Baked Tofu Banh Mi

THE iconic Vietnamese sandwich on a pretzel roll? I know.

Baked Tofu Banh Mi // The Pancake Princess

Sacrilege. Possibly indecent. This version of banh mi is to authentic banh mi as these are to American parties (LOL).

But it is also—say it with me—DELICIOUS.

Baked Tofu Banh Mi // The Pancake Princess

Baked Tofu Banh Mi // The Pancake Princess

Baked Tofu Banh Mi // The Pancake Princess

I rarely ate banh mi as a kid, but once I came to Houston (a surprising wellspring of decent Vietnamese food), I discovered the most amazing banh mi at this long-windowed shop: one bite of the freshest, toasty, warm bread, and I was won over.

Interestingly, it was only while googling banh mi (necessary to determine that the singular and plural version are the same. No “banh mis” for you) that I realized that banh mi are inherently fusion food. Which, in retrospect, seems COMPLETELY OBVIOUS. Typical fixings of a banh mi include classic French cuisine (crusty baguettes, liver pate, mayo) combined with Vietnamese elements (pickled carrots and daikon, cilantro, fish sauce). All in all, they are somewhat minimalist as awesome sandwiches go, and SO CHEAP. I don’t think it gets any better than $2.50 per ENORMOUS sandwich.

I was never possessed to make these at home because 1) universal cheapness 2) I always get tofu banh mi and tofu is always better at restaurants. Always. Like they give it little MSG shots or something. And since protein is pretty much the star flavor source in these sandwiches, you can’t do it badly. But then I saw the most perfect pretzel rolls at Whole Foods (you think shopping on an empty stomach will lead to bad decisions? Try shopping at WHOLE FOODS on an empty stomach. Wallet, avert your eyes.) and it just felt like a sign. Turns out, it was a thoroughly good decision because biting into super crusty baguettes tend to cut the roof of my mouth but these pretzels rolls walk the line perfectly between crisp, crusty surfaces but not, you know, kill-your-mouth rough. Plus they get all yeasty and fluffy and buttery-tasting inside.

And THEN after several batches, I found that you can create super tasty baked tofu with just two ingredients!!

Baked Tofu Banh Mi // The Pancake Princess

IMG_5646

Yes, you can buy banh mi for really cheap, but when you make them at home, you can make some excellent little tweaks: first of all, pile on as much tangy-crunchy-sweet pickled vegetables as you like–that rare, perfect ratio of vegetable to bread is totally attainable at home! Instead of mayo (the horror!), spread salty, herby miso-cilantro butter across your toasty bread with less guilt and SO much more flavor. If you’re not a huge fan of spicy (like me and Erik), swap the jalapenos for green bell peppers for the subtlest hint of earthy spice. And the tofu? Well, you can pop those tasty baked slices like candy.

These take a bit of time to make, but it’s mostly hands-off time (quick pickling the vegetables, baking the tofu) and you can make a big, inexpensive batch all at once.

Baked Tofu Banh Mi // The Pancake Princess

For a vegan version, you can totally omit the miso-cilantro butter and just spread a bit of miso on your bread instead. It’s still delicious!

Now go make some sandwiches.

Baked Tofu Banh Mi

Yield: 4 sandwiches

Even though banh mi are super cheap to buy, they're even cheaper to make at home and possibly more delicious. This version features super simple and flavorful 2-ingredient baked tofu, quick pickled vegetables, cucumber, peppers and cilantro atop toasted pretzel rolls smeared with miso-cilantro butter. Make a double batch and eat these for days!

Ingredients

  • For the tofu:
  • 1 16-oz block firm tofu
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger root

  • For the pickled vegetables:
  • ½ cup rice vinegar
  • ¼ cup water
  • 3-4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 ½ cups shredded or julienned carrot (about 3 medium carrots)
  • 1 ½ cups shredded or julienned daikon**

  • For the miso cilantro butter*:
  • 1 tablespoon butter or vegan butter, softened at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon white miso paste
  • 1 packed tablespoon finely chopped cilantro

  • 4 pretzel rolls (or any type of crusty baguette)
  • cucumber, sliced into thin wedges
  • green bell pepper or 1 jalapeno, sliced
  • additional cilantro, for garnish
  • fish sauce, optional
  • lentil pate, optional

Instructions

{Set the tablespoon of butter out to soften while you make the rest of the sandwich components.}

Drain the tofu. Press the tofu for at least 20 minutes (this is a great explanation of how to press tofu).

