The Anatomy of the Banh Mi at Moody’s Delicatessen & Provisions

Star chef and butcher Joshua Smith breaks down what's in his rendition of the Vietnamese classic.

banh mi

Joshua Smith’s banh mi sandwich at Moody’s Delicatessen in Waltham. Photo by Chelsea Kyle

Joshua Smith is mad about charcuterie. The owner of Moody’s Delicatessen & Provisions in Waltham has been in the food industry since he was 19, but his life changed forever when a butcher failed to show up for his shift at New York’s famous Dean & DeLuca. “I was working the prepared foods case when this French chef, Charles Semail, said I need you to work the butcher shop today,” Smith says. “I was eager to learn anything new, so I went over to the butcher shop and cut meat and steaks and produced a bunch of trim. I did a decent enough job where he started teaching me how to make pâtés and terrines and things like that. I fell in love with it, and every job I’ve had since I’ve pushed to have a charcuterie plate on the menu.”

After cooking for over a decade at the Four Seasons in Seattle and in Boston, Smith realized that he wanted to get out of the kitchen and launch something of his own. “It’s unique to have a chef go into the meat business,” Smith says. “Most chefs don’t do that, they just play with stuff on the side. I wanted to hang up my chef coat for a lab coat and really learn the science of it.”

So he began the arduous process of opening his own deli to showcase all of his house-made, artisanal provisions. In the process, Smith supported his family by launching a catering company, and consulted with chefs Jamie Mammano and Michael Schlow on their charcuterie and dry-aged beef programs at L’Andana and Tico, respectively.

Moody’s Delicatessen & Provisions opened in Waltham last November to plenty of rave reviews. In fact, the demand for Smith’s corned beef, salamis, and other deli meats has been so high that Smith hired a full-time food scientist to maintain his exacting standards. He’s also currently working with winemaker Peter Seghesio (formerly of Seghesio Winery, now of Journeyman Winery) on establishing a similar concept in Sonoma, California.

We asked Smith what his favorite item was to eat on his menu, and without hesitation, he told us it was his souped-up banh mi sandwich, which features no fewer than four types of carefully prepared meats. Here, in Smith’s own words, are the stories behind each component:

1. Bread: Iggy’s ciabatta baguette.

2. Sauce

Sriracha aioli made with cilantro, sriracha, lime juice, and sugarcane juice.

3. Chicken Liver Mousse

“We do a chicken liver mousse Marco Pierre White-style,” Smith says. “Basically, it’s 50 percent liver and 50 percent fat. Marco Pierre White is the only guy I know who uses that much fat in a mousse. It’s easily the most labor-intensive thing we do. It takes hours.”

Smith first blanches the fat, then purees it, and folds it into the pureed chicken liver. Afterward, he emulsifies the mixture in a Vita-Prep, while maintaining a consistently warm temperature. Finally, Smith blends in High Lawn Farm heavy cream, eggs, and spices and slow-cooks the terrines in his prized Enviro-Pak oven.

4. Country Pâté

“Our country pâté is something I’ve been making for over 18 years now,” Smith says. The pâté combines coarsely chopped Berkshire pork butt, chicken livers, shallot, parsley, garlic, fresh thyme, black peppercorns, and a generous glug of white wine. Smith covers the top in a peppercorn crust and slow cooks it in the Enviro-Pak.

5. Pork Belly

A half-inch slab of pork belly is the only warm component on the sandwich. Smith first marinates it in a blend of sriracha, lime zest, and sugar, then cooks it for 48 hours in thermal immersion circulator at 148 degrees. “That collagen starts to break down and becomes gelatin, which creates a nice creamy texture,” Smith says. “We sear it on the plancha afterward so the outside is caramelized and crunchy, while the inside stays soft and unctuous.” If that doesn’t sound decadent enough he coats it with a combination of butter, pork fat, and bacon drippings, something he’s named the “house special lipid.”

6. Ham

The smoked shoulder ham is made just like a dry-cured, spicy coppa cotta. Smith first brine pumps it and then cooks it for three days in the Enviro-Pak.

7. Pickled Veggies

Moody’s banh mi is topped with a traditional slaw of sliced carrots, daikon, and cucumber, although Smith’s is only briefly pickled in a quick bath of nuoc cham (fish sauce, chilies, garlic, lime juice, and sugar). “We don’t want the veggies to get soggy, so we toss them to order,” Smith says. “There are so many other soft components of the sandwich, we needed something fresh and crispy. Also, you have these big, salty, unctuous flavors from the pâtés, so we wanted to cut that with some bright acidity.”

8. Fresh Herbs 

Finally, Smith adds huge handfuls of cilantro and mint sprigs. “We have whole huge stalks, not just leaves, so it look like there’s a freaking garden jumping out of the sandwich,” Smith says. “It’s awesome!”


Photo by Chelsea Kyle