Sometimes great ideas come to you at the strangest of times. This one came to me in a dream. Two iconic sandwiches - the banh mi and the French dip au jus - married together in one delicious union. I think it's safe to say we all know what a banh mi is by now, but for anyone unfamiliar with the French dip, allow me to enlighten you. The French dip is a classic American sandwich, normally served on a baguette with very thinly sliced beef and a side of jus for dipping the sandwich in to. There's nothing French about it, except maybe that it is served on a French bread. Given that the banh mi is a product of the French influence on Vietnam, it seems only natural that the two sandwiches would some day cross paths.
One of may favourite things to do at a Vietnamese restaurant is to order a banh mi, and a pho, then dip my sandwich right in the fragrant broth. Try it, you won't be sorry.
But what if (and this is the part that came to me in a dream) the roast beef you would normally use in a French dip was rubbed in Vietnamese spices before roasting, and then you used the pan juices to make a pho-flavoured jus in which to dip your sandwich...hoooooooo!
You can use whatever kind of roasting beef you like here. You could also use a slow braising cut like brisket or short rib and go ahead and braise it submerged in a pho broth. The world is your oyster.
The Vietnamese Dip
For the roast beef and the pho gravy
1 kilo beef top round roast
1 tablespoon of Chinese five spice (I realise this is not Vietnamese, but it contains fennel, cloves, star anise and cinnamon, all flavours you want in a pho. Let's just pretend we don't know there's Sichuan peppercorn in there)
1/2 teaspoon each of garlic and ginger powder
4 tablespoons fish sauce
2 garlic cloves
2-inch piece ginger, sliced
1 onion, quartered
1 carrot, cut in to 4 lengthways
3 cups beef stock
1 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon flour
- Pre heat your oven to 180c
- Combine the five spice, powdered ginger, garlic and fish sauce in to a paste and rub it all over your beef.
- Add a splash of oil to a hot pan and sear the roast on all sides. Get a good crust going.
- In a roasting pan just big enough for your beef , place the garlic, ginger, onion, carrots, one cup of beef broth, cloves, star anise and cinnamon. Form a trivet with the onions and carrots for your beef to rest on so it is not submerged in the stock.
- Roast in the oven for 1 hour.
- Remove the beef and set aside to rest and cool.
- Place the roasting tray on the element on a medium heat. Add the remaining two cups of beef stock and flour, whisking to ensure the flour doesn't clump (you can omit the flour if you like).
- Continue to cook, mashing up the veggies and spices to release their flavour, until the liquid has reduced a bit.
- Strain through a sieve. Discarding the vegetables and spices
- Set the gravy aside, keeping it warm and ready for dippin'.
For the pickles
Half a daikon, julienned
1 carrot, julienned
1 red chilli, sliced
300 mls rice wine vinegar
100 grams white sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 star anise
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
- Place vinegar, sugar, salt and spices in a pot and heat on the stovetop until the sugar and salt has dissolved. Allow to cool before adding your vegetables and chilli and allowing to sit for at least an hour.
French bread, enough for 4 sandwiches
Fresh herbs, preferably coriander and Vietnamese mint
Toast your bread lightly and mayo it up.
Slice your roast beef up nice and thin and pile it on to the bread bottoms. Top with plenty of pickle and fresh herbs (extra chilli if you like too).
Serve alongside a little bowl of hot gravy and dip up a storm.