The Banh Mi sandwich is really the only good argument for colonialism.Calvin Trillin
As a vegan it’s hard to find sandwiches in shops. Take away the meat, cheese, dairy and egg, and there’s little leftover to create a filling sandwich. My partner introduced me to one of his favorite sandwiches–the Banh Mi. We couldn’t find a shop that had a veggie version, so I decided to make my own.
There’s no definitive way to make a Bahn Mi. They typically include these three elements–pickled vegetables (carrots and radish or daikon), “filling” (AKA meat, or for vegans, cauliflower, tofu or tempeh), and a generous amount of aioli (mayo, hot sauce, and sweetener). It’s typically served on a baguette, which was introduced to the Vietnamese culture by their French colonizers.
We tried this recipe from Minimalist Baker which uses cauliflower as the “meat” with pickled carrots and radishes and a super tasty vegan version of the traditional mayo sauce. I’ve made it several times with toasted French baguettes and also my homemade no knead bread. Both versions are delicious.
Another version comes from My Darling Vegan, which uses tofu along with the traditional pickled veggies and mayo sauce. We decided to combine the best of both recipes to create this week’s pizza.
- pizza dough of choice (I used a basic pizza dough made with bread flour. This would be interesting on a socca base, which I am planning to make next week.)
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
- 1/2 medium cucumber, leave skin on and cut into a similar size
- 8 jalapeño slices
- 1/2 cup rice vinegar
- 1/4 cup hot water
- 1 tablespoon sugar (I used brown coconut sugar)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 oz. firm or extra firm tofu (this is 1/2 a block)
- 2 tablespoons coconut aminos (Braggs, tamari, or soy sauce also works)
- 2 tablespoons chili garlic sauce
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil (avocado oil works too)
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger (optional)
Spicy Vegan Aioli
- 1/2 cup vegan mayo
- 2 teaspoons maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon sriracha
Instructions for making the three toppings
The dough and pickled veggies can both be made the day before and stored in the fridge. Take your dough out and let it come to room temperature about 2 hours before you plan to use it. The pickled veggies can rest in the fridge until you need them. The aioli can also be made the day before and stored in the fridge in a sealed container. I love this aioli recipe. It’s the real reason I love Banh Mi. Warm pizza crust melts the aioli around the tofu and veggies and it’s a mess to eat, but oh so delicious.
A note about pressing tofu: when using firm or extra firm tofu, as you will want to do for this recipe, it’s a good practice to press your tofu for 30-60 minutes before slicing and using it. Since this recipe calls for just half the package, I cut it in half, wrap the half I want to use loosely in about 3 layers of paper towels and place it between two small plates. The idea is to press the excess liquid out, so place a can of something like beans on top of the plate and lightly press. Over the course of time, 30-60 minutes, the water will come out and your paper towels will become soaked. I typically rewrap my tofu and press it twice. If you are short on time you can skip this step, but patience will be rewarded with better tasting tofu.
- Add vinegar, half the hot water, salt, and sugar to a glass Ball jar and shake it to combine. Add the carrot, cucumbers, and jalapeño slices. Pour the rest of the hot water over the mixture so that the liquid submerges the vegetables. Cover with a lid. Either let sit on countertop for an hour to cool then place in the fridge for a few hours to overnight or if you are making this mix as you cook, place it in the fridge immediately.
Tip: If you don’t have rice vinegar, you can use the liquid that comes with your jarred jalapeño slices.
- In a wide bottomed bowl, add the coconut aminos, chili garlic sauce, oil, maple syrup, garlic and ginger. Whisk to combine.
- Place the tofu slices in the bowl and flip them so that they are coated on both sides. Set aside for 30 minutes so the tofu soaks up the marinade.
- Add vegan mayo, maple syrup, and sriracha to a small bowl. Stir to combine. Taste and adjust the flavor to your preference of sweet or heat. Sriracha isn’t spicy, but it can be hot, which is something I love about the recipe. If you don’t just add a little at a time.
As a test, I divided my dough in half and made the pizza base two ways. I heated half on my pizza stone in the oven at 425° for 11 minutes. We found that dough to be too crispy. It’s hard to bake pizza naked, without any toppings, and have it come out right. With the other dough ball, I fried it in a non-stick pan, 4 minutes on the first side, 3 minutes on the second side, then added the toppings. It was a bit more like a flat pita bread sandwich, but it was good. I’d recommend crisping your dough on the stovetop rather than baking it for this particular pizza. The bonus there is you don’t have to wait 45 minutes to heat your oven.
- Heat your frying pan with a little oil to coat the bottom. Place the tofu strips in the pan and heat for 3-4 minutes on each side, depending on how thick your slices are. They will get crispy and brown when they are ready. It’s fine to flip them to check.
- If you are like me and have only one frying pan, when the tofu strips are done, place them on a paper towel on a baking rack to keep them crisp. Rinse out your frying pan, heat it over medium-high heat and use it to fry your pizza dough.
- Let dough cool 2-3 minutes while you drain your pickled veggies.
- Slather crust with a generous amount of aioli.
- Layer with tofu strips and pickled veggies.
After thinking of myself as “not a sandwich person” for decades of my life, it was refreshing to find the Banh Mi. I love the flavor combination of this dish. The trio of toppings works well on a variety of breads and can be made gluten-free by using gf flour, soy-free by using cauliflower instead of tofu or tempeh. This is a versatile recipe, so play around with it and enjoy.