Tofu Banh Mi Sandwich
Spring is finally here! Well, in Shanghai it kind of goes from cold to a little cool, and then BAM hot. Not that I am complaining. After this horrid winter I am welcoming warmer weather with arms wide open. My youngest son is a bit alarmed though. For the last six months he hasn't seen his arms, so when I put a short sleeved shirt on him the other day, he was not happy.
He’ll adjust, I’m sure. Pretty soon he’ll be running around buck naked after bath time, refusing to put clothes on. If it were socially acceptable, I would be inclined to do the same.
It’s funny how my taste buds also seem to know it’s getting warmer. Warmer weather brings with it memories of sunshine and happiness. Living in Asia, I have been lucky enough to explore the beautiful countries of Southeast Asia, and my stomach has been able to explore it’s food. There are two amazing ingredients that once I tasted, I was hooked: lemongrass and kaffir leaves. What in the world was America thinking with parsley and oregano? I mean, don’t get me wrong, those savory spices have their place in so many tasty dishes. But it’s like lemongrass and kaffir leaves are what you look like at the beginning of a flight to a tropical paradise and parsley and oregano are like what you look like when you arrive. Amiright?
Lately I have been craving giant salads, hearty wraps, and decked out sandwiches. I must admit that my sandwich intake is a lot lower than it used to be. This makes me sad. Luckily, I know how to fix it with this recipe that will blow your mind! The banh mi sandwich is somewhat of a cultural icon in Vietnam, and there is good reason. The crusty French bread is always perfectly baked, the ingredients fresh, and the experience of eating next to a small street vendor cart munching on one of these as scooters whiz by is priceless.
The marinated and grilled tofu in this vegan version of the iconic sandwich is so good, my skeptical 4 year old tasted it after some coaxing (re: demanding/threatening) and liked it! Little dude liked it as well. You could use the steaks as a main attraction on a bed of rice or quinoa, and a salad topping too!
If you are in China, you can find fresh lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves on Taobao for a good price. I am sure with the right keywords you can find ground as well! I picked up dried and ground powdered versions at a market in Chiang Mai (swoon), but fresh will work just as well.
1 large baguette, sliced into 4 pieces or 4 small baguettes
2 medium round “vegetarian chicken” super firm tofu logs
1/4 C light soy sauce
1/4 C water
2 tbs olive oil
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 tbs fresh ginger, minced
1 tbs white part of scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 tsp ground kaffir lime leaves or 1/2 tsp fresh leaves, minced
1/4 tsp ground lemongrass or 1/2 tsp fresh lemongrass, minced
1 medium carrot, spiralized or cut into matchsticks
1 small daikon radish, spiralized or cut into matchsticks
3 small red chilis, thinly sliced (if you want less heat, remove the seeds and slice lengthwise)
1/2 C white vinegar
1/4 C water
3 tbs maple syrup or agave
1/2 tsp salt
1 package silken tofu
1 tbs dijon mustard
1 tbs olive oil
1 tbs lemon juice or lime juice
2 tbs sriracha or jarred chili garlic sauce
salt, to taste
Additional sliced chilis
Fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1. Slice the tofu logs lengthwise, about 1/2-3/4 of an inch thick. Set aside.Add the soy sauce, water, olive oil, garlic, ginger, scallions, lime leaves and lemongrass to a blender and blend on high until all ingredients are well combined. Add the mixture to a shallow dish and place tofu pieces in the dish. Spoon the mixture onto any parts of the tofu that aren’t in the mixture to ensure all parts of the tofu absorb some of the delicious marinade. Let sit for 20 minutes or more.
2. Start the pickling liquid for the vegetables. In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar, water, maple syrup, and salt. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Place the prepared carrot, daikon radish, and chilis in a glass bowl and pour the heated mixture over them. Gently mix and let sit for 30 minutes if possible. The longer, the better.
3. For the sriracha mayo, add silken tofu, dijon mustard, olive oil, lemon or lime juice, and sriracha or chili garlic sauce to a blender, and blend on low until well combined and no lumps are remanning. Be careful to not over-blend as you want it to be a bit thick.
4. To cook the tofu once it's done marinating, heat pan over medium high heat, add a bit of cooking oil and place 4 pieces of marinated tofu at a time in the pan. Cook each side until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes on each side.
5. If desired, toast baguette. Slather sriracha mayo on both sides of the bread and layer on one piece of cooked tofu, sliced cucumber, pickled vegetables and cilantro. Smash that sammy down and open wide. Enjoy!