Hangin’ with the Alley Cats

I think I was 21 when I first moved to Seattle from my hometown of Tacoma.  I had moved into a college house filled with all my T-Town homies and we mostly ate food, went to the gym, and studied.  We were a bit like Jersey Shore but without all the hair and staged fights.  On most Saturday afternoons, we would pile into 2 cars and hit up Chinatown.  Have you ever seen 11 brown dudes fit into a couple of import coupes in the middle of August?  You would think the windows are tinted but, nah, that’s just the back of our head and suntan shoulders.  

Once we landed and disembarked we would go to a couple of tried and true places.  We had our spots for Dim Sum and Chinese baked goods, but among them all was probably our favorite locale, Seattle Deli.  Nowadays if you go there it is a nice place.  It is clean, with big open windows, clean, on a big plot of land, plenty of parking, and most noticeably….C to the L to the E-A-N.  Back in the late 90’s?  Not really the case.  For real, this place was dark and tiny.  It was stashed away in an alley, fugly pigeons everywhere, next to a garbage bin with a dude sleeping inside, behind a blood diamond jewelry store, below a dentist office that looked like it made bootleg passports as a side hustle, and next to a place where you can buy VHS (remember those) copies of movies that were still in the theatre at that time.  How you think we saw Supercop 2 when Supercop 1 had just come out?  But I’ll tell you what, that was the place to go for the best che (Viet dessert), Bo Vien (meatballs), Banh Bao (steamed buns) and super dope Banh Mi….I can’t tell you how many times we went there and stocked our skinny butts up on tons of those things.  Oh, and you can’t forget the grass jelly drink or the basil seed drink, had to get those too.

You know, thinking back now, I don’t know how any of us made any money.  None of us had rich parents…in fact over half my friends grew up eating free/reduced lunches at school.  In those days, we had to make it work….we would scam bus rides, bring a plate to the all you can eat pizza buffet, and get creative at Ross for our Polo and/or Nautica gear.  Talk about ballah’s on a budget!  We all had student loans and barely worked but somehow managed to live like princes and dine like kings.

The influence of all those trips must have stuck with us because one of my best friends opened his own Seattle area Banh Mi joint called Plume a few years back.  It no longer exists but for a little while it was a great place to eat.  It must have stuck with me too because when the wifey and I were watching a Food Network game show, this chef made Banh Mi.  A few days later, I was chatting up my Muse about our next posting. She was like, ok, cool, let’s make Banh Mi.  But you know…me being me, I had to put my own stank on it!  Without further ado, I present to you….

Smoking is habit forming

  • 1 slab of ribs cut St. Louis style (keep the rib tips and smoke those too)
  • Salt & Pepper BBQ Rub (see recipe below)
  • Pickled veggies (see recipe below)
  • Pate
  • 1 jalapeno seeded and sliced
  • Cilantro
  • French bread rolls or Bolillo rolls

First get the ribs and rib tips out and rub them down and set aside.  Next get the fire going to 225 degrees and put the ribs on the smoker.  I used a modified version of the 3,2,1 method which basically states that you smoke 3 hours, cover in foil (adding liquid if you like) smoke for 2 more hours, and finally remove from foil, sauce and smoke for another hour.  I find that method leaves the rib a bit too soft so I just go for the 3, 2 method and skip the 1.  But if you are a grill master, you know what works for you.  

Once the ribs are done, place them in a large pan to rest for about 15 minutes.  Then proceed to shred the meat into small pieces that can fit into a sandwich.  Once that is done you just cut the bread lengthwise, spread on the pate, add the meat, pickled veggies, jalapeno and cilantro.

Don’t be bitter, be better

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 cups Julienne carrots
  • 3 cups Julienne cucumber
  • 3 cups Julienne daikon radish
  • 3 cups Julienne green papaya

I don’t’ think the green papaya is common in traditional Banh Mi, but I love using it every chance I get so…there.  In a deep pot, mix up all the water, vinegar, and sugar until the sugar is dissolved.  Taste it to see that it is equally bitter and sweet.  Neither should overpower the other. It should be neither too bitter or too sweet.  Now take all those lovely Julienned produce and place it into the pickle mix.  Place in fridge for at least 4 hours or more.  If you do this right after you place the ribs on the smoker that is plenty of time.

Salt & Pepper’s Here and we’re in Effect!

  • ¼ cup course ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup course ground green peppercorns (or whatever kind you like)
  • ¼ cup whole mustard seed
  • Salt to taste

Just toss all these in a bowl and mix ‘em the heck up.  Add the salt to taste since everyone’s level of salt tolerance differs.

This was the first true time I used my smoker this year and after taking 40 minutes to clean the dang thing out, it was totally worthwhile.  The sun was out, the air was clear, and after a quick post to the Gram through Daislanani, we had an impromptu fiesta when some friends stopped by with much appreciated company and booze.  This is what happens when you let your inspiration guide you…awesome people float to your beautiful island and I can’t wait to do it again.  A’ight then y’all if you decide to try this at home have fun with it and until next time, stay cool.

This time around we are leaving the islands for a little trip to my backyard and see where these sandwiches were created

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