A bánh mì is one of my very favorite sandwiches thanks to the combination of savory, spicy, and sweet flavors and the counterplay of crunchy and soft textures. The Vietnamese dish consists of a baguette spread with aioli and pâté and filled with meat, sweet and tangy pickled vegetables, cilantro, and often sliced cucumber and jalapeño.
This salad is inspired by the classic sandwich and deconstructs some of my favorite elements. It’s light yet satisfying and has multiple make-ahead moments. I hope it will quickly become a favorite of yours, too.
From Sandwich to Salad
Since a bánh mì sandwich is already so full of colorful vegetables, it’s a prime candidate for a salad adaptation. To be certain, this recipe is a loose interpretation of the sandwich, but given that so many iterations of the classic exist, I hope you’ll lend me some creative license.
I’ve swapped the traditional pork with boneless, skinless chicken thighs that are marinated in an umami-rich combination of lemongrass, garlic, soy sauce, and fish sauce. I’ve also left out the pâté for ease and approachability and turned the usual aioli and sliced jalapeños into a just-creamy-enough jalapeño-lime dressing.
Chopped romaine lettuce adds bulk and dồ chua (pickled carrots and daikon radish),—as well as cucumbers and cilantro, lend crisp freshness. All that’s left is to serve the salad with generous pieces of torn French baguette.
- If you prefer pork, swap in thin-sliced pork tenderloin for the chicken thighs.
- Or leave the meat out completely and try marinating and baking tofu.
- Use less minced jalapeño or leave it out completely if you don’t like spice.
- Try mixed greens or any leaf lettuce in place of the romaine.
A Helpful Tip
If you have a mandoline, I find it a useful tool when it comes to cutting the carrots and daikon radish for the dồ chua. Cut them into 3-inch pieces, use a mandoline to slice them into roughly 1/8-inch-thick planks, then cut the planks into 1/8-inch-thick matchsticks.
Make It Ahead
While there are a few components to this salad, there are just as many make-ahead opportunities. The dồ chua can be made a days or even weeks before. As with anything pickled, dồ chua will only get more flavorful as it sits.
The chicken can also be marinated for as little as 15 minutes or as long as overnight, giving you added flexibility. And if you really want to get ahead, you can even make the dressing the day before, too. That will leave you with simply cooking the chicken and assembling the salad when dinnertime hits.
- Burger Salad
- Caesar Salad
- Taco Salad
- Nicoise Salad
- Antipasto Salad
Prepare the dồ chua:
Combine the vinegar, water, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl and stir until fully dissolved. Cut the carrots and daikon into 3-inch long, 1/8-inch thick matchsticks (about 1 cup each). Add to the bowl and stir to combine.
Gently push down any vegetables that aren’t submerged in the pickling liquid and let the mixture sit for at least 30 minutes.
Marinate the chicken:
Combine the lemongrass, garlic, sugar, olive oil, fish sauce, soy sauce, and black pepper in an 8×8-inch baking dish. Add the chicken thighs, toss to coat, and spread in an even layer. Transfer to the refrigerator to marinate for at least 15 minutes while the oven preheats, or cover and let marinate up to overnight in the fridge.
Preheat the oven and make the dressing:
While the chicken is marinating, arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 425°F.
Whisk together the lime juice, mayonnaise, olive oil, jalapeño, garlic, and salt in a small bowl until combined and emulsified.
Bake the chicken:
Transfer the chicken to the oven and bake until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F, 20 to 25 minutes.
Use two forks to shred the chicken into large pieces and toss to coat in the pan juices.
Assemble the salad:
Drain the dồ chua. Place the lettuce in a large bowl and toss with 1/4 cup of the dressing.
Divide the lettuce among individual shallow bowls or plates then arrange the dồ chua, chicken, and cucumbers in sections on top of the dressed lettuce. Drizzle with the remaining dressing and garnish with the cilantro. Serve with torn pieces of French baguette, if desired.
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