Monday, August 15, 2011

Tofu banh mi - spectacular summer supper


About six years ago I ate my first banh mi - a Vietnamese sub sandwich that cost all of $2 at a shop on Somerset Street in Ottawa's Chinatown (which is really more like Little Saigon, but I digress). It blew me away, and since then I haven't had nearly enough opportunities to eat these tasty, tasty sandwiches. I love a great sandwich, and these rank right up there with the grilled veg-and-goat cheese, the avocado BLT and the classic club sandwich for me.

So when I came across a recipe for tofu banh mi on Cheap Healthy Good, it stuck in my head until I finally decided to make them for dinner last week. Except that I forgot to make the pickled carrots and daikon ahead of time, so we ended up roasting the tofu and eating it like chicken nuggets. Which was delicious (dipped in maple-bourbon BBQ sauce!) but not a tasty sandwich.

So late last week I pickled a bunch of carrots from the CSA, then added the daikon to the jar earlier tonight because I forgot to buy it last week and only grabbed one on Saturday at Farm Boy. (It tasted fine. Finely julienned, it took on the vinegary bite quickly.) I'm on a bit of a pickling kick these days, as you can see:

The green ones are zucchini pickles - sharp, oniony, and delicious. An excellent way to use up an excess of zucchini.

But I digress. Tonight, I finally had everything I needed for the banh mi. When I got home from work, I whipped up a batch of my all-purpose Asian marinade: low-sodium soy sauce, lime juice, garlic, ginger, brown sugar, and a touch of sesame oil. Throw it all in the food processor and whirl until the garlic and ginger are well-minced. I sliced a block of firm tofu into 1/8" thick slices, pressed the water out using kitchen towels, and dumped the slices into the marinade for 40 minutes while I hung out on Facebook and Twitter. (I'm not gonna lie to you.)

Into the oven at 350 Fahrenheit went the tofu for 15 minutes, then I flipped the slices and baked for six more minutes while I sliced a baguette into 4 pieces, reserved two of them for tomorrow's lunch and sliced the other two pieces lengthwise. I spread both halves (not liberally, but not scantily, either) with good-quality mayonnaise (I used Hellmann's olive oil mayo, which is my favourite). Once the tofu cooled down a bit, I laid slices of it overlapping on the bottom of the baguette, them topped them with some carrot and daikon pickle, then some sprigs of fresh coriander.

People, these were so good my eyes rolled back in my head. The mix of flavours just sings on the tongue. It's rich-tasting yet fresh, all at the same time. You can make these with just about any protein you like - the traditional sandwich uses liver pate and Vietnamese cold cuts - but the tofu, flavoured with the lovely marinade, was really, really nice in this application. Feel free to use thinly sliced pork or chicken if you prefer - marinate the same way, then grill and eat.

We had some of the zucchini pickles on the side and felt deeply smug about our mad CSA-preserving skills. OK, I did. Chris just enjoyed his sandwich.

Fortunately, I have tons of pickled carrot and daikon left, so we'll be eating these at least once a week until it's all gone. Trust me when I say it won't be a hardship.

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