Banh mi de panceta de cerdo crujiente

Hay que probarlo

** A very big thank you for sharing the happiness and relief of Dozer’s ongoing recovery post surgery. I’m so touched by all the support. ❤️ Now I can get back to my day job – GREAT FOOD!**

Here’s my recipe for Crispy Pork Belly Banh Mi, possibly the best sandwich I’ve ever had in my life! Stuffed with juicy pork belly meat and ultra crispy crackling, plus all the essential banh mi fixings and a special secret Banh Mi sauce. It is to-die-for.

Banh mi de panceta de cerdo crujiente

Banh mi de panceta de cerdo crujiente

I recently had the best Banh Mi of my life at a place called Ca Com in Melbourne. It was a Banh Mi stuffed with crispy pork belly with a special sauce and plenty of Banh Mi fixings, and it was absolutely incredible. The standout was the pork itself which was ridiculously juicy with superior crispy crackling!

In fact, in recent years I’ve noticed more people ordering pork belly Banh Mi over the classic “mystery pork slices” version, an observation consistent with an Instagram poll I ran where 57% of respondents voted for crispy pork over the classic mystery pork slices (16%). Does that surprise you? It did me!

As wildly popular as the pork belly Banh Mi is, it is actually quite hard to find really good ones, with dry meat and not-so-crispy-crackling the most common shortfall. So in case you don’t live around the corner from Ca Com (like me, all the way up in Sydney!), here’s my copycat recipe.

It’s not exactly the same (for example, they don’t use pâté, I insist of sticking with this tradition), but I’ve taken inspiration from theirs, including a copycat of their special Banh Mi sauce. I hope you become as obsessed with this as I have!

Banh mi de panceta de cerdo crujiente

Authenticity background – it is!

In case you are curious, crispy pork belly Banh Mi does exist in Vietnam. The “mystery pork slices” version is still considered the classic, but Banh Mi shops and street vendors offer all sorts of filling options, from grilled meats to meatballs, chicken to egg. Crispy pork is not as common with street vendors (I think practicality might be a factor, because of the cooking logistics and cost) but it does exist.

Best Banh Mi in Ho Chi Minh City - Sau Le
One of the many Banh Mi shops I visited in Vietnam. I even made a Vietnam food guide – here!

Anatomy of a crispy pork belly banh mi

Here’s what makes up a pork belly Banh Mi. There’s some gathering involved (oh yes, and a simple crispy crackling pork belly to make 😂). But once gathered (and crackled), assembly is a breeze! Excellent food for gatherings, particularly in summer.

  1. Crispy pork belly (don’t worry, I have a tried-and-proven easy crispy crackling trick!)

  2. Spreads – mayonnaise and pate

  3. Pickled vegetables – carrot and daikon (white radish)

  4. Fresh veg – coriander/cilantro, cucumber slices

  5. Garnished – fresh chilli, coriander/cilantro, crispy Asian shallots (optional, store bought)

  6. Special Banh Mi sauce – A hoisin coconut milk mixture, copycat of the sauce used by Ca Com!

  7. Crusty bread roll


Slow roasted crispy pork belly for Banh Mi

Using the tried and true (easy!) tips in my Crispy Pork Belly recipe, this pork belly has terrifically crispy crackling that is crispy from edge to edge – no rubbery spots – with a tender fall-apart-flesh. It’s initially slow roasted to make the meat tender and dry out the skin, then blasted at a high heat to make the skin crispy.

Crispy pork belly for banh mi

Guaranteed crispy skin tips

Here are my little tricks that make all the difference to ensure we get crispy skin!

  • DO NOT SCORE THE SKIN. A) you don’t need to score for crispy crackling. B) It’s risky. All it takes is an accidental pinprick piercing of the flesh and the juices that bubble up through that tiny hole will spread and result in a 10 cm/4″ patch of rubbery skin. While skilled butchers would never make this mistake, do you know who scored the pork belly you bought – an apprentice or a high school kid working in the grocery store meat department? No we do not! Don’t risk it.

  • Fridge dry – Dry the skin overnight in the fridge, uncovered. Even a few hours in the fridge is effective. This is an insurance policy step that is recommended. If you skip it (especially if your pork belly was vac packed) you are not allowed to complain if your pork belly is not as crazy crispy as mine! 😂

  • Level your pork – Use foil balls to level your pork belly so the skin is sitting as flat as possible. This will ensure even distribution of heat across your pork belly skin for superior crackling. If you don’t do this step, you’ll find that the lower points don’t crackle well – if at all.

