Bánh mì or banh mi is a kind of sandwich that consists of a Vietnamese single-serving baguette, which is split lengthwise and filled with various savory ingredients.
A typical Vietnamese sandwich is a fusion of proteins and vegetables from native Vietnamese cuisine such as tofu, coriander leaf (cilantro), cucumber, pickled carrots, cabbage, and daikon combined with condiments from French cuisine such as pâté, along with jalapeño and mayonnaise.
To make a Bánh mì, you’ll need pickled vegetables. You can but these by the jar, or quick pickle them yourself overnight.
I’ll be pickling spiralized broccoli stems, carrots, and purple cabbage in a mix of 1 part tamari soy sauce, 1 part apple cider vinegar, and one part water. Rice wine vinegar is also suitable, but red vinegar is absolutely not!
Some recipes will add sugar to the pickling process (1 cup of sugar for every cup of vinegar). In my opinion, this adds a lot of calories for not much flavor.
Submerge the vegetables in the liquid and store in a sealed container. Allow it to sit at least overnight before using.
I’ll be preparing crispy tofu according to The Easy Vegan’s method. You can watch his video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LwDYQxdc5_Q, or follow along below.
This method takes a few hours to freeze, so it’s best to prepare a big batch of tofu all at once, then remove them from the freezer as needed.
First, cut the tofu block into three slabs of equal height. Wrap in a tea towel or paper towels to catch moisture.
Press water out of the tofu by loading an evenly distributed weight on top. Press for at least ten minutes.
Pat the tofu again with a tea towel or paper towel to absorb as much water as possible.
Cut the tofu into bite-sized pieces.
Put the tofu in a sealed container and freeze overnight. Later, you’ll need to break apart these frozen pieces, so don’t choose a container that smushes or bends the tofu at odd angles.
After the tofu has completely frozen, break it apart into individual pieces using a butter knife. This part can be tricky, and works best before the tofu has a chance to even slightly thaw.
Freezing the tofu changes it’s internal structure such that it will release even more water now than when you pressed it before freezing.
Thaw the tofu by microwaving in a container that allows water to drain. This might be a plastic colander, or a thick stack of paper towels.
If you thaw the tofu in a deep plate or bowl, the tofu will sit in its water and reabsorb it, which hurts the texture of the final dish.
Empty the tofu onto a tea towel or paper towels and pat dry once again. How many steps remove water? Many! I promise you, it pays off with a wonderfully bouncy end product.
Put the tofu into a large mixing bowl and sprinkle on a bit of salt.
Add about 2 teaspoons of soy sauce to the tofu.
Add about a tablespoon of corn starch to the tofu pieces. Toss by hand until the corn starch seems to disappear into the wet surfaces of the tofu.
Add a bit more cornstarch and toss again. If you get a bit of undissolved cornstarch on a piece of tofu, dissolve it by rubbing it against another piece of tofu. Continue adding starch and tossing until all the pieces are coated and slightly slimy.
Place the starch coated tofu pieces on a baking try with space between them. Use parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet to prevent them from sticking to the tray (greasing does not work well.)
Bake for 20 minutes at 420 degrees Fahrenheit.
While the tofu is baking, prepare fresh vegetables as sandwich fillers. I have pre-packaged shredded purple lettuce. I also diced celery, green onions, and cilantro, and added a touch of salt to the celery.
Liven up the texture of store-bought rolls by pressing them on a hot pan with a bit of cooking spray. This recipe makes four sandwiches, so sear four buns.
Scoop out some of the bread from the buns to make more room for vegetables.
Once the tofu is done, remove the tray from the oven. It should have a slightly browned appearance and a crispy texture on the outside. When squeezed, it should have a bit of bounce-back. If they still feel soggy, allow them to cook a bit more, and keep checking on them.
Open the buns and assemble your sandwiches. Drizzel on a generous helping of Vegan Thousand Island Dressing, an easy three-ingredient recipe found here.