DIY Banh Mi

Two weekends ago, while unexpectedly sitting on a runway in Philly at 1 a.m., I stumbled across a recipe for grilled banh mi in Food & Wine ‘s new travel issue. In addition to looking delicious, it appeared super-simple, just requiring a few ingredients, little prep time and two steps. I immediately knew that’s what we’d be grilling at Mal and Peter’s place the following weekend.

Maryland’s eastern shore, where they live, is, without doubt, the country’s best region for blue crabs. But other than that? Let’s just say, it’s definitely not New York. Thai, Korean, Vietnamese, Ethiopian, non-sushi Japanese, authentic Chinese and Italian are practically nonexistent. Mal and Peter have taken to getting their ethnic food fixes whenever they’re in NYC, Philly or DC–or they make it themselves. So we were all excited to try assembling our own banh mi.

The sandwiches came out great! It was so tasty and summery that we’ll definitely be grilling them all season long. And they really were effortless to make:

The marinade is just fish sauce, garlic, scallions, honey, sugar and pepper. We chopped and pureed the ingredients and poured the mixture over thinly sliced pork tenderloin.

After the pork marinated for two hours, Peter skewered the meat and grilled it to perfection–every piece was tender and juicy!

Then came the best part: assembling the sandwiches with hoisin sauce, Sriracha, pickled veggies, sliced cucumbers and lots of cilantro–and eating them. The recipe’s definitely a keeper:

Grilled-Pork Banh Mi (from Food and Wine )

1/4 cup Asian fish sauce
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
6 scallions, white and tender green parts only, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 1/2 pounds pork tenderloin, thinly sliced
Six 8-inch-long rolls or 2 baguettes, cut into 8-inch lengths and split
Hoisin sauce and Sriracha chile sauce
Vegetable oil, for grilling
1/2 seedless cucumber, cut into 2-by-1/2-inch matchsticks (We also used pickled veggies in addition to the cucumbers)
1 1/2 loosely packed cups cilantro sprigs

1. In a blender, puree the fish sauce with the honey, sugar, pepper, scallions and garlic. Transfer the marinade to a bowl, add the pork and toss. Refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours. Thread the pork through the top and bottom of each slice onto 12 bamboo skewers.

2. Spread the rolls with hoisin and Sriracha. Light a grill and oil the grates. Brush the pork with oil and grill over high heat, turning, until just cooked, 4 minutes. Place 2 skewers in each roll, close and pull out the skewers. Top with the cucumber and cilantro and serve.

Third Big Apple BBQ, First Time Eating It

Somehow, attending the annual Big Apple BBQ has become a tradition for me, even though I didn’t eat meat until this year, and I only eat it in small quantities now. I think I always enjoyed going because it’s one of those New York outdoor events that brings together big groups of people — and BBQ from around the country — at the beginning of summer.

…plus, it always gave me an excuse to inhale a deep fried, Shake Shack shroom burger and black and white shake while everyone around me gorged on meat.

This year, Ryan and I went with a group of friends. As usual, Madison Square Park was packed by noon, and long lines stretched from the various BBQ tents. Each of our friends was dispatched to a different stand with strict orders to bring back two plates of each specialty. I, of course, headed to Shake Shack to get my shroom burger and black and white shake.В

Also as usual, the Shake Shack line took nearly twice as long as the longest BBQ line. By the time I had my order in hand, everyone else had been to their stands and was seated at a picnic table. An array of ribs, pulled pork sandwiches, smoked sausages, and beef brisket sat before us, and we cut everything into small pieces for easy sharing.

Big Apple BBQ2

Despite getting Shake Shack, I decided to try everything.

Maybe it’s because I’m finally at the point where eating meat no longer makes me feel nauseous afterwards, but I thought everything tasted great. The brisket and pulled pork were smoky and tender, and the sausage had a bit of a kick. I thought the ribs were a tad dry, but they had a nice flavor. I’ll defer to the meat eaters for the final verdict on everything, though, since six meatless years don’t make me the best BBQ judge. They said: The flavor was pretty good, but everything could use more of it via a bit more sauce.

Oh well. It’s not like anything really went to waste.

Big Apple BBQ