This banh mi from Tin Vuong, chef of Little Sister in L.A., takes crisp tempura-fried snapper and combines it with spicy watercress and a sour tomato jam. The tomato jam adds a tart sweetness, while the fresh herbs and veg add crunch.
Whenever you work with a tempura batter, it's crucial to mix the batter right before you fry. The seltzer water is what adds effervescence for a light and airy batter, so stir it into your dry ingredients only when the frying oil is up to temperature. Do this, and you're sure to have perfectly fried snapper.
To learn more, read "Banh Mi, Myself & I."
Tempura Red Snapper Banh Mi
Recipe adapted from Tin Vuong, Little Sister, Los Angeles, CA
Yield: Two 12-inch banh mi
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
For the Sour Tomato Jam:
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup tomato paste
1 shallot, minced
2 plum tomatoes, diced
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons grated palm sugar, or light brown sugar
½ tablespoon soy sauce
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
For the Tempura-Fried Red Snapper:
Canola oil, for frying
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup cornstarch
4 teaspoons baking powder
3 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more for dusting
¾ cup club soda
1 pound (2 fillets) red snapper, each fillet sliced into 4 pieces
For the Banh Mi:
Two 12-inch baguettes, halved and toasted
4 tablespoons sour tomato jam
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
8 pieces tempura-fried red snapper
¾ cup watercress
Pickled daikon, for garnish
Pickled carrot, for garnish
Thinly sliced red cabbage, for garnish
Thinly sliced green cabbage, for garnish
Julienned cucumber, for garnish
Julienned red onion, for garnish
Julienned jalapeños, for garnish
Cilantro leaves, for garnish
1. Make the tomato jam: In a small saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the tomato paste and cook until lightly caramelized, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the shallots and cook until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook until broken down, 15 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer. Cook until the sauce has reduced and thickened, 25 to 30 minutes, makes ½ cup. Set aside.
2. Make the snapper: In a medium saucepan, heat 2 inches of canola oil to 350º and line a plate with paper towels. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt to incorporate. Whisk in the club soda until a smooth batter is formed.
3. Dip the pieces of fish into the batter and gently place into the hot oil. Fry until golden and cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes, then transfer to the prepared plate to drain. Season with salt.
4. Assemble the banh mi: Spread half of the tomato jam on the bottom and half of the mayonnaise on the top of each baguette. Layer 4 pieces of fish on each bottom, then divide the watercress over top. Garnish with a pinch of pickled daikon, pickled carrots, red cabbage, green cabbage, cucumber, red onion, jalapeños and cilantro leaves. Place the top halves of each baguette on and slice each sandwich into 4 pieces, then serve.