Pulled Oxtail Banh Mi (Vietnamese Sandwiches)

Last weekend, I went up North for a wine tasting/50k bike ride. I love biking and I love wine, so why not do them together? That doesn't sound dangerous at all. :) Since this was a family event, I stayed with my parents and whenever I go home for a visit, I give pops a night off from the kitchen and plan a meal (Yes, it's the dad in my family that does the cooking). This time I decided on a braised oxtail and tendon stew. Don't make faces now. I'd rather eat tendon than chicken breast any day. When you grow up in a family like mine, your culinary repertoire gets quite expanded. Needless to say, I'm a huge supporter of snout to tail eating. Waste not.
Back on subject… during the bike ride I was concentrating on what I wanted to eat after the ride, rather than the road. Oops. A 50k bike ride sure works up the hunger. I was remembering the tender, falling off the bone oxtail meat frm the night before and had one of those ah-ha moments. Pulled oxtail meat inside a banh mi would be delicious. I bookmarked the idea in my head and my thoughts returned to "look at the legs on this one"… don't be perverted, I'm talking about the wine.
With B out of town at a "Future of Web Design" conference, I took this as the perfect opportunity to cook some meat. With two pounds of beef oxtails from Wild Oats, I was ready for some fun. I blanched the oxtails in simmering water for about 10 minutes and drained them to remove some excess fat/scum. My asian-inspired braising liquid included star anise, five spice, ginger, garlic, onions, jalapeƱos, shishito peppers, dark soy sauce and Chinese black bean sauce. I added just enough water to cover the oxtails. I braised them for about 12 hours for maximum flavor and tenderness. I pulled the meat off the bones with two forks. Traditionally, banh mi is served with pickled daikons and carrots. The daikons sure are stinky, but I assure you, they are an integral part of the taste composition. I thinly julienned carrot and daikon and soaked them in a mixture of sugar, water and rice vinegar (separately or else your carrots will stain your daikon orange). All I needed was a good French baguette to bring everything together. It would be a waste to spend so much time on the meat and condiments and serve it with crappy bread. I was determined to find a baguette that would do my meat justice. I tried 3 Square Bakery on Abbott Kinney, but all they had were pretzel baguettes. Eww. They're good on their own, but would be wrong in so many ways for a banh mi. Next, I tried Pioneer Bakery on Montana and left with a baton of bread that was destined to become croutons/bread crumbs/duck food. What does a girl have to do to get a great French baguette in this city???
Just when all hope was lost, my friend Jamie suggested a brunch at Campanile (conveniently right next to La Brea Bakery). Great brunch in the tummy and great baguette in hand, I was ready to assemble my banh mi. Back in the kitchen now… I sliced the baguette in half and spread mayo on both halves. Then I put on a layer of warmed oxtail meat, pickled daikon, pickled carrots, cucumber, jalapeƱos and cilantro. The meat was warm, spicy and tender. The vegetables chilled, crunchy and refreshing. What an amazing contrast.


  • sutherland

    12 Nov 2007 06:11 pm

    [this is good] Alcohol and Cycling have an exceptional relationship. I’ve seen many single speed bike rallies that not only provide, but encourage the consumption of beer. In fact, many bike makers are starting to include built in bottle openers on there bike components.

    This looks wonderful! I have fond memories of oxtail. My mom used to make a oxtail and scallion soup in a clear broth with cellophane noodles.

  • julie

    13 Nov 2007 06:11 pm

    Hey there Sutherland… Biking and drinking is a lot of fun, but better watch out for those CUIs (cycling under the influence) :) Oxtail meat rules. Will you do a post on your mom’s oxtail soup?

  • sutherland

    13 Nov 2007 08:11 pm

    I’m still wondering how she makes a clear stock. My only conclusion is that she boils, cheesecloth, and repeats till it’s concentrated enough dilute. I’ll be visiting my mother for Thanksgiving, so I’ll certainly pick her brain on all her wonderful recipes (I’m hoping she will give another crash course in Korean food). 

  • Elly

    14 Nov 2007 07:11 pm

    [this is good]

    looks so delicious!

  • canarygirl

    15 Nov 2007 01:11 am

    [this is good] Oh wow…this looks absolutely amazing!  Vietnamese is one of my very favorite cuisines…I wish we had some here!  Beautiful sandwich, Julie. :)


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