Meanwhile, stir the vinegar, water and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat until sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat, add shredded carrot and daikon and let sit for at least 30 minutes and up to a few weeks, refrigerated.

Cut your pressed tofu into about 24 slices (I cut my block in thirds across the width so I had three flat sheets of tofu, then cut each sheet into sixths for 24 pieces). Toss in a bowl with soy sauce and grated ginger and let marinate for at least 15 minutes.

To bake the tofu, spread the tofu pieces on a lightly greased baking sheet (DO NOT FORGET THE GREASING) for 20 minutes at 350 degrees F, flipping halfway through.

To pan-fry the tofu, heat a little sesame oil in a pan over medium heat. Once hot, spread the tofu pieces out in an even layer (avoid over-crowding the pan--fry in 2 batches if you must) and fry for a few minutes on each side, or until browned and crusty.

Make the miso butter by stirring together the softened butter, miso and cilantro.

To assemble the sandwiches, toast your rolls. Spread with miso butter, 6 squares of tofu, pickled vegetables, cucumber, bell pepper and cilantro. Drizzle with fish sauce if desired. EAT!

Notes

*For a vegan option, you could also omit the miso butter in favor of a thin spread of miso (it's quite salty) on your bread. Also, make sure your bread is vegan, because these pretzel rolls aren't.

**This was my first time cooking with daikon and I found it in the organic section of Whole Foods next to the carrots. Daikon is a white root vegetable that looks like a very thick, anemic (read: white) carrot. Peel the outsides just like a carrot before shredding.

With inspiration from here, here and here.

http://www.thepancakeprincess.com/2014/03/11/baked-tofu-banh-mi/

Don’t have rice vinegar? It’s a cheap investment that has a ton of tasty payoffs! Once you buy a bottle, here’s what else you can make:

Tofu and kale potstickers:

tofukalepotstickers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dumpling dip:

dumplingdip

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pan-fried tofu and kale bowl:

tofukalebowl

 

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39 thoughts on “Baked Tofu Banh Mi

  1. Sophie

    This new vegetarian (yes, I have a meaty banh mi recipe on my blog from the old days) thanks you for this!! Tofu substitute, hallelujah. I mean of course it makes sense but I needed actual guidance. So glad I came across this :) :)

    I also noticed that my girl Andrea Nguyen (http://www.vietworldkitchen.com/) (who’s Bahn Mi Handbook just released this week, how handy!) might have a recipe for edamame pate in place of liver spread? SIGH ME UP. Also, I have seen that my local Asian market carries several vegetarian fish sauce bottles which appear to be based on soy, not unlike soy sauce. I would be interested in making my own fish-less sauce: mushrooms, maybe? Seaweed? Or other umami-delicious items :) Hmmmmm!

    Reply
    1. erika Post author

      Aww YAY!!! Welcome to the dark side ;) TOTALLY KIDDING. If anything, this is the side of light! ;) Oh man edamame pate sounds so good–thanks for the link! I definitely want to check out that handbook. And all those fish-less sauces sound so good! You’re brilliant. Now I must go find authentic bibimbap bowls AND make my own fish sauce!

      Reply
  2. Ashlae

    SWEET MOTHER OF BABY JESUS. I desperately need one of these for dinner.

    Also, this recipe compelled me to make a Food I Want to Eat bookmark folder. That’s big. HUGE.

    Reply
    1. erika Post author

      Ahhh!!! Ecstatic to hear it, Ashlae :) I am a huge, huge fan of you. Your writing = perfection. By the by, I adored that story of you and Thom fighting, and then making up in the rain in whatever country you were in. It still sticks with me :)

      Reply
  3. Shumaila The Novice Housewife

    That pretzel roll looks amazing. Whole Foods on an empty stomach is asking for trouble!! And the banh mi looks great! Last summer I was in Toronto for a cake decorating course and had a chance to go to this place called Banh Mi Boys, and try their sandwiches. A-mazing!!! All the yelp 5 star reviews were bang on target. This reminds me of that. I am hungry now.

