Spring is in the air so let’s look to fresh flavors from Asian herbs, lemongrass, ginger, and crunchy vegetables to highlight pears. In this new take on the popular banh mi sandwich, you’ll find ripe pears mixed into mini meatballs that are inspired by the flavorful flattened patties served at traditional banh mi stands throughout Vietnam. They also appear in a crunchy, quick-pickled mélange of pears and carrots that tops the sandwiches. The meatballs and tangy topping are tucked into individual baguettes and adorned with cucumbers, jalapeños, and vibrant herbs.
Serves 6 (Makes about 18 meatballs)
Pickled Pear and Carrot Topping
1 cup pears cut into 2-inch-by-1/8-inch sticks
1 cup carrots cut into 2-inch-by-1/8-inch sticks
1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 pound ground chicken
3/4 cup peeled USA Pears cut in 1/4-inch dice
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
2 stalks lemongrass, trimmed, peeled, and tender inner core minced
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon Vietnamese fish sauce
2 teaspoons sriracha
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil, plus more as needed
6 individual baguettes or 2 baguettes cut into 6 (8- to 10-inch-long) segments
2/3 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon sriracha chile sauce
18 cucumber slices
2 to 3 thinly sliced jalapeño chiles
12 fresh cilantro sprigs
Fresh Thai basil leaves (optional)
To make the topping: Toss all the ingredients in a medium bowl. Let stand at room temperature for 1 hour, tossing occasionally. Use immediately or refrigerate, covered, for up to 2 days.
To make the meatballs: Combine all of the ingredients, except the sesame oil, in a medium bowl.
Heat the oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Working in 2 batches, cook the meatball patties by scooping up heaping tablespoons of the meat mixture and dotting them around the pan at least 1-inch apart. Cook until nicely browned on the first side, then flip them over and sear on the second side until cooked through, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Repeat to cook the remaining meat mixture, adding more oil to the pan as needed.
To make the sandwiches: Cut the baguettes in half lengthwise. Pull out some of the bread from the top half to make room for the fillings. In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise and sriracha. Spread the sriracha mayo on the cut sides of each baguette. Arrange the cucumber slices on the bottom halves. Add 3 meatballs to each, and top with the drained pickle topping, jalapeno slices, and herbs.
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Photography: George Barberis (@georgebarberis)
Recipe and Styling: Andrea Slonecker (@andreaslonecker)