At Me So Hungry in Austin, I tried the lemongrass tofu banh mi—my personal favorite from the truck. With the help of my mom, I have a new recipe today… our take on the banh mi we tried! You can read the full review here.
I first tried banh mi last summer in San Francisco, where the Asian American Donor Program introduced it to me as a Vietnamese sandwich. Excited to be surrounded by all the delicious Asian food of the Bay Area, I was incredibly depressed to hear I was being fed a sandwich. I mean, I was only gonna be there for a little less than two days!
Turns out, those “Vietnamese sandwiches” were some of the best banh mi I’ve ever had. And so began my love affair with banh mi, one of the few Vietnamese dishes I can point out and say, “I know that! And I like to eat it!” (Disclaimer: As much as I’d like to consider myself a “food connoisseur” of some sort and try to pretend I’m one, especially on here, I can’t honestly say I am.)
After some trouble with jalapeños at Me So Hungry—and in San Francisco, for that matter!—we decided NOT to include any of that vile, hell-bringing pepper. Instead, we have lemongrass. Beautiful, beautiful lemongrass.
Lemongrass is an incredibly amazing, fragrant grass used in Asian cuisine. Its fresh, clean, lemony aroma smells heavenly. Personally, I’d love to have some lemongrass in the kitchen just to smell. All the time.
The best part of this banh mi is that it’s pretty much all vegetables. By choosing to eat vegetarian—whether every day, on weekdays, on Mondays, or just a meal here or there—you’d think eating mostly vegetables would be a requirement. Well… not really. You can still fill yourself with processed, fake “meat” that makes you feel much, much worse than having wild-caught salmon or organic chicken. Trust me, I know. I went the super-processed route a little after I started eating mostly vegetarian, and it wasn’t pleasant.
If you really want to feel good while eating vegetarian, you need to be eating a meal where you can see the veggies. Thankfully, this banh mi is nearly all vegetables.
This is also probably a good time to mention that this recipe calls for mayonnaise, the only vegan offender. But don’t worry, you can fix that by swapping out low-fat mayo for a good vegan alternative. Personally, I refuse to eat non-vegan mayonnaise… mostly because I hate the taste and the thought of what it’s made of. Definitely use vegan mayo. It’s better that way. (You can thank me later.)
It’s also important to buy ORGANIC tofu, since soy is nearly always GMO (genetically modified organism)! Geez, I feel like this post unloaded all the stops, from organic food to processed food to even vegan mayo. In order to not bog down this recipe with all sorts of preachy stuff, I’ll move on.
This banh mi is great for all meals, but lunch would probably be best… just like any submarine sandwich, except this one is Vietnamese! Actually, banh mi is an infusion of both local Vietnamese and the colonizing French cultures, making it a nice East Meets West meal. Naturally I feel personally connected to the banh mi.
Well, I also feel it in my stomach.
I know you probably only came here for the pictures and the recipe so I’ll let you go. If you decide to give it a try, be sure to comment below and tell me how it went! I’d love to know!
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Lemongrass Tofu Banh Mi
Serves 4 people.
For the pickled daikon and carrots
Needs to be made 3 to 7 days ahead of time.
- 2 cups daikon, sliced in thin strips
- 2 cups matchstick carrots
- 1 cup rice vinegar
- 1 cup water
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Combine all ingredients and store in an airtight container. May be stored in the refrigerator for up to a month.
For the tofu marinade
Be sure to marinate the tofu overnight.
- 1 package extra-firm organic tofu, sliced in rectangular sizes
- 4 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
- 1 bulb lemongrass (use top third), finely minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- Drain the tofu from its package, and wrap it in dry towels to rid of excess water. Let it sit for about 15 minutes, then slice in rectangular sizes. Marinate the tofu overnight (or up to two days) with the soy sauce, lemongrass, garlic, and sugar in a ziplock bag.
For the cilantro mayonnaise
- ¼ cup vegan mayonnaise (or low fat mayo)
- ½ juice of a half lemon (small)
- 1 tablespoon finely minced cilantro
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ¼ teaspoon sriracha (optional)
- 1 to 2 tablespoons oil
- 4 loaves Mexican bolillos bread or French baguettes
- slices of cucumber (preferably hothouse), sliced diagonally
- sprigs of cilantro
- Make the pickled daikon and carrots 3 to 7 days ahead of time. (Directions above.)
- Marinate the tofu overnight. (Directions above.)
- Combine the cilantro mayonnaise ingredients in a bowl. Keep refrigerated until needed.
- Heat a griddle (preferably one with ridges) with 1 to 2 tablespoons oil. When hot, fry the tofu slices on both sides until brown.
- Remove the tofu from the pan and place on a plate. Lightly dab the tofu with a paper towel if oily.
- Toast the bread, then cut in half.
- Generously spread both sides of the bread with cilantro mayonnaise.
- Layer the bread in the following order: a few slices of cucumber, 1 to 2 tofu slices, a handful of pickled daikon and carrots, and a few sprigs of cilantro.