Vegetarian banh mi? Sure, with tofu.


Gingery Tofu Sliders: the big taste of banh mi in a smaller package. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)
Joe Yonan
Editor, Food and Travel August 5

If anybody knows tofu, it’s Andrea Nguyen. Her book “Asian Tofu” made the case, beautifully, that the wide variety of styles is worth exploring — and that the homemade article is worth trying, for the freshness if nothing else. She’s not vegetarian, but by helping crack the code of such a misunderstood staple of the vegetarian pantry, she’s become an honorary member of the club.

Because of her expertise, I was confident when I picked up Nguyen’s latest, “The Banh Mi Handbook” (Ten Speed Press, 2014), that she would include vegetarian versions of the standout Vietnamese sandwich, and that some would feature tofu. Sure enough, she devotes a chapter to traditional meatless preparations. I had a difficult time deciding between one that calls for the tofu to be simmered in a coconut curry and one that has you marinate it in a ginger-heavy concoction before stacking it into little sliders.

Joe Yonan is the Food and Travel editor of The Washington Post and the author of "Eat Your Vegetables: Bold Recipes for the Single Cook." He writes the Food section's Weeknight Vegetarian column. View Archive

The latter won out. I read up on Nguyen’s building-block suggestions for assembling the perfect banh mi (or the miniature version in a slider) and interpreted it my own way. The result: kimchi, avocado, pickled jalapeño and gingery tofu layered on soft dinner rolls for a punchy variety of flavors and textures.

I made the sliders for a photo shoot. I served them to coworkers. I made them again for dinner. And I added them to the menu for an upcoming party. Only one of the other guests is vegetarian, but given the reaction so far, I’m confident they’ll be a hit with everybody.

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