Close up of vegan banh mi with tofu

Tofu Bánh Mì

One of the must-try dishes you’ll likely have if you visit Vietnam is its iconic sandwich, the bánh mì. Typically served in a crusty baguette, it’s slathered with paté, mayonnaise, and margarine, filled with cold cuts or grilled meats, and bursting with both pickled and fresh veg.

The pickled vegetables (đồ chua) are made with radish and carrots packed in a mixture of vinegar and sugar. However, it’s easy to turn to fermentation to prep the veg doing away with vinegar for a bánh mì with fermented radish and carrots.

vegan banh mi with tofu and fermented radish and carrot on a plate

Bánh mì variations

The origins of the bánh mì can be traced when the French colonized Vietnam back in the late 19th century. As is the wonderful transformative nature of food when it finds itself a new home the bánh mì has evolved and became a staple in Vietnam—found in the most humble street carts.

When I found myself in Vietnam many years ago, it was one of the first food I sought after eating a bowl of phở. After the Vietnamese vendor slathered paté and margarine over it, she slapped on a generous amount of cold cuts and grilled pork belly, then stuffed it with as much pickled radish and carrots, cilantro, and cucumber. I found sandwich heaven on a Saigon sidewalk.

For this Starter Sisters version of the bánh mì, we’re going vegan. We’re using trusty tofu as our protein and turning it into lemongrass tofu (instead of lemongrass chicken). Don’t worry, the marinade for it consists of pantry staples and you can easily make it. We’re also adding more greens with some lettuce (because that’s how we roll). If you’re not vegan, you can add the more traditional spreads. Here, we used cashew cream spread, which we use as vegan mayo or cream cheese alternative (like in the kimchi avocado bagel we made here).

Ingredients

  • 2 pcs bánh mì baguette (from Manila Bake, not sponsored but we love it)
  • 1 block of tofu, sliced into rectangles
  • 4 pcs of romaine lettuce leaves
  • 1 Japanese cucumber, sliced thinly lengthwise
  • Fermented radish and carrot, as needed and depending on the level of sourness (recipe here)
  • Sugar, as needed
  • A few sprigs of cilantro
  • Vegan mayonnaise or cashew cream spread

Tofu marinade

  • 6 stalks of lemongrass
  • 2 Tbsp coconut sugar
  • 4 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp sriracha (or fermented hot sauce)
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper

Directions

  1. After washing the lemongrass thoroughly, peel off its tough layer. Smash its bulb end and slice the white tender parts of the stalks thinly. Mince finely.
  2. Prepare the marinade by mixing all the marinade ingredients. Make sure that the sugar is dissolved.
  3. Tip the marinade into a resealable bag and add the tofu slices. Marinate for at least half an hour.
  4. Depending on the sourness of the fermented radish and carrot, add sugar to taste to balance the flavors.
  5. Pan-fry the tofu slices until golden brown. Set aside.
  6. Assemble the sandwich: slice the baguette in the middle after toasting. Spread the vegan mayo or cashew cream cheese. Put two pieces of lettuce leaves on the bottom, top with 4 to 5 tofu slices, a spoonful (or more) of fermented radish and carrots, slices of cucumber and a few sprigs of cilantro. Enjoy!

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