These tacos are what I playfully dub bánh mì tacos — bánh mì being the specialty sandwich of Vietnam. I grew up on the cultural classic and fondly remember my mother slipping a homemade bánh mì in my lunchbox every morning for years. Later on, it became my mission through college to find bánh mì as savory, juicy, and crisp as the ones I remembered from my childhood. Now that I live in California, where Vietnamese cuisine is abundant, authentic bánh mì is tied with another regional staple: Mexican food. These tacos bring the two together.
These tacos are the love child of Vietnamese and Mexican street food, and the filling of seasoned grilled pork, crunchy sweet pickles, cilantro, cucumber, and chiles will make you a believer in this culinary mashup.
For the pickles (see Note)
- ¼ lb (113 g) carrots, cut into 2-inch matchsticks
- ¼ lb (113 g) daikon, cut into 2-inch matchsticks
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- ⅔ cup (160 ml) white vinegar
- ⅔ cup (160 ml) water
- 1½ tbsp sugar
For the marinated pork
- ¼ cup (60 ml) toasted sesame oil
- ¼ cup (50 g) sugar
- 1½ tbspfish sauce
- 3 tsp ground black pepper
- 2 medium shallots, minced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 680 g pork shoulder, thinly sliced into 1-inch-wide (2-cm-wide) strips
For the tacos
- 12 (5-inch/12-cm) tortillas, warmed
- 1 bunch coriander (cilantro), chopped
- 1 medium cucumber, cut into 3-inch spears
- 3 jalapeño or serrano peppers, thinly sliced
- Mayonnaise or sriracha aioli
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Pickle Standing time: 30 minutes, Chilling time: one day to 2 weeks
Marinating time: 2-24 hours
At home, Make the pickles at least 1 day before serving them (or you can buy them – see Note). In a colander, toss the carrots and daikon with the salt and let drain in a sink for about 30 minutes. Shake them up periodically to expel as much liquid as possible.
Meanwhile, stir the vinegar, water, and sugar in a small bowl until the sugar is dissolved.
Rinse the carrots and daikon under running water to remove excess salt, then transfer to a lidded container. Pour the brine over the vegetables and chill for up to 2 weeks.
To marinate the pork, combine the oil, sugar, fish sauce, pepper, shallots, and garlic in a large bowl. Add the pork and toss to coat thoroughly. Transfer the pork and marinade to a resealable plastic bag, squeeze out the excess air, and chill for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.
In Camp, prepare a grill over medium heat.
Thread the pork onto skewers and grill until charred and caramelized all over, 6 to 8 minutes, turning frequently.Transfer the pork to a cutting board and chop into bite-size pieces.
Stage a taco bar by arranging the pork, pickled carrots and daikon, tortillas, cilantro, cucumber, jalapeños, and mayonnaise on a table, and let guests assemble their own tacos.
• Carrot and daikon pickles are know as Đồ Chua and can be found in most Vietnamese or Chinese markets, already prepared.
• If you’re finding it difficult to slice the pork shoulder, freeze it slightly to firm up the meat. Alternatively, you can ask your butcher to cut the slab into ¼-inch (6-mm) slices.
Recipe from The New Camp Cookbook: Gourmet grub for campers, road trippers and adventurers by Linda Ly, photographs by Will Taylor (Voyageur Press/Quarto Group, hb, $29.99). Read more of Linda's camping tips, fire building instructions and recipes here.