Great Food Fast: Banh Mi, the Vietnamese Sandwich That’s Easy to Love

BBQ tofu banh mi, a vegetarian version of the classic Vietnamese sandwich

I know. I know. You probably don’t eat white bread very often either, but sometimes I confess to it being a guilty pleasure.  If you’ve never eaten one of these delightful sandwiches, you are in for a treat.  If you have, you know what I mean.  Most often they are made with pork or chicken, topped with lightly pickled sweet and tart vegetables–a wonderful balance of yin and yang. However, tofu as a filling is traditional as well.  If you can, mix up the vegetables a few hours ahead of time and let them marinate.  If you can’t wait, go ahead, make the sandwiches–they’ll still be good. And rest assured that this tasty filling will work on almost any kind of bread you choose.

Here is how I made my vegetarian banh mi (for each sandwich):

one 4 to 5-inch piece  of baguette  bread, split in half the long way (use whatever bread you like best, but for a banh mi that’s remotely authentic it will have to be a baguette, preferably with a crunchy crust and soft inside)

Mayonnaise or veganaise

4-5 slices of cucumber cut thin on the diagonal

1/3 to 1/2 of the tofu mixture (see below)

however much of the “pickled” vegetable mixture (see below) you like

a few sprigs of fresh cilantro

To make each sandwich: Spread mayonnaise on the top and bottom of the split side of the  bread. Line the bottom with cucumber slices, then mound on the tofu.  Top the tofu with the pickled vegetables, then with the cilantro sprigs. Place the top half in place, and cut the sandwich in half. That’s it!

For the Quick Pickled Veggies (for 2-3 sandwiches):

1 large carrot, trimmed and julienned or coarsely grated, about 1 1/2 cups (to julienne, cut the carrot into thin slices on the diagonal, then stack a few of these slices at a time and cut them into thin strips)

3-inch piece of daikon, peeled and julienned (about 1 1/2 cups), alternatively, you could use one-half of a small jicama, also peeled and julienned

1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced  (optional)

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoon mirin

1 tablespoon brown rice syrup

1 teaspoon soy sauce (or to taste)

pinch of salt

a little squeeze of fresh lime juice

Place all ingredients in a medium bowl, toss and knead together with your fingers to work the salt and other flavors into the vegetables. Let sit and “pickle” for at least fifteen minutes or,  preferably, several hours. Drain off and squeeze out any excess liquid from the vegetables before putting them in the sandwich.

Tofu Sandwich Filling (for two sandwiches):

6 ounces teriyaki seasoned tofu cut into small dice (I used Wild Wood Organics Teriyaki Baked SprouTofu)

3 green onions, trimmed and cut into small rounds

2 tablespoons Annie’s Naturals Organic BBQ Sauce (smokey maple flavor), or similar quality barbecue sauce

2 tablespoons mayonnaise, or veganaise if you want a vegan sandwich

a few cracks of freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons soy sauce (or to taste)

a little squeeze of fresh lime juice

Combine everything in a medium bowl, mix well and let sit in the fridge until you are ready to assemble the sandwiches.


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