Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Banh Mi Chay - Vietnamese Tofu Hoagies

One of my first blog posts was about this sandwich.  It is, in my mind, the best possible sandwich.  I read about it before I had it and said to myself, "this will be my new favorite."  And so it was.  Sweet tofu, fresh cilantro, pickled veg and jalepeno - what more do you need?  But I have a serious problem.  I can't find one I like around here.   There's a decent place in West Philly, but my favorite local place closed many months ago and I've tried most of the other joints and I'm not happy.   So I'm going to tell you how and why you should pickle your own veg days in advance rather than buy a $3 hoagie.   It's better.

Yeah, pickle your own veg.  I don't mean like bust out the canning supplies and a healthy fear of botulism, I mean cover your veg with water and vinegar and sugar and salt and let them sit in the fridge a few days.  And start to drool and rumble knowing that an awesome sandwich is, well, at least 24 hours away.

You need diakon and carrot.   When I made my first Banh Mi, I had received daikon in my farmshare and wasn't sure what else to do with it, so I made these.   It's a radish, and it looks like a big white carrot.   I was able to find it pretty easily at Whole Foods, but I didn't get a picture of it, so here's someone else's daikon.  Peel your carrot and daikon (I used one diakon and the equivalent of one large carrot) and julienne.  Cut into sticks.

Put them in a jar and cover with hot water. 

Add two tablespoons vinegar (rice) and two tablespoons sugar and one tablespoon kosher salt.  Seal the jar and give it a good shake - making sure the sugar dissolves.

Stash this in the fridge for at least 24 hours, but really, up to a week.  The longer the better.

On Banh Mi day, make your tofu.   Start with a half a block of firm or extra firm tofu, cut it into manageable sandwich pieces and drain it.  (Draining techniques pictured here).   While it's draining, put together a marinade.   Sweet is essential here, or at least, for me, though I hear there is no "one recipe" for a tofu hoagie.   We played with mirin and honey and seriously, I think this is "it."  THE recipe.  Lots of places use fish sauce.  I don't.

One packet soy (what's that, like a tablespoon?  We were out of the bottled stuff).  Three tablespoons rice vinegar.  Three tablespoons mirin.  One tablespoon honey.   I'm sure you could use a vegan alternative. 

Toss the tofu in the marinade and set in the fridge, going back to turn and toss now and again.  Marinate for at least 30 minutes, up to a couple hours.   Use a baggie (I didn't have one) to really make sure the marinade is making contact with the tofu. 

When you're ready, drain the tofu, reserving the marinade.

Blot dry and coat lightly with corn starch.

ok, I'm sickish so Sous Chef Brian touched all the food while I barked orders.
Coat the bottom of your frying  pan in oil - not like "deep fry" level, just coat it, it'll be fine.  Get that hot (like the add a droplet of water and it sizzles kind of hot) and add in your tofu.  Don't crowd the pan - I did two batches.

Flip when the bottoms are starting to turn golden, get the other side golden (just) and then drain on a towel.

look how not greasy it is.
Put the cooked tofu back into the reserved marinade until it's time to make the samiches.

Is it time?  Good.  Get some bread.  Here's the thing with the bread.   A lot of the local places use french bread, and apparently the traditional bread uses rice flour - this is tasty bread.  I used the sandwich rolls we had just made and it worked well, but crispier bread is a nice touch. Maybe toast your roll.   I had hot bread fresh out of the oven, but toasting is good too.  Also, I zapped the tofu for 30 seconds to reheat - I like hot tofu and bread with cold veg on this.

Lightly coat the bread in vegenaise or mayonnaise. 

Add lettuce.  I haven't had one with lettuce before, but typically they have cucumber and I didn't have any of that.  Lettuce was a fine substitute.

Add pickled carrots and daikon.

Add cilantro.

Add jalepeno.  This is usually fresh, but I'm a bit nervous around fresh jalepeno these days because I've had a few good burns, so I used jarred which is much milder.

Lay on the tofu.

If you're into it, add some sriracha or other hot sauce. 

Perfect sandwich.

This made enough tofu and pickled veg for three sandwiches. 

print recipe

Pickled Daikon and Carrots
To top Banh Mi with, or great in salads.
1 daikon, julienned1 large carrot1 cup or so hot water2 tablespoons rice vinegar2 tablespoons sugar1 tablesoon kosher salt
Put it all in a jar, shake and let sit in the fridge for 24 hours to a week.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: enough to top 3 sandwiches

print recipe

Sweet Marinated Tofu
For Banh Mi, or you know, just eat them.
1/2 block firm or extra firm tofu1 tablespoon tamari or soy3 tablespoons rice vinegar3 tablespoons mirin1 tablespoon honey1/4 cup corn starch1 1/2 tablespoons oil (peanut, safflower, corn, canola)
Slice tofu fairly thin, appropriate for sandwiches. Drain thoroughly. Marinate drained tofu for at least half an hour in tamari, vinegar, mirin and honey mixture. Drain again, reserving marinade, pat dry, and lightly dust with corn starch.
Lightly fry on both sides until just golden. Return to marinade until ready to use.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: enough to top 3 sandwiches

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