I’ve only had a Bánh Mi on a few occasions and every time it was from Whole Foods. They are pretty good, depending on who is behind the counter that day, but I wanted to see if I could make one more to my liking. I’m all about flavor and heat, so I wanted to add more of a kick than I’ve tasted in one of these before. I considered many sandwich vessels, mostly different breads, but once I spotted bright purple cabbage in the store, I wanted to figure out a way to use it.
Most vegetarian Bánh Mi’s are served with tofu. I eat tofu every once in a while, but I’m not a huge fan of the texture. I decided to make mine with paneer (a firm type of cheese used in many Indian recipes). It doesn’t have a strong flavor to me, but has a nice crispy texture if you stir fry it.
I mixed lemongrass, cilantro, garlic, salt, and ginger in a food processor, which made a bright green paste. It smelled awesome. I’ve never used fresh lemongrass before, so there was bit of a learning curve there. I had to experiment and make a couple of guesses about which part of the stalk would be the most useful, but figured it out in the end. Once the paste was made, I separated it into two bowls. In one I added my paneer and in the other I tossed some chicken for Dustin. Both bowls went into the refrigerator for a bit to soak up all the flavors.
While I waited, I cut tons of peppers for that heat and carrots for a crunch. In another bowl, I mixed vinegar, salt, and sugar, then dropped in my veggies and let everything sit for about 30 minutes.
I quickly pan fried the paneer and the chicken in separate pans. Who knew that being a vegetarian would double the cooking and clean up time? I toasted some regular Italian loaf, spread on some lemonaise, then topped it with the paneer (or chicken) and my spicy peppers and carrots.
Although I didn’t try the chicken Báhn Mi, it had an awesome smell. I’m sure chicken does a great job at soaking up all the flavors. Finally, I used the beautiful bright cabbage with my paneer and few edible flowers to make a dramatically more colorful Bahn Mi wrap. The cabbage gave a nice crunch and balanced out all the flavors in the toppings. I’d say this was a successful experiment and though I can’t decide which version tasted the best, the cabbage wrap was clearly the most eye appealing.
2-3 stalks of lemongrass
5-6 Cilantro pieces
3