Monday, 9 June 2014

Lemongrass Chicken Banh Mi

Recently we went out for a friends' birthday drinks at the Public Brewery in Croydon.  It is a great venue, the type of place our neck of the woods has needed for a long time.  I look forward to returning again, especially when the kitchen is up and running.  However until that happens they have made a clever decision to run food trucks out the front.   Smart on two fronts; people expect to be able to get food at a venue like this and food trucks are still a novelty out this side of town. 

On the night we went there, Banh Mi Boys was the food truck of choice and I thoroughly enjoyed their grilled chicken Banh Mi.  I decided I was going to make it at home as it would fulfil two things I've been trying to achieve; to cook at least two new recipes each week and use at least one 'new to me' ingredient. Using daikon was going to be the new ingredient however my fruit and veggie shop was out of stock, so although I still need to use a new ingredient, I can place a tick next to new recipe!

I did a bit of searching around for a chicken version using lemongrass and found this great recipe Lemongrass Chicken Banh Mi.  I made the lemongrass marinade and the spinach mayo. The lemongrass marinade in excellent - fresh and zesty with the great Asian flavour balance of sweet, salty, sour and spicy.  It would work equally well using the marinated chicken in a stir-fry or noodle dish.

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If you haven't used lemongrass before, you are in for a treat.  It has a beautiful fragrance and adds a fresh, lemony sweetness to dishes.  It is easy to prepare. Peel back the dried outer layers and slice the very bottom off.   If you are chopping or pounding the lemongrass, you can only use the bottom 7-8cm of the stalk.  You can use the top green parts to flavour soups and curries.

But the big winner for me is the spinach mayo. Sometimes the simple things are the best. You use only two tablespoons of mayonnaise and add 2 1/2 cups of spinach and some garlic to make a delicious accompaniment.  It tastes just like mayonnaise but with so much more added goodness and it is a beautiful fresh green colour.  I will be using it in the future as a salad dressing, so much flavour and so much healthier than straight mayonnaise. 

If you watch Masterchef every second dish is served with something 'pickled'.  In the cases where they are cooking quickly it usually just means they have put the vegetable in a mix of vinegar and sugar with some other seasonings to quickly add flavour.  I used rice wine vinegar and caster sugar to pickle the cucumber and carrot. This was where I was also hoping to use daikon - next time.

I found Vietnamese Rolls at my local Coles, score, but any crusty roll works.

  • Adapted from: Canadian Living Lemongrass Chicken Banh Mi

1 lemongrass stalk, shredded
1 piece (1 inch/2.5 cm) fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
2 spring onions, thickly sliced
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp. honey
1 tbsp. lime juice
2 tsp fish sauce
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp peanut oil
1/4 tsp white pepper
3 tbsp. water
500g boneless skinless chicken thighs, roughly chopped

1 Lebanese cucumber
1 cup (250ml) rice vinegar
1/2 cup (110g) caster sugar
1 carrot

3 cups packed fresh spinach
2 tbsp. (30 mL) light mayonnaise
1 clove garlic, chopped

4 crusty long buns
Butter lettuce, chopped red or green chilli to serve

To make lemongrass marinade:
In food processor or using stick blender, purée lemongrass, ginger, green onions, garlic, honey, lime juice, fish sauce, soy sauce, oil, pepper and 3 tbsp. water. In bowl, pour lemongrass mixture over chicken; toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 2 -24 hours.

To make vegetable pickle:
Use a peeler to shave the cucumber into ribbons, and then toss in a bowl with 1 teaspoon salt and stand for 1 hour.  Heat the rice vinegar and sugar in a small pan over medium heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved, then cool.  Shave carrot lengthways into ribbons with a vegetable peeler, then cut into fine matchsticks. Add carrot, cucumber and their juices to the vinegar mixture and chill. Aim for at least 2 hours (I did one hour and it was fine)

To make spinach and garlic mayo: In pot of boiling water, wilt spinach, about 30 seconds. Drain and immerse in cold water; drain, squeeze dry and chop. In small bowl and using the stick blender, purée spinach, mayonnaise and garlic.

Cook chicken in a hot frypan or griddle pan and cook until golden and juices run clear.

Halve rolls lengthwise almost but not all the way through; remove a little of the bread from top and bottom halves. Grill rolls, cut sides down, until warmed, about 1 minute.

Spread bottom halves of rolls with spinach mayo; top with chicken, zucchini and carrot mixture and lettuce.  Top with chilli and/or coriander and hot chilli sauce.

Do you have a favourite food truck?

Keep smiling

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