Banh Mi Night!

banh_mi_fbThis post is going to be a little different. It doesn't involve a wok or stir frying. In fact, it's as much for my benefit as anything else.

So, still here? Good! For anyone who might not know, banh mi are a kind of Vietnamese sandwich. I make most of the ingredients from scratch so it's pretty much an all-day project for me. As a result, I don't do it very often which usually means I can't remember how I did it last time. So I've decided to share the recipes on the Internet where I'll be able to find them again. And hopefully someone else will find them useful as well.

First thing is to put the tofu in the press and set it in the sink to drain. Pretty much the whole secret to making tofu that doesn't suck is to press the water out of it. I make a lot of tofu so I have an actual Tofu Press. If you don't, some paper towels and a couple of plates with a weight on top is fine. With that out of the way we can move on to making the carrot and daikon pickle.

Do Chua (Carrot Daikon pickle)
Recipe type: Condiment
Cuisine: Vietnamese
  • 1 large carrot, cut into matchsticks
  • 1 pound of daikons, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • ½ cup sweetener
  • 1¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  1. Put the carrot and daikon in a bowl and add the salt and sugar. Knead them together until the vegetables have softened, about 3 minutes. Drain the veg and rinse in cool running water. Wring the excess water out and return to the bowl.
  2. Combine the sweetener, vinegar and water and add to the bowl. Make sure the vegetables are covered. Allow to set for a least an hour, more is better.
Traditionally the carrot and daikon would be cut into thick matchsticks by hand. I hate doing that so I use a julienne peeler. The strips are a lot thinner but I don't find that to be a problem in a sandwich.
I use sugar with the salt in the initial step because it's functioning more as a cure than a sweetener and it's mostly rinsed away. I do use an artificial sweetener in the brine.

Having made that, we can move on to marinading the tofu.
Lemongrass Tofu
Recipe type: Protein
Cuisine: Vietnamese
  • 14 oz pkg of extra-firm tofu
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 5 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 2 stalks fresh lemongrass, chopped
  1. Press and drain the tofu
  2. Slice the tofu into about ¼ inch strips
  3. Combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl and add the sliced tofu. Let marinade for at least 30 minutes but longer would be better.
You're not going to serve the lemongrass so I generally just wack it with the flat of a knife and then chop it.

With the tofu safely in the marinade, we can turn to the sauce. Mayonnaise is the normal condiment in a banh mi and I like it as well. I make own with a little bit of a twist
Banh Mi sauce
Recipe type: Condiment
Cuisine: Vietnamese
  • 1 cup grapeseed oil
  • ½ cup non-dairy milk
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon Maggi sauce
  • 1½ teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  1. Place the first four ingredients in the bowl of a food processor
  2. With the processor running, trickle in the vinegar until the mix reaches the desired consistency.
  3. Adjust the salt to your taste but remember, it should be a little on the salty side.
Maggi sauce is a salty condiment popular in Southeastern Asian cuisine
If you leave the Maggi sauce out and add a little bit of mustard, this recipe becomes regular mayo!

OK, now there just a couple more things to cut up and we're ready to actually apply heat to food! Jalapeno peppers and cucumbers are a traditional topping for banh mi's and I like to use a mandolin to slice them. Be sure to wear hand protection! Use small salad cucumbers and slice them the long way. The peppers can just be cut into rounds, seeds and all. And now I have a confession to make, I'm not a big cilantro fan. Cilantro is traditional for these sandwiches but I just leave it off. If you want it on yours, roughly chop some.

tofuAnd now, finally, we're ready to cook. You do remember what I said about this taking all day, right? I like a cast iron pan for frying the tofu. Heat the pan to the smoke point and then lower the temperature to somewhere around medium. Remove the tofu from the marinade, be careful, it's fragile. Get any lemongrass or garlic off before you add it to the pan. With my stove, my pan and the way I like my tofu, about two minutes a side works well.

And finally, a note about the bread. A baguette is traditional for these but the ones I get around here are just too hard for my taste. I always feel like I should bring a hamster along to help out. I like a good loaf of crusty Italian bread. Cut it into about 8 or 9 inch pieces, split it in half and scoop out a trench in the middle.

So, eventually, we've reached the point where we can actually make a sandwich. Slather both side with the sauce and add a little more Maggi if you like. Place two or three pieces of tofu on the bottom slice of bread, follow that with three or four slices of cucumber, some cilantro if you're using it, and some jalapeno. Add some of the pickle to the top slice and press together

And there you have it, a banh mi sandwich. Hopefully you'll find all of the fuss worthwhile..

About the Author:
As a vegan and a diabetic, I am very much aware of the challenges faced by friends and family as they attempt to deal with dietary restrictions.
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