Paleo Banh Mi Bowl

We have a fantastic butcher shop here in Prague called The Real Meat Society. It was co-founded by British chef Paul Day—who is also responsible for the dreamy restaurant Sansho—and it sells only pastured meat that is antibiotic and hormone free, well-slaughtered, and well-butchered. Which is a long way to say that I have a source for totally kickass ground pork—and I’ve been using it to make the Banh Mi Bowls from Well Fed Weeknights. A lot. Like, multiple times per week. And every time I eat it, I say to Dave, with my mouth full, “This is such a good recipe.” Which then leads me to say:

Well Fed Weeknights is a really awesome cookbook.

Now that we have a very small fridge and I can’t do a giant cookup every week, we’ve been relying on the fast, easy recipes in Well Fed Weeknights to get dinner on the table fast—and I usually double them so we have leftovers for the lunch the next day. I the fury of writing and producing the cookbook, I kind of lost sight of the fact that this food tastes really, really good. Now that I’m just a consumer of this cookbook, I gotta say: I love it.

If you don’t have your copy of Well Fed Weeknights yet, this is me, urging you to get a copy now—you can get it from my store, from Amazon, from B&N, or from a bookshop in your neighborhood. And to tempt you, I’m sharing the Banh Mi Bowl recipe. You could make it tonight! It’s ready in about half an hour, and if you’re missing one of the veggies or herbs, it’s no biggie. This is a stupid-simple, crazy-delicious meal.

I first learned about the Vietnamese banh mi sandwich while watching a PBS documentary called Sandwiches That You Will Like. The show was a culinary tour of memorable sandwiches, and the banh mi sounded like nothing I’d ever tried before. Pork and liver… with pickles and mayo? I decided it was either the weirdest, grossest combo or the most fantastic thing ever. When I finally tried one—on a sunny day in New York from a standing-room-only hole-in-the-wall sandwich shop—I realized it was fantastic. This version keeps all the signature contrasts and ditches the baguette. The bread only gets in the way.

Paleo Banh Mi Bowl

Serves 2–4 | Total time: 25–30 minutes | Tools: pint-size Mason jar, stick blender | Whole30 compliant

Veg relish:
  • 2 large carrots

  • 1 bunch radishes

  • 1/2 medium red onion

  • 1 jalapeño

  • 1/3 cup cider vinegar

  • 1/3 cup water

  • 2 teaspoons coconut sugar (omit for Whole30)

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

  • 1 large egg

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1 1/4 cups light-tasting olive or avocado oil

  • 1 1/2 pounds ground pork

  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce

  • 1 tablespoon lime juice

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • a handful fresh cilantro

  • a handful fresh basil

  • 1 large seedless cucumber

  • 4 scallions

  • 1 (5-ounce) package baby spinach

  • 1 lime

  • coconut aminos (for sprinkling)


Prep the veg relish. Wash the carrots and shave them into ribbons with a vegetable peeler. Wash and thinly slice the radishes. Slice the onion into thin half moons. Cut the jalapeño into thin rings. Place the vegetables in a medium mixing bowl and add the cider vinegar, water, and sugar. Mix to combine and set aside.


Make the mayo. Place all the mayo ingredients in a pint-size Mason jar and whirl with a stick blender for about 30 seconds. Voila! Mayo is done.


Cook the pork. Heat a large, nonstick skillet over medium-high heat for 3 minutes. Add the pork to the skillet and cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon. When it’s beginning to lose its pink color, add the fish sauce, lime juice, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine and continue cooking until the liquid is absorbed and the meat is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Turn off the heat.


Prep the salad. Coarsely chop the cilantro and basil. Thinly slice the cucumber and scallions. Wash the spinach. Cut the lime into quarters.


To serve, place a handful of spinach leaves in individual serving bowls, then top with herbs, cucumber, and scallions. Pile some cooked pork on top of the vegetables and use a slotted spoon to add some carrot-radish relish to the bowl. Spoon a dollop of mayo on top, then give the whole thing a squeeze of fresh lime juice and a few shakes of coconut aminos.

You Know How You Could Do That?

Make it more traditional with the addition of liver; add 1/2 pound chopped raw chicken livers to the pork stir-fry. Cauliflower Rice is also a nice addition to the Banh Mi Bowl.

Cookup Tips

Make the mayo and cut all the raw veggies and herbs; store everything in separate airtight containers in the fridge. When you’re ready to eat, stir-fry the pork and build your bowl.

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  • Suzanne Gregory says:

    I totally loved the show “Sandwiches You Will Love” that during our local KLRN/PBS fund raiser in San Antonio, for contributing you could get the DVD and the accompanying book. I got it and my now 20 year old daughter would watch it over and over. Well when in Maine I visited and ate at Red Eats, famous for their lobster rolls. I also loved the Banh Mi story, but never made it there. Cant wait to try this recipe.

  • Dana says:

    I totally agree about Well Fed Weeknights! You outdid yourself. Last night I made the creamy Italian dressing and we were licking our plates. My copy is falling apart, as I use it all the time. Many, many favorites from that little treasure of a book!

  • Alexandra Ronderos says:

    Could I use a different type of mince besides pork? Recipe looks delicious by the way!

    • Sure! Any other protein will work: beef, chicken, turkey, lamb will all taste good.

    • Rachelle says:

      I just made this with ground turkey breast and it was fabulous! My husband wants more spice and flavor in it next time – he likes it spicy! I also took a shortcut and used Olive Oil mayo off the shelf – it’s not as good, so I mixed it into the relish. I’m sure I committed a food crime, but sometimes Momma has just gotta get food on the table!

  • Annie Smyth says:

    This is sooooo good!!! Long time follower and have all three Well Fed books. Thank you!!!

  • Michelle says:

    This is fantastic! Instead of the quick-pickled relish, I tried naturally fermenting it. I sliced the relish as recommended, put the veggies plus the 1/2 tsp pepper flakes into a ceramic crock, and added a 3.5% brine to it (1000 grams water/ 35 grams salt), added a weight and let it ferment for 10 days. Then proceed to the recipe and include the chicken livers! Wow.

    • This sounds so delicious! Good on you. The banh mi with the chicken livers is super-yummy, right?! I had a sandwich in NYC ages ago that had chicken liver pate, roasted pork, pickled veggies, and homemade mayo on a fresh baguette — truly heavenly.