A few months ago, I celebrated my birthday in Ho Chi Minh City.
All I wanted to do for my birthday was to eat a traditional Vietnamese sub (or Banh Mi) in Vietnam.
I’m a bit obsessed by banh mi. I would eat it happily every day for the rest of my life. Obsessed.
As you might imagine, finding a vegetarian version required a bit more work. We walked for hours to reach the highest rated vegetarian banh mi in Ho Chi Minh.
Now, I should preface this by saying that I come from a city, Edmonton, that has wholly embraced the Vietnamese sub… and if I do say so, Edmonton does them quite well. So, after hours of walking, we reached the shop.
I was so excited.
So excited, I can’t even describe it.
But, when it arrived, I have to say I was disappointed. It was dry, lacking in any sauce and it didn’t have the characteristic pickled vegetables and cilantro on it!
A few days later, we were in a town called Nha Trang. One rainy morning, we wandered out of our hostel and happened upon a small stall with the most adorable woman standing there serving only vegetarian banh mi for the equivalent of 20 pence. And, it definitely had lots of sauce, cilantro and pickles. She made every piece of that sandwich herself, included the mock meats. And right next to her was another adorable iced coffee seller. Every single morning while we were there, for less than 50 pence, both of us dined like kings and enjoyed being fussed over by the two motherly women.
Now that we are back, I’m test running all of the recipes that I want to include in our wedding celebration. This banh mi is very high on the list. But, since I have a wedding dress to fit in to in 2 weeks, I’m having it as a rice noodle bowl instead! Same ingredients, just using rice noodles instead of bread.
- 1 (14-ounce) package water-packed extra-firm tofu, drained
- 2 TBSP chopped peeled fresh lemongrass
- 2 TBSP water
- 1 TBSP sugar
- 1 TBSP soy sauce
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tsp sesame oil, divided
- ¼ cup rice vinegar
- ¼ cup water
- 1 TBSP white sugar
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1¼ cups matchstick-cut carrot
- 1¼ cups matchstick-cut cucumber
- 3 TBSP chopped fresh cilantro
- 3 TBSP vegan mayonnaise
- 1½ teaspoons Sriracha (or your favourite hot sauce)
- 1 French bread baguette, halved lengthwise
- Cut tofu crosswise into 6 even slices.
- Arrange tofu on several layers of paper towels. Cover with additional paper towels; top with a cast-iron skillet or other heavy pan. Let stand 15 minutes.
- Remove tofu from paper towels.
- Combine lemongrass, water, sugar, garlic powder, soy sauce, and sesame oil in a 13 x 9-inch glass or ceramic baking dish. Arrange tofu slices in a single layer in soy mixture, turning to coat. Let stand for 15 minutes.
- Combine vinegar, water, sugar and salt in a medium bowl, stirring until sugar and salt dissolve. Add carrot; toss well. Let stand for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain; stir in cilantro.
- Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add tofu slices to pan, and cook for 4 minutes on each side or until crisp and golden. Pour marinade in to pan with tofu and cook down until thick and sticky.
- Cut bread horizontally.
- Spread mayonnaise mixture evenly on cut sides of bread.
- Top with hot sauce.
- Arrange tofu slices on bottom half of bread; top tofu slices with carrot mixture and cucumber slices. Cut sandwich and serve!