And that, my friends, is all the pertinent information I need to impart for crispy crackling pork belly. Then just follow the simple recipe steps! Here’s a visual summary:

INGREDIENTS FOR PORK BELLY

Here’s what you need to make the crispy pork belly. Chinese five spice powder isn’t traditional but I like to add it for a touch of extra flavour. So consider it optional – there’s so many other things going on in Banh Mi, you won’t miss it.

  • Pork belly NOT SCORED – Look for a piece that is even thickness (rather than thin at one end and thicker at the other) with flat, smooth skin. This shape will crackle better and the flesh will cook through more evenly.

    Not scored – As noted in the above section, make sure the skin is not scored. Check carefully if you buy a vac packed one because sometimes it’s hard to tell.

  • Oil – Just any neutral flavoured oil: canola, vegetable or peanut oil.

  • Salt – Essential for crackling. In fact, if you don’t put salt the skin, it won’t get that nice bubbly crispiness, it just becomes a flat sheet of hard skin.

  • Pepper – I actually like to use black pepper for pork belly, but white pepper is fine too.

  • Chinese five spice – As noted above, optional extra flavour!

How to make crispy pork belly for Banh Mi

The steps below are a slightly abbreviated version – because there is a LOT to say about crispy pork belly! For a full explanation of the why for particular steps and processes, please visit my Crispy Pork Belly recipe which has much more extensive information.

  1. Fridge dry overnight or for a few hours, to really dry out the skin. This is a crispy crackling insurance policy that is especially recommended if you purchased your pork belly vac packed where the skin is fully soaked in juices for days/weeks! If you don’t have time, just pat the skin dry really well with paper towels.

  2. Rub the flesh side with the oil, some of the salt, and all the pepper and Chinese Five spice.

  1. Foil boat – Place the pork on a large sheet of foil and fold up the sides to create a “boat”. This holds all the pork fat in as it melts which keeps the flesh super juicy and moist. It’s essentially almost confit-ing in its own fat!

  2. Salt the skin – Rub a bit of oil on the skin then sprinkle the salt evenly across the surface. Take your time with this step because as noted above in the ingredients section, salt = lovely bubbly crackling!

  1. Slow roast for 2 hours at a low 140°C/275°F (all oven types). During this stage, the flesh will become beautifully tender and the skin will dry out but it will still be rubbery at this stage.

    Oven temperature & time – For this recipe, I use the same oven temperature for both fan and standard ovens because at lower temperatures, there is less difference between the two. Astute cooks may also note the time is slightly shorter than the Crispy Pork Belly recipe. This is because we don’t need the pork quite so “fall apart” for use in Banh Mi as it is chopped up into pieces.

  2. Level the skin – After the slow roasting time, the pork will be a bit wonky (meat fibres shrink as they cook) and the skin will still be rubbery. Use foil balls to prop up the lower parts of the belly so the skin is as level as possible so the heat distribution will be more even across the surface and thereby ensuring it crackles evenly!

    Here is what it looks like before and after levelling.

The secret to the best perfect pork crackling is to level the skin!
  1. Crackle it! Then blast the pork belly in a hot 240°C/465°F (all oven types) for 30 minutes, rotating as needed (if your oven heat is patchy) and using scraps of foil if needed to protect parts that crackle faster.

  2. Admire – Pull the pork out of the oven and admire the brilliant crackling you just made, and resist the urge to peel the whole sheet off and run away with it!

Once the pork belly is cooked, we cut it into thick slices then into chunks to stuff into the Banh Mi.


Other Crispy pork belly Banh Mi fixings

There’s no denying for this Banh Mi, the star player is the crispy pork. But the other elements are important too! Here’s what you need.

special banh mi sauce

The standard sauce for Banh Mi sandwiches is Maggi Seasoning (think of it as an MSG enhanced soy sauce) or a derivation thereof. And while it’s ideal for classic mystery pork slices Banh Mi, I personally never felt that it really worked with pork belly slices. For one, a watery sauce doesn’t cling to pork belly hunks. And for another, watery sauces softens crispy crackling faster. Criminal.

So when I saw the banh mi fairies at Ca Com drizzle a thick dark brown sauce on the pork belly, I broke out into applause. Genius! I declared. Followed by – what’s in it?

