Building a Better Banh Mi with Ernesto Uchimura

Transforming the iconic Vietnamese sandwich into a burger at Plan Check on Fairfax

How do you improve on a classic sandwich like the banh mi?

That was the question for Executive Chef Ernesto Uchimura and Chef Peter Graham of Plan Check, who loved the signature Vietnamese sandwich so much that they decided to burger-ize the banh mi in a recent addition to their restaurant’s lineup.

(Fun fact: Banh Mi My Tho in Alhambra is Uchimura’s favorite banh mi shop and model for his banh mi burger.)

Although he’s certainly not the first to give the banh mi the burger makeover, Uchimura sought to break down the components of the original while also keeping the traditional spirit intact when creating his new burger.

First, since the Plan Check chef is famous for texture in his burgers—from ketchup leather to crispy cheese—he went with a crunch bun to mimic a baguette’s airy crispness. He also felt that the traditional sandwich needed beefing up (or this case, porking up) since most banh mis are stacked with 50/50 meat-to-veggie ratio. Uchimura grills to a six-ounce patty of ground heritage pork and diced pork pate to a smoky char, seasoning it with Vietnamese sauces and spices. The meat itself is front and center, tipping the ratio over to the meaty side of the scale. 

Next, veritable garden’s worth of banh mi veggies are stacked on top of the patty: cucumber, onion, jalapeño, pickled daikon, cilantro, and carrots. Finally, a house-made Sriracha mayo comprised of fish sauce, lime, sugar, rice vinegar, and Sriracha emulsified together is spread onto the bun for a finishing flourish, culminating in a meat-centric burger with a blast of Vietnamese flavors.

The banh mi burger at Plan Check (Fairfax only) runs as a special for about a month, and only about two dozen are made each day. Better check Plan Check’s social media alerts to stay informed!

Chef Uchimura’s next inspiration is raw fish. Look for Plan Check’s sushi-inspired burgers in the near future. Hmm, I wonder if there’ll be a wasabi mayo? Plan Check, 351 N. Fairfax Ave., Los Angeles, 310-288-6500. (Banh Mi Burger, $11. Available for about a month. Check ahead for availability on @PlanCheckBar.)