I have the BEST bánh mì place. Or more correctly, I HAD the best bánh mì place. It was two blocks north of my house, insanely cheap, had vietnamese talk shows on the TV while we waited, a fridge full of chrysanthemum teas and pennywort drinks and was generally just perfection. It’s probably not why we moved to this neighborhood, but it sure didn’t hurt. I’m more of a homemade lunch kinda lady (you may have guessed this already), but sometimes that particular combination of airy and substantial is just what you need. So when my spot, Cafe Nhuy Y, closed its doors, promising to reopen in new digs just a few blocks away, I did a bit of research on a new spot. I’ve heard this tale of just-moving-not-closing before, and I know there’s always the possibility that Cafe Nhuy is gone forever and not just opening again four blocks away.
It’s only been closed for a couple months, so I’ve only had the chance to try one new place so far and it wasn’t bad at all. Not bad, but by no means offering the transcendence one gains by eating at Nhuy. The pickles in particular were not doing it for me. I
might be am extremely picky when it comes to pickles, but honestly, what did they do? Soak some carrot and daikon in distilled vinegar for 15 minutes and call that a pickle? I think not, my friends. This very simple recipe is how WE do a bánh mì pickle. I promise you, if a sub par sandwich dares cross your plate, you’ll want to shove some of these between those slices of bread. I’d say, “Thank me later,” but we both know your mouth will be too full of these pickles to do any proper thanking.
BANH MI PICKLE (SPICY CARROT DAIKON PICKLE)
Yields one quart of pickles, scales well || Fermentation Time 1 week || Active Time Depends on if you have a mandoline or not. ~15 minutes. ||
To me, this pickle is a prime example of how vinegar can’t even come close to mimicking the complex acidity of fermentation. The best part is, these pickles are not only glorious on banh mi. They also work well as a taco topper, mixed in to delicious summer salads or on their own as an afternoon snack (I use my fingers!). If you’re new to fermented pickling, please check out my pickling FAQ before you get started.
- 1 lb. carrot, unpeeled
- 1 lb. daikon radish, unpeeled
- 1 jalapeño (optional, but if you don’t mind a little bit of heat, keep it in)
- 2 (14 g) teaspoons fine sea salt
- If you have mad knife skills, take your carrot and daikon and make them into matchsticks. My knife skills are way more sad than mad, so I cheat and use a mandoline. If you don’t have one and you also don’t have knife skills, you can do your best to make match sticks or slightly larger sticks. Just remember that size matters. If your pieces are larger, you may need to add a day or two to fermentation to achieve the desired flavor. Try to be as consistent as possible, but don’t kill yourself. They’ll still taste amazing, even if they’re misshapen and an embarrassing indicator of how little time you spend with your expensive chef’s knife.
- Remove the jalapeno’s crown and slice it in half, lengthwise.
- Put the carrot and daikon into a bowl and toss well with salt.
- Once they’re sweating, pack them into a quart jar with the jalapeño halves. If you want prettiness, lay your jalapeño halves flat against the side of the jar and pack that roots in around them. And I do mean pack them in. I use a very clean fist to get those babies in place. All told, your jar should be full to just below the shoulders, and you should have a thin layer of liquid on top.
- If your pieces are larger, you may need to massage them a bit longer to get them to release their liquid. If they’re really not giving it up, add a tiny bit of brine to the top to ensure that they stay submerged. I used 1.5% salt by weight for these. If you need to add water, you can stick to that %, or just add a tiny pinch of salt and some water to the top.
- Weigh your pickles down to ensure a thin liquid layer covering them, and cover with a cloth and rubber band or loosely with the jar lid, as your submerging situation allows.
- Let sit at room temperature for about one week, or until desired acidity is achieved (the longer they ferment, the more acidic they will be). Screw lid on and refrigerate. Enjoy as soon as they’re chilled!