Bahn Mi Chicken Burgers

Last week all the cranky, crabby, sun-deprived Northwesterners got what they have all been wishing for: sunshine and a temperature above 70 degrees.  If you've never experienced the first warm Summer day in Seattle, let me tell you that it is an actual occurrence, not just another day to tick off of your calendar.  Everyone drives around with their windows down, music blaring; sun-dresses and sandals are out in full force; any and all excuses are given to be outside.  Basically it's like one big happy party out there.

Never the type to bow out on a party, the boyfriend and I decided it would be the perfect day to drag our tiny grill out to the parking lot of our building and have a mini barbecue in honor of the lovely weather.  We had chicken marinating for two days in a yummy, yogurty, cilantro and curry laden mixture...and it was just begging to be grilled.

In our daily emails back and forth concerning the night's menu, we were trying to figure out just what to do with the chicken once we had grilled it.  Somewhere in there I had a most delightful epiphany: bahn mi burgers.

Never had bahn mi before?  Think of it as the sub sandwich of Vietnamese cuisine.  Yummy seasoned meat, thick mayonnaise, cilantro, fresh cucumber, crunchy pickled vegetables, jalapenos (if you can handle it), and a whole lot of deliciousness served up on a soft yet somehow crunchy baguette.  But, Anna, why burgers?  I thought you said they were sandwiches?  Well, we happened to have hamburger buns and chicken that would fit perfectly on those buns, that's why.

I ran into a small problem though: you really need those crunchy pickled vegetables; they're key to the flavor and texture of the traditional dish!  A quick search of the ever helpful world wide web yielded this perfect and quick recipe for pickled daikon and carrots, which only needed to rest in their pickling brine for a one hour minimum before indulging.  Begin pickling sequence:
You have to 'knead' the matchsticked carrots and daikon with a bit of salt and sugar until you have extracted a certain amount of natural juices from the veggies.  The recipe states that you should be able to easily bend the daikon almost in half without breaking, then you know you're done.  Ever amazed by the chemistry of food, I kept shrieking and jumping around that it was actually working.  Careful shrieking and jumping, mind you, there was Pyrex involved...
You drain, rinse, and squeeze any remaining liquid out through a colander and proceed to jar up your veg.  I think the best part about this whole process is that there is NO hot water bath involved in the preservation of the pickles.  You simply wash your jars (I used two 16oz jars and had a teeny bit left over that went into a bowl, since it would be eaten that evening), pack in your veg, make your brine, and pour it into the jars.
Then you seal, refrigerate, and wait.  You only have to wait one hour until you can taste your pickles.  How easy is THAT?  The recipe I followed says they will stay fresh and edible up to four months in your refrigerator, so you don't have to worry about eating them all up in a short amount of time.
Before I get ahead of myself, let me tell you what I marinated the chicken in.  It's based on a satay marinade we use a lot, but I added in a bit more flavor:
  • A big plop of plain yogurt
  • About 2-3oz. of cream cheese (Weird, yes, but I was running low on yogurt so I had to substitute.  If you have more yogurt on hand than I did, just use two big plops of yogurt and omit the cream cheese.)
  • A BIG handful of cilantro
  • 2 teaspoons of basic yellow curry powder
  • A squirt of Sriracha sauce (This is the bright red sauce in a big squirt bottle you can find in the Asian food aisle of pretty much any grocery store; everyone should have this in their repertoire, you can use it in so many ways.)
  •  3 big garlic cloves
  • A thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and cut into a few chunks (Tip: ginger freezes excellently if you place it in a plastic freezer bag, that way you can always have some on hand!  Just let it thaw for about 20 minutes before you try and peel or cut it...otherwise you'll have to be like me and sheepishly ask the boyfriend to do it for you.  Plus, frozen ginger is just downright cold.)
  • Pinch of salt
I mixed this all up in my mini food processor until totally smooth, then poured it over about a pound of boneless chicken thighs and let it marinate for two days.  I'm sure you could marinate it for just a few hours, as the marinade sort of adheres to the meat and makes a yummy coating when you grill it, rather than soak in like a traditional, oil/vinegar based marinade.
Once your chicken thighs and hamburger buns are grilled and cooled a bit, you can start the assembly line.  Smear a little bit of mayonnaise on the bun and drizzle a very small amount of soy sauce on one side.  I like to put all the small toppings under the meat so it stays in place a bit better, so next I layered in the matchsticks of cucumber and pickled veg, topped with sprigs of fresh cilantro and sliced jalapenos.  A word of warning here: the jalapenos are hot.  I put three on one burger and my head was fire engine red and covered in a delicate sheen of perspiration by the time I was done eating.  I am the type of person who actually enjoys this type of spicy torture from time to time, so if you can't handle the heat, just don't go there.  Please.  Continue your assembly with a piece of chicken (and a bit more cilantro in my case) and the other side of the bun.
At this point, you're ready to eat your crunchy, spicy, flavorful, and immensely delicious bahn mi chicken burger.  This is one of those food creations you could add and subtract to; make some and tell me what you did to make it your own!

1 comment:

Hi friends! Thank you for lingering in my Victory Garden, I hope you enjoyed yourself while you were here!

If you have a specific question for me regarding my blog, photographs, Etsy shop, or anything really, please email me at