Friday, May 25, 2012

From Bánh mì to Vietnamese Tofu Lettuce Wrap: Transforming a New Classic

I'm back from New York and The National Stationery Show! I've missed all of you HGK readers and the blogging community so much. I thought about you all of the time and all of the things I wanted to share with you. Turns out it's pretty darned easy to eat healthy vegan food in The Big Apple, but more on that in a future post.

It was an enriching and exhausting trip. As tired as I was, as soon as I stepped into my own kitchen, I was beyond ready to prepare light, healthy and filling food for us. I keep hearing about these Vietnamese Bánh mì sandwiches and seeing pictures of them pop up on the Internet.

I LOVE VIETNAMESE FOOD. And yes, I am shouting at you through the computer. That's how much I love Vietnamese food.

This sandwich has become popular in mainstream populations in certain urban centers, particularly in London, where bánh mì shops have become a widely popular lunchtime option. All along I thought the magic was in the combination of ingredients that made up the filling between the bread, but I have come to understand that the word "bánh mì" (English pronunciation: /ˈbʌn ˌmiː/, Vietnamese pronunciation: [ɓǎɲ mî]) is simply a Vietnamese term for all kinds of bread.

Bread, or more specifically the baguette, was introduced in Vietnam by the French during its colonial period. The bread most commonly found in Vietnam is single serve and resembles a torpedo, therefore the term bánh mì is synonymous with this type of bread. The bánh mì is usually more airy than its western counterpart, so as a result, has a thinner crust.

Of course, I wanted to make a no-oil Vegan version, and lighten it up where I could, so I embarked upon another kitchen experiment. Luckily, I was met with great success!

The sandwiches made from bánh mì include meat and soy fillings. I won't gross you out and go into the details. What I was craving when I saw these images of the sandwiches were the accompanying vegetables: fresh cucumber slices, cilantro and pickled carrots and daikon in shredded form. Spicy chili sauce is normally found in bánh mì sold by vendors in Vietnam. In western countries, especially the U.S., the chili sauce has been replaced with sliced jalapeños, a type of chili pepper that is not grown and consumed in Vietnam. In southern Vietnam, homemade mayonnaise is commonly added to the sandwich. I'm just as happy without the mayo.

Or the white flour French baguette.

Vietnamese Tofu "Bánh mì" Lettuce Wraps
serves 6

print me! (check back here later today or tomorrow-I've got to get my kids ready for school now :)

Shroom and Tofu Filling

Veggie broth for sautéing
1 medium Sweet Onion, sliced in half and then sliced thin
1 pound Baby Portobellos Mushrooms (or regular), diced
1 pound extra firm tofu, pressed and drained, cut into thin strips (see photo below)
5 Tbsp hoisin sauce
3 Tbsp low sodium tamari (or more?)
2 tsp sriracha, plus more for serving (that's optional)

Place a large skillet on medium heat. Add vegetable broth to coat the base of the pan. When broth is bubbling, add onions and sauté for 5-7 minutes. Add mushrooms and sauté for 2 minutes. Add hoisin sauce, tamari and sriracha and saute until soft and caramelized. Add tofu and stir.

Carrot/Daikon Slaw

2 1/2 cups peeled and thickly grated carrots
1/2 cup peeled and thickly grated daikon (or more carrots if you cannot find daikon)
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
10 drops of liquid stevia (or a little maple syrup)
1/2 cup water (room temp)
1/2 tsp salt

Add all your ingredients into a large bowl and marinate for an hour; stirring intermittently.

Build your wraps like this:

1. 1 large head of butter lettuce-seperate leaves carefully, wash and dried
2. 2 Tbsp Shroom and Tofu Filling
3. 3 Tbsp Carrot/Diakon Slaw
4. 4-6 thinly sliced cucumber rounds or a healthy bit of seeded and julienned cucumber
5. cilantro, chopped-to taste
6. chopped bottled jalapenos (optional, these are quite spicy!)
7. sriracha (optional)

Fold the lettuce in from the sides and then roll the lettuce up from the bottom to create a wrap. It's messy eating, but totally worth it! Of course, you could always enjoy it as a salad . . .

What's going on in your world? What did I miss last week? Did you meet with any kitchen success? To leave a comment/view the comments, please click on the title of this post (the orange text above).
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