Tonight for dinner we had a vegetarian Banh Mi. A banh mi is a Vietnamese sandwich. You can read more about its origins here. According to Wikipedia, our version is called a Banh Mi Chay, which means it involves tofu. I based our sandwich on this recipe from Sunset.com for Banh Mi Thit Hoi An, aka a sandwich with pork in the style of Hoi An (a fishing village in central Vietnam). Maybe that means ours is now called Banh Mi Chay Hoi An? I have no idea. I am not Vietnamese.
Regardless of its name, the sandwich was delicious. I've never made anything Vietnamese before, and it was my first time using five-spice powder. I was intrigued though because we always like things that involve our Sriracha sauce. Yum yum. I followed the original recipe (linked above) except that I used tofu instead of the meat. I also used dried basil in place of fresh, because that is what I do. We really liked this a lot and would make it again.
Here is my recipe, adapted from Sunset.com:
Banh Mi Chay
1 teaspoon Chinese five spice (or 1/4 teaspoon each ground cinnamon, ground cloves, ground ginger, and anise seeds)
1 tablespoon salad oil
1/4 cup chopped shallots
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1 block of tofu, drained and pressed, and cut into small cubes
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
3 baguettes (8 oz. each)
About 2 tablespoons Asian red chili paste or sauce
2 cups thinly sliced English cucumbers
3 cups salad mix, rinsed and crisped
1/2 cup fresh Thai or regular basil leaves, rinsed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1. In an 8- to 10-inch frying pan over medium-high heat, stir five-spice until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in oil, shallots, and garlic. Add tofu and stir often until tofu is browned on all sides, about 15 minutes. Add soy sauce, sugar, and salt to taste.
2. Cut baguettes in half crosswise, then split lengthwise almost all the way through, leaving halves attached at one side. Spread about 1 teaspoon chili paste on one cut side of each baguette section. Spoon the warm tofu mixture over chili paste, dividing equally between each baguette section. Set sandwiches slightly apart on a 12- by 15-inch baking sheet.
3. Bake in a 375° regular or convection oven just until filling is warm and crust is crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove sandwiches from oven and fill each with 1/6 of the cucumbers, salad mix, and basil. Add more chili paste and salt to taste.
Yield: 6 servings
Photo added retroactively on February 6, 2008: