Banh mi can feature different many kinds of proteins. Unfortunately most of the time, people think of Vietnamese sandwiches as meaty affairs. I’ve had people tell me that the ‘usual’ banh mi is filled with grilled pork so why bother with any other kind? Pashaw! Yesterday on the Vietworldkitchen Facebook page, I linked to a Kansas City banh mi round up, which described the sandwich as an often porky affair. The article prompted Arisko Gato to ask if there were vegetarian options. Yes there certainly are. There has to be since Buddhism runs strong in Vietnam. And there are folks like me who regularly enjoy meat-free meals.
In The Banh Mi Handbook, there’s a chapter dedicated to meatless banh mi. The above collage includes most of the recipes in the book. For example, there's a vegan lemongrass sriracha tempeh banh mi recipe from Sriracha Cookbook author Randy Clemens. You can make an edamame pate to smear on your sandwich and layer on slices of baked Maggi tofu. Or try the crusty coconut curry tofu in your banh mi. The mayonnaise and pickle options enable you to vary your sandwich so that you never get bored. All the meatless banh mi were developed for omnivores in mind, not just vegetarians. That’s to say, they’re lovable by all. That’s my approach to vegetarian cooking. It's not about deprivation.
Since the book came out, I’ve included more ideas on Viet World Kitchen.
Lemongrass Tofu Banh Mi: A great idea adapted from Weeknight Vegetarian by Ivy Manning.
Banh Mi Tea Sandwiches: Make them dainty and fun for a summer picnic or party.
Laughing Cow Cheese Omelet Banh Mi: This is amazingly rich with a surprise zing of sriracha inside.
Also consider filling banh mi with one of these:
Potato and Tofu Latkes: How about making a new Jewish-Chinese-Vietnamese-French treat. These are crisp and earthy. Use the sauce instead of mayonnaise?
Chinese panfried Tofu and Pickled Ginger: Cool the tofu a bit before sliding it into bread for banh mi. The tofu and pickle combination has the salty, tangy, spicy flavors that’ll go perfectly well with the accouterments for Vietnamese sandwiches. You may want to skip the Maggi seasoning or offer it on the side for direct drizzling.
Indonesian fried Tofu and Egg Pancakes: Take this Indonesian snack and slide it into some bread. Drizzle on the peanut sauce as if it’s mayonnaise. Or, gild the lily with mayonnaise and drizzle the peanut sauce on top before adding the pancakes.
Hope these ideas inspire you to get creative with banh mi. It doesn’t have to be porky to be banh mi.