I'm no stranger to the banh mi game. These delicious Vietnamese sandwiches are readily available in most cities and are a longtime favorite of the broke-but-discerning foodie. Traditional banh mi are made on soft, white French rolls, slathered with mayonnaise, and layered with thinly sliced, marinated, and grilled meats, and topped with fresh and pickled veggies.
Here, I break the rules a little bit. I made these on whole-wheat rolls (though you are welcome to use any bread you like-I've even wrapped these up in tortillas), and I swapped out meat for yummy grilled tempeh. Have you had tempeh before? It's a little funny-looking when you first take it out of package, but it's made from marinated soybeans and has a really pleasant nutty flavor. Like tofu, it's happy to soak up the flavor of whatever you put on it and plays nicely with whole grains and vegetables. The marinade and cooking method in this recipe transform this rather bland-looking block of soy into crispy, flavorful love nuggets.
And the key to this sandwich's cohesion and unbeatable flavor? Two-ingredient spicy mayo. It's just chili sauce and mayonnaise, but, boy, is it more than the sum of its parts. The chili sauce cuts through the mayo's creaminess, making it a perfectly balanced condiment for this perfectly balanced sandwich.
Feel free to get creative with the veggie toppings. Fresh chilies, kimchee, sliced jicama-even mango would all be good here.
And whatever you do, don't forget the napkins. This is one saucy bad boy.
1/8 cup soy sauce or tamari pantry
juice of 1 lime 50 cents
1 clove garlic, minced pantry
1 tablespoon honey or sugar pantry
1 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced 50 cents
8 ounces tempeh, sliced into 3-inch strips $3
4 tablespoons regular or vegan mayonnaise pantry
2 teaspoons Asian chili sauce (or more to taste) $1.50 for 8 ounces
4 6-inch rolls (whole-wheat, sourdough, French-whatever. Buy in the bulk bakery section of the grocery store for the lowest price) $2
1 ripe avocado, sliced $1.50
1 carrot, shredded 50 cents
1 cucumber, sliced very thinly 50 cents
1 handful fresh cilantro $1 for a bunch
Total cost of ingredients: $10
Combine the soy sauce, lime juice, garlic, ginger, and honey or sugar in a medium bowl. Whisk until incorporated.
Add the sliced tempeh to the bowl and let marinate for at least 20 minutes (up to an hour).
While the tempeh marinates, whisk together the mayonnaise and Asian chili sauce. Refrigerate until ready to use.
To cook the tempeh, heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Fry the tempeh for about 3 minutes on each side, until golden-brown and lightly crisp on the edges. Remove from heat.
To assemble the sandwiches, split each roll lengthwise, leaving the seam intact, so it opens like a book.
Divide the mayonnaise mixture between the 4 rolls, spreading it on both sides of each roll.
On each roll, layer tempeh, avocado, cucumber, carrot, and cilantro.
Serve sliced in half with more chili sauce on the side.