I love banh mi. The crisp-crusted bread with savory mayo and the umami of asian condiments. The yummy char siu (that’s my favorite filling), the cilantro, the crunch of cold cucumber. But truly, what makes a bahn mi is the pickle. The do chua is what takes an otherwise somewhat ordinary sandwich and transforms it into a mid-week treat. Good food is all about balance–some sweet to offset sour, a bright, vinegar-y crunch to cut through the silky fat of pork and mayonnaise, enough salt to bring out the flavors of all of it together. That’s what a good do chua brings to the banh mi. Here’s a great (and easy) recipe for a delicious do chua.
If you want to branch out, or you just want to master the other basic components of a banh mi, check out The Banh Mi Handbook. You’ll be ready for summer picnics with all the meats, breads, spreads and pickles to make all kinds of delicious Vietnamese sandwiches.
Daikon and Carrot Pickle
1 medium daikon, about 1 lb (I’ve used regular red radish in a pinch. if you’re having a hard time finding daikon you can use turnip as well)
1 large carrot, about 6 oz.
1 t salt
2 t plus ½ c sugar
1 ¼ c distilled white vinegar
1 c lukewarm water
Peel and cut the daikon into sticks about 3 inches long and ¼ in thick, the width of an average chopstick. Peel and cut the carrot to match the size of the daikon sticks but slightly skinnier. Put the vegetables in a bowl. Toss with the salt and 2 t of the sugar. Massage and knead the vegetables for 3 minutes, or until you can bend a piece of daikon and the tips touch without breaking. They will have lost about a quarter of their original volume.
Flush with running water, then drain in a mesh strainer or colander. Press or shake to expel excess water. Transfer to a 4-cup jar.
For the brine, stir together the remaining ½ c sugar with the vinegar and water until dissolved. Pour into the jar to cover well. Discard any excess brine. Use after 1 hour or refrigerate for up to a month.