If you’ve never had the pleasure of biting into a soft, airy baguette filled with pickled vegetables, herbs, meat, and sauces, then you’ve never experienced the perfection of a banh mi sandwich. Veganized version or not, this delicious sub never fails to deliver a tantalizing melody of sweet, sour, salty, and fresh flavours. It’s one of the most underrated sandwiches around.
What’s in a banh mi sandwich?
The essence of a banh mi would be best described as the culinary lovechild between Vietnamese and French cuisines. A product of the French colonialism in Indochina during the 19th century, it combines French ingredients like baguettes, pâté, jalapeño, and mayonnaise, with ingredients that are native to Vietnam, like coriander, cucumber, pickled carrots, and Daikon radish. However, with different cuisine styles across the country, different parts of Vietnam put their own local spin on the recipe, The traditional version of bahn mi is also not vegan, and features meat (often pork) as the star ingredient, which is then topped with a variety of sauces.
What does the vegan version look like?
However, that’s not to say that a vegan bahn mi is straying all that far from the original. You can find vegan versions of banh mi in Vietnam, although they are not as often sold on the streets. The vegetarian option is called banh mi chay, and is made with tofu or seitan. Banh mi chay would be the sandwich of choice at a Buddhist temple during a special religious event. And if the monks are eating them, you know they’re legit.
Pickled veggies are key.
The vegan recipe here features tofu as the main protein source, and is seared in a tamari-ginger-lime marinade, Make sure you find a good quality baguette, as this can really make or break your sandwich. Another tip to maximize flavour is to pickle the veggies ahead of time. Take 5 minutes the night before to slice the veggies and place them in a jar of mixed vinegars. Once your veggies are ready to go (a day or so after), it’s just a matter of grilling the tofu and assemblage!
If you’ve got leftover veggies, try a breakfast version of the sandwich with an egg, or keep it vegan and just enjoy it with a cup of coffee.
Serves 3-4 sandwiches
- 1 14oz. pkg. extra firm tofu (see notes)
- olive oil, for the pan
- fresh baguette, sliced into sandwich sized portions
- vegan mayo
- a few sprigs of cilantro per sandwich
- sriracha, to taste
- 1 small daikon sliced into matchsticks
- 2 small carrots, sliced into matchsticks
- ½ a small cucumber, de-seeded & sliced into matchsticks
- ½ jalapeño, thinly sliced
- ¼ (or more) cup white wine vinegar
- ¼ (or more) cup rice vinegar
- a few pinches of sugar
- a few pinches of salt
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons tamari (or soy sauce)
- juice of ½ lime + a little zest
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ½ teaspoon minced ginger
- generous amounts of freshly cracked pepper
- Make the pickled vegetables ahead of time. Place thinly sliced daikon, carrots, cucumbers, and jalapenos in a jar with white wine vinegar, rice vinegar, sugar, and salt. If the liquids don’t cover all of the veggies, add 2 tablespoons of water, plus a little more vinegar. Let chill for at least an hour (the further ahead of time you are able to make these, the more pickled they will be.
- Remove tofu from package and drain excess water. Slice tofu into slices that are about ½ inch thick. Place in paper towel and pat dry to remove excess water.
- Add tofu to a shallow pan, and pour marinade over top. Flip tofu pieces so that everything gets coated. Let the tofu marinate for at least 15 minutes.
- Over medium heat, add oil to a large pan. Place tofu pieces into pan once oil is hot, making sure not to let them touch each other. Cook pieces for a few minutes on each side until all pieces have a crispy, golden crust. Season with salt and pepper.
- Build sandwiches with mayo, tofu slices, pickled veggies, cilantro, and serve with sriracha.
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