Chicken Banh Mi is the much-loved chicken variety of the classic Vietnamese Banh Mi sandwich. It has all the familiar flavours of Banh Mi – pate, mayo, fresh herbs and pickled vegetables – but instead of mystery pink meat slices, it’s made with chicken! Fabulously effortless.
Chicken Banh Mi
Banh Mi is a meat filled French baguette sandwich stuffed with Asian flavours. Born from the time of France’s occupation of Vietnam, I imagine the French just couldn’t cope without crusty bread so they introduced baguettes to the Vietnamese and the Vietnamese filled it with their meats and herbs and voila! The now-world-famous Banh Mi was born.
While Vietnamese locals love the classic mystery-meat-pork-cold-cuts version, there are all sorts of other varieties across Vietnam and around the world these days. Grilled meats, beef, chicken, meatballs, egg, sausage, BBQ pork, fish, egg, to name a few.
Today, I’m sharing a shredded chicken version which is very popular among Sydney locals who remain suspicious of the mystery pink cold-cut slices!!
One tip: Stuff generously. The photo is above is how it looks when squished. Look how full it is before I picked it up. ⬇️ The motto here – don’t skimp on fillings!!!
Ingredients in chicken banh mi
Any sandwich is the sum of its parts, and it holds extra true for Banh Mi. Each ingredient in isolation is not extraordinary. The combination sounds odd, for for Banh Mi first timers. But one bite is all it will take to get you jumping onto the Banh Mi train!
Use a standard crusty white baguette, not a fancy artisan one like sourdough as they are too chewy. The best baguettes used by the most popular Banh Mi vendors in Vietnam have delicate crispy crusts and fluffy soft insides.
If your baguette is not as crusty as you’d like, just pop it in the oven for a few minutes to crisp up. (I do this because it’s just not a proper Banh Mi unless the crust is crispy!)
Chicken – I just use a store bought roast chicken for convenience. You could also make your own. Either use a plain brined roast chicken (so the flesh will be seasoned) or poach chicken breast then use a bit of extra Maggi Seasoning.
The amount of chicken you use will depend on the size of your baguette. You can really be as generous as you want. I’m pretty generous!
Grilled lemongrass chicken – There’s also varieties of chicken Banh Mi made with grilled marinated chicken. If that’s what you’re after, use the chicken in this Lemongrass chicken recipe, cut it into slices and use in place of the shredded chicken. Skip the Maggi seasoning, you won’t need it.
Green onion – You need 2 to 3 pieces that are about as long as your bread roll for each Banh Mi.
Cucumber – You will need 2 thin slices (cut lengthwise) for each Banh Mi. 1 cucumber should be enough.
Fresh chilli – Either birds eye chilli (popular ones here in Australia) or Thai red chilli. Anything red and fiery. It’s all part of a great Banh Mi!
Quick pickled vegetables
This is one of the things that makes Banh Mi so special – the crunch of pickled carrot and daikon. It’s so good!! Don’t even think about skipping this. If you can’t find daikon (white radish), just double up on carrot.
Carrot and daikon (white radish) – These are the two pickled vegetables most commonly used in Banh Mi. They are cut into thin batons so you get a terrific crunch (albeit pickled-softened-crunch!) when you bite in them.
Don’t be tempted to shortcut cutting the vegetables by using a box grater. I tried (the lazy cook in me couldn’t resist) – and it just wasn’t the same. A big vinegary pile of coleslaw-like mush. I missed the crunch!
Rice wine vinegar – This is the vinegar used for the pickled vegetables, an Asian vinegar made from rice. Substitute with apple cider vinegar.
Salt and sugar – For pickling. These pickled vegetables are a bit sweet and bit salty, nice balance between the two.
Spreads and sauces
“It’s not a Banh Mi without pate!” she declares vehemently.
Maggi Seasoning – This is basically like a soy sauce but with more flavour. No, not MSG! 🙂
While some Banh Mi vendors make their own secret sauce, this is the most common sauce used straight out of the bottle. Find it in the Asian or sauce aisle at large grocery stores here in Australia.
