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tofu banh mi [recipe]

 (whatever you say, tofu CAN be awesome)

Vegetarians in Hanoi really miss out. Fine there are fresh delicious fruits and veggies all over the placeIMG_2869, but when it comes to delicious sandwiches and soups… it’s drastically limited. There’s the “banh mi trung” egg sandwich, but in my book this is primarily breakfast food. I spent most of my days driving past and walking through incredibly delicious smelling food stalls and sandwich stands and soup restaurants, salivating. No real urge to eat meat, but some definite food jealousy. A veg friendly diner in Madison made a delicious tofu banh mi that haunts my food dreams, and so I knew it was possible.

I don’t want to give myself too much credit, but…this is magical. 

Super flavorful tofu that isn’t fried (recipe adapted from the Willy Street Coop back in Madison). I haven’t always been a tofu lover, and I never eat it cold. Except this. This tofu doesn’t stay in the fridge long, because when I walk by I can’t help stopping to grab a slice. TOFU. Crispy, light, fresh baguette. Quick pickled veggies. Cilantro (don’t tell me you don’t like cilantro, I’ll lose SO much respect for you). Hot Sauce. It’s a bit of work to make the various parts, but it pulls together super quickly. Make the tofu and veggies beforehand, and throw together the ingredients to impress anyone.

This sandwich makes me want to give up grad school, buy a sandwich cart and some plastic stools, and set up on a Hanoian street corner.


  • Marinated baked tofu…in 1/3-1/2 inch slices. See below for separate recipe.
  • 1-2 carrots, julienned (or thinly sliced, based on preference)
  • 1/2 daikon radish, julienned (same)
  • small red chili, diced (include seeds if you like hotness, scrape out otherwise)
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1-3 inches of ginger, washed, peeled
  • Sriracha (or some other non-sweet hot sauce…but really, sriracha)
  • Cilantro (rough chopped)
  • Cucumber, thinly sliced
  • Baguette (one per person, best to use the crunchy light version sold on street corners)

For the quick-pickled veggies: Put vinegar, sugar and salt into a bowl and whisk until sugar is dissolved. Add carrots, chiles, ginger, daikon, and toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to several hours before serving. I make this and the tofu the day before intended use.

For the sandwich: easy stuff, presuming you’ve made a sandwich before. Slice open the bread, leaving it connected along one side. Drizzle some hot sauce, lay down some pickled veggies and cucumber, then the tofu, then the cilantro.

Eat. Revel.


Though this recipe is my favorite combination of ingredients, I have a toasted sesame oil version as well. It can be altered to fit particular flavor pallets quite easily, and as someone who didn’t use to eat tofu at ALL, this is good enough to eat cold on a salad. #flavorvictory

Fresh ingredients

  • Thai basil (~1 tbsp)IMG_2864
  • Cilantro (~1 tbsp)
  • A few green onions, finely chopped
  • Lemon or lime juice (1/2 lemon)
  • Lemongrass (3 bulbs)
  • Garlic (1 giant American GMO clove or several normal ones)
  • Fresh tofu (there are two types for sale in Hanoi – I prefer the one that does not have raised edges)

Dried ingredientsIMG_2866

  • Crushed red pepper (.5 tbsp)
  • ½ cup tamari or light soy sauce
  • 1 cup water and some veggie broth powder OR one cup of mushroom/vegetable stock reduction.

Tofu: With fresh Vietnamese  tofu, blot dry, but leave as is.

Lemongrass: Remove any dead leaves. Cut off the dried base of the bulb, and then the tops of the grass. We’re looking to save/use about 3 inches, discard everything else. Slice in half from end to end, place flat side down on your cutting board, and use the heel of the knife to pound the lemongrass. Crush it (should be 2-3 good hits).

Fine-chop herbs and garlic. Combine ingredients, wisk, and marinate tofu in dressing for at least 2 hours, though I prefer 8. I’m not joking. Lay tofu in baking pan (they can be tightly packed) and cover with ½ the marinade. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 350º. Flip tofu and add the remaining marinade. Bake for an additional 15-20 minutes or until tofu is well browned, making sure it is still soft on the inside. Using fresh tofu usually means a reduction of time, if you’re using a new batch or new style, keep an eye on it after 10 minutes.


2 replies »

  1. Thanks for the recipes, it all look delicious. We’ll be posting some Italian vegetarian dishes next week which I hope you’ll enjoy.
    Ciao bnbhanoi

  2. Coincidentally, I am looking into some rights clearances today for a book we did in 2001 called NAM. Why the editor would be Googling me with these terms would be a mystery, if it is her…. I don’t have any photographs in the book.


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