Here’s what’s in it!

pickled carrots and daikon

This is the most common type of pickles I’ve seen in Banh Mi. They are classic Asian pickles – the tang is not as sharp as Western ones (because rice vinegar is not as sharp as most western vinegars), and they are more sweet than salty (but not overly sweet like some western ones tend to be).

Chicken Banh Mi ingredients

Using carrots and daikon is an easy way to ensure you get great crunch in the pickles! Find the recipe for these pickles here.

vegetables and herbs

Classic Banh Mi typical includes thin slices of cucumber and green onion, often cut to the length of the bread roll. It’s not much, but enough to add a hint of juicy crunch from the cucumber and freshness from green onion which jumbles together with everything else to create the greatness that is a Banh Mi eating experience.

SPREADS

As for the spreads, I’m sticking with tradition here: pâté and mayonnaise. If you skip the pâté, it ain’t a Banh Mi!😊


Making the banh mi

Putting the Banh Mi tougher is just about the order in which it is assembled. And stuffing generously. Nobody wants a stingy Banh Mi!!

  1. Pate first – spread on the base of the roll.

  2. Mayo next – then spread the mayonnaise on top of the pate.

  3. Verduras – Pile the pickled vegetables non the pate, then plate the cucumber slices and green onion against the lid of the roll.

  4. Carne de cerdo – Then pile the pork in!

  5. Sauce & coriander – Next, shove plenty of coriander down the side of the pork and drizzle everything with the banh mi sauce. Be as generous as you want – I use about 1 tablespoon.

  6. Garnish – And finally, garnish! As much fresh chilli as you dare and a shower of crispy shallots (if using).

And with that, you are done and about to experience one of the greatest sandwiches of your life!!

Banh mi de panceta de cerdo crujiente

Why we make crispy pork belly banh mi

We here in Sydney are blessed with an increasing number of Banh Mi shops, ranging from modern funky ones to traditional Banh Mi stands in Vietnamese neighbourhoods. However, as noted earlier, it is actually quite hard to find really good pork belly Banh Mi, with the pork itself being the letdown. The meat not that juicy, the crackling not always crispy.

Having said that, even if the meat is not perfect, it is still a very enjoyable sandwich, thanks to all the other Banh Mi fixings. They are also typically extremely good value, with an enormous amount of pork for the price you pay. I understand why they are popular!

But, this homemade version? It is better than any I’ve had in Sydney. You just can’t beat the experience of fresh homemade pork belly.

The other cause to make this of course is if you do not happen to live in an area with (good) Banh Mi shops, and for cost reasons too because this recipe will make 5 generously stuffed Banh Mi for around $30 – $35, depending on the price you pay for pork belly.

I really hope you try this one day. It is truly an exceptional eating experience! – Nagi x


Watch how to make it

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Banh mi de panceta de cerdo crujiente

Crispy Pork Belly Banh Mi

Servings5 rolls

Tap or hover to scale

Recipe video above. The crispy pork belly version of the famous Vietnamese sandwich, inspired by Ca Com in Melbourne, a famous Banh Mi shop. Hands down one of the best sandwiches I have ever made in my life! Excellent food for sharing with friends and Sunday lunches.The Special Sauce is a copycat of the Ca Com sauce and it’s an excellent match for crispy pork – thicker so it clings and doesn’t soak and soften the skin or bread.PS The recipe for the crispy skin pork belly is based on the much-loved Crispy Pork Belly recipe. So you can have confidence that your pork WILL have perfect crispy crackling!

Ingredientes

Crispy pork belly for Banh Mi

Special Banh Mi Sauce (Ca Com copy!)

To make the Banh Mi (5 rolls)

Instructions

Crispy pork belly for Banh Mi

  • Dry skin overnight: Place pork belly on a plate. Pat skin dry with paper towels. Leave uncovered in fridge overnight to dry out the skin. (If you don’t have time, pat the skin dry as best you can).

  • Preheat oven to 140°C/285°F (both fan and standard ovens).

  • Season flesh: Drizzle flesh side with 1 tsp oil. Sprinkle over 1/2 tsp salt, and all the pepper and Chinese five spice. Rub all over the flesh, including on the sides.

  • Foil boat: Place 2 pieces of foil on a work surface. Put the belly in middle of foil, skin side up. Fold the sides in to enclose the belly, forming an open box, pinching corners to seal tightly and make it as snug as possible. Place meat on a tray.

  • Season skin: Pat skin dry with paper towels. Rub with 1/2 tsp oil then sprinkle remaining 1/2 tsp salt evenly all over the skin surface, from edge to edge.

  • Slow roast 2 hours: Place in the oven and roast for 2 hours, tightening the foil around the pork after 1 hour (the pork will shrink). This protects the flesh from drying out.

  • Increase heat: Remove pork from oven, then increase heat to 240°C/465°F (all oven types).

  • Level pork: Remove pork from foil, discard fat and foil. Place pork on a rack set over a tray. Use scrunched up balls of foil stuffed under pork to prop it up so the skin surface is as level and horizontal as possible (see photos in post).

  • 30 minutes blast! Place the pork back in the oven for 30 minutes, rotating after 15 minutes as needed, until the crackling is deep golden, puffy and crispy all over. If some patches are browning faster, protect with foil patches.

  • Rest 10 minutes: Remove pork from oven. Rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

Making the Banh Mi:

  • Sauce – Mix the ingredients in a bowl then set aside. This will keep for 5 days in the fridge .

  • Chop pork – Cut the pork into 1 1/2 cm / 0.6″ thick slices, then each slide into 1 1/2 cm / 0.6″ chunks.

  • Split & spread – Split the roll in half down the side, keeping the lid attached. Smear the base with 1 1/2 tbsp of pate, then 1 1/2 tbsp of mayonnaise (on top of the pate)

  • Stuff – Pile about 1/3 cup pickled vegetables on the mayonnaise. Lay 2 slices of cucumber and 2 green onions against the lid. Pile pork on top. Drizzle pork with 1 tbsp of sauce. Stuff coriander/cilantro down the side, sprinkle with chilli then2 tablespoons of crispy shallots as you want (if using).

  • Serving – Eat immediately! Banh Mi is definitely one of those foods best eaten freshly made!

Recipe Notes:

1. Pork Belly – Best to get one that has not been vacuum-packed (juices soak skin). If your belly is vac-packed, I really recommend doing the overnight drying uncovered in the fridge.
Look for a piece with flat, even skin as wrinkly skin doesn’t crackle as well (in the ridges, because heat can’t get to it as well).
Do NOT get one that is scored. It is a plain fact that you do NOT need to score for perfect crackling (read proof here!) All too often, butchers do poor scoring jobs and pierce through the fat into the flesh. Even the tiniest prick will cause meat juices to bubble up onto the skin and you’ll end up with rubbery patches.
2. Pate – or other pate of choice, but not orange or other flavoured
3. Crispy fried shallots – Sold in packs and tubs at regular grocery stores in the Asian aisle. Ca Com finishes their pork belly Banh Mi with a shower of crispy fried shallots! It definitely adds an extra touch, with crunchy salty goodness. But it’s optional because it is still excellent without.
4. Pork belly storage and reheating – Pork belly keeps and reheats well, and the crackling stays crispy. If not using cooked pork immediately, loosely cover with foil (it’s ok, the skin will stay crispy!) and it will be good for an hour to use for the Banh Mi. If intentionally making ahead, separate the crackling from the meat and reheat the cracking in the oven (crispy!) and meat in the microwave (retains moisture).

Nutrition Information:

Calories: 1313cal (66%)Carbohydrates: 1gProtein: 23g (46%)Fat: 135g (208%)Saturated Fat: 49g (306%)Cholesterol: 180mg (60%)Sodium: 661mg (29%)Potassium: 464mg (13%)Fiber: 1g (4%)Vitamin A: 26IU (1%)Vitamin C: 1mg (1%)Calcium: 13mg (1%)Iron: 1mg (6%)

Life of Dozer

So great to continue to see progress with Dozer’s recovery post op! Here he is at his first outing to the park since his surgery. 🙂

This surgery really took it out of him. Combined with his lack of exercise for the better part of the last 7 weeks, I’m taking his rehab slowly. His breathing is still a bit hoarse when he pants, but the most relieving thing for me is that he doesn’t have his panicked breathing episodes (think – asthma attack) multiple times a day. He sleeps through the night peacefully and quietly and is restful during the day.

And I’ve got my shoot-studio companion back. 🥰 He hasn’t figured out yet that he can no longer taste test (see this post for why). He also doesn’t realise I’m shooting pickled vegetables here.😂

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