Succulent Smoked Pork Belly Burnt Ends Bánh Mì Sandwiches

"It is a hard matter, my fellow citizens, to argue with the belly, since it has no ears." Marcus Porcius Cato

Bánh Mì is a Vietnamese sandwich similar to a po’ boy, hoagie, or sub. Only better. It hits all the notes – succulent pork, spicy jalapenos, savory mayo, and tangy pickled veggies.

The Vietnamese fell in love with French baguettes and mayonnaise during French occupation from the 1880s through 1956 and Bánh Mì translates roughly into baguette or bread. They are typically stuffed with pork, beef, chicken, or sausages, with pork belly among the most popular. Pickled vegetables are also a common and we think they're necessary to balance the fat of the belly and the mayo.

Instead of simply roasting the pork belly as is the Vietnamese custom, we're going to do a little fusion here by stealing a technique from American competition barbecue cooks. When they cook beef brisket they often cut off the upper, fattier "point" muscle and cut it into cubes, give it an extra dose of smoke, and douse it with a glaze. They call these cubes "burnt ends" but they are neither burnt nor ends. Originally burnt ends were made by removing the thin edges of the brisket that often got overcooked while waiting for the thicker center to cook. Since they come from the point, modern competition burnt ends are tender and succulent, never overcooked, and often preferred to the slices of brisket. Well we're going to use the same technique on cubes of pork belly. They will make your knees buckle.

It is crucial that you use a smoker or cook the meat over indirect heat on your grill. We used the trusty Pit Barrel Cooker, probably the best buy in a smoker. If you cook directly above coals or gas burners, the melting fat will cause flareups reminiscent of solar flares, and your meat will burn to a meteor-like crisp.

Makes. 4 sandwiches about 6" long

Takes. 5 to 6 hours

Ingredients

Meat & rub

3 pounds pork belly, skin removed
1/2 teaspoon Five Spice Powder
1/2 teaspoon ginger powder
1 tablespoon brown sugar, medium or dark
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Quick Pickled Vegetables

1/4 cup unseasoned rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoon white sugar

1/2 cup radishes, preferably daikon if you can find it, cut into matchsticks
1/2 cup carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

Mayonnaise

1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/8 teaspoon sesame oil or 1 teaspoon soy sauce

Glaze

1/3 cup honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sriracha or hot sauce of your choice

Bread & garnish

24" of baguette
2 thin sliced red or green jalapenos
1/4 cup cilantro or Thai basil
6" of thinly sliced cucumber
1/2 cup shredded cabbage

About the pork belly. Pork belly is usually mostly fat, but some sections are closer to 50/50 meat to fat and a few even have more meat than fat. For this recipe, the more meat the better.

Some like it hot. Add a few squirts of your favorite hot sauce to the mayo.

Method

1) Mix the rub in a bowl. With a sharp knife, cut the pork belly into 1" cubes, moisten the surface with wet hands, and liberally season with the rub.

2) Prepare the smoker or grill for low and slow indirect heat at about 225°F. When you are ready to cook, toss on a couple hard wood chunks or a handful of chips on the fire and place the pork belly cubes on the indirect side. Smoke for an hour, roll them around and smoke for another hour.

3)  While the pork is cooking, mix the water, vinegar, salt, and sugar in a pan and bring to a boil to dissolve the salt and sugar. Turn off the heat and add the matchsticked radishes, matchsticked carrots, and sliced red onions while the pickling liquid is still hot. Let them steep and cool for 15 to 30 minutes and then chill. More on the subject here: Quick Pickles.

4) Mix the mayonnaise ingfredients and refrigerate until needed.

5) Mix the glaze and let it sit at room temp.

6) After two hours of bathing in smoke, remove the pork belly cubes, place them in a pan, and roll them around in the glaze. Cover the pan with aluminum foil then place in indirect heat for another 90 minutes to steam and tenderize the pork. If you want you can move it indoors. Remove the foil and roast for about another 30 minutes in the pan to crisp the edges. Check every ten minutes to make sure the glaze does not burn. After a total cook time of about four hours, your pork belly burnt ends are ready to eat.

7) To prepare the sandwich, slice the baguette lengthwise but don't cut all the way through.  Apply a layer of the prepared mayonnaise on the bottom half. Lay down a layer of shredded cabbage on top of the mayonnaise. Next, place the cucumber slices, the pickled vegetables, and jalapenos. Then pile on the pork belly burnt ends and top with cilantro or Thai basil.

banh

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