Vietnamese Sardine Roll - Banh Mi Ca Moi
Easy - You got this
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Watch me make this recipe on my YouTube channel here.
My dad wasn’t a wizard in the kitchen but one dish we all appreciated was his Vietnamese sardine rolls (banh mi ca moi). A banh mi that’s hard to find nowadays, in our house it was often served for breakfast on Sundays to give my mum a break from cooking. He would warm a few tins of sardines, add chopped brown onion for texture, and season heavily with cracked black pepper before serving them on a fresh crusty Vietnamese roll. There isn’t much to the preparation of this simple dish but the use of tinned sardines is what gives it significance.
I once asked him why he preferred the tinned sardines neatly packed in tomato sauce rather than bought fresh, and his response was not what I expected. For him, tinned sardines evoked strong memories of his time in a refugee camp after leaving Vietnam during the war. Tinned sardines were a common meal in the island camps where Vietnamese ‘boat people’ anxiously waited to be accepted into another country. No matter where they ended up in the world - for my dad, it was Australia - it's a flavour that still resonates with him, his family and the thousands of other Vietnamese refugees who shared this same experience. Hearing this, I could taste how much these humble sardines meant to him.
It’s the family recipes like these that allow me to appreciate the little things in life. Embedded in this meal is the story of my Dad's journey, and there are so many Vietnamese recipes like this in our family library that narrate our story of asylum and new life in Australia (try Mum’s braised lemongrass chicken, Vietnamese pumpkin soup or lemongrass pipis).
So, if you already love sardines, do yourself a favour and give one of Vietnam’s lesser known banh mi’s a go, to experience the flavours that carry so much of the emotions, memories and stories in our culture.
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 small brown onion roughly chopped
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons water
2 plain Vietnamese bread rolls or crusty rolls
2 tablespoons spreadable butter
¼ bunch coriander (optional)
In a medium saucepan, add oil and sauté onion with a pinch of salt until fragrant and lightly brown then add sardines with sauce, sugar, ¾ teaspoon black pepper and water then bring to the boil and allow to simmer for 1-2 mins then remove from heat.
Cut open Vietnamese bread roll, spread with butter then spoon in sardines (with sauce and onions) and garnish with coriander and a healthy pinch of black pepper.