A couple months ago I made a big vat of thai sausage, and just pulled out the last batch from the freezer. As we had carrots, cilantro, cucumber and jalapenos I instantly thought of Banh Mi and decided to get a baguette and some daikon. The first time we served the sausage we had cold, sweet corn soup on the side and the flavors went so well together that I started thinking I might have to serve little corn soup shooters with the sandwich. That didn’t seem quite right, but I was pretty sure I needed sweet corn in some format as soon there would be no fresh corn and the sweet earthy flavor is truly the perfect complement to that sausage.
I had recently purchased a bag of sweet potato fries at Costco because they are one of my favorite things on earth and so easy. I am not exactly proud of this fact, but it is what it is. Sweet potato fries are fabulous with banh mi of any variety so that was a solid part of my plan.
I went to the store for the bread (I chose a lighter crumb italian loaf than a really chewy baguette), a nub of daikon and some corn. When I got home, I julienned the daikon and carrot and tossed it in a mixture of brown rice vinegar, chili garlic sauce, salt and amber agave. I thinly sliced some jalapeno and washed some spinach and cilantro and set them all aside.
Throughout the day I considered the corn idea. What if I made a spread of some kind for the sandwich? A quick search pulled up information on the grain market and various commodities. Corn jam was another idea…maybe thicken the soup-like base somehow? Also not quite right. A chutney? No- I didn’t want it all chunky. If I was not already having the fries, I’d consider fritters or some crispy, sweet corn thing, but I couldn’t have both. And then, in thinking again about the fries I decided I’d invent some sort of sweet corn ketchup. A thickened, spiced, vinegary dip for both sandwich and fries.
I didn’t want to use any tomato in the ketchup, but figured I needed a rich, umami kind of base. So I pulled out some shallots and a leek (because I had four and had to start using them) and started caramelizing them slowly in butter and oil, deglazing the browned bits with veggie broth about three times until it was a deep, sticky, brown. I stirred in some garlic and cooked another minute. I then cooked the corn in some hot butter and oil until it too started to brown a bit and added the onions back in along with the two corn cobs and a cup and a half of broth. I covered the pan and simmered the mixture throwing in a couple big chunks of fresh ginger.
I removed the cobs, scraping them to remove all the little corn bits and blended the mixture until it was as smooth as I could get it. I considered making it soupier, straining it and thickening it, but I didn’t have time. I put it back in a pot and added some coconut milk and rice vinegar and black pepper. As it reduced a bit more, the sugars in the corn began browning a bit so I kept scraping the bottom and stirring the caramelizing bits back into the mix. It was sputtering like crazy so I partially covered it until it was a nice, thick, consistency. I stirred in some lime and it was good to go. Intensely deep, sweet and pungent.
Ryan arrived home at this point and grilled the sausage in patties, toasted the bread and put the fries in the oven. We then spread mayo and sriracha on the bread, topped with sausage, and the remaining condiments and dished up the corn ketchup on the side. All the flavors went so well together, but holy hell the jalapenos were hot- and mixed with the sriracha my mouth was totally on fire. I had to fish out the remaining peppers to finish my sandwich and then it was everything I had envisioned.
The next day for lunch I thinned out the remaining corn ketchup with some more vinegar and a bit of olive oil and tossed it into a pile of spinach, cucumber, the remaining pickled veggies and a couple tiny slices of jalapeno. I crumbled the sausage on top and threw in some raw peanuts which would have been great if there were roasted and salted, but they were decent as is. A banh mi salad just without the banh (cake) or mi (wheat or flour) … so, uh, yeah. You get the idea.