As with the po’ boy, the most important aspect in banh mi construction is the bread. It looks like a French baguette, but the wheat flour is cut with rice flour to create a lighter, crisper, somehow sog-proof vehicle for the porky, livery goodness within. If you’re lucky enough to live in a part of the United States with a Vietnamese bakery, like Dong Phuong in New Orleans, get your bread there. Otherwise, as for po’ boys, try the lightweight “Italian” or “French” bread that’s delivered daily to most large grocery stores. The shape isn’t exactly right, but the consistency is closer in spirit than actual French baguette.
You can, of course, buy pâté for this sandwich, but it’s easy and fast enough to cook some fresh chicken livers and make a softer-edged variation on chicken liver vinaigrette, as per below.
½ pound chicken livers, trimmed of connective tissue and fat
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 to 2 tablespoons canola oil, as needed
½ cup mayonnaise
4 (7-inch) Vietnamese baguettes, sliced lengthwise
1 (7-ounce) can classic SPAM, thinly sliced
2 cups do chua (pickled daikon and carrots), drained well and patted dry
2 Thai bird chili or jalapeño peppers, very thinly sliced
8 sprigs fresh cilantro, leaves only, coarsely chopped
Soy sauce to taste
Blender or food processor
Season the livers well with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large, heavy-bottom sauté pan until it foams and subsides. Add the livers and cook for about 3 minutes per side, until nicely seared. Remove the livers from the pan and transfer them to the blender. Deglaze the pan with the wine and vinegar, stirring well with a wooden spoon to dislodge the browned bits. Once the sharp smell of alcohol and vinegar subsides, remove the pan from the heat and transfer its contents to the blender and puree with the livers, adding a bit of oil as needed to keep the mixture loose. Scrape out into a mixing bowl to cool. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. This will yield about 2 cups loose pâté.
In a clean mixing bowl, combine the remaining butter, which should be at room temperature, and the mayonnaise and mix well to incorporate. With a butter knife, spread the inside of each baguette with some of the mayonnaise mixture, and then with some of the liver mixture. Add a layer of sliced SPAM to each sandwich, then top with do chua, pepper slices, and cilantro. Season with a sprinkle of soy sauce and serve at once.
Originally published in Appetites: A Cookbook by Anthony Bourdain and Laurie Woolever.