Have you ever had a bánh mì? It’s like a Vietnamese sub sandwich, made on an airy baguette. When we lived in San Francisco years ago, we used to go to a bánh mì shop called Saigon Sandwiches that made the best tofu bánh mì. They were super cheap, like $3, and I don’t know what their secret was, but they’re still my gold standard for bánh mì. I think they’ve raised their prices by 50 cents, but if you’re in San Francisco, you should definitely go! Like, right now, finish reading this while you’re in line (there’s usually a line, but it moves quickly).
You know where there’s no line though? Your own kitchen.
I’ve given other restaurants a chance to impress me with their tofu bánh mì, and so far they’ve come up short. So of course I turned to the DIY route. It’s taken a couple of tries, but I’ve finally hit on my ideal version. I think the secret is plenty of flavorful sauce and mayonnaise. That’s exactly where other sandwiches have fallen short–they’ve usually been too dry and flavorless. So when you make your sandwich, don’t be stingy with the sauce and mayo!
Please don’t get scared off by all of the different components of this recipe. Aside from the tofu, which needs to marinate, everything else comes together really fast, especially if you use a mandoline to slice the vegetables.
*Note: If possible, begin marinating the tofu the night before you plan to eat these sandwiches.*
Vegan Tofu Bánh Mì
Makes approximately six 6″-long sandwiches
Baguette bread or rolls, sliced lengthwise (I used a “mini baguette,” cut into pieces about 6″ long. If you can find them, use Vietnamese bakery baguetts.)
Lemongrass ginger tofu
Faux pickled vegetables
Hoisin lemongrass ginger sauce
Sliced jalapeño peppers (optional)
Generously spread chipotle mayonnaise on both sides of the sliced baguette, then a layer of hoisin lemongrass ginger sauce. Fill the sandwich with two slices of lemongrass ginger tofu, then top with faux pickled vegetables and cilantro. Add sliced jalapeño peppers and sriracha for extra spice.
Lemongrass Ginger Tofu
28 oz extra-firm tofu (2 14-oz packages)
2 Tbsp lemongrass, the tender inner white part, coarsely chopped
2 Tbsp ginger, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup water
2 Tbsp soy sauce (I used low sodium soy sauce)
2 Tbsp sesame oil
1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp ground fennel
Remove each block of tofu from the package, drain the water, and place each block between two plates, with something heavy on top. Leave it to drain while you prepare the marinade.
Place the ginger, garlic, and lemongrass in a food processor or blender. Add the remaining ingredients, then process until the ginger, garlic, and lemongrass are finely minced.
Remove the tofu from the plates, and discard the water that drained out. Slice the tofu in half through the narrow side, so you have two slabs, each about 1/2″ thick. Cut those into 3 equal strips, so that each tofu block gives you 6 strips, for a total of 12.
Place the tofu in a shallow dish, and pour the marinade over it. Cover, and refrigerate to marinate for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight. Turn over the tofu at least once during the marination.
When you’re ready to bake the tofu, preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Remove the tofu, and place it on a baking sheet that’s lined with a silicon baking mat (or you can oil it). Keep the leftover marinade.
Bake tofu for 15 minutes, then use a spatula to flip the tofu slices over, and bake for 15-20 minutes more, until the tofu is browned. Remove from oven, and allow to cool.
1/3 cup mayonnaise (I used homemade vegan mayonnaise)
1/4 tsp chipotle powder (or chili powder)
Stir mayonnaise together with the chipotle powder. Taste, and add more chipotle powder if desired.
Faux Pickled Vegetables
1 carrot, thinly sliced, or julienned
1 cucumber, thinly sliced
4-6 radishes, thinly sliced
3 Tbsp rice vinegar
Place vegetables in a bowl, and toss with rice vinegar.
Hoisin Lemongrass Ginger Sauce
Combine equal parts lemongrass ginger tofu marinade with hoisin sauce. Stir together until combined.