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THE KITCHN: Banh mi: The sandwich that marries the flavors of French and Vietnamese cuisine

By Emily Ho, on

If you have ever visited Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City, or happen to live in a part of the United States with a large Vietnamese population, I hope you have experienced the wonders of banh mi -- baguettes filled with pickled carrots and daikon, fresh cilantro, and meat or tofu. The sandwiches are crisp, salty, tangy and sweet, the perfect marriage of French and Vietnamese influences. However, if you don't have a local banh mi shop, or if you just want to make a vegetarian version at home, what follows is a recipe for a flavor-packed lunch or dinner.

Banh mi literally means "bread," and the baguette traditionally used for the sandwich is a Vietnamese spin on the French classic. A combination of rice and wheat flour makes it light and fluffy with a thin, crackly crust. For a home version of the sandwich, it's fine to use any fresh, soft baguette; I usually get mine at a Filipino or Italian bakery. Of course, you can bake your own, too, but avoid using artisan-style breads, which tend to be too thick and chewy.

Traditional banh mi fillings include pork, pate, tofu or eggs. Our favorite vegetarian version has savory slices of lemongrass and garlic-marinated tofu. Fresh fillings and garnishes such as do chua (pickled daikon and carrot), cucumber, cilantro and hot peppers may be adjusted to your liking. And be generous with the mayo! We like to spike it with cilantro and Maggi, but you may also use plain mayo (try homemade) or mix in crushed garlic, chilies, pepper and so forth.

Banh Mi with Lemongrass Tofu

Makes 2 sandwiches.

2 (8-inch) baguettes

Do chua (pickles):

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup white vinegar


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