Spicy Merguez sausage is not an ingredient that one would normally associate with Vietnamese cooking. But, believe it or not, this flavorful lamb sausage is nothing short of fantastic when served on a crisp baguette layered with fresh herbs, Vietnamese-style pickled vegetables and a bracing smear of sriracha-laced mayonnaise. It really works.
Merguez, a fiery lamb sausage with roots in Mediterranean North Africa, has been wholeheartedly adopted by the French who have made it a part of their national cuisine. The sausage is undeniably delicious. The richness of the lamb is well-matched by the generous use of spices – hot, sweet & savory. A few of these slender, rather lean sausages go a long way, lending their heat and flavor to many dishes.
Why not, then, incorporate merguez into the popular Vietnamese sandwich known as “bánh mì?”
Vietnamese bánh mì sandwiches have gained a cult-like following in the US over the past few years. As sandwiches go, they are unique. Much of their appeal comes from the unusual blend of Western and Southeast Asian cuisines that evolved into one glorious sandwich. The sliced baguette that forms the base of the sandwich, originally introduced by the French, was perfected into its current lighter, crisper form by Vietnamese bakers. And while the French also contributed other ingredients, most of the fillings and flavors of bánh mì are decidedly Vietnamese in character.
While taking a number of shortcuts, we think our version of this very popular sandwich is essentially true to the spirit of the original. The flavors – daikon, cilantro, mint, chiles, lime juice and sriracha – are all very typical of Southeast Asian cuisine. In fact, after one bite, our first impression was of the delicious flavor and textures of Vietnamese spring rolls, reincarnated into a heavenly sandwich form.
Quick & Easy Merguez Sausage Bánh Mì With Spicy Mayo & Pickled Vegetables
FOR THE PICKLED VEGETABLES:
- 1 large carrot, peeled & cut into matchsticks
- 1 small cucumber, cut into matchsticks (about 3/4 cup)
- 1 medium daikon radish (about 3/4 lb), peeled & cut into matchsticks
- 1 Tbsp plus 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 Tbsp kosher salt
- 1/2 cup rice vinegar
- 1/2 cup water
FOR THE SPICY MAYO
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 2 Tbsp thinly sliced scallions
- 1 Tbsp sriracha or other chili sauce, or more to taste
- 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp Asian fish sauce
- 1/4 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp finely grated lime zest
- 1 tsp lime juice
- 2 baguettes cut into thirds, split
- Fresh jalapeño or serrano chile, thinly sliced and seeded
- Fresh cilantro, rinsed & stemmed
- Fresh mint, rinsed & stemmed
- 6 Lamb Merguez sausages
To make the pickled vegetables: In a bowl, toss together the carrots, cucumbers and daikon with the salt and 2 teaspoons of the sugar. Allow to stand for 15 minutes, then drain and rinse under cold running water. Drain again, pressing firmly to expel as much liquid as possible. Mix the remaining 1/2 cup sugar, vinegar and water until dissolved. Pour over the vegetables and let stand at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Refrigerate leftovers (if there are any) for up to 1 month.
Meanwhile, make the spicy mayo. In a small bowl, whisk together all the spicy mayo ingredients, adjusting chili sauce to taste. Cover and set aside.
Preheat the grill to medium high, if using, or heat a grill pan over medium high heat. Prick the sausages here & there with the tip of a sharp knife or fork. Place the sausages on the grill (or grill pan) and cook for 8 – 10 minutes, turning occasionally to brown all sides evenly. Remove from the heat, allow to cool for a few minutes, then slice them lengthwise with a sharp knife.
Generously smear each split baguette with spicy mayo. Lay two split sausage halves on each baguette. Scatter the sliced chile pepper, mint and cilantro leaves over the top. Spoon pickled vegetables generously onto the sandwiches and top with the other half of the sliced baguette. Serve with extra pickled vegetables on the side.
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