Five years ago this week, I was in Oakland California preparing to make one of the greatest changes in my life. My apartment in San Jose was all packed up. Brendan’s place in San Francisco’s Mission district was also vacated. There would be no more circling the blocks in attempt to parallel park on Albion Street. No more homeless guys or syringes littered near my car.
Weeks before, we traveled out to Utah to look at places to live. Graduate school would take us there, and I needed to see if I could pry myself away from the warm, flaky egg tarts in San Francisco’s Chinatown, and cheap and savory Banh Mi sandwiches in San Jose.
My greatest fear in moving to Utah would be missing out on all the Bay Area food. I would be living without the security of an Asian grocery store 10 minutes away, and easy access to the best pho this side of the planet (if you go, bring cash).
Brendan and I were about to combine not only our household belongings, but entire lives together. I was going to marry the greatest guy I had ever known, and it both thrilled and worried me. Excited because here was the the breath of fresh air I had been searching for all my life. I loved him. But a little apprehension creeped over me because, really? Back to Utah? Where I had lived during all my undergrad years? I must really love him.
What would this move bring?
A few weeks before we got married, we were making the commute from San Jose back into San Francisco on the 101 and we heard a lovely song on Brendan’s playlist. Traffic was light this evening, and so were our hearts. “Five Years” from by David Bowie came on, and we grew quiet listening to the lyrics. I remember thinking, “I wonder where Brendan and I will be in five years?”
I pictured us possibly back in Northern California (please, oh please). Living near family again, hopefully in my favorite city of San Francisco. But really, I could live anyplace in the world. Brendan was aiming for a Ph.D., and he could study anywhere. My military-transiant upbringing has given me permanent wanderlust for the rest of my life, so in five years, I knew we would have traveled a lot.
I was sure we would have settle down by then, too. We both wanted a family, so I counted on having at least a baby by then. Maybe a dog. I could like dogs.
Flash forward five years and we still live in Utah. No dog yet, and no where near a city. With the addition of my two youngest sisters residing near by, it looks like we will be here for awhile. Ironically enough, in Utah, I live closer to an Asian grocery store than I did in San Jose. I actually have easy access to three. Utah is good to me.
Despite my abidance in the suburbs, I have also gotten my wish to travel. We’ve been to Thailand and Laos. Lived in London and Washington D.C.. While Brendan is no longer shooting for a Ph.D., he’s in graduate school none the less. We have two wonderful kids, and I started a food blog to remember my mom.
Even with some of these tiny spurts of happiness, I still am very far away from my beloved Banh Mi.
Sometimes I eat ones here that are close, (oh so close) but they aren’t as generous with their pickled vegetables, or the bread is break-your-teeth hard.
So, out of severe Banh Mi withdrawals, Brendan and I have created our own interpretation of our favorite Bay Area cheap eat. Desperation calls for resourcefulness. Thank you Utah, for making me a better cook. Turns out I like you after all.
Recently, to give tribute to summer, we made the Banh Mi into a burger.
We’ve been toying with the idea of a Banh Mi burger for awhile now, ever since we ate Spike’s version at his Good Stuff Eatery in D.C. Sweet pickled daikon and carrots in a burger? Amazing. Brendan and I though, wanted to do things a little different and use a pork patty in place of beef.
Pork is such a staple in Vietnamese cooking, I felt it a travesty not to incorporate it. Using pork as a burger can be a little tricky, handled poorly, ground pork can be cotton-mouth dry and also a little bland. Brendan thought of adding bacon to the ground pork, and the rest is juicy pork burger history.
In addition to the salty bacon fat, this pork Banh Mi burger is flavored with hints of spicy ginger and just a little kick of hot white pepper. My husband brilliantly thought of cooking the patties over the stove in a cast iron pan, instead of fire grilling. He didn’t want to sacrifice any of that flavorful bacon fat to the propane grill gods.
After the burger is cooked to a safe 160 degrees, it’s placed in a cozy french hamburger bun (to give homage to the Banh Mi baguettes) and topped with the typical toppings of pickled carrots (daikon can be hard to find in Utah), sliced cucumbers, cilantro, paté and hot jalapeno.
Oh, and about the paté. I have no idea where to find the stuff, so I substitute with regular ol’ braunschweiger, which I found in the and deli meat aisle of my local grocery store. I think this swap works just fine. Apparently, I’m not the only one.
If you have access to an Asian store, pick up some Japanese Kewpie mayonnaise to use on your burger. It’s so much richer than the regular American kind, and the addition of rice vinegar instead of white makes it’s extra special. Best Foods/Hellman’s is really the only other option. Please don’t even bring up Miracle Whip.
I give all the credit for this Vietnamese inspired burger to my wonderful husband, Brendan. While we both brainstormed and picked apart ideas, he is the one that came up with the winning solution. Bit of bacon in a pork burger? Genius. Bravo, husband. Here’s to another five wonderful years.
P.S. I’m also dedicating this post to the Delicious Vietnam round up hosted by the Ravenous Couple. If you want to try some truly inspiring Vietnamese food, head over to their blog. You won’t be disappointed.
4 french hamburger buns
for the toppings:
cuccumbers, peeled and cut into strips
springs of cilantro, ends cut
1 jalapeno, sliced thin
braunschweiger or paté
mayonnaise (Kewpie or Best Foods)
for the burger:
1 lb pork sirloin tip, cut into chunks
6 oz. bacon
2 teaspoons grated ginger
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
canola oil for frying
Cut the pork into 1 inch chunks and begin grinding it in a food processor with the blade attachment. When the pork is about a third of the way done cut the bacon into small pieces and grind it with the pork until done. Place the meat in a large bowl and stir in grated ginger and white pepper. Form four patties and lay them on parchment paper, or any flat, covered surface. Generously sprinkle salt on both sides of the patties a couple of minutes before cooking.
Heat a cast iron pan over medium heat. Add enough oil to cover the surface of the pan. When the pan is hot, cook the patties on each side, until the crust is golden brown and the juices run clear. About 6-8 minutes. Remove the patties from the heat and prepare to assemble the burgers.
To assemble, spread mayonasie on one side of the bun and the Braunschweiger on the other. Place the cooked pork patty in the bun and top with the pickled carrots, cucumbers, cilantro and jalapenos.
If you’re planning a barbecue, try these and let me know how it turns out.