My vegetarian Crispy Tofu Banh Mi is a delicious, light twist on a classic Vietnamese sandwich.
Thank you to Kikkoman for sponsoring this post! As always, all opinions expressed are 100% my own.
I love to perform “Recipe Resuscitations” on classic dishes where I make lighter, more nutritious versions of traditionally heavy dishes without sacrificing any flavor. This week I’m bringing you my Recipe Resuscitation on a classic Vietnamese sandwich- the banh mi.
If you’ve never had a banh mi, it’s typically made with layers of juicy meat (usually pork or chicken) topped with crunchy pickled vegetables, sliced chilis and fresh herbs, like cilantro and mint. It's served on a chewy baguette and includes a rich smear of patè or mayonnaise. It's basically an explosion of flavors, colors and textures!
I'm always trying to incorporate more plant-based foods into my diet, so I decided to make a vegetarian banh mi using tofu. After all, protein-rich plant foods like beans, peas, lentils, chickpeas and nuts are rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber, are lower in saturated fat than meat and have fantastic flavors.
The secret to making really good tofu is to marinate it with flavorful ingredients, otherwise it can be quite bland. I marinate my tofu in a mixture of Kikkoman® Less Sodium Soy Sauce, Kikkoman® Sesame Oil, garlic and a touch of sugar. This combination of ingredients infuses the tofu with layers of rich, complex flavor. If the thought of cooking Asian-inspired dishes at home seems daunting, Kikkoman products make those authentic flavors easy to attain. Plus, Kikkoman® Less Sodium Soy Sauce is perfect for home cooks who are looking to cut down on their sodium levels without sacrificing taste.
Soy sauce is a major flavor enhancer and brings out the umami flavor in any dish. To maximize the flavor in this dish, a good tip is to press the water out of the tofu before you marinate it. Once all of the liquid is out, you can then slice the tofu into planks and marinate them in the soy sauce marinade. That way, they can absorb all that rich umami flavor!
I like to cook the tofu in a cast iron skillet so that it gets a nice crispy crust and golden brown color. Once the tofu is done, I place it on toasted sprouted grain bread rather than a traditional baguette. Sprouted grain bread is made from grains that are allowed to sprout before being ground into flour. It is rich in fiber and offers all of the benefits of whole grain bread plus more. The process of sprouting grains unlocks several nutrients such as calcium and iron and increases your body’s ability to absorb them. In addition, sprouted grains are more easily digested.
I top the crispy tofu with some of my pickled vegetables. To make them, I simply marinate julienned carrots and sliced cucumber in a pickling liquid made with vinegar, water, sugar and salt. By the time you’re done making the rest of the sandwich, the veggies are ready. They add a nice crunch as well as a pop of acidity!
To complete my Recipe Resuscitation, I top the sandwich with a light, yogurt-based sauce instead of the traditional patè or mayonnaise. I stir together some Kikkoman® Less Sodium Soy Sauce, Kikkoman® Gluten-Free Sweet Chili Sauce, and Kikkoman® Sesame Oil for a rich and savory topping. The creamy sauce is a little sweet and a little spicy- the perfect complement to the more hearty tofu and light pickled vegetables. A handful of fresh cilantro and a sprinkling of sesame seeds add the finishing touches to this mouthwatering sandwich. You won’t be able to wait to take a bite!
Crispy Tofu Banh Mi
- 14 ounces (1 package) extra firm tofu
- ¼ cup Kikkoman® Less Sodium Soy Sauce
- 1 teaspoon Kikkoman® Sesame Oil
- 2 teaspoons brown sugar
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 2 tablespoons Kikkoman® Rice Vinegar
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 2 tablespoons warm water
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- 1 carrot peeled and cut into matchsticks
- ½ English cucumber thinly sliced
- ½ cup reduced fat Greek yogurt
- 1 teaspoon Kikkoman® Less Sodium Soy Sauce
- 1 tablespoon Kikkoman® Gluten-Free Sweet Chili Sauce
- 1 teaspoon Kikkoman® Rice Vinegar
- ½ teaspoon Kikkoman® Sesame Oil
- 8 slices toasted sprouted grain bread or whole grain bread
- 1 jalapeño pepper thinly sliced
- Cilantro leaves
- Sesame seeds optional
- Press the liquid out of the tofu by placing it on a plate
lined with paper towels. Place more paper towels on top and then place a skillet on top weighed down with a few cans.
- While the tofu is draining, make the marinade by whisking the soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, garlic and vegetable oil together in a shallow dish. Once the tofu has drained
a lot of liquid, cut it into 8 slices. Marinate the tofu slices in the marinade.
- To make the pickled vegetables, stir the rice vinegar, sugar, water and salt together in a bowl. Add the carrots and cucumber and let them soak for 10 minutes.
- To make the sauce, stir the yogurt, soy sauce, sweet chili sauce, rice vinegar and sesame oil together in a bowl.
- To cook the tofu, heat a large cast iron or other nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Cook the tofu 3-4 minutes on each side until browned. Remove from skillet.
- To assemble the sandwiches, take 4 slices of toast and top each with 2 pieces of tofu. Top the tofu with some pickled carrots and cucumber, sliced jalapeños, cilantro leaves, and sesame seeds, if desired. Spread some sauce on the other 4 pieces of bread and close the sandwiches. Serve.