Thursday, March 13, 2014

Banh mi burger and charred romaine

You all should know about my extreme love of all Asian food by now, in particular Thai dishes. While the curries are incredible, I think it might be the dishes made with cilantro/ginger/lemongrass/citrus/fish sauce/heat that really get my taste buds in a tizzy. I can't explain it, but those flavors are a magic combination for me.

It's no surprise then that one of my favorite dishes have been these Vietnamese-inspired banh me pork sandwiches.

But what do you do when you want all those flavors without the hassle of slicing the meat, marinating the slices, and grilling them a piece at a time? Well, you make banh me burgers! I used chicken, which is not only healthier than your run-of-the-mill burger, but it really lets the savory flavors in the marinade shine.

The burgers definitely hit the SPOT. They're juicy, flavorful, and topping them with avocado, thinly sliced jalapeno, cilantro, and pickled carrots/radishes takes them to the MAX.

And then, because you're feeling adventurous, you serve these burgers with some grilled romaine lettuce with avocado dressing.

Yes, I said it, GRILLED lettuce! Sure, the lettuce loses a bit of its crunch once you grill it, but the char gives the lettuce a richness in flavor you'd never expect from regular ole' romaine. Try it, I promise you'll like it. And if you don't, whatever, at least you tried something new! (And lettuce is cheap, so it's not a food experiment that'll break the bank.)

Pow-pow--I just hit you with a double whammy of incredible flavors for you today.

Buen Provecho,

Banh mi chicken burgers, from Half Baked Harvest


1 pound ground chicken
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon lime juice
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 gloves garlic, grated
2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon peper
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
3 green onions, chopped
1 tablespoon sesame oil

Spicy Sauce
1/4 cup mayonnaise (or yogurt)
2 teaspoons sriracha, or more to taste

To assemble (mix/match as you please)
4 whole wheat hamburger buns, toasted
fresh cilantro
thinly sliced jalapenos
butter lettuce
pickled carrots/radish (here for a quick-and-easy version)
cucumber slices
(fried egg, optional)

  • Place the ground chicken in a glass bowl. Add the fish sauce, lime juice, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, pepper, cilantro, and green onions. Mix just to combine the ingredients. Don't over mix. Place the meat in the fridge for 30 minutes to marinate.
  • While the burgers are resting make the spicy sauce. Combine the mayo and sriracha in a small bowl. Mix well and set aside until ready to use.
  • Assemble your topping ingredients on a plate.
  • Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon of sesame oil. Form the meat into 4 equal patties. They're going to be wet, just do the best you can. They will firm up as they cook. Add the burger to the skillet and cook until they reach your desired doneness. I cooked mine about 5 minutes per side, but it will depend on how thick you like your burgers.
  • To assemble the burgers, spread a bit of the spicy sauce on the bottom of the bun. Top with a lettuce leaf, then a burger, and the toppings of your choice. 
  • Top with a fried egg if you want to take the savory flavors to another level
Grilled romaine lettuce with avocado lime dressing, from Thug Kitchen
Enough for 4 people with some extra dressing


2 romaine hearts, washed, trimmed, and sliced in half
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
a pinch of salt and pepper

Avocado Lime Dressing
1 ripe avocado
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped all small
½ teaspoon agave or honey
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 cup water
salt to taste

To finish the salad
green onions, sliced
cilantro, chopped
cherry tomatoes, sliced

  • Put all the dressing ingredients in a small food processor or blender and combine until creamy. Add the pinch of sea salt and mix it in. If it's too thick, add more water until it looks like salad dressing. Pour it all into a small container and refrigerate until the lettuce is ready.
  • To grill the romaine hearts, heat the grill to a medium-low heat. As long as the grill isn’t crazy hot, you are good. While the grill heats up, mix the garlic, olive oil and salt and pepper in a little cup. Brush or spoon a little bit of the the oil mixture to the cut side of the lettuce, just enough to glaze the lettuce.
  • Place the lettuce face down on the grill for 60 seconds or until there are clear grill marks and the leaves are beginning to wilt. Flip the hearts over and grill the other side for another 60 seconds. You want the leaves to look charred but not limp. 
  • When they look good, put them on a plate and put some dressing over the hearts. Top with sliced green onions, chopped cilantro, and plenty of black pepper.


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