In the 90s I was known for making definitively the greatest mix CDs of the decade. I carefully crafted each playlist with an unreliable dial-up Internet connection, using questionable song procurement methods. I would spend days on each mix-CD title, which was usually some mashup of all the lyrics and the memories they represented. At the time I didn’t understand that the tracks on those mixes would forever link to my joy, permanently imprinting onto the person I would become. What I’ve learned since then, is that food does this too.
What I know for sure about mixes and mashups—whether it’s music or recipes—is that the greatest ones often come from pairing the most unexpected tracks or ingredients. A Britney jam following the perfect Savage Garden song, or the flavours of a token Vietnamese sandwich served up on Taco Tuesday. This is the magic. It’s what makes my playlists hit different from yours and what turns a seemingly finite number of available ingredients into new and truly awesome meals that have never existed before you danced them out in your kitchen.
These Banh Mi Wonton Nachos are just that. The rad flavours of banh mi mashed up with the crispiness of wonton wrappers, the delight of a big plate of shared nachos and a playlist curated just for the occasion. It’s like that mix CD long lost under your passenger seat—but with more queso.
30–40 wonton wrappers
3 cups vegetable oil for deep frying (or 2 tablespoons of oil if baking)
1–2 teaspoons of salt for sprinkling
1 pound ground chicken
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons Kewpie Mayo (or regular mayo)
2 tablespoons Sriracha
1¼ cups milk
¼ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup chopped cilantro
Pickled Carrots and Jalapenos
1 cup matchstick carrots
½ cup sliced jalapenos
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup water
Begin by preparing the wonton chips*: In a high-sided pot, heat three cups of vegetable oil to 325°F. Cut your stack of wonton wrappers into triangles by cutting the squares in half diagonally. When the oil is at temperature, carefully add one triangle to the oil to make sure it isn’t too hot. The wonton wrapper should immediately puff up a bit and the oil should bubble around the edges, but the wonton wrapper should not turn brown or burn. Let it cook for about 30 seconds and remove with tongs to a paper towel-lined tray, sprinkle with salt, let cool and give it a taste. When the oil temp is right, repeat with the remaining wonton wrappers a few at a time as to not crowd the oil. Set aside until ready to assemble.
Next, prepare the pickled carrots and jalapenos: Add the rice vinegar, sugar, salt and water to a small bowl. Add the matchstick carrots and sliced jalapenos to the pickling liquid and put them in the fridge for at least 15 minutes (or up to 24 hours) until ready to assemble.
Make the Sriracha Queso: Add the butter to a medium pot over medium-high heat. When the butter is melted, add in the garlic and shallots and cook for 1 minute until softened. Add the flour and let cook another minute. Next whisk in the mayo, Sriracha and milk and keep whisking until it thickens, about 2 minutes. Turn the heat to low and whisk in the cheese, salt and chopped cilantro. Keep warm until ready to assemble.
Make the Banh Mi Chicken: Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the ground chicken to the pan, breaking it up and browning it up until cooked through about 6 minutes. Meanwhile mix up the garlic, fish sauce, soy sauce, brown sugar and water. When the chicken is cooked, pour the sauce over and give it a stir.
To assemble: Arrange the wonton chips in a single layer on a large platter. Top with banh mi chicken, sprinkle with pickled carrots and jalapenos and then drizzle with warm Sriracha queso.
Whitney Houston – My Love Is Your Love; Savage Garden – I Want You; Britney Spears – Stronger; *NSYNC – It’s Gonna Be Me; Jennifer Lopez – Let’s Get Loud; Spice Girls – Stop.
*Alternatively, you can brush the wonton wrappers with oil and bake on a sheet pan in a single layer in a preheated oven at 350°F for 2–3 minutes until crisp.
Recipe by Becky Van Drunen, Author Playlist Kitchen.