December 20, 2006
Banh Mi Chay

Vegetarians have it hard in the sandwich department. There are a few classics, usually involving avocados and sprouts, but they tend to blend together. Non-vegetarian sandwiches aren't all that different, either, but the variety of meats and fillings in non-veg sandwiches covers that fact up.

So you can imagine how happy I was to discover that Vietnamese cuisine encompasses a sandwich tradition that includes a vegetarian sandwich different from the usual avocado and sprout fare. At base, this is just a tofu sandwich, but the key ingredients that make it special are the daikon and carrot salad and the cilantro.

The other key ingredient is the bread. The perfect bread for this sandwich is a very light rice-four torpedo roll that is almost completely insubstantial. Failing that, a crusty bread with a light crumb will work well. You don't want the bread to overwhelm the rest of the ingredients. You might try a Vietnamese bakery to find the torpedo rolls. I couldn't find a good Vietnamese bakery so I used a nice baguette I found at the local mega-mart.

Banh Mi Chay

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons soy sauce (or Bragg's liquid aminos)
1 teaspoon garlic hot sauce (sri ra cha)

1 pound tofu, pressed, drained, cut into 3/4" slabs

carrot/daikon mix
3 carrots, shredded
1 daikon radish about 4" long, shredded
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt

mayonnaise (or vegannaise, which I actually prefer on a taste basis)

topedo rolls or baguette

bitter salad greens

Quanities are somewhat vague for many ingredients because this is a sandwich and you should feel free to make it to your personal tastes. There's no chemistry here for most of it.

Combine the oil and soy sauce with the cumin and sri ra cha sauce. Place the pressed, drained, tofu slices in a plastic bag or a tupperware-type container with the oil, sauce and cumin and shake to coat. Let sit in the marinade for at least an hour.

In a separate container/bag, combine the shredded carrot and daikon with the vinegar, sugar, and salt. Mix well. Let marinate for 1/2 hour or longer. When ready to use, put the carrot/daikons in a clean linen napkin/towel and sqeeze the vinegar out.

Cut the torpedo roll in half lengthwise. Scoop out some of the crumb (the white part) and discard or reserve for another recipe. Toast the roll cut side down in a skillet until it takes on a little color.

Spread mayonnaise or vegannaise on each cut side of the roll, fairly thickly. Add some of the carrot/daikon mix on one side, and tofo on the other side. Top with generous amounts of cilantro and some salad greens, and combine the two halves. Press down lightly, serve, and eat with gusto.

Posted by Barrett in Maryland at December 20, 2006 8:00 AM Print-friendly version

"So you can imagine how happy I was...". You and me both.

That looks really good. I'll definitely have to try this.

Posted by KathyF on December 26, 2006 at 7:04 AM

This is now pretty much my (vegetarian) boyfriend's favorite sandwich. Thanks for posting it!

Posted by Fuzzbean on January 16, 2007 at 6:44 PM

does anyone have a recipe of vegannaise?

Posted by ana on January 26, 2007 at 10:15 AM

I made this with thin sliced portabella mushroom instead of the tofu and it was excellent. I marinated the mushroom in the sauce for an hour or so, then broiled it briefly in the oven to give it a little smoky flavor.

I'm not a big radish fan, so I substituted half the amount of daikon for jicama and it was delicious!

Thanks for posting the recipe!

Posted by megan on March 2, 2007 at 9:35 AM

Looking good! Here's my version.

Posted by Michael Natkin on April 29, 2008 at 12:57 AM

Even better: there's a vegetarian fish sauce (nuoc mam) that can be found in most Asian markets. Add a little sugar and some chili pepper flakes to make an incredible marinade.
Also excellent: add cucumber to the mix. And/or basil.

Posted by Nick in Saigon on December 18, 2008 at 12:33 PM

How much cumin is used in the marinade? This looks delicious and I am making it this week.

Posted by Shannon on November 17, 2010 at 2:15 PM
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