    Reply
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  6. janet @ the taste space

    Yum! Rob’s been to that resto, too. It is so close to our house he goes for lunch. Our favourite spot in Toronto had a kimchi sweet potato poutine we had to recreate while away but have only made bahn mi once at home. I like your idea to bake the tofu. :)

    Reply
    1. erika Post author

      Ohh I’m so jeals you guys are so close!!! It’s def a short drive for me…although I suppose I should try biking!

      Also KIMCHI. SWEET POTATO. POUTINE?!?! Girl, you are speaking my language. I want to make that sweet potato/miso gravy concoction you have going on on your blog!!

      Reply
  7. Natasha @ The Cake Merchant

    There are several banh mi places near my house, but none of them have a veggie option, so I’m loving the pressed tofu idea.. None of them have the pretzel roll option, either, which is brilliant. And now I want to put miso cilantro butter on everything…including cake!

    Reply
    1. Natasha @ The Cake Merchant

      BTW, I am loving your new blog design. I’ve been trying to make a similar layout on my blog, but I have the Thesis theme and it won’t let me do it, and I’m trying to avoid spending a fortune on a designer. Are you using a wordpress theme?

      Reply
      1. erika Post author

        oh my gosh 1) PUT MISO CILANTRO BUTTER ON EVERYTHING 2) come to Houston and we will buy ALL THE SLOW DOUGH BREAD 3) thank you SO much!!! I’m so flattered :) I am using a wordpress theme and I’m going to email you now! It took me a looong time to figure out how to do this, but it’s actually pretty easy!

        Reply
  8. Karen @ The Food Charlatan

    Erika I’m seriously wishing you could have seen my face for the last 10 minutes. I would have instagramed it for you, but you surprised me so I didn’t know. First, my eyes got all big and I actually gasped with joy when I realized you had put banh mi on pretzels. Then I clicked over to the American parties link. “Beer! Coz America That’s Why!” and the red cups??? wth?? Also watching Pocahontas, classic. Then you talked about baguettes cutting up your mouth and I just wanted to give you a hug because that totally happens to me and I thought I was the only freak out there.
    Thanks for being the best blog I read today. This week even. You rock.

    Reply
    1. erika Post author

      Karen, I wish you could have seen my face while reading your comment. Big goofy smile. You are hilarious! I so enjoyed that mental picture of a bunch of European kids watching Pochahontas. And YES those baguettes! I mean, not to be a baby but those do some SERIOUS damage–you are most def not a freak :)

      Reply
  9. Lan | morestomach

    i don’t think this is sacrilege, at all. i’m a fan, we don’t have any decent banh mi places in baltimore, i have to head to DC or northern va for my fix. with this situation you’d think i’d make it at home but it seems like a lot of work. i find vietnamese food so simple but when you actually make it at home there are so many components for just one dish. this is like pho, i’d rather someone else make it for me. that said, please come to the east coast and make this for me. :)

    Reply
    1. erika Post author

      Um YES!! I don’t get to the east coast nearly enough, so I’ll take any excuse I can get :) Interesting…I remember my friend who lived in DC over the summer saying that she couldn’t find any decent ethnic food except for one genre…maybe it was Vietnamese! Anyhoo, I’ll get on shipping some of these asap :)

      Reply
  10. Katie (The Muffin Myth)

    Girrrrl, now I know what I’m doing this weekend. Amazing! While I wouldn’t say that Stockholm is a hotbed of good Asian food, they recently licensed food trucks and there is a Banh Mi truck I’ve been dying to try. Though you definitely don’t get anything for $2.50 in this city. In any case, this version looks delish, and easy, and food is always so much better when you make it yourself. Now I just need to try and find pretzel rolls. Yum!

    Reply
    1. erika Post author

      Woohoo!! Hope you like these! I meant to mention in the post that I also have another version of banh mi coming…hint: meatless pate is involved! Quite excited for that too.

      That is so exciting that Stockholm just licensed food trucks!! But sad that it doesn’t have great Asian food :( Guess that just means lots of homemade Asian comfort food for you! :)

      OH MY GOSH I just remembered. I think in a past post that I meant to and probably forgot to respond to, you offered to send me some authentic Swedish pearl sugar. Which, if you were kidding, then disregard what I say next. But if you were serious, let me know if you want to do a food exchange!! I.e. if there are any Asian ingredients (or anything else really) that you can’t get where you are, I would be super happy to send them your way!!

      Reply
  11. Bam's Kitchen

    What a great idea for a dinner or lunch. You know sometimes you just get in eating or cooking rut and I feel like lately I am in one. Thanks for the inspiration to try something new.

