Friday, September 10, 2010

Cheat's Banh Mi.

Attention, fanatics: this is not a real Banh Mi. I'd like to say that I'm Vietnamese and that it's my great-great-grandmother's secret recipe, but sadly, I look as white-and-western as a slice of sandwich bread. So, this is one of those recipes that I've pilfered, made properly a few times, and then turned into one of my regular lazy-dishes. Sorry about that. This little sandwich is one that I devised when I was absolutely starving, with precious little in the house. Fortunately, I'd just been to the Asian Supermarket here, and I did have some tofu in the fridge. A leftover carrot, chinese cabbage, and a bread roll later - and here you have it. Warm sandwich full of flavour, and a stomach contented. I did actually have two on the plate, but I ate the first one before I thought to take a photo. Oh dear.

So, the basic premise is pretty simple. The French decided to make Vietnam their personal colony, as we all know. The Vietnamese, apart from adopting some fantastic desserts, took french bread and put into it delicious Asian fillings. I know that pulled pork Banh Mi are pretty popular in blog circles at the moment, but honestly, who can be bothered? Give me a slab of tofu any day, so that when I want a sanger, I don't have to have the oven on for 4 hours. I'm not that into meal planning. If I do think ahead, I marinate the tofu in a collection of sauces, but it still tastes mighty fine without the extra sitting time. If I'd thought ahead this time, I might have had a cucumber or a lettuce in the fridge, but hey, these things happen. Usually I make my carrot "pickle" (we all know that this is a cheat's recipe) with some kohl rabi in there as well, for that extra crunch without the slight bitterness that I find in many radishes here. Needless to say, I didn't have any of those either, so I just made do. I'll transcribe the recipe as I usually make it, and you can adjust it according to taste. Just add what you have, leave out what you don't. We all know that I'm incapable of following a recipe, so I don't expect anything more of anyone else! :)

Cheat's Banh Mi
1 block (about 250g) firm tofu, drained
1/3 cup sweet chilli sauce
1/3 cup kecap manis
2cm piece of ginger, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped or crushed
1 tbsp siracha (or sambal oelek)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 large carrot, peeled and grated
1/2 kohl rabi, peeled and grated (or use about 1/2 cup grated daikon)
2 tbsp white vinegar
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp whole-grain mustard
1/2 tsp salt
salad vegetables (lettuce and cucumber are my favourite)
coriander, to taste*
4 crusty bread rolls

Cube your tofu into 2cm pieces. Mix together the sweet chilli, kecap manis, ginger, garlic, siracha and soy sauce in a bowl, and marinate the tofu cubes in it until you're too hungry to wait any longer.
Meanwhile, combine the carrot, kohl rabi, vinegar, sugar, mustard and salt in a bowl. Make sure it's thoroughly mixed and leave it for as long as you need. The longer you leave it, the more moisture it will release, but the better the vinegar seeps into the vegetables. Wring it out firmly before you use it, otherwise your bread will become soggy.
Fry the tofu in a little oil until browned, 3-4 minutes. Add the leftover marinade and cook until the moisture has evaporated. Your tofu should be dark and sticky, and smelling heavenly.
Cut the bread rolls in half and add a layer of tofu. Throw on as many coriander leaves as you like, and add your salads - the carrot 'pickle', lettuce, cucumber, etc.
Replace the top half of your bread roll and devour greedily. Then eat another. :)

*Because I buy my coriander with roots still attached, I often finely chop these, along with the lower stems of the plant, and add them to the tofu marinade. I hate wasting food, and the roots have a slightly different flavour to the leaves, so please, utilise them wherever possible.

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