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Bánh mì xíu Mại - Vietnamese Meatballs

Bánh mì xíu Mại - Vietnamese Meatballs

4-5 Servings

00:10 Prep

00:30 Cook

Moderate - You'll be right!

How many times have you asked yourself “where is the closest banh mi near me?” With this banh mi thit variation you may be asking that question for a while.

Bánh mì xíu mại (Vietnamese meatball bread rolls) is a very popular type of Vietnamese meat roll on the streets of Vietnam. In Australia, it’s not as easily found in Vietnamese meat roll shops but can easily be made in the comfort of your own home. Making meatballs and encasing them in a Vietnamese baguette garnished with freshly sliced tomatoes, onions and coriander is something we regularly do in our household to get that quick ‘banh mi’ fix.

Similarly to Italian meatballs, xíu mại (Vietnamese meatballs) is a pork mince based meatball that’s briefly stewed in a loose tomato based sauce. Traditionally, the tomatoes are blanched in hot water, peeled then chopped to create the sauce base and its bright red colour often achieved using annatto oil.

In my variation, I applied a trick I learnt from my mum, instead of annatto oil I’ve used an ingredient found in every Aussie pantry—tomato sauce. The tomato sauce brings an appealing red shimmer to the sauce and adds another layer of savoury flavour.

If you’re ever craving a Vietnamese meatball roll and are after a quick fix, do yourself a favour and give this variation a go to experience the flavours of Vietnam with an Aussie twist.

Bánh mì xíu Mại - Vietnamese Meatballs
Bánh mì xíu Mại - Vietnamese Meatballs



  • 1 small jicama grated (optional)

  • 500gram pork mince

  • 1 bunch spring onion tops finely chopped

  • 2 cloves garlic finely chopped

  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce 

  • ½ tablespoon oyster sauce (optional)

  • 1 tablespoon tomato sauce 

  • ½ teaspoon Duncan Lu Anchovy Salt or sea salt

  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper

  • 1 teaspoon sugar

Tomato sauce:

  • 5 tomatoes

  • 4 tablespoons neutral cooking oil

  • 1 bunch spring onions stalks (white part)

  • 2 cloves garlic finely chopped

  • 1 brown onion chopped

  • 1 bunch of coriander stalks

  • 3 tablespoons tomato sauce

  • ½ teaspoon Duncan Lu Anchovy Salt or sea salt

  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce

  • 2 tablespoons sugar

  • Water (as required)


  • 8 plain Vietnamese rolls (bánh mì ổ)

  • 2 tomatoes, sliced

  • 1 bunch coriander, roughly chopped

  • 1 brown onion, sliced and soaked in water

  • Maggi seasoning or soy sauce

  • Freshly ground black pepper


How to make meatballs:
1. In a mixing bowl add jicama and a pinch of salt, mix well and allow to sit for 15 minutes then squeeze well to remove excess moisture.
2. In a large mixing bowl add jicama and remaining ingredients, mix well (4-5minutes) until mixture turns into a sticky paste then form into meatballs (roughly the size of a golf ball).
3. Place meatballs in a shallow bowl, cover with cling wrap and steam for 20 minutes then set aside.

Tomato sauce:        
1. Make two cuts to form an ‘X’ on the bottom of the tomatoes then place into a pot of boiling water for 30-60 seconds or until the tomato skin begins to peel away. Remove and place into a bowl of cold, peel off the skin, roughly chop and set aside.
2. In a large saucepan add oil, spring onion stalks, garlic and brown onion and saute on medium until fragrant.
3. Add chopped tomatoes and remaining ingredients along with steamed meatballs and bring to the boil then simmer on medium for 5 minutes to allow flavours to develop.

Duncan’s tip: add water as required to ensure meatballs are just covered.

How to make banh mi xiu mai:
1. Soak sliced onions in water for 15 minutes

Duncan’s tip: Soaking onion in cold water will soften and tone down it’s sometimes pungent flavour.

2. Cut plain Vietnamese roll in half, add a few slices of tomato then spoon in meatballs, gently crushing them with the back of the spoon.
3. Garnish with coriander, onion, a couple tablespoons of the simmering broth, a few splashes of Maggi seasoning and a pinch of black pepper.

Duncan’s tip: Consume immediately to avoid bread from going soggy.

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