    Reply
    1. erika Post author

      Yes! Hate those ruts, but I’m glad you found some inspiration in these! I suppose for the serving size I should have put “4 sandwiches or 1 hungry teenager” ;)

      Reply
  12. laurasmess

    Erika! I’ve never heard of a pretzel roll. Are they like soft pretzels but in a roll shape, or are they a bit lighter? Looks delish, either way! I’ve had no luck in converting Aaron to tofu so far but these rolls look absolutely divine. I reckon he mightn’t even notice that it’s not meat… okay, maybe I’m being a bit too optimistic but hey. The marinade would totally be enough to distract me! Awesome recipe as always. Loving your fusion Asian dishes… so delicious! x

    Reply
    1. erika Post author

      Hmm I would say lighter than a soft pretzel in roll form. Like picking up a bag of 6 rolls felt like picking up a bag of cotton balls! Okay maybe not that light. But definitely not too heavy!

      Oh that’s so sad that Aaron doesn’t like tofu! You know, I was on a huge tofu-hating kick for awhile but now I’m back to loving it! Have you ever tried pressing tofu before breading + frying it? I think tofu is pretty unequivocally tasty that way, but then again there are some foods that I just don’t like (mayo) no matter how you dress it up.

      Thank you so much, as always! <3

      Reply
  13. Nancy @ gottagetbaked

    I was totally nodding along the entire time I was reading this post. I loooooove banh mi sandwiches and I never make them at home because they’re so cheap to buy. As much as I adore the crusty French baguettes, hell yeah they rip up the top of the mouth. Then you get that annoying flap of skin up there until you rip it out (too much info? We’re friends, you can handle it ;) Your miso cilantro butter sounds aaaaaahmayzing! Now I have an insane craving for banh mi.

    Reply
    1. erika Post author

      See that is why we’re friends! I love people who nod along with what I’m saying :) I TOTALLY KNOW WHAT YOU MEAN. Painful much? Eating sandwiches should not cause you to have to rip off skin amirite?

      Thanks lady :)

      Reply
  14. cynthia | two red bowls

    UM. These photos are so beautiful, Erika!! LOVE THEM. And this sandwich sounds amazing — I’m forever intimidated by the Vietnamese baguette, so this sounds like the perfect alternative. I also just adore pretzel buns. (And those pretzel dogs from Auntie Anne’s. Unrelated.) Also, that buzzfeed was hilarious. Love everything about this post, Erika!

    Reply
    1. erika Post author

      Thanks Cynthia! You have seriously been such an inspiration lately–I was definitely modeling this post after some of the moody photography I’ve been drooling over lately on your blog! Seriously, I don’t know how you do it but I feel like I’m in a different world when I look at the photos on your blog!

      I see your pretzel dogs from Auntie Anne’s and raise you cheese pretzels from Wetzel’s Pretzels…*swoon*

      Reply
  15. Choc Chip Uru

    This is just beyond me, the photography, the recipe, it all looks so incredibly delicious!
    Love the crusty bread and fresh fillings, especially pickled vegetables :D
    And Tofu flavoured to perfection!

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

    Reply
  16. Nora (A Clean Bake)

    There are two really, really good bahn mi restaurants in my neighborhood but yours still looks better. The customization potential is HUGE, and you nailed every part of this sandwich which the perfectly marinated baked tofu, the massive helping of slaw, the replacement of the mayo (thank you) and of course, those heavenly pretzel rolls.

    Reply
  17. The Vegan 8

    Mmmmm…pretzel rolls! I think anything would be good on pretzel rolls, haha! I don’t like tofu, but somehow you always manage to make it looks delicious and make me want some!! Everything you post is always so beautifully presented and mouthwatering! And now I’m craving pretzel rolls!!

    Reply
  18. The Wimpy Vegetarian

    I just love bang mi. I eat some fish, and there’s a place within walking distance that has killer salmon bahn mi sandwiches. Your tofu version sounds fabulous – and I love the photos. Really, really great photos!!!

    Reply
    1. erika Post author

      Ooooooh that sounds so good!!! I actually had a few friends over the other night and we made these hoisin salmon burgers and put them on the leftover pretzel buns and topped them with pickled veggies–so impromptu salmon banh mi and they were SO GOOD. Thanks lady :))

      Reply

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