Pate – Chicken pate is on theme here though you can use any pate you want. While you’re most welcome to go ahead and indulge in expensive pate, there’s actually no need. With so much other stuff going on in this sandwich, no one’s going to know if you used a budget pate or a premium one!
Mayonnaise – Whole egg mayonnaise or Japanese Kewpie mayonnaise please. I don’t use other types of mayonnaise (too vinegary or too sweet).
How to make a chicken banh mi
Making any type of Banh Mi is just about the order in which you layer. Rich and creamy on the bottom, topped with meaty then finished with fresh.
Split the baguette in half but don’t cut it all the way through.
Butter – Spread butter on the lid of the baguette.
Pate and mayo – Spread pate then mayonnaise on the base of the baguette. Don’t skimp – the most popular Banh Mi joints in Vietnam are always the ones that are most generous with the pate!!
Chicken and sauce – Top with shredded chicken then drizzle with Maggi Seasoning, the secret Banh Mi sauce!
Vegetables & herbs – Stuff in a generous amount of pickled carrot and daikon, layer 2 slices of cucumber then stuff with 2 to 3 green onion stems and a few sprigs of coriander.
Chilli – Lastly, sprinkle with as much fresh chilli as you dare, then devour!
Go hard with the chilli! Little pops of fresh chilli buried amongst the freshness of pickled vegetables is a signature characteristic of Banh Mi so don’t be shy with the chilli! In fact, try it the other way. Be brave, go hard, then if it’s too much for you, just pick ’em out!!
And there you have it. The chicken version of the infamous Banh Mi, filled with flavours like you’ll never experience in a Western sandwich! That combination of the fresh herbs and pickled vegetables with the smear of rich creamy pate and mayonnaise is stellar. It works with many proteins, but using chicken is an easy option if you just use a store bought roast chicken like I do.
If you’re new the world of Banh Mi, this is a good one to start with. Hope you give it a go! – Nagi x
Watch how to make it
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Chicken banh mi (Vietnamese sandwich)
- 2 medium carrots , peeled cut into 2-3mm / 1/10″ batons (Note 1)
- 1/2 large white radish (daikon), peeled, cut the same as carrots (Note 1)
- 1 1/2 cups boiling water
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 4 tsp cooking / kosher salt
- 3/4 cup rice wine vinegar (sub apple cider vinegar)
- 4 crusty white rolls ~ 20cm/8" (Note 2)
- 2 – 3 tbsp salted butter
- 120g/ 4 oz chicken pate (or other pate of choice)
- 4 tbsp whole egg mayonnaise or Kewpie
- 4 cups (400g/ 14oz) shredded chicken (1 small store bought or homemade brined roast chicken, or poached breast)
- 2 – 3 green onion stems , cut to bread roll length (3 pieces per Banh Mi)
- 1 cucumber , thinly sliced lengthwise (2 slices per Banh Mi)
- 1 1/2 cups (lightly packed) coriander/cilantro sprigs
- 1/4 tsp Maggi seasoning per Banh Mi (Note 3)
- 2 – 3 birds eye or Thai red chilli , finely sliced
- Pickle – In a large bowl, dissolve the salt and sugar in the hot water. Stir in vinegar. Add carrots and daikon – they should just about be covered.
- 2 hours – Leave for 2 hours until slightly floppy. Drain well then use per recipe.
- Split the bread roll in half but don't cut all the way through.
- Butter – Spread the lid with butter.
- Pate then mayo – Spread the base with 1 to 2 tablespoons pate (be generous!), then 1 1/2 tbsp mayonnaise.
- Chicken & Maggi – Pile on shredded chicken, drizzle with 1/4 tsp Maggi seasoning (you can always add more later).
- Fresh stuff! Stuff with pickled vegetables, 2 slices of cucumber, 3 slices of green onion and coriander. Finally, sprinkle with as much chilli as you dare. Jam the lid down and devour!
I love a good sandwich.
And there’s more coming soon!
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He was squinting in the sun….
Now I’m squinting in the sun….
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