At Vietnamese sandwich shops, you’ll find a dizzying number of meat options like grilled chicken, grilled beef, sardines, and even some Chinese-influenced options like xíu mại. However, with Vietnamese sandwiches, pork seems to be king–you’ll always see pork options like chả lụa (meatloaf), thịt nướng (grilled pork), nem nướng (ground & grilled pork), bì (shredded pork skin), and combinations of these.
In this recipe, I’ll show you how to make thịt ba rọi, or seasoned pork belly, for Vietnamese bánh mì.
At sandwich shops you usually won’t find pork belly as an option. They’ll use other cuts simply to reduce costs. One difference between this recipe and xa xiu/char siu is the latter would call for pork shoulder and barbecuing. Since we’re going through the effort of making this at home we’re going to use fattier, tastier pork belly!
Choosing the pork belly
Something around 1.5 pounds produces a decent sized roll when sliced for sandwiches. If you choose something too big, you’ll need a bigger pot to cook it in, more water, and longer cook times. If your butcher only carries larger pork bellies you can always cut them down to size and cook more than one at a time.
Marinating the pork
Combine the onion powder, salt, soy sauce, and Chinese barbecue seasoning into a bowl, then distribute evenly over the pork belly and let it marinate for 1-3 hours or overnight. I actually let this marinade for 24 hours and it still tasted great without being over salted.
Tying up the pork belly
I made a quick video showing one way to tie the pork belly. There’s no need to get real fancy, you could just wind the twine around multiple times and tie it down too. See below:[adthrive-in-post-video-player video-id=”SiMEslJY” upload-date=”2020-05-14T00:00:00.000Z” name=”Tying Up Pork Belly For Xa Xiu / Char Siu for Banh Mi” description=”How I tie up pork belly for homemade Vietnamese sandwiches. We want this xa xiu in a roll shape so it's easier to slice, and looks nice for banh mi / Vietnamese sandwiches!” player-type=”default” override-embed=”default”]
Roll and tie the pork belly in butchers twine and tie it so it holds together when you boil it. Don’t overtighten it because the string will cut into the skin as you cook it. This step is optional and mainly for looks when you slice the pork for sandwiches.
Cooking the pork
Next, add it to a pot of water with a quartered onion then boil it on medium to medium high to maintain a low boil. Rotate the belly 90 degrees every 15 minutes so it cooks evenly on all sides. Repeat until the skin is easily pierced with a chopstick, but not mushy and the belly should still be relatively firm. This should take about 90 minutes total depending on the size of belly and size of the pot.
When done, remove from the pot, wait for it to cool, then slice thinly to add to your bánh mì sandwiches. Vietnamese baguettes are the way to go and the only place to get them is from Vietnamese bread/sandwich shops (or to make it yourself!). French baguettes and any kind of bread sold at American supermarket chains could work in a pinch, but it wont be quite the same.
If you want a Filipino version of this entree, you can also fire up the grill and rotisserie to make Cebuchon–an equally tasty and crisp roasted lechon belly recipe.
Pork Belly Recipe for Bánh Mì (Vietnamese Sandwiches)
- 2 pounds belly
- 1/2 packet Chinese barbecue seasoning I used this kind from Noh
- 1 medium yellow onion quartered
- 2 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce for color
- Combine salt, onion powder, soy sauce, and packet seasoning into a medium bowl and mix.
- Add belly to the bowl, evenly distribute seasoning, then marinate for 1-24 hours, covered. Longer will be better.
- Remove belly from the bowl, roll the belly up and tie so it holds a shape while cooking.
- Using a pot only slightly bigger than the pork bellies, add the rolled pork bellies to the pot then fill with water to reach 2/3 up the larger belly and bring to a boil.
- Lower the heat to maintain a medium boil, and rotate the pork 90 degrees every 15 minutes.
- The pork is ready when the skin is soft and easily pierced by a chopstick, but the meat inside remains firm, about 90 minutes of boiling total depending on heat level. Remove from the water to cool, then remove twine and slice.
14 comments on “Pork Belly Recipe for Bánh Mì (Vietnamese Sandwiches)”
My son loves this dish. I usually steamed instead of boiling and it turned out great too.
Just wanted to say thank you for making such an awesome website and blog! My boyfriend and I have been looking into making Vietnamese food, since we’re on a limited budget and live farther away from the Viet areas. So thank you for taking the time to write up the recipes, take beautiful food pics, and getting me connected to my Viet culture through food!
Instead of boiling it, can you broil/bake it?
Tbh I haven’t tried, but would guess it’s not quite the same!
Hi! I was wondering if Chinese Five Spices would be a good substitute for the Chinese barbecue seasoning mix? I also couldn’t get pork belly anywhere near me! Is pork shoulder/butt alright?
Hey Brianna, this seasoning contains sugar, soy sauce, onion powder, garlic powder, “spices,” and food coloring according to the label. So you’d need to sub with a lot more! Yeah any cut of meat will do fine really, I just like the fat and skin content of belly.
Just wanted to write a note, letting you know how much I enjoy your blog and all the recipes you post. I’m not viet but living in Australia and Canada definitely made me learn what Vietnamese food was.
Thank you so much for sharing your recipes! And please keep posting! ?
Hello Zita—thanks for the kind words! Loving that these posts are helping get the word out on Vietnamese food. Comments like yours will help me from going on another two year blogging hiatus 🙂
This looks amazing. I’ve been on a Bahn mi kick for a couple of years now. Learning bit by bit. It has been my January food project for the last two years. And I think I’ll do it again this year. I start by making my own beef liverwurst. And go from there. I needs to sit for a few days to mellow out. Then tow or three pickles. I ave attempted a couple of pork recipes, including one with pork belly. Not too good–edible, but need work. I think I’ll try this one this time around. I can’t use the NOH products due to some allergies. Anyway. I looked it up and it seems that it is simply a five spice recipe with food coloring. Is that about right? I am also allergic to garlic and onion powders. I also don’t like the food dyes. I was thinking of layering in a bunch of chopped green onions and garlic to add that flavor to the profile. I think this year I am going to tackle a Vietnamese bread roll recipe that I have, now that I have all the other parts in pretty good working order. Thanks. Your site is grand! I’ve bookmarked you.
Hey Judy, great to hear from you! Really the food coloring is mainly for visual interest and doesn’t add anything else, so if you can get a great tasting version without it that would be preferred. Glad to hear you can still eat fresh garlic and onion–not really sure how I’d live without those. Thanks for the kind words and hit me up to share the banh mi you make this year.
good recipes Huy I will make some day
Hi! I’m glad I found this recipe but is there a reason why mine wouldn’t be red?
I am a huge fan of Bahn Mi I am also a huge fan of BBQ. I am going to use this recipe and my experience as a pit master to fuse these to together in a smoked pork belly Bahn Mi. I will let you know how it comes out. Thank you for sharing!
Kent that sounds AMAZING, please share a photo if you’re on IG 🙂