Banh mi: a sandwich to beat all sandwiches. The airy, crisp-shelled baguettes that are used in Vietnam are often made with rice flour, but a very fresh wheat-flour loaf will do nicely here. (Use a baguette that’s about 12 inches/30 cm long, to get the sandwiches the right size.) It’s worth hollowing out some of the soft middle to make more room for the fillings. Use vegan mayonnaise if you want to make this a vegan recipe.   Recipe from The Way to Eat Now: Modern Vegetarian Food © Alice Hart, 2016, 2017. Photographs copyright © Emma Lee, 2016, 2017. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment. Available wherever books are sold. theexperimentpublishing.com

Lemongrass Tofu Banh Mi [Vegan]

Serves

4

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Ingredients

For the Tofu Banh Mi:

  • 14 ounces (400 g) smoked tofu, sliced
  • 2 red chiles, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1-inch (2.5 cm) piece fresh ginger root, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 lemongrass stalks, trimmed and finely sliced
  • 2 tablespoons Vegetarian “Fish” Sauce or light soy sauce, plus more for the baguettes (see below)
  • 1 tablespoon palm sugar
  • Sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil or other flavorless oil
  • 2 small ficelles (thin French bread) or small, thin baguettes
  • 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1/2 small cucumber, sliced on the diagonal
  • Handful of sprigs of cilantro
  • 1 batch Quick Vietnamese Pickles (see below)

For the Vietnamese Pickles:

  • 1/2 cup (90 g) unrefined superfine sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3/4 cup (180 ml) rice wine vinegar
  • 1 3/4 cups (200 g) peeled and shredded (or sliced, in the case of small) daikon and/ or small regular radishes
  • 1 2/3 cups (200 g) peeled and shredded carrots

For the Vegan Fish Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup (5 g) dried mushrooms, preferably cloud ear or shiitake
  • 2 tablespoons salted, fermented black beans
  • 2 umeboshi plums (or you can substitute 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar)
  • 1 teaspoon miso paste, ideally a mild yellow or white
  • 1/3 cup (75 ml) light soy sauce
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Preparation

For the Banh Mi:

  1. Dry the sliced tofu well with paper towels. Mix it in a bowl with the chiles, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, “fish” sauce and sugar. Set aside for 30 minutes, if you have the time, seasoning lightly with salt and the white pepper.
  2. Place a large wok or frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the oil, followed by the tofu mixture. Sear the slices for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until glazed and caramelized. Remove from the heat.
  3. Preheat a broiler to low and warm the baguettes through, turning often, until crisp-edged and just-warm inside.
  4. Split open the warmed baguettes, then cut each in half to make 4 split pieces. Pick out some of the inside of the bread, if you like, to make a bigger space for the filling. Brush the insides with a little more “fish” sauce and spread with mayonnaise and slices of cucumber.
  5. Now stuff in some tofu, a few sprigs of cilantro and a generous helping of drained pickles. Drizzle with any juices from the tofu pan and serve hot.

For the Pickles:

  1. Combine the sugar, salt and vinegar with 1/2 cup (100 ml) water in a bowl, stirring until the sugar dissolves.
  2. Add the vegetables and set aside for 2 hours.
  3. The pickles can be drained and eaten at this stage (rinse them for an even milder flavor), or chill them for 2 to 3 weeks. Their flavor will become more intense as the days go on.

For the Vegan Fish Sauce:

  1. Cover the mushrooms, beans, plums and miso paste with 3/4 cup (200 ml) just-boiled water and mash roughly with the back of a spoon.
  2. Set aside to soak for 10 minutes. Strain the soaking water through a fine sieve, pressing down firmly, and stir in the soy sauce.
  3. Transfer to a clean jar and cover. Chill and it will last for a few weeks.
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