A bánh mì sandwich is a combination of the French influence (baguette and mayonnaise) from their colonial period in Vietnam with native Vietnamese ingredients such as cilantro and fish sauce. Traditional ingredients are all kinds of pork (grilled, marinated, ground into pork roll), chicken, pate… but also fried egg or tofu. Vegetables such as pickled carrots, cilantro and sliced cucumber are a must and the condiments are usually mayo, soy sauce and chili sauce or chilies. This is a fun sandwich as there are so many variations. The end result is a delicious combo of salt, sweet, tang and spice. Sadly, I have yet to make it to Vietnam (or nearby NYC) for a bánh mì sandwich and had to create my own. I made a tofu version today and we (me, hubby, and grandma) loved it. My new picnic staple!
Tofu bánh mì
makes 2 sandwiches
Soft and chewy baguette
Block of extra firm tofu
3 cloves garlic, sliced
small piece daikon radish (optional)
1 cucumber or 2 small persian cucumbers
1 stalk lemongrass, chopped (optional)
french mayo or vegan mayo spread
sriracha (or sliced chilies)
good quality soy sauce
good quality sesame oil
salt and pepper
1) Make the pickled carrots and daikon radish by a) shredding them in a processor or julienne them by hand, b) put in a jar with 2 parts water and 1 part rice vinegar for a couple hours or overnight. I skipped this step because I was too hungry to wait and simply drizzled plenty of rice vinegar over my carrots. The tangy-er, the better.
2) Next marinate the tofu. Chop the fresh lemongrass if you have it (I used dried lemongrass—making sure to remove the stalk before eating—but I’m not sure it added much). Cut 2/3 of the block of tofu into small strips. Add the lemongrass, garlic and tofu to a ziploc bag. Then add 1 tsp sesame oil, salt and pepper and about 5 tsp or more of good soy sauce. Mix around and let marinade for a few minutes.
3) While the tofu is marinading, wash and chop the cilantro and slice enough cucumber for two sandwiches.
4) Heat up plenty peanut oil or vegetable oil in a frying pan. More oil means crispier tofu; a good thing. Add the contents of the ziploc bag to the frying pan—garlic, lemongrass, soy sauce, tofu, etc. Stir occasionally but cook on all sides till tofu is browned and a little crispy.
5) Assemble the banh mi: a) Spread plenty (don’t be shy) of mayo and sriracha on baguette halves. Layer the pickled carrots, cucumber and lots of cilantro on the baguette. Add the tofu and drizzle some more soy sauce over everything. Add sliced chilies or extra sriracha if you are a bad ass.
Enjoy this completely awesome, delicious, healthy, fun, not-boring sandwich any time, any place, any day.