Banh-mi Wrap: Vietnamese Grilled Pork Wrap with Pickled Carrots and Mint
- Pickled Carrots:
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 cups shredded carrots (10 ounces)
- Marinated Pork:
- 1/4 cup soy sauce (I use gluten-free low-sodium tamari)
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon five-spice powder
- 1 teaspoon garam masala, store-bought or homemade, recipe follows
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 small shallot, minced (about 3 tablespoons)
- 1 pound (1/2-inch thick) boneless center-cut pork loin chops
- 4 flour tortillas (gluten-free alternative: brown rice tortillas, or use small corn ones and make these as tacos!)
- Mayonnaise, as needed
- 1 English cucumber, sliced thinly on the bias
- 1 bunch fresh cilantro
- 1 bunch fresh mint
- 4 Fresno chiles, or jalapeno peppers, sliced thinly
- 2 limes, each cut into 4 wedges
- Aarti's Hot (not heavy!) Homemade Garam Masala:
- 1/4 cup green cardamom pods, shelled, husks discarded (about 2 tablespoons of seeds)
- 3 tablespoons whole cloves
- 4 large black cardamom pods, shelled, husks discarded (about 1 tablespoon of seeds), optional
- 3 large cinnamon sticks (if you have the kind you get at Indian stores, it's about 3 tablespoons of cinnamon bark bits)
For the pickled carrots: In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, vinegar, and salt until dissolved. Add the carrots, toss to coat and allow to pickle for about 2 hours.
For the pork: Combine the soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar, five-spice powder, garam masala, black pepper, garlic and shallots in a re-sealable plastic bag. Seal and shake until well dissolved. Add the pork to the bag, massage the marinade into the pork and marinate for 1 hour.
When you're ready to cook the pork, grab a large cast-iron skillet. Place the pan over high heat until it is smoking. Using a pair of tongs, pull each pork chop out of the marinade, shake off the excess and place it in the pan. Don't crowd the pan - no meat should be touching! You want the meat to sear, not steam.
After about 2 minutes, flip each chop; it should be a caramel brown color. Cook another minute on the other side and remove from the pan. If you're cooking in batches, cook the remaining chops.
Slice the chops into thin strips.
For the sandwiches: Warm the tortillas up over an open flame so they become soft and pliable. I also like to char them a little! If you don't have a gas stove, warm them in a pan over medium heat, or pop them in a microwave for 10 to 15 seconds. Smear a little mayo down the middle of the tortilla. Then, pile a little layer of pickled carrots, some cucumber slices, a few sprigs of cilantro, some mint leaves, pork chop strips, a few slices of chiles a and squeeze of fresh lime juice over the top. Wrap, and secure with toothpick. Wrap in parchment paper if you're taking them to the beach, or just eat right away if you're not!Aarti's Hot (not heavy!) Homemade Garam Masala:
Add the green cardamom seeds, cloves, black cardamom seeds and cinnamon sticks to a spice/coffee grinder and grind until fine. Store in an airtight container away from direct sunlight. Yield: about 1/2 cup.