Lemongrass Tofu Banh Mi
Banh mi; a sandwich to beat all sandwiches. The airy, crisp-shelled baguettes that are used in Vietnam are often made with rice flour, but a very fresh wheat-flour loaf will do nicely here. (Use a baguette that's about 30cm long, to get the sandwiches the right size.) It's worth hollowing out some of the soft middle crumb, to make more room for the fillings. Use vegan mayonnaise if you want to make this a vegan recipe.
- 400g smoked tofu, sliced
- 2 red chillies, finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- thumb-sized piece of root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 lemongrass stalks, trimmed and finely sliced
- 2 tbsp vegetarian 'fish' sauce or light soy sauce, plus more for the baguettes
- 1 tbsp palm sugar
- sea salt
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground white pepper
- 1 tbsp groundnut or other flavourless oil
- 2 small ficelles or small, thin baguettes
- 3 tbsp mayonnaise
- 1/2 small cucumber, sliced on the diagonal
- handful of sprigs of coriander
- 1x Quick Vietnamese Pickles (recipe below)
- For Quick Vietnamese Pickles:
- 90g unrefined caster sugar
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 180ml rice wine vinegar
- 200g carrots, peeled and shredded
- 200g daikon and/or small regular radishes, peeled and shredded (or sliced, in the case of small radishes)
To make the pickles: Combine the sugar, salt and vinegar with 100ml of water in a bowl, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Add the vegetables and set aside for 2 hours. The pickles can be drained and eaten at this stage (rinse them for an even milder flavour), or chill them for 2-3 weeks. Their flavour will become more intense as the days go on.
To make the Banh Mi:
1. Dry the sliced tofu well with kitchen paper. Mix it in a bowl with the chillies, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, vegetarian 'fish' sauce or soy sauce and sugar. Set aside for 30 minutes, if you have the time, seasoning lightly with salt and the white pepper.
2. Place a large wok or frying pan over a medium-high heat. Add the oil, followed by the tofu mixture. Sear the slices for 2-3 minutes on each side, until glazed and caramelised. Remove from the heat.
3. Preheat a grill to low and warm the baguettes through, turning often, until crisp-edged and just-warm inside.
4. Open out the warmed baguettes, then cut each in half to make 4 split pieces. Pick out some of the crumb, if you like, to make a bigger space for the filling. Brush the insides with a little more vegetarian 'fish' or light soy sauce and spread with mayonnaise and slices of cucumber. Now stuff in some tofu, a few sprigs of coriander and a generous helping of drained pickles. Drizzle with any juices from the tofu pan and serve hot.