Ok,  lovely people. Here’s the last of the recipes from the baby shower: Asian-style crostini with Vietnamese oomph. This is one of those things that I’m sure has been done already somewhere else, but for me it was literally an in-the-shower lightning bolt of inspiration.

I’d been ruminating about what other Southeast Asian type foods would work well as cocktail nibbles and had put summer rolls on my notional menu. But, they’re kind of a pain to maintain once they’re made; the rice paper wrappers need to be kept from drying out, but not get moist enough to stick together and tear. Bah…

So, I was rawther pleased when–mid-shampoo–it occured to me that bánh mì, the traditional Vietnamese sandwich, would be great shrunk down to crostini-size. Following hotly on the heels of pho, bánh mì seem to be the next big culnary export from Vietnam.

It’s easy to see why, as they manage to pack a whole lot of flavor into not a lot of space. While the fillings vary greatly, one can generally expect to find pickled daikon, cilantro, pâté, mayo, and various other exciting meaty things tucked into a short Vietnamese style baguette (made with wheat and rice flour, a detail we’re choosing to ignore today…).

I elected to top my mini bánh mì with quickly sauteed marinated pork, and they were delicious. Just like the full-sized originals, these bites had a little of everything–rich, unctuous pâté; bright, pickly radish; verdant cilantro, crispy-caramelized pork, and spicy-creamy mayo. With all that good stuff going on, there’s not much room for failure.

I’m not gonna lie to you, however, there are lots of moving parts to this one. The pork, the pickle, and the sauce all have to be prepared, and then the assembly, while not hard, does take a bit of time. But they’re super delicious, and those guests who come on time and want to help? Yeah, this is what they should be doing.

Also, upon reflection, I think that the red-cooked barbeque pork available from Chinese take-outs the world over would probably be a pretty good stand in if one wanted to punt on the whole making pork chops angle. If I do these again, I’ll definitely be trying that out.

The below makes about 20, but if you’re going to do this kind of thing, bumping the amounts isn’t really that much more work, so feel free to throw a BIG party and multiply the recipe. For the shower, we had a little under 20 people and doubled the recipe. Even with so much other food, there were only three of these left by the end of the night.

Bánh Mì Bites
Yield: ~20 pieces

Caramel Pork
2 1/2″ thick center cut pork loin chops
3 cloves garlic
1 2″ piece ginger
2 tbs soy sauce
1 tbs fish sauce
juice of 1/2 lime
1 tsp ground white pepper
1 1/2 tbs brown sugar
1 tsp vegetable oil

Peel and mince the garlic and the ginger. Combine in a small bowl with other soy sauce, fish sauce, lime juice, white pepper and brown sugar. Stir till completely mixed together and the sugar has dissolved. Submerge pork in marinade and cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let sit for an hour or, if not planning to cook just then, put in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight.

In a small frying pan, warm the oil over high heat. Remove chops from the marinade and pat dry with paper towels. When oil shimmers, add the chops and reduce heat to medium-high. Saute till the internal temperature reaches 145° (NOT 160°, the USDA has finally revamped its standards), about 4-5 min per side, flipping once or twice. Set aside to cool.

Daikon & Carrot Pickle
1 lb piece of daikon radish (not too thick)
2 large carrots
1 tbs salt
1/2 c sugar
3/4 c white vinegar
1/4 c cider vinegar

Peel the daikon and carrots and cut them into ~4″ matchsticks. Put them in a medium bowl and sprinkle over the salt. Using clean hands, gently toss/massage the salt into the vegetables for a couple of minutes. They’ll soften a lot and release a lot of liquid–the daikon in particular. Once they’re nicely noodle-y and flexible, put the vegetables in a strainer and rinse off the salt.

Rinse out the bowl as well and combine the sugar and vinegars in it. Pop the bowl in the microwave for a minute or so to warm up the vinegar. Remove and stir till the sugar is dissolved. Add the vegetables to the vinegar mixture and let sit, covered for at least an hour. Refrigerate if not using within a few hours. Can be kept a week or so.

Spicy Mayo
4 tbs mayonnaise
2 tbs sweet Thai chili sauce
2 tsp Sriracha hot sauce (to taste)

Whisk ingredients together in a small bowl till thoroughly combined. It’ll be used sparingly on the bites, so be generous with the hot sauce. Scrape into a small zip-top bag and refrigerate till needed.

Assembly
1 baguette
5 oz goose liver pâté
daikon pickle (above)
1 bunch cilantro
caramel pork (above)

Assemble your mise en place: get out a cutting board, your serving platter, and the various components and ingredients enumerated above. Slice the pork thinly across the grain and set aside. Rinse and dry the cilantro.

Cut the baguette into ~1cm slices. Spread each slice with a thin layer of pâté, then top the pate with a few pieces of daikon pickle (shake off the excess pickling liquid before hand), a few leaves of cilantro, and a ribbon or so of the pork.

Snip off the tiniest corner of the zip-top bag holding the spicy mayo and drizzle some onto the finished bite. Repeat till you run out of ingredients and serve immediately.