Hakurei Turnip Bahn Mi: Not So Seasonal Now, But Soon

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We hit peak hakurei turnip in Georgia around late March or early April. The turnips seeds need about a month and a half to fully mature, planted first in early February soon after a hopeful last frost (take that Yankees!). Hakureis are long gone, but here it is, September, and I'm still thinking about them. It is possible to plant this ready-to-eat vegetable again in the fall, but I'm not sure if anyone around here will be attempting to do so. Whatever the case, there's no reason not to revisit this recipe from April in the Athens Banner-Herald. Why do I like it? It's not stuffy. This here is comfort food, plain and simple. Nobody's writing poems about this bahn mi. They're just groaning. Here you go: 

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It might feel authentic, or some other linguistic baloney, to celebrate seasonal produce from small, local farms with somber reverence.

To roast carrots whole and serve lightly seasoned in a rustic cast iron, to chop a salad together of only crisp Mizuna greens and latterly plucked Mexican cherry tomatoes, undressed and very raw — such spare and simple preparations make for au courant Instagram action worth a tweetable blog post on the Pinterest box.

But local needn’t be so prim. I asked Gaby Lindsey, co-chief of Viva! Argentine, along with husband Jesse, what she would do if I dropped a few bunches of freshly harvested Hakurei turnips from Woodland Gardens onto her prep station. Her idea exemplified the rib sticking, homey, backyard barbecue loveliness that’s made her Prince Avenue restaurant such a success.

Let’s make a bahn mi, she said. Not slow braised turnips, not intact Hakureis savored for their nature, but a turnip-based slaw topping a grilled chicken version of the classic Vietnamese sandwich.

This is about admiration, sure, for the pristine produce grown by our local farmers, but it’s also about food so good it pleases the soul.

I first encountered Hakureis four years ago when I met Celia Barss, lead grower at Woodland Gardens. She’s responsible, I believe, for turning chefs in Athens and Atlanta onto the beauty of this Japanese variety. If it’s the other way around, well, then a Barss Hakurei is the paragon of all things turnip.

Turns out bahn mis are a Lindsey house secret, trotted out only for friends and families. Now that I’ve shown the Lindseys the mild wonders of the Hakurei, a turnip so crisp and sweet is can be eaten raw like a radish, I hope this turnip is now a permanent fixture in the recipe.

Gaby prepared this following recipe especially for the Athens Banner-Herald, and it’s not currently on the Viva! menu, which serves lunch and dinner at 247 Prince Avenue. But if you beg, then plead, then maybe threaten — a tactic I’m planning to take — we might see a southeast Asian addition to their Argentinean menu quite soon.

MARINATED GRILLED CHICKEN BAHN MI

With Hakurei Turnip, rainbow carrot and Savoy cabbage slaw

Serves 4

Cooking time: 1 to 1 ½ hours (with 5 to 24 hours marinade time)

2 French baguettes cut in half

2 jalapenos, de-seeded, membrane removed and slice lengthwise

½ bunch cilantro

For the Chicken:

1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts

4 garlic gloves, chopped

3 green onions, finely chopped

¼ C. basil, finely chopped

½ tbsp fish sauce

1 tbsp Sriracha Thai hot sauce

2 tbsp soy sauce

½ tbsp sugar

1 tsp sesame oil

2 tsp cornstarch

¼ C. water

1 tsp fresh ground pepper

1 tsp kosher salt

For the Slaw:

1 ½ C. rainbow carrots, grated

1 ½ C. Savoy cabbage, thinly sliced

1 ½ C. Hakurei turnips, halved and cut into 1//8 inch slices

3 tbsp sugar

¼ C. rice wine vinegar

1 tsp kosher salt

2 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp sesame oil

For the Sriracha mayo

2/3 C mayo

2 green onions, finely chopped

2 tbsp Sriracha hot sauce

Prepare the marinade. Place chicken in rectangular baking dish. Combine all ingredients in large mixing bowl and whisk thoroughly. Pour marinade over chicken and place in fridge for at least five hours, with an overnight marinade preferred.

Prepare the slaw. Combine all slice and grated ingredients into a large mixing bowl. Add sugar, vinegar, salt, soy sauce and sesame oil. Toss all ingredients and let stand at room temperature 30 minutes to an hour, tossing occasionally.

Prepare the Sriracha mayo. Combine all ingredients in a small mixing bowl; add pinches of salt, pepper and garlic powder. Mix until a pink hue emerges. Cover and chill.

Remove chicken from marinade, letting excess liquid drip off. Grill chicken on medium high heat for 4 to 7 minutes on each side, or until thermometer reaches 180 degrees. Let chicken cool slightly, then chop chicken coarsely into bite-sized chunks.

De-seed and slice jalapenos. Cut baguettes in half. Chop cilantro.

Slather both sides of bread with mayo. Top with chicken. Lay slices of jalapeno on top of chicken following the length of the bread. Add heavy layer of slaw over top. Garnish with cilantro.

Andre GallantComment