Bánh mì is a Vietnamese baguette sandwich. It can be stuffed with all manner of meats and preserves, or tofu as shown above; common fillings include pork liver pâté, grilled barbecue pork, pork sausage (giò or chả lụa), ham, shredded chicken, hard boiled or fried eggs, and tofu patties. Picked carrot and white radish (daikon), sliced cucumber, cilantro, and hot chili peppers invariably accompany the protein fillings. Vietnamese baguettes are shorter, thicker, and more airy than a good French baguette, making a perfect platform for the light, bright flavors without overwhelming or weighing down the sandwich.
The French origins of bánh mì are clearly shown in the baguette, mayonnaise spread (or even Laughing Cow cheese), and pork pâté and meat terrines. But this is a sandwich that is wholly and truly Vietnamese. When I went to Saigon as a teenager, there was nothing I liked better than to stop at the bánh mì cart, order a fresh sandwich, and eat it all in the street with a bag of juicy chilled sugarcane.
Now I make bánh mì with slices of fried lemongrass-pepper tofu, which has all the flavor of the meats, only fresher and brighter.
- 1 Vietnamese baguette
- 1 Tbsp mayonnaise (thick, yellow French mayonnaise) or unsalted butter
- 2 slices of lemongrass-pepper tofu
- [if you wish to use meats: 1 Tbsp soft pork liver pâté, 4 slices pork sausage giò, plus any other meats listed above such as sliced ham or shredded chicken]
- 4 thin, long slices English cucumber
- sliced pickled daikon (carrot and white radish)
- 1 fresh hot red chili (or jalapeno pepper), thinly sliced
- Slice the baguette down the middle and spread both sides with mayonnaise or butter. If using pâté, spread on both sides as well.
- Arrange the sliced tofu or meats on bottom side of baguette. Pile the cucumber, daikon, cilantro, and chili on the other side. Squash baguette together and serve immediately.