The classic Vietnamese bánh mì (you know, roast pork, spicy mayo and pickled veggies) is already high on our list of favorite sandwiches, but Erin McDowell’s crispy tofu bánh mì is upping the ante.
“I love all the textures going on in a traditional bánh mì,” McDowell tells us, “so here I made the tofu really crispy for contrast. What I love about bánh mì is that there’s already so much flavor, so you can keep the protein relatively simple and focus on the toppings.”
And about those toppings: “After you drain the vegetables out of the vinegar for the sandwiches, you can save that vinegar for dressings,” she says. “Sharp pickled vegetables, spicy rich mayonnaise, tons of herbs? You can’t go wrong. Add some crispy tofu and you’ve got the ideal meatless entrée.”
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2 medium carrots, peeled and very thinly sliced into rounds
3 Persian cucumbers, very thinly sliced into rounds
1 bunch radishes, ends trimmed and very thinly sliced into rounds
1 cup seasoned rice wine vinegar
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 pound firm tofu, drained and sliced into 8 even slices
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg
1 tablespoon whole milk
1¼ cups panko bread crumbs
⅓ cup sesame seeds
2 tablespoons neutral oil (such as vegetable, coconut or peanut)
Flaky salt (such as Maldon), as needed for finishing
½ cup mayonnaise (preferably Kewpie)
¼ cup sriracha, plus more as needed
4 mini baguettes (or 1 large baguette cut into 4 pieces), halved lengthwise
½ cup fresh cilantro leaves
½ cup fresh basil leaves
½ cup thinly sliced scallions
¼ cup thinly sliced jalapeños
1. Make the Pickled Vegetables: In a medium bowl, toss together the carrot, cucumber and radish slices, then pack tightly into a quart-size heat-safe container.
2. In a small saucepan, heat the vinegar and salt over medium heat until the salt is dissolved, then pour over the vegetables. Seal the container and refrigerate, shaking or stirring occasionally, until fully chilled, at least 2 hours and up to overnight.
3. Make the Crispy Tofu: Sandwich the tofu slices between several layers of kitchen towels and press firmly on each slice to remove as much moisture as possible.
4. In a shallow bowl, stir together the flour, garlic powder, salt and pepper. In another shallow bowl, whisk together the egg and milk. In a third shallow bowl, stir together the panko and sesame seeds.
5. Working one at a time, dip each piece of tofu into the flour mixture until fully coated. Then dip each piece into the egg mixture until lightly but fully coated, shaking off any excess. Finally, dip each piece in the panko-sesame mixture to coat.
6. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the tofu and cook undisturbed until evenly golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Season with flaky salt while the tofu is still hot.
7. Assemble the Bánh Mì: In a medium bowl, stir the mayonnaise and sriracha to combine. Spread a thin layer on both cut sides of each mini baguette. On one side of the bread, layer about ¼ cup of drained pickled vegetables, and on the other side, layer the cilantro, basil, scallions and jalapeños. Place a piece of tofu on top of the pickled vegetables, then place the other half of the bread on top and press firmly to seal the sandwiches.