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Kiawe-Smoked Pastrami Ba-Le Bánh Mì

As suggested in the last post on making Kiawe-smoked Pastrami, I actually followed through with the idea, this time using a Vietnamese baguette called Bánh Mì from Ba-Le Sandwich & Bakery.

I swear Ba-Le’s Bánh Mì rolls are the BEST. Fresh, soft and supple inside, with that most excellent flaky crust on the outside. It’s also seasoned perfectly with salt, which really gives it a flavorful character. If you’re a fan of Safeway’s French Bread (my favorite, especially when it’s piping hot!), this is kinda’ like that, except in a hoagie shape. I could only imagine how great it will be with the fresh-made Smoked Pastrami I’ve got. Notice I keep “Kiawe-smoked” in the title to give it a better punch line, which also will allow me to sell the sandwich for an additional $5 or more since it has that fancy name. lol

I went back to KCC Farmers’ Market again this morning to pick up a bunch of groceries I needed; namely bread and vegetables, including more Sumida Farms watercress and stuff to make this Bánh Mì sandwich, including sweet Ewa onions, cucumber, Thai basil and mint.

Of course, Ba-Le Sandwich & Bakery was there in full force again, this time including Thanh Quoc Lam, the owner of the company…

Thanh Quoc Lam, founder and owner of Ba-Le Sandwich & Bakery

Mr. Lam was awarded the Small Business Person of the Year in 2002 by the Small Business Administration in Washington DC, and for that got to meet with the President of the United States of America. What an INCREDIBLE accomplishment and life story (please watch the video at that link). You may know Ba-Le for their take-out sandwich shops around the island, but their bakery does a whole lot more than that, supplying baked goods to national corporations such as the Hilton and Delta Airlines, just to name a few. You can also now get Ba-Le baked goods at Shirokiya in Ala Moana Center.

Yet, when you talk to Mr. Lam, he’s such a friendly, down-to-earth guy. In fact, so nice, he hand-picked and comped me the Bánh Mì rolls you see here. How cool is that! So this sandwich you see here isn’t just ANY Bánh Mì sandwich, it’s one that originates from THE MAN himself!

Here’s the Bánh Mì loaves that Mr. Lam gave to me…

I started this Bánh Mì “project” (we’ll call it that) by cutting one of the loaves top off into a v-shape, then laying down two slices of swiss cheese on the bottom half…

That was then popped into the toaster oven to heat up the bread and slightly melt the Swiss. I also buttered the top half, because Paula Dean says everything tastes better that way. lol

While the bread and cheese was heating up, I pan-steamed the Kiawe-Smoked Pastrami with just a little bit of water…

Then the hot Pastrami got laid down over the semi-melted cheese…

Next on that goes sliced cucumbers…

Then over the cucumbers go one of the most essential ingredients to a Bánh Mì (next to the bread itself), the Vietnamese style pickled Daikon and Carrots…

Oh, THAT’s where it’s at, right there. I could just as well seal the deal at this point, but I got a couple more goodies to go on that.

Adding even more depth and a little more “bite”, some whole Thai Basil leaves went down next…

I’m a huge Cilantro (alk.a. Chinese Parsley) fan, so plenty of that goes on next…

You know what’s funny is, when I was a kid, I used to HATE Cilantro. Just the smell of it had me running the other way. Now I just love it and can’t get enough, which is good, as it’s very healthy.

Finally topping this off, fresh mint leaves and a drizzle of Russian Dressing…

I was able to find Russian Dressing at the Kapahulu Safeway. I thought Russian Dressing was identical to Thousand Island, but it’s not as creamy. It’s more like a deep, spicey French dressing. Ono though! I’ll be using this on salads, that’s for sure.

Put the top on and that’s it!…

Here it is cut in half so you can see the layers…

How is it? Supah ono! Of course you could put a tennis shoe in between a Bánh Mì roll and Vietnamese style pickled daikon and carrots and it’d still taste great.Those two components really are a magic combination. Just that and perhaps the sliced cucumbers and you’d have one heck of a veggie sandwich.

If there’s anything I might try differently the next time when using pastrami in this, is use a more asian style dressing, like say that Oriental sesame oil dressing they sell at Costco. The tomato-based Russian Dressing somehow was a little clashing here, mainly because I think the delicateness of the Bánh Mì bread vs. the bold flavor of the more traditional dark Rye bread.

I notice I forgot to add in slices of sweet Ewa onion (gotta’ throw in Ewa to make it sound mo’ bettah, ah), which probably would have really enhanced the Pastrami’s flavor. But that’s OK, at least had the daikon in it for that added “bite”. The mint leaves worked out really nicely with the spicy and robust smoked Pastrami beef, yet I think slices of lamb would be even better! You know what really tastes great in a Bánh Mì, is turkey bacon. Try that some time. Winnahs.

Subway should consider adding Bánh Mì rolls and vietnamese pickled daikon and carrots to their product line-up. I bet they’d do really well in sales of this type of sandwich. It really is one fantastic and one of my favorite style of sandwiches. It would be perfectly fit in that type of business method where it’s built to order, just like how I did my Kiawe-smoked Pastrami Bánh Mì with the various veggies you see here.

It’s so refreshing with the contrasting flavors of the many vegetables that go into it, and I just LOVE those Vietnamese style pickled daikon and carrots. You can buy pickled daikon and carrots at Ba-Le Sandwich shops around the island, which sells for around $3 for 12 oz. container, and it goes along way, as you only use a little of it for each sandwich. It also lasts a long time, being that it’s pickled.

Big mahalo once again to Mr. Lam who was so gracious to give me a hand-picked bag of his absolutely EXCELLENT Vietnamese Bánh Mì rolls. This sandwich is made in honor of his amazing success story.

Related links:
Ba-Le Sandwich & Bakery – official website
Thanh Lam wins Small Business Person of the Year Award (video clip) – Small Business School
Bánh Mì – Wikipedia article
Backyard Kiawe-Smoked Pastrami – The Tasty Island


5 thoughts on “Kiawe-Smoked Pastrami Ba-Le Bánh Mì

  • March 29, 2009 at 9:37 am

    What, no jalapenos? =) As far as dressing goes, I think mayo + Maggi seasoning is traditional (or at least typical) for banh mi.

  • March 29, 2009 at 10:22 am

    Norio, you know what? That’s another item I forgot to put in the sandwich (along with the sweet Ewa Onion)…ack! In fact, I bought a package of 3 big Jalapenos at the KCC Farmers Market that morning. Goes to show when you have SO MANY things going into a sandwich, something’s bound to get lost. Ha ha.

    That’s alright. I still have 3 more Banh Mi loaves to make use of with all the veggies, including the onion and Jalapenos. I’ll try using mayo on the next one. I’ll have to check Daiei for that Maggi sauce.

  • March 29, 2009 at 11:00 am

    Pomai, I cried every time I see banh (Vietnamese ) sandwiches. Dental problem made me unable to enjoy any thing that good. Which theycould make it with soft roll not crusty and chewy.

  • March 30, 2009 at 6:19 pm

    looks so ono, I had to re-read because I thought you had bought it from Ba-Le.

  • March 31, 2009 at 9:25 am

    You should try em’ with some BBQ teri beef and all the fixin’s! So ono!


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