Friday, March 21, 2014

Vegetarian Banh Mi

I was infamous in my family for not liking sandwiches a few years back - and for much of my childhood.  I was fond of saying that I preferred to eat in a more civilized manner with silverware than with my hands.  That was mostly me being annoying, but in truth, I wasn't big on sandwiches.  Looking back now, I realize that it was simply because most sandwiches had meat in them, and I wasn't creative enough to make up vegetarian options, or motivated enough to find some veggie options.  Luckily these days, I am a sandwich fan.  How could you not love the amazing California veggie sandwiches, or the infamous pulled cauliflower BBQ sandwiches?  I have found lots of delicious vegetarian things to shove between pieces of bread.  And happily, here is another excellent option: the vegetarian banh mi.

The banh mi is a Vietnamese sandwich that is gaining popularity in America.  I have been impressed how many people know what I'm talking about when I mention that I gave one a try.  Traditionally, they're made with a baguette and filled with pickled vegetables, spiced meats, mayonnaise and hot sauce.  Clearly in order for me to want to give this a shot, it had to have a lot of tweaks, and that's where my beloved A Couple Cooks blog came in.  They came up with a vegetarian option, using eggs in place of meat, so you still get lots of protein.

This sandwich has so many flavors and textures going on, it's like your mouth is at a Vietnamese circus (do those exist?)  You have the pickled shredded carrot, which is tart but sweet (they marinate in honey and vinegar); you have the crunchy sliced cucumber contrasting with the omelet-like egg, all flavored with chopped cilantro, salt and pepper.  Then the bread itself is doused with mayonnaise, soy sauce, and Sriracha. Are you drooling just thinking about the explosion of flavors that is this banh mi!?!

I will tell you that this sandwich had many skeptics in my house.  People were a little freaked out at the thought of "an egg sandwich with soy sauce" as I believe it was called.  However, one by one, my family tried small pieces, and then big pieces, and by the end, Kenzie and my mom were arguing over who would eat the last hunk for lunch the next day.  Mom judged it the best sandwich I ever made, and even Pat the carnivore was impressed.  There are just too many flavors for it to be a letdown to anyone; there is something in there for anybody.

One last note: I left off the mayonnaise on one end of the sandwich for me, and I certainly didn't miss it.  I also only added the hot sauce to one part for my mom - the rest of us are babies.  Mom said it was very spicy, so be careful!  You can pick and choose the condiments here; the banh mi is an easy sandwich, and it's yours to experiment with.


vegetarian banh mi
from A Couple Cooks
makes 2 large sandwiches

2 large carrots (1½ cup shredded)
½ cup white or rice vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
¼ teaspoon (or more) red pepper flakes
1 English cucumber
Fresh cilantro
4 eggs
½ tablespoon butter
Kosher salt
Black pepper
2 baguettes
Soy sauce
1) Peel and shred the carrots. Combine ½ cup vinegar, 1 tablespoon honey, and ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes in small bowl. Add the carrot and stir to mix. Let stand 15 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Peel the cucumber, then peel off long strips. Chop the cilantro.
2) In a small bowl, beat together 4 eggs, one pinch salt and a bit of black pepper. In a large skillet, heat ½ tablespoon butter over medium heat. Pour half of the eggs into the skillet. As the eggs just start to set, scrape them towards the center of the skillet into the shape of the baguette. Cook until just firm, but not dry. Repeat with the other half of the eggs for the second sandwich.
3) Cut the baguette in half. (If desired, toast the bread lightly prior to serving.) Spread mayonnaise on both sides of bread. Sprinkle each side with Sriracha and soy sauce (to your own taste). Fill each sandwich with egg, cucumber, and cilantro. Drain carrot-radish mixture, and spread on each sandwich. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Press top half of baguette on sandwich, and slice sandwich in half.

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