Say hello to the dinner of my dreams.
And that is saying a lot, considering that there is no cheese or substantial carbs involved. Who am I?!
The truth is, I’m a sucker for light meals like this, especially when they are as packed with flavor as this dish is. Something light but completely satisfying that is NOT a salad is exactly what the doctor ordered sometimes.
Chances are, you’ve had or at least have heard of the famous Vietnamese banh mi sandwich. It’s been a big food trend for several years now and with good reason. It usually consists of a deliciously marinated meat, like pork or chicken, and tons of freshly pickled veggies, and is served on a light-as-air baguette. It oozes flavor. The flavors are that perfect mix of spicy, savory, and slightly sweet. Basically, my love language.
This deconstructed banh mi dish is no different. It also oozes flavor. But in a lighter, lower carb way! It’s heavenly.
The meatballs themselves are made of ground pork and tons of fun flavorings, but they come together very easily. I mix them up, form them into balls, get them on a baking sheet, and pop ’em in a hot oven. Less than a half hour later, I’ve got delicious, crispy-on-the-outside, tender-and-moist-on-the-inside pork meatballs. They’re delicious all on their own.
While the meatballs are cooking, I prep the other components of the dish: the broth and the quick pickled veggies. I like using carrots and radishes here. You get a little bit of sweetness and a touch of earthiness AND loads of gorgeous color. They make the whole dish pop! I love anything pickled, and these are no exception. They add a lovely color to things but also lighten the dish up with some freshness and briney acidity. They totally “make” the dish for me.
There’s the broth. Gosh, is it good. It’s made very quickly, too, which makes this meal perfect for a busy weeknight. Ginger, garlic, chile paste, peanut butter = all things I adore. It’s amazing how much flavor it ends up having despite the short cooking time. All those flavors infuse beautifully in very little time.
I love meals that come together quickly and easily (who doesn’t?) but without a ton of fuss. These banh mi bowls definitely meet those expectations. Tender, savory pork meatballs that are so light in texture, pickly veggies, and a sweet-spicy-savory broth that just makes me weak in the knees. It’s heaven in a bowl.
We love these banh mi bowl SO much, in fact, that I’ve made them twice in the span of a couple weeks. While light, these banh mi bowls are hearty and satisfying and SERIOUSLY delicious. Dan cannot get enough of them. He was majorly skeptical when I first told him about these, thinking that nothing can compare to a true banh mi sandwich.
He was very pleasantly surprised.
And I think you will be too!
2 garlic cloves, pressed or grated
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
4 scallions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons sugar
Salt and pepper
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 lb ground pork
½ cup rice vinegar or other light vinegar (white distilled or white balsamic)
¼ cup water
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup shaved carrot ribbons
1 cup sliced radishes
¼ cup chopped cilantro or parsley
Drizzle of canola oil
4 garlic cloves, pressed or grated
2 cups beef stock
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon sambal oelek (ground fresh chile paste)
1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 400°F and line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Spray with nonstick cooking spray.
In a large bowl, mix together everything except the egg and pork. Taste the mixture and adjust for seasoning. Whisk in the egg and then fold in the pork, being careful to not overwork the meat.
Form the mixture into 1-inch meatballs and place on the prepared baking sheet. Drizzle each with a little canola oil and place in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the meatballs are cooked through and browned.
Once I get the meatballs into the oven, I make both the pickled vegetables and broth, so that they are both ready and waiting by the time the meatballs come out of the oven.
While the meatballs are cooking, bring the vinegar, water, sugar, and salt to a boil in a small pot. Remove from the heat and add the carrots and radishes to the pan, stirring to combine.
Let the vegetables steep for 20 minutes and then drain. Toss the vegetables with the cilantro and set aside.
Add a drizzle of oil to a pot and then add the garlic. Cook for a minute over medium heat, stirring frequently so the garlic does not burn. Add in the stock, soy sauce, chile paste, peanut butter, and brown sugar. Whisk until smooth.
Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.
To each serving bowl, add the pickled veggies and cooked meatballs (I usually do 3-4 per person). Pour a little of the broth over everything and garnish with additional cilantro. Serve immediately.
Lightly adapted from here.