One of my favourite things about living in Toronto is the mind-boggling variety of authentic ethnic restaurants that is available to us.
From Ethiopian injera to Trini doubles to Japanese ramen to Portuguese custard tarts to Korean barbecue, you can travel around the world without ever leaving the city limits (and in some cases, all in the same neighbourhood!)
Vietnamese food, in particular, makes regular appearances on the rotation, and not just because some of the best pho and banh mi joints in town are a short downhill bike ride away.
(Though, to be honest, I'd probably go even more often if it wasn't for the fact that the short downhill ride there means there's a much longer uphill ride home, which feels extra-long when you've got a belly full of pho.)
That's one of the reasons why I've learned to make some of my favourites at home.
Call me lazy, but I like knowing the only trip I have to make after dinner is the short walk to the couch, where I can finish binge-watching Season 6 of Gossip Girl. (Yes, I have terrible taste in TV shows. Make of it what you will.)
Meet Your New Favourite sandwich: The Banh Mi
If you're not familiar with bang mi, allow me to introduce you to your new favourite sandwich.
The most important element is the bun, a long, skinny wheat roll with a crispy crust and a light fluffy interior. I pick up my buns from a local Vietnamese bakery, but a sliced baguette will do the trick if you don't have access to the real thing.
The fillings are a little more variable, but typically you start with a protein base like grilled pork or chicken (or pan-fried tofu as I've done here), then garnish with a slathering of mayo, a sweet-and-tangy carrot and daikon slaw, fresh cucumber slices and cilantro sprigs.
This particular version upgrades the standard formula by using thick slices of bright yellow tofu marinated in a classic combo of lemongrass and chili pepper as the filling, and spiking the usual mayo with a squirt of spicy sriracha sauce.
The end result is a sandwich loaded with bright flavours and colours and textures. It totally hits the spot when I've got a hankering and can't be bothered to leave the house.
Marinating Made Easy with Gourmet Garden
The best part is that the marinade for the tofu couldn't possibly be simpler, thanks to Gourmet Garden's lemongrass and chili pepper stir-in pastes.
The beauty of these pastes is that they take all of the hassle out of the preparation.
There's no smashing of tough lemongrass stalks with the back of a knife (and by extension, no lemongrass bits flying all over the kitchen), no careful seeding and deveining of hot peppers.
Just a quick squeeze into the bowl and off you go. They're a lazy girl's best friend!
That said, if you can't get your hands on ready-made paste, simply add 2 stalks of finely chopped lemongrass and 1 minced chili pepper to your marinade.
The only downside about these tasty banh mi is that they come together almost too easily...
But that just leaves me with enough time to squeeze in an extra episode of Gossip Girl (or for a short walk to the gelato shop for a cone, no uphill bike ride required).
Disclosure: This post is part of a series sponsored by Gourmet Garden. All opinions, as always, are entirely my own.
These Vietnamese-style vegetarian sandwiches feature slices of pan fried tofu flavoured with lemongrass and chili, nestled in crusty baguette with loads of crunchy vegetables and spicy sriracha mayo.
- 1 (14 oz) package extra-firm tofu, drained and cut into 8 slices
- 2 tbsp Gourmet Garden lemongrass stir-in paste
- 1 tbsp Gourmet Garden chili pepper stir-in paste
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 2 tbsp canola oil
Quick Pickled Daikon-Carrot Slaw
- ¼ cup rice wine vinegar
- ¼ cup water
- 1 tbsp sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup julienned carrot
- 1 cup julienned daikon radish
- 4 banh mi rolls (or 1 crusty baguette, cut into 4 pieces)
- 2 tbsp mayonnaise
- 2 tbsp sriracha sauce
- Thinly sliced fresh cucumber
- Fresh cilantro sprigs
Marinate the Tofu:
- Arrange the sliced tofu on a thick layer of paper towel. Cover with another layer of paper towel, then cover with a large plate and weigh down with a cast iron skillet or several cans. Let stand 15 minutes to press out some of the moisture, then discard the paper towels and pat the tofu dry.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the lemongrass paste, chili pepper paste, soy sauce, turmeric, and sesame oil. Arrange the tofu slices in a shallow dish, and brush them all over with the marinade. Set aside for 1 hour to allow the tofu to soak up all of the marinade.
Make the Carrot-Daikon Slaw:
- In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the rice wine vinegar, water, sugar and salt until the sugar and salt dissolve.
- Add the carrot and daikon, and toss to coat. Set aside to pickle for 30 minutes, then drain and transfer to an airtight container. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Prepare the Tofu and Assemble Sandwiches:
- Heat the 2 tbsp canola oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Remove the tofu from the marinade and gently pat dry with paper towel. Add to the skillet and pan-fry until golden brown and crispy, about 3-4 minutes per side.
- To assemble the sandwiches, split the buns in half. In a small bowl, stir together the mayonnaise and sriracha sauce, and spread onto the top and bottom of the buns. Nestle two tofu slices into each bun, then garnish with carrot-daikon slaw, cucumber slices and lots of fresh cilantro. Serve immediately.
- Prep Time: 1 hour 15 mins
- Cook Time: 6 mins
- Category: Main
- Cuisine: Vietnamese