homemade vegetarian banh mi, a cautionary tale

by Stacy

Have you ever tried bánh mì? I’ve also heard them called Vietnamese baguettes or just Vietnamese sandwiches, and that’s what they are. “Bánh mì” translates to “bread,” the most important component of these delicious sandwiches.

Vietnam was a French colony (French Indochina), so these sandwiches combine the two food traditions. A crisp bread roll is (traditionally) filled with pâté, mayonnaise, pickled carrots and radish, cilantro, and peppers. My first experience with bánh mì was at Jasmine Deli, a small restaurant on Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis. They cater to a large vegetarian population and have a wonderful meat-free option that is filled with curried mock duck.

vegetarian banh mi

Since moving to San Diego I have been searching for an elusive substitute, my complaint being that all the shops here are too authentic and don’t serve good vegetarian options (boo hoo). Their “veggie” sandwich just leaves off the meat. Bread, pickles, and cilantro do not a satisfying sandwich make.

You might expect this to be the point where I tell you how I immediately went to the kitchen to make my own sandwich rolls and all that, but you would be wrong. After intending to make my own sandwiches but just whining about it for months, my husband planned a little dinnertime surprise.

He bought some Vietnamese baguettes at the Asian-owned European bakery across the street (four for about a dollar). After a brief consultation with me, he stopped at the Asian grocery to pick up a daikon radish, snagged a carrot and some cilantro from the CSA box, looked up my recipe for homemade mock duck and got out the little-used mandoline (this is the brand we own, not the one I would necessarily recommend).

If you are unfamiliar with the mandoline (not to be confused with a mandolin) it is basically a combination of a knife, grater, and killing machine.

It makes thin, uniform slices (think scalloped potatoes), julienne and waffle cuts (think French fries), or bloody kitchen injuries (think your husband getting a piece of radish stuck in the blade and then trying to dislodge it with his hand, thus dramatically gashing his finger in multiple places at 11:00pm after you’ve had an exhausting day at work).

pickled carrots and radish

The idea for using the mandoline was to get some nice thin carrot and radish pieces to lightly pickle for the sandwiches. Following his hideous injury I forbade him from using the mandoline anymore and threatened him with the traditional mark of shame of a professional kitchen.

So I made the pickles, he made the seitan. Team effort, no stitches required!

We had them for dinner, then I took leftovers to work for a few days. Make the pickles and mock duck the night before and you’re ready to go. Marinated tofu also makes a nice filling, but the curried mock duck tastes like Eat Street!

Have you had bánh mì? Do you make restaurant knock-offs at home?

vegetarian banh mi

Curried Mock Duck Banh Mi

Inspired by Jasmine Deli, pickle recipe from TheKitchn
Makes 3-4 sandwiches

If you don’t have an Asian grocery or bakery nearby, you can make your own baguettes. They should be crisp on the outside and very soft on the inside — like a better version of supermarket “French bread.”

Ingredients:
Pickles (do chua):

  • 1 cup julienned daikon radish
  • 1 cup julienned carrots
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup water

Sandwiches:

  • Vietnamese sandwich rolls (see note above)
  • Mock duck or seitan
  • Curry powder
  • Do chua pickles (above)
  • Sliced cucumber
  • Jalapeno pepper, sliced into rings
  • Fresh cilantro
  • Mayonnaise

Directions:

  1. Stir together salt, sugar, vinegar and water. Add daikon and carrots. Cover and refrigerate an hour or longer.
  2. Sprinkle mock duck with curry powder. Saute with a little oil, adding a tablespoon of water at a time if mock duck seems dry.
  3. Toast baguettes. Spread with a thin layer of mayonnaise. Add seasoned mock duck, drained pickles, and other toppings as desired.

vegetarian banh mi


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