What's a Bahn Mi? A Tasty Home for Venison Meatballs

Born of Vietnamese inspiration, this is one great sandwich

venison meatball sandwich
A venison meatball Bahn Mi sandwich.Jamie Carlson

About 10 years ago I was at work and a few of the people I work with wanted to order some takeout for dinner. They had all decided on a Vietnamese place down the street so I checked my wallet and to my surprise I had a five $5 bill in there. I figured I could at least get a spring roll of some sort so I took a look at the menu. On the back of the menu was a section for Bahn Mi. I had no idea at the time what a Bahn Mi was so I went to the computer and looked it up quick.

A Bahn Mi is a Vietnamese sandwich made on a light and airy but still chewy baguette. The Meatball Bahn Mi on the menu was only $3.50 so I figured I would give it a shot. Little did I know that would be my introduction to what has become my favorite sandwich. A Bahn MI has a few staple components, with the bread being first and foremost.

A true Bahn Mi is made with a combination of rice and wheat flour. Second is some kind of meat, which can range from cold cuts, pork belly, pate or even head cheese. There is always some kind of pickled vegetable – usually carrots and radishes. It's usually dressed with mayo or some kind of chili sauce or a combination of the two. Finally, there needs to be some cilantro to top it off. The result of this formula is a light and fresh sandwich that can’t be beat.

One of my favorite things about the Bahn Mi is how adaptable it is and how wonderfully wild game fit into it. I have made dozens of varieties of this sandwich ranging from duck confit, goose liver pate with goose pastrami and headcheese. What I had never done was try to make one with meatballs, like that first one I ate so many years ago. I came across a recipe for a meatball Bahn Mi from a San Diego Chef named Alex Carballo. This sweet, spicy and savory meatball is about as good as it gets and it works perfectly with venison. If I get lucky this fall and can put some pheasants in the freezer I would really like to try this recipe with ground pheasant as well. IF you have never tried a Bahn Mi this is an excellent way to use up ground game of any sort.

venison meatball ingredients
Venison meatballs provide an excellent filling for Bahn Mi.Jamie Carlson

INGREDIENTS

1 pound ground venison

1/3 cup unseasoned bread crumbs

2 tablespoons finely diced shallots

2 cloves of garlic, minced

3 green onions, finely diced

1 tablespoon fish sauce

2 tablespoons sesame oil

2 tablespoons of Sriracha

2 tablespoons of sugar

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon fresh minced basil

3 tablespoons finely diced cilantro stems

Salt and pepper to taste

venison meatballs
The start of something good.Jamie Carlson

DIRECTIONS:

Combine all the ingredients and form into golf ball sized meatballs. Brown the meatballs in a pan with a small amount of oil and then transfer to a 300 degree oven to finish cooking about 10 minutes in the oven.

For the pickled vegetables:

2 carrots cut into matchsticks

One bunch of radishes sliced thin

½ cup rice wine vinegar

½ cup mirin

2 tablespoons of sriracha

2 tablespoons of honey

Whisk together the vinegar, mirin, honey and sriracha and pour over the carrots and radishes let sit for at least 30 minutes before serving.

For the sriracha mayo:

1 cup mayo

¼ cup sriracha

2 tablespoons smoked paprika

1 clove of garlic finely minced

Combine in a bowl together and set aside.

To assemble the sandwich slice the baguette open on one side and spread a generous amount of the sriracha mayo on the bread. Add three or four meatballs to fill the sandwich then top with pickled veggies and fresh cilantro. If you really want to step it up you can top it all off with a fried egg.