“I can’t believe you might miss your flight just for a sandwich,” said the friend driving me from Orange County, California to LAX. During the trip, I had explored the Vietnamese community in Orange County, slurping up the best versions of phở, the comforting noodle soup, and eating superb sugarcane shrimp and bánh mì. It was 1988, and this last item, an overstuffed sandwich made with several forms of pork, pickled vegetables, hot chilies and mayo, all stacked into a crusty French baguette, was barely known in New York City, so of course I just had to stop on the way to the airport and get one to go. What could make a better in-flight meal?
Today, we even have places in Manhattan north of Chinatown making bánh mì, but none near where I live. And I do eat pork, but sometimes I want a meatless alternative. So I construct my own Vietnamese sandwich using tofu as the base.
I start with the firm, baked tofu that comes two squares to a package at natural food markets and some conventional supermarkets.This tofu comes in several flavors. I use Thai or teriyaki, but any flavor works well. I halve one square of the tofu horizontally and place the two pieces side by side on a length of whole-wheat baguette spread with mayonnaise mixed with sriracha hot sauce.
Next comes a layer of lightly sweetened pickled vegetables, which is then topped by scallions and fresh Asian bird chilies or jalapeno slices. Skip the hot peppers to turn down the heat, if you wish. You can also go lighter on the sriracha, or crank the heat up by using the hot sauce more liberally.
Tofu Vietnamese Sandwich
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 tsp. grated ginger
1 teaspoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 (6 oz.) package baked tofu (2 squares), Thai flavor
1/2 cup rice vinegar
3 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 large carrot, cut into 1½-inch matchsticks
3-inch piece daikon radish, peeled and cut into 1½-inch matchsticks
1/2 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded and cut into 1½-inch matchsticks
1 8-inch length whole-wheat baguette
Sriracha Dressing (see below)
1 scallion, green parts only, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, thinly sliced crosswise, optional
8 cilantro sprigs
In resealable plastic bag, combine lime juice, ginger and soy sauce. Halve tofu squares crosswise, resulting in four pieces, and add tofu to bag. Lay bag on plate, arranging tofu in one layer and massaging to evenly distribute marinade under tofu. Set aside for 40 minutes, turning bag over after 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, in medium glass, stainless steel or plastic bowl, whisk rice vinegar with sugar until sugar dissolves. Add carrots, daikon and cucumber to vinegar mixture, using fork to combine. Set vegetables aside to marinate for 30 minutes.
Heat grill or grill-pan to medium-high heat. Cut bread in half and then halve bread crosswise. Grill bread cut-side down until grill marks appear, about 1 minute. Set grilled bread aside. Remove tofu from marinade, pat dry with paper towels and coat lightly on both sides with cooking spray. Grill tofu until dark grill marks appear on bottom, 1-2 minutes. Turn tofu, and repeat on second side.
To assemble sandwiches, spread Sriracha Dressing on top and bottom halves of bread. Arrange 2 squares of grilled tofu on bottom pieces of bread. Drain marinated vegetables, pat dry on paper towels and arrange about 1/3 cup over tofu on each sandwich, saving extra pickled vegetables for another use. Divide scallions, jalapeno slices, if using, and cilantro between sandwiches. Close sandwiches and serve immediately or wrap sandwiches individually in plastic wrap and serve within 1 hour. Do not refrigerate assembled sandwiches.
Makes 2 servings.
Per serving: 286 calories, 6 g total fat, (1 g saturated fat), 45 g carbohydrate, 19 g protein, 6 g dietary fiber, 555 mg sodium.
2 Tbsp. mayonnaise
1/4-1/2 teaspoon sriracha sauce
In small bowl, combine mayonnaise and sriracha sauce, and set aside.
Makes 2 servings.
Per serving: 99 calories, 11 g total fat, (1 g saturated fat), 0 g carbohydrate, 0 g protein, 0 g dietary fiber, 79 mg sodium.
Something Different is written by Dana Jacobi, author of 12 Best Foods Cookbook and contributor to AICR’s New American Plate Cookbook: Recipes for a Healthy Weight and a Healthy Life.
The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed more than $100 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, www.aicr.org. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.