Red-cooked Pork Belly Banh Mi

At (almost) all hours, I can hear the sound of cars honking their horns, occasional sirens, traffic…the sounds that remind you that you live in the middle of a busy city. This is the symphony that I have slept to for the past five years…the same symphony that little C has learned to sleep to as well. No birds chirping, no fresh breeze, no vegetable garden to tend or wide green spaces where little C can roam.

Am I complaining? Not at all! I love living in the city. I love the hustle and bustle. I love being near everything that I want to be near. I love having a 24-hour pharmacy nearby. I love looking over my teeny-tiny balcony seeing the windows of the flats nearby, wondering at all the stories unfolding in each. I love seeing all the people, rushing here or there, always with purpose. I love knowing, even during those times when I am lazy and just dig myself deeper into the duvet, that it all goes on around me – that quick, unending, untiring heartbeat…the life under the concrete, fed by sweat and aspirations.

I love the energy of cities.

Nevertheless, even the most ardent devotees of the concrete jungle need to escape, even for just a weekend. A change of scenery, even if you are just a short hop away can do wonders for recharging the body, mind, and soul. And if that escape involves good friends, great food, and a lovely setting, well, even better!

So I’ll be off for the weekend, we are packing the little one and all her accouterments into our tiny red car and heading for cooler breezes.

Meanwhile, I leave you with this, a wonderful revival of our left-over red-cooked pork belly. I can’t take credit for the idea though. I came from my friend M who, when I posted this up, mentioned that it would make a great banh mi. Now, don’t get me started on all I ate in Hanoi, or how I hopped on the back of our hotel’s staff’s scooter to get to his banh mi place. I thought it was a genius idea to say the very least. And it was...and how!

A banh mi is a Vietnamese sandwich of their local baguette (which has a softer crust than a French baguette) and is traditionally made with pickled vegetables (carrots and daikon), cucumber, chili, cilantro, pate, mayonnaise, and some sort of meat. You can also add a fried egg. Yes, yum.

For this version: I spread one side of the baguette with mayo, piled on some wild rocket, then some homemade pickled cucumber slices I had in the fridge, put the slices of red cooked pork belly over that, topped with some pickled carrot and a generous sprinkling of my latest herb-discovery-turned-obsession…micro cilantro. The result? An absolutely stellar sandwich. I owe M a great debt. Melty sweet/sticky/spicy pork belly, peppery arugula, sharp-tangy pickles, and the distinct flavor of the micro cilantro (it’s like a combination of cilantro the leaf and coriander the seed…amazing I tell you). I would have given this sandwich a standing ovation if I hadn’t been too busy devouring it.

I got the micro cilantro from some lovely purveyors at my neighborhood market (the wild arugula too for that matter). If I can’t grow my own herbs and vegetables at least I know there are some great people putting passion into bringing them to us.

Perhaps someday, I will want that plot of land enough to pack up and look for our little bit of “peace and quiet and open air”, but until then my heart belongs here. And a weekend escape is all I need. Have a wonderful weekend everyone!