puzzling.

Healthy food is a very difficult to overcome issue for fast food companies, health food has perishable ingredients and perishable ingredients are very difficult to control for the staff. Except maybe for a salad here and there

Fast food does not hire chefs at store level, they have ‘workers’ (with due respect for the word) trained to prepare very simple food, that food has to be fool proof or the risk of contamination and more over cross-contamination reaches dangerous levels, something fast food companies cannot afford to happen.

Sales for a number of fast food chains, that entered China, went down by 20% last year due to some food safety scandals. Millions of dollars are needed to restore customer confidence and no fast food company is looking forward to that, let alone the image damage it causes.

No cooking here

A closer look at a fast food kitchen lay-out, may explain why that is so. 
Frozen foods are strictly separated from perishables and processed foods and handled by different staff members. The moment you mix the two, you have a recipe for disaster.
That is the main reason why fast food uses processed food. A pizza for example has a processed sauce, vegetables, processed meat and some processed cheese on top of the dough, when prepared, the raw pizza goes through a 473 F oven and is served, quite difficult to mess that up. 
Ingredients are replaced after a set period of time, so if everybody follows the rules, you can safely eat your pizza. The moment raw meat or fish enters the circle matters become tricky.

With burgers you see the same thing, a worker places a frozen burger patty on a hot plate or in a grilling machine, flips it over after the buzzer beeps, somebody else adds a slice of lettuce and a slice of tomato on top of a halved bun and the ‘burger man’ tops the patty, pack, serve, also difficult to mess it up.

The moment fresh (not frozen) meat has to be cooked with vegetables, all is lost and food safety control is out the window. The solution? When the pizza does not work for the public, choose a complete new concept and the public will welcome the idea, believing it has been invented by people going out of the way to make our life more exiting.

When you ask me, the best way to have a great Vietnamese sandwich (Banh Mi) is to make them yourself. Why? Well here is a good reason:

In the early 1980s, Vietnamese sandwiches were at the center of a food craze in the US, several peddlers ensued in a sort of food war, advertising prices as low $1 or $1.25. Obviously you got eventually what you paid for and the fast food masters know that benchmark.

Banh Mi is made with a light crispy baquette as a base; this kind of baquette is made with a mix of wheat and rice flour resulting in an airy crumb. They are available in Vietnamese and Chinese stores, bakeries or deli’s. The baquette is traditionally spread with (chicken) liver pate, topped with chili pepper, daikon and carrot pickles, protein is an option, roast chicken, grilled pork, chinese char siu pork and tofu are common.

I am pretty sure that you will not to find a traditional Banh Mi in the fast food. Simply because grilled, roast and barbequed meats are not processed meats and therefore very perishable. 

Focal point is the protein and when you have leftover vacuum packed grilled or roasted meat in your freezer you’re half way done.


Here is a recipe :   
1 small Vietnamese baquette
1 serving of grilled, roasted, or barbequed pork, chicken or beef
1 tbsp homemade mayonnaise
4 thin de-seeded cucumber strips
1 tbsp cilantro leaves
4 thin chili pepper slices (Jalapeno works fine)
1 tsp light soya sauce
Daikon and carrot pickle
Slice the baquette lengthwise in half and remove some of the inside (keep that for bread crumbs)
Spread the mayonnaise on the inside and layer all ingredients in the baquette. Top with the soya sauce and voila. Enjoy.

You can replace the mayonnaise with pate, if you like  

What a way to make perfect use of your vacuum packed meat you stored in the freezer.

If you have no homemade vacuum packed meat in your freezer start making some, you can find your vacuum sealer here:  for USA and for Canada.

A delightful sandwich that will save you money as well, the fast food plans to charge you $7.50. 

By: Marinus Hoogendoorn

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