The recipe: Viet home-style doner kebab.
Why I tried it: I never used to know what people were talking about when they said “doner kebab,” but eventually I realized it was the same thing as the shawarma I ate from sidewalk carts back home in New York, and the gyro sandwich I ate for lunch every single day across the street from the darkroom where I worked in Boston. From that point on, all 3 terms induced the same Pavlovian response in me. So when one of my favorite authors interpreted one of my favorite foods through the palate of one of my favorite national cuisines, there was no question – I had to try it
Why I loved it: This slab of protein has all the things I love about meatloaf, all the things I love about pork, and all the things I love about gyros/shawarma/whatever you call it. It’s got a glistening soy-painted crust. It’s easy, because you just throw it together in the Cuisinart. You can eat it in a banh mi or on anything else, or all by itself. The absolute worst thing about it is having to wait for hours till it’s cold enough to slice and eat, so when it comes out from the oven you’d better have another favorite food out on standby, ready to distract you and your greedy little fingers.
Estimated preparation time: About 1 hour, plus cooling time (if you can stand to wait that long)
Viet Home-Style Doner Kebab
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
⅔ cup (3 oz / 90 g) coarsely chopped yellow onion
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne
¾ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cumin
generous 1 teaspoon cornstarch
1½ tablespoons all-purpose flour, rice flour (brown or white), or almond meal flour
1 large egg
2 tablespoons canola or olive oil
1¼ pounds (565 g) ground pork, about 85 percent lean
1 teaspoon regular soy sauce mixed with ½ teaspoon water
1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 425°F (220°C / gas mark 7). Line a baking sheet with foil and set aside.
2. Place the garlic, onion, pepper, cayenne, salt, cumin, cornstarch, flour, egg, and oil in the bowl of a food processor and whirl to create a finely textured, soupy mix- ture. Scrape down the sides, then add the pork, dropping it in as large chunks. Restart the processor to combine, letting it run for about 5 seconds after the meat begins gathering around the blade. Aim to mix things as if you were making a meatloaf. Visible bits of pork are good!
3. Use a spatula to scrape and mix in seasonings clinging to the processor walls. Transfer the meat to the prepared baking sheet and shape it into a slab, about 11⁄4 inches (3 cm) thick, 5 inches (12.5 cm) wide, and 8 inches (20 cm) long. For a lovely brown crust, use your fingers to paint the top and sides with the diluted soy mixture.
4. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the top is redwood tree brown and small sizzling bubbles appear. The meat will puff and maybe bend upward slightly. Cool completely before thinly slicing, or better yet, cool, wrap, and chill overnight or for as long as 3 days.
5. Cut the meat cold, then warm in a microwave oven or in a skillet over medium heat. Don’t fret if the meat slices break, just slide it all into your sandwich.
From The Banh Mi Handbook, by Andrea Nguyen. (10 Speed Press, 2014)