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Last updated: 22:14

Can the humble sandwich be truly transformed?

By Stevie Parle | Published on 15 March 2019

I think most people are a bit like me when it comes to eating. Food is super important to me and whilst I don’t imagine that many people spend hours a day considering the best way to add texture or depth to a new dish, I do think that everyone finds food can be a fantastic way to improve your mood.

As a Line Resident for Great Northern, I’ve been lucky enough to explore eateries all over the line for many different reasons. What I’ve found is that any struggle can be tackled after a good lunch, or experience made better by pairing it with something great to eat. Okay, well maybe there are one or two experiences that aren’t made better by food but no more than that. It’s of utmost importance. Food is truly transformative. I see it in my kids all the time. Monsters become angels after a plate of good pasta.

The classic food on-the-go is a sandwich and for good reason. It’s both practical and delicious – and also perfect for any train journey, long or short. The sad truth is that in this country, sandwiches can be miserable affairs. Those triangles wheeled out for conferences, meetings or even family gatherings can be truly depressing.

Here I share with you what I think is the greatest sandwich recipe of all time, and I’m not embarrassed to say it. I love taking something humble like a sandwich and trying to make it as good as it possibly can be. This sandwich - or baguette - is surely living its best life. I made a few of these for a trip up to Norfolk with Great Northern recently and it was pure joy. Transformational.

This is my take on an almost classic Vietnamese sandwich recipe – The Bánh mì. There was a Vietnamese sandwich on the menu at my first restaurant and I have a real soft spot for them.

A classic franco-vietnamese street food you really can’t go wrong with, and I love what a brilliant cultural mash up they are. For sale at every train station and coffee shop in Vietnam, they are as ubiquitous as they are delicious. I’ve made them with all sorts over the years including sardines, sausages and tofu, but this version is more classic and certainly worth the time it takes (because it does take a bit of time). Underpinned with rich slow cooked minced pork, a slice of good ham, some pâté or better some head “cheese,” it’s the balance that really makes it worthwhile. A hymn in every mouthful.

So, next time you’re jumping on a train or prepping for a day out, why not try it out and bring the classic sandwich back to life?


Vietnamese sandwich

This makes 4 sandwiches but you should make extra pickles as they will last a couple of weeks in the fridge and can brighten up the saddest plate.


  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 spring onions finely chopped
  • 1⁄2 thumb-sized piece of ginger, finely chopped Mild olive oil
  • 2 tsp Chinese five-spice powder
  • 200g minced pork (not too lean)
  • 1 large or 4 small baguettes, not too crusty
  • 170g shop-bought country pâté or head “cheese”
  • A handful of coriander leaves

For the pickles

  • 200ml rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1⁄4 cucumber, finely sliced
  • 1 carrot, finely sliced
  • A handful of radishes, finely sliced
  • 2 bird’s eye chillies, deseeded and finely sliced

Make the pickles first by bringing the rice wine vinegar, fish sauce and sugar to the boil, then pour over the sliced vegetables and put to one side to cool.

While the pickles are cooling, fry the garlic, spring onion and ginger in a little olive oil until it begins to colour very slightly. Add the five-spice powder and the pork, season with a little salt and pepper and continue to cook for another three minutes. Add a generous splash of water, turn the heat down and then leave to simmer for 20-30 minutes.

To assemble, split the baguette and spread generously with the pâté. Spoon over the cooked pork, sprinkle with the pickles and top with a few coriander leaves. Cut in half and serve with any leftover pickles.

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