Throughout Asia, open-air markets and sidewalk vendors entice passersby with sizzling temptations packing big flavor from a few powerhouse ingredients. We’ve adapted these street food classics so they’ll come together more easily on the backyard grill while being no less tasty. Quick homemade pickles and a fast-cooking skirt steak transform the quintessential Vietnamese sandwich, the Banh Mi. Thai pork skewers start with a fish sauce marinade and end with chewy caramelized bits thanks to coconut milk. And in Taiwan, whole ears of corn are slathered with spices and sesame oil, a process we’ve streamlined using gochujang.
Grilled Vietnamese Skirt Steak Sandwiches (Banh Mi)
Makes 4 Sandwiches
Use a supermarket baguette or French rolls with an airy crumb and thin, brittle crust, not a chewy, rustic bread. Cut one or two baguettes into sections, or use individual rolls. Pâté is a classic filling, but the sandwiches are delicious without it. Other possible additions include thinly sliced cucumber, thin jalapeño rounds, and sriracha.
Don’t prepare the carrot-radish pickle too far in advance, or the vegetables will lose their crunchy texture.
½ cup distilled white vinegar
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons light brown sugar, divided
5 teaspoons fish sauce, divided
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 medium carrot, peeled and coarsely shredded (1 cup)
1 3-inch piece daikon radish, peeled and coarsely shredded (1 cup)
1/3 cup mayonnaise
2 serrano chilies, stemmed and minced
4 medium garlic cloves, finely grated
1 pound beef skirt steak, trimmed, patted dry, and cut with the grain into 2 pieces
4 7- to 8-inch pieces of baguette (see note), halved
4 ounces pork pâté (optional)
Cilantro sprigs, to serve
In a medium bowl, whisk the vinegar, 2 tablespoons sugar, 2 teaspoons fish sauce, and 1 teaspoon salt until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the carrot and daikon; set aside. In a small bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, chilies, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper; set aside.
In another medium bowl, stir together the remaining 2 teaspoons sugar, remaining 3 teaspoons fish sauce, garlic, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Add the steak and rub the seasoning mixture into the meat. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes.
For a charcoal grill, pour a full chimney of hot coals evenly over one side of the grill bed and open the bottom grill vents; for a gas grill, turn half of the burners to high. Heat grill, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes, then clean and oil the grate.
While the grill heats, using your fingers, remove some of the interior crumb from each piece of bread. The remaining crust and crumb should be about ¾-inch thick.
When the grill is ready, pat the steak dry with paper towels and place on the hot side of the grill. Cook, uncovered, flipping once halfway through, until steak is lightly charred on both sides and the center of the thickest part is pink when cut into, 4 to 6 minutes total. Transfer to a plate and let rest for 10 minutes. Working in batches if needed, place bread cut sides up on the cool side of the grill and toast until crust is crisp, 1 to 2 minutes, turning and moving occasionally to avoid scorching.
Cut the steak with the grain into 2-inch-wide pieces, then thinly slice each piece against the grain. Stir the accumulated juices from the rested steak into the mayonnaise mixture, then spread on the cut sides of top halves of bread. If using pâté, spread it on bottom halves of bread, dividing it evenly. Layer steak on the pâté, then top with the carrot-radish slaw and cilantro. Cover with top halves of bread.
Thai Grilled Pork Skewers (Moo Ping)
Makes 4-6 Servings
Pork shoulder has a decent amount of fat, which is essential for flavor and juiciness. Partially freezing the meat firms it so it’s easier to slice, and threading the pieces somewhat tightly on the skewers guards against overcooking. A dipping sauce (recipe follows) is customary and adds a whole other flavor dimension.
2 pounds boneless pork shoulder, trimmed of surface fat
6 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons finely minced fresh cilantro stems
1/3 cup firmly packed light or dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons peanut oil
Ground white pepper
1/3 cup coconut milk
Chili-Lime Sauce, to serve
Place the pork on a large plate and freeze until the meat is firm and partially frozen, 1 to 1½ hours. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, stir together the garlic, cilantro, sugar, fish sauce, soy sauce, oil, and ½ teaspoon white pepper.
Using a sharp chef’s knife, slice the partially frozen pork into pieces about ƒ-inch thick. The slices will be irregularly shaped; cut them into strips 1 to 1¼ inches wide (it’s fine if the strips are not uniform). Add the pork to the marinade and mix with your hands until evenly coated. Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 12 hours.
Thread pork onto 10 10- to 12-inch metal skewers, evenly dividing meat and packing it tightly. If some pieces are too wide or awkwardly shaped, fold the meat or tuck in the edges. Place on a rimmed baking sheet or in a large baking dish, cover and refrigerate while you prepare the grill.
For a charcoal grill, pour a full chimney of hot coals evenly over one side of the grill bed and open the bottom grill vents. Heat grill, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes. For a gas grill, turn all burners to high and heat, covered, for 15 minutes. Clean and oil the grate.
Place the skewers on the hot side of the grill (if using charcoal) and cook until lightly charred, about 3 minutes. Using tongs, flip the skewers, then brush with some of the coconut milk. Cook until the second sides are lightly charred, about 3 minutes. Flip the skewers again and continue to cook, occasionally brushing with coconut milk and turning every couple of minutes, until deeply charred on both sides, an additional 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a platter and serve with the sauce.
Chili-Lime Sauce (Jaew)
Makes about ¾ cup
1½ tablespoons jasmine rice
¼ cup fish sauce
3 tablespoons lime juice
1 medium shallot, minced
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon packed light or dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
In a small skillet over medium, toast the rice, occasionally shaking the pan, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a spice grinder and let cool completely, then pulse to a coarse powder, 8 to 10 pulses. Transfer to a small bowl.
Stir together rice powder, the remaining ingredients, and 1 tablespoon water. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before using; bring to room temperature before serving. (Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days.)
Taiwanese-Style Grilled Corn
Makes 4 Servings
Taiwanese street vendors season spit-roasted corn with shacha, a paste containing garlic, shallots, and dried shrimp. To approximate those flavors, we use oyster sauce, rice vinegar, and gochujang. Toasted sesame seeds and cilantro are embellishments not used in Taiwan but that we found tasty. You’ll have enough sauce for a total of about 12 ears. Leftover sauce can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to five days; it’s great on grilled chicken, pork, beef, or even eggplant.
½ cup oyster sauce
6 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
¼ cup gochujang
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro, divided
6 ears corn, husks on
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted
In a medium bowl, whisk the oyster sauce, vinegar, gochujang, Worcestershire, sesame oil, and 2 tablespoons cilantro. Remove only the outer layer of corn husk, leaving the inner layers intact, and trim off any silk that extends past the tips. Set the sauce and corn aside.
For a charcoal grill, pour a full chimney of hot coals evenly over one side of the grill bed and open the bottom grill vents and lid vents; for a gas grill, turn all burners to high. Heat grill, covered, for 5 to 10 minutes, then clean and oil the grate.
Place corn, still in the husks, on the hot side of the grill. Cover and cook until charred on all sides, about 15 minutes, turning every 5 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack. When cool enough to handle, remove and discard husks and silk.
Return the corn to the hot side of the grill and lightly brush all over with sauce. Grill, uncovered, until lightly charred on all sides, 5 to 7 minutes, occasionally turning and brushing with more sauce. Transfer to a platter, then sprinkle all over with sesame seeds and remaining 2 tablespoons cilantro.