One of my goals in the next five years is to go to Vietnam and eat a banh mi. And pho. And vermicelli noodles with pork chops. I love Vietnamese food and can only imagine how delicious it is in the motherland. I know that if I try to make a traditional banh mi, it won't be as good as authentic ones so I decided to make a completely different version. This coconut shrimp banh mi takes the idea of the traditional recipe adding pickled vegetables, jalapeno, and fresh herbs in crusty bread. However, the main star is the coconut shrimp. Pair it with Thai sweet chili aioli and you have one glorious sandwich!
Coconut Shrimp Banh Mi
- 2 medium carrots peeled, cut into thin strips (about ½ cup)
- ½ small daikon peeled, cut into thin strips (about ½ cup)
- ¼ cup boiling water
- ¼ cup rice vinegar
- ½ teaspoon granulated sugar
- pinch of salt
Thai sweet chili aioli
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoon Thai sweet chile sauce
- salt and pepper
- 1 lb shrimp peeled and deveined
- ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 large eggs
- ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
- ½ cup unsweetened coconut flakes
- oil for frying
- 4 French baguettes or sandwich bread
- 8 romaine lettuce leaves
- 1 jalapeno thinly sliced
- 1 Fresno thinly sliced
- ¼ cup fresh Thai basil
- 2 tablespoon fresh mint
- lime wedges for serving
- Pickle the vegetables. Combine the boiling water, rice vinegar, sugar, and a pinch of salt in a medium bowl or container, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Add the thinly sliced carrots and daikon and let sit for at least 30 minutes, preferably overnight.
- Whisk together the mayonnaise and Thai sweet chili sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Make the coconut shrimp. Place the flour in one bowl, the eggs in another, and the panko and coconut flakes in a third. Beat the eggs and combine the panko with the coconut. Dredge the shrimp in the flour, shaking off the excess. Coat the shrimp in the egg, then cover with the panko and coconut mixture.
- Heat ¼ cup of oil in a medium saute pan over medium-high heat. Cook the shrimp in batches until browned on both sides, about 4-5 minutes. Drain the excess oil by placing the cooked shrimp on paper towels. Repeat with the remaining shrimp, adding more oil as needed.
- Assemble the sandwiches. Spread the sweet chili aioli on the bread and top with lettuce, shrimp, pickled vegetables, jalapeno, Fresno, basil, and mint. Finish with a squeeze of lime if desired. Serve immediately.
**Helpful tips and common mistakes
If you're looking for a more traditional banh mi, this isn't it. But if you want something new, something different, this shrimp banh mi is your answer. The recipe may seem long but you can actually prepare all of the toppings several days in advance.
Although the coconut shrimp is the star, you still need the side characters including the pickled carrots and daikon, jalapeno, fresno, fresh Thai basil and mint, and Thai sweet chili aioli. Skip the jalapeno and fresno if you don't like the spice but please make the pickled vegetables. They add a lovely crunch and tang to the sandwich that compliments the shrimp so well.
The Thai sweet chili is just a mixture of mayonnaise with Thai sweet chili, salt, and pepper. Increase the amount of Thai sweet chili sauce if you want more of a kick.
To make the shrimp, set up your breading station with flour in one bowl, eggs in another, and panko and coconut in a third. Dredge the shrimp in the flour, dip it in the egg, and then coat it in the panko and coconut mixture. Make sure to evenly coat the shrimp so you get a lovely crust all around.
Get your oil nice and hot before adding the shrimp. If the oil isn't hot enough, the outside coating will fall right off. Alternatively, cook the shrimp in the oven. Drizzle olive oil on a baking sheet and arrange the shrimp in an even layer, giving them plenty of space in between. Drizzle more oil on top and bake the shrimp at 425 degrees F for 7-8 minutes or until golden brown.
Once the shrimp is cooked, assemble the sandwiches. Use crusty bread for the sandwich ideally baguettes or French bread. Toast the bread and stack on all the fillings including the lettuce, shrimp, pickled vegetables, fresno, jalapeno, herbs, and a generous smear of the Thai sweet chili aioli.
If you want more of a zest, go ahead and squeeze fresh lime juice on the coconut shrimp banh mi.
This banh mi is completely different from the chicken or pork banh mi I get at my local Vietnamese restaurant. However, that's not to say this version is equally delicious!
For another banh mi version, check out my lemongrass steak banh mi with fried egg!