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Vietnamese Grilled Pork Meatball Sandwiches

Charles Phan, the chef and owner of San Francisco's The Slanted Door, models his pork burgers topped with pickled carrots and cilantro on the classic French-Vietnamese sandwich called banh mi.

slideshow All-Time Favorite Burgers

  • Total Time:
  • Servings: 6

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  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon vegetable oil, plus more for brushing
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Thai chiles or 1 large jalapeño, minced
  • 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons rice wine or dry white wine
  • One 16-ounce can plain tomato sauce
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground pork
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 4 large canned water chestnuts, minced
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves, plus 12 large sprigs
  • 1 tablespoon Korean-style kimchi (see Note)
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
  • 1 large egg beaten with 2 tablespoons water
  • Six 6-inch French bread rolls or pieces of baguette
  • Quick Pickled Carrots
  • Hot sauce, for serving


  1. Soak six 10-inch bamboo skewers in water for 20 minutes; drain.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil. Add the garlic, chiles and shallot and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the rice wine and bring to a boil. Stir in the tomato sauce and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 10 minutes. Stir in 1 tablespoon of the fish sauce.
  3. In a large bowl, gently mix the ground pork with the onion, water chestnuts, cornstarch, chopped cilantro, kimchi, soy sauce, pepper, sesame oil, beaten egg mixture and the remaining 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil and 2 1/2 tablespoons of fish sauce. Using moistened hands, roll the mixture into 30 meatballs. Thread the meatballs onto the skewers and refrigerate until chilled.
  4. Light a grill. Lightly brush the meatballs with vegetable oil and grill over a hot fire until browned and cooked through, about 10 minutes.
  5. Halve the rolls lengthwise without cutting all the way through. Halve the meatballs, stuff them into the rolls and spoon the tomato sauce over them. Top with the Quick Pickled Carrots and cilantro sprigs and serve with hot sauce.

Make Ahead

The raw meatballs can be refrigerated overnight.


Kimchi, spicy pickled and fermented cabbage, is available at Asian markets and many supermarkets.

Contributed By Photo © Tina Rupp Published August 2004

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