There’s obviously a lot going on in the world right now and while I make a general point of avoiding politics here I do feel compelled to say that I stand with Black Lives Matter, with the LGBTQ community, with the trans community. I’m doing a lot of listening and learning and thinking about my own privilege.
Along those lines, there have been a few articles recently about how food from minority cultures is being tweaked and bastardized and published about by the mainstream (mostly white) media.
I have no illusions that I’m anyone’s source of deep knowledge about international cuisine. But until recently I probably wouldn’t think twice about learning that Vietnam was once a part of French Indochina (from Somebody Feed Phil, naturally), walking to the Italian deli up the street for a long loaf of bread, throwing some Asian ingredients on it and calling it a ‘banh mi.’
I do understand why this is problematic. And I fully acknowledge my own lack of authenticity. I just think if something I post prompts a reader to stroll down the international foods aisle for some chili garlic sauce, or try tofu for the first time, or get inspired to make something vegan- all of these are victories. And hopefully prompt you to learn more and try more! Food is my favorite gateway into learning about other cultures.
So here it is, my “sweet and spicy,” non banh mi, banh mi.
Sweet & Spicy Tofu Sandwich
14 oz extra firm tofu
1 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/3 cup brown sugar
4 tbs chili garlic sauce, divided
1 carrot, peeled or shredded
1 cucumber, thinly sliced
3 tsp rice vinegar
1 tbs sesame oil
1/2 avocado, mashed for spreading
Slice the tofu into 1/2″-3/4″ sections. This made 4 pretty large sandwiches for us, so you can also just cut it into 8 pieces if my measurements are completely wrong.
Try to let some of the water drain out and pat dry with paper towels. This is important for two reasons: you want the marinade to seep in, and you’re also going to be pan frying it so if it has a lot of water you’ll get a ton of oil spattering.
Mix the soy sauce, brown sugar, and 3 tablespoons of chili garlic sauce. Pour over the tofu, making sure both sides are coated. You can do this ahead of time or like 10 minutes before. The first night we had these I cooked it basically right away and left the rest marinating and the next night it was still great.
Slice the cucumbers (I use my mandolin) and peel the carrots. Combine the rice vinegar, sesame oil, and remaining tablespoon of chili garlic sauce and toss with the veggies. This can also be done ahead of time, or not.
When you’re ready to eat, heat a little canola oil in a frying pan and sear the tofu on both sides for 3-4 minutes or until golden brown.
Lightly toast the baguette and spread on a layer of mashed avocado. If I’m being truthful we used mayo despite the fact that my sister and SIL and I were just saying that a tofu banh mi on a menu should always be vegan, but we didn’t have any avocado. You just need a little neutral spread on the bread so either will work!
Top with the tofu and the veggies, and more pickled onions if you have them!
This is the perfect sandwich especially if you are a tofu hater/doubter because the texture is almost undetectable. It’s SUPER flavorful and you have some good crunch from the toasted bread and from the carrots and cucumbers, so you hardly notice the tofu- it could be any protein.
We’ve been doing a ton of meatless meals so this will likely be a regular in the rotation!
Enjoy, be kind, and watch Somebody Feed Phil.