Banh Mi Meatballs

Hello readers,

I have a bit of a confession to make.  In the week since the Newport Half-marathon, I’ve sort of fallen off the fitness wagon.  I fell into that “I just worked really hard!  I deserve this time off/delicious food/sugary beverage” hole.  It happens.  I know it did after the Colorado Tough Mudder, and I think it really hurt my running.  So I’m taking this opportunity to hop back on the wagon, and hopefully by doing so publicly, I’ll stick to it better.

And so here we go with a healthy Vietnamese-style sandwich!  Going through some back issues of “Bon Appetit”, I ran across a bunch of meatball recipes.  My wife is a huge fan of the Vietnamese Banh Mi sandwich, so when she saw this recipe, she demanded we make it.

In the interests of health, we substituted ground turkey for the ground pork, and used light mayonnaise, but otherwise, it’s a pretty healthy.  And I really like the contrast of the sweet pickled vegetables against the savory meatballs.  It also adds a nice crunch to each bite.

I started with the veggies, since they need about an hour to pickle:

It called for shredding the carrots and daikon (I used regular radishes, and I think it worked fine), but I really hate cleaning the grater, so I just did a little extra knife work.  The amount of sugar in the pickle surprised me, and it definitely results in a sweet taste, but it really works in the finished product.

The meatballs come together like you’d expect.  One thing I’d like emphasise is that as much fun as it is to really squish all the ingredients together, you want to handle the meat as gently as possible.  Use your hands and a motion almost like you would when folding in baking ingredients.  When it comes to forming the meatballs, bring the meat together by cupping it with your fingers instead of your palms.  This will result to a lighter meatball.  Of course, if a dense meatball is more your thing (and no judgement there), go nuts and really pack it together.

The downside of making these lighter meatballs is that they are more prone to breaking apart when cooking.  But this can be addressed with a different technique in turning them.  Instead of using tongs, grab a pair of spoons and use them to gently scoop the meatballs from the cooking surface and turn them.  It also allows you to make sure you get nice browning on all sides when you cook them on the range-top.

Once you’ve cooked all the meatballs, the sandwiches come together pretty fast.  You scoop out a channel in the bread so the ingredients stay in place better.  Put a layer of the spicy mayo on the bread, put down some cilantro, add the meatballs (I would also recommend cutting the meatballs in half so they are less likely to roll away from you), top with the veggies, and cap it  off with the other half of the bread.  Then you get this:

Fairly quick and healthy, and tasty to boot.  Enjoy!

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