Usually when I see a recipe in a magazine it can take me a while to get around to actually making it. I am routinely pulling things out of my recipe binder that are dated back as far as 2003. But some things just sound so good that I immediately head out to the store to buy the ingredients.
Such was the case with this dish, Ming Tsai’s Asian-Style Sloppy Joe Sliders, which were featured in the January issue of Food & Wine. I saw hoisin sauce, lime juice and ground pork and I was sold.
Apparently, Tsai’s mother used to make these for him when he was growing up and all of the kids at school would trade their lunches just to get one. I can totally buy this story because these beat the pants of any PB&J out there!
I made only minor substitutions — switching from ground chicken thighs to a lean ground turkey. After all, there was a pound of ground pork in there too, which I figured would keep it fatty enough. And I didn’t have any brioche buns, so the first night we ate these on steamed buns (a la Momofuku). After that I used our homemade English muffins, which ended up being the best thing ever.
But before I get ahead of myself, let’s talk about what makes this recipe so freakin’ good. It’s simple. Time. I promise you. Tsai’s mom was onto something by making these for lunch because overnight they get so much better.
The first night they were good, but I’ll be honest — I was actually slightly disappointed. We even had a whole spread set out including super sour pickles from the local Asian market and shredded iceberg lettuce for crunch. And while it was a nice change of pace from the Italian-heavy food I had been making all week, it left me a little ‘meh.’
My husband really liked them (he was probably relieved it wasn’t pasta again!), but for me the hoisin sauce was just a little too much and the flavors just weren’t melding. It was like hearing a musician play just slightly off key. I could deal with it, but I wasn’t loving it.
But the next day at lunch, they were divine. The mixture was a little tart from the lime, pungent with garlic and onion and there was a hint of sweetness from the hoisin (which had mellowed dramatically) that brought it all together. Somehow it had become a perfectly in-tune orchestra of flavors.
And the English muffin for a bun? Perfection.
I loved it so much that I almost didn’t have any left for a picture! The first night we were too hungry and so I didn’t bother with the usual food photo op. Then I brought the mixture to work and I almost ate it all before I remembered I still hadn’t taken pictures of the dish. And so, with great sadness, I bought a turkey sandwich that day for lunch so I could save this bit for you all to see.
Hope it was worth it!
It also occurs to me that these would be great for Superbowl. Make them tomorrow so they can be ready to impress by Sunday afternoon!