The Superbowl is one of the best food holidays. In the same way that on Halloween girls can wear basically nothing and call it a “costume”, on Superbowl Sunday you can make something obscenely unhealthy and call it a “snack.” And then you can spend the rest of the afternoon eating a dinner-sized portion of said snack. It’s kind of like magic and it’s a magic I love taking advantage of despite my total lack of football interest or knowledge. In past years I’ve made reuben dip (sadly undocumented, but so cheesy and creamy plus slightly tangy from sauerkraut), buffalo wings (in baked form and turned into a dip), and a full scale snackadium (inspired by these awesome renditions). And this year’s goal was to up the ante on nachos by making them bahn mi style. Back in July someone posted a comment on Facebook, bemoaning the lack of bahn mi nachos in the world. The gauntlet was thrown, and it only took me about six months to figure it out.
Here’s the thing: I’ve eaten a lot of bahn mi. A LOT. When I was in law school I probably had about one per week, from a little hole in the wall near campus with perhaps the best bahn mi in the city. I started with the tofu variation but by the end of law school I’d eaten almost every bahn mi on the menu and tried a handful of other varieties at different locations. And while it’s been a few years since I ate those sandwiches with borderline obsession, it wasn’t a stretch to figure out how the flavors could translate to nachos.
The components of a bahn mi aren’t too complicated: some kind of cured meat, cilantro, a mix of pickled carrot and daikon, mayo, and crusty bread. Jalapeno slices often show up (which I left in), as does pate (which I left out; it just seemed too weird). The cheese was more difficult, to add or not to add? Vietnamese food doesn’t really use much dairy but nachos need cheese, and in the end it worked out remarkably well. Savory and sweet and creamy, with spicy bites when you get a jalapeno – the issue of which bite will burn your mouth is a key part of a bahn mi where only some bites have jalapeno, and those bites are a doozy. Jeff and I devoured the first batch, standing up at the kitchen counter listening to the first episode of Invisibilia (have you heard it yet? I love it!). We just stood over the plate, shoveling chips into our mouths, silently except for some sniffling when the jalapenos got the best of us. The plate was empty before the episode was over. The second batch actually made it to a football game and it was gone almost as quickly. It’s messy and a bit over the top and just the kind of “snack” for the Superbowl*, because any other time, these are just ridiculous. In the good way, of course.
* I suppose you could eat these at other sports watching events or any seated occasion where you don’t really need your hands. I realize that excludes most parties, game nights, picnics, etc. What can I say, these are not easy to eat (neatly, at least), just easy to love.
Bahn Mi Nachos
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks about 2 inches long
1 medium daikon, peeled and cut into matchsticks about 2 inches long
½ cup vinegar
2 tbs sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
2 cups shredded cooked pork (or chicken, a rotisserie chicken would be perfect here)
2 tbs hoisin sauce
1 12-oz bag tortilla chips (you’ll probably only need about 2/3 of the bag, but this is just to be safe)
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
½ a jalapeno, sliced as thinly as you can manage (I used a mandolin)
Handful of cilantro, finely chopped
2-3 scallions, finely chopped
1 cup mayo (you might not need all of it, but then again, you might)
Sriracha sauce, for topping
COMBINE the sliced carrot and daikon with the vinegar, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. Let set it for about 20 minutes. (Ideally this would sit for a few hours but the first batch soaked for almost no time before eating.)
TOSS the shredded pork of chicken with the hoisin sauce and set aside.
PREHEAT the oven to 400F. Line a large baking sheet with foil
ARRANGE a few handfuls of chips into a single even layer on the sheet – use as many as you need to get a single full layer. Sprinkle over the top ¾ cup cheese, ¾ cup of the pork or chicken mixture, and about a third of the jalapeno slices. Spread out a second layer of chips and repeat the process. Then spread out a third layer of chips, using only about three-quarters the amount you used before, so there’s plenty of space between the new chips. Sprinkle on the remaining cheese, pork/chicken, and jalapeno.
BAKE the nachos for about 10-15 minutes, checking them after 5 minutes and every 2 minutes thereafter to make sure the cheese is melting but the chips aren’t burning. When the cheese is all melted and the chips are slightly browned, remove them from the oven.
DRAIN the carrot/daikon mixture and set it aside.
TOP the baked chips with the carrot/daikon mix, the chopped cilantro, and the chopped scallion. Using a spoon or a squeeze bottle, top the chips with mayo and sriracha to taste (I like to leave some areas without, for people who like it less spicy).
Eat immediately! Nachos are best right out of the oven and only go downhill from there. Not that you’re likely to have leftovers, in my experience.