I spent a week in Portland, Oregon with my husband this fall. We fell in love with the city instantly and felt right at home with its laid back vibe. We hiked Mt. Hood, explored Hawthorne, did wine tastings straight from the barrel, I took a pole dancing class, and coveted the Portland Farmer’s Market.
It was just the getaway we needed – a lot of time outdoors, a lot of good wine, and a lot of even better food. The first meal we had came within an hour of stepping off the plane and it was a Banh Mi sandwich. It’s a Vietnamese sandwich that has become quite the trend recently, and I feel like we got treated to one of the best around.
The small bakery cafe served up the best French bread I have ever tasted. Stuffed inside, like any traditional Banh Mi, was pork, vegetables, and a dressing. Before I’d finished the first bite I knew I’d found something spectacular.
So good, in fact, I knew I’d have to create my own, especially after I learned that a standard Banh Mi can hit 600 calories with the pork, bread, and dressing! With simple ingredients like pork and vegetables, why couldn’t I make one that was better?
I got my chance when a holiday party needed something more substantial than cookies and champagne. Inspired by a true Banh Mi, I turned this traditional recipe into sliders and shaved off a few hundred calories in the process. Each of these sliders has only 181 calories!
I started with a two-pound pork tenderloin, which is a leaner cut of meat, and created a rub with coriander, ground thyme, dried basil, turmeric, and garlic. The tenderloin went in the Crock Pot where it was surrounded with chopped apples, fresh ginger root, bay leaves, and vegetable broth. This cooked for four hours.
Then I prepared the vegetables, which can stay in the refrigerator until the sandwiches are ready to assemble. I chopped a carrot and English cucumber julienne (or matchstick) style and tossed this with freshly grated ginger root, chopped cilantro, lime juice, and a minced serrano pepper. It smelled fresh and light and good enough to eat on its own!
Rather than using the standard dressing, which is quite fatty with mayo, egg yolk, and oil or butter, I opted for something a little sweeter and a little more seasonal – apple cider. I made a reduction with apple cider and honey to create a syrup-like sauce to finish the sandwiches. It turned out to offer an unexpected yet fully complementary flavor.
I then used whole grain dinner rolls as my slider buns and put a swipe of apple cider reduction and a pile of the vegetables on the bottom side. This was topped with the pulled pork and finished with the last bun.
The result was a teeny little Banh Mi sandwich that lived up to the tremendous lore of this traditional Vietnamese dish. The flavors all marry very well between the savory taste of the pork with the sweet reduction and whisper of spice from the serrano. With two pounds of pork we were able to serve 24 slider sandwiches, which was more than enough for our party and it will no doubt satisfy a crowd at your next party, too.
While the flavor of recreating a part of our Portland vacation was exciting, the fact that we cut more than 400 calories off this recipe was the most impressive part! You can have two Banh Mi sliders for 362 calories, which isn’t too bad if you ask me.
Serves 24 / 2 sliders per serving
2 lb. pork tenderloin
16 oz. low-sodium vegetable broth
2 bay leaves
1 tsp. coriander
1 tsp. ground thyme
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. garlic
1 large carrot
1 English cucumber
fresh ginger root
1 small bunch cilantro, chopped
1 serrano pepper, minced
juice of half a lime
24 whole wheat slider buns or dinner rolls
1 1/2 cups apple cider
1/4 cup honey
1. Combine all of the spices and thoroughly rub the pork tenderloin. Place in a Crock Pot with chopped apples and a few pieces of ginger root and pour in the broth. Set to high and cook 3-4 hours.
2. Prepare the vegetable topping by chopping the carrot and cucumber julienne style (like long, thin matchsticks). Zest or grate the remaining ginger root; you’ll want about 1-2 tsp. Roughly chop the cilantro and mince the serrano pepper (remove the seeds before chopping to remove the heat but keep the flavor). This can be done a few hours in advance and sealed in an air-tight container or baggy and refrigerated.
3. Just before serving, prepare the apple cider reduction. Over high heat pour the cider in to a pot on the stove top. Stir frequently. When the cider has mostly reduced, after 8-10 minutes, reduce the heat slightly and add the honey. Stir until a thick syrup has formed (keep warm until ready to use).
4. Remove the pork tenderloin from the Crock Pot. It should be tender and juicy. Shred the meat by hand or using two forks.
5. Spread each slider bun with the apple cider reduction. Evenly divide the meat and vegetables across all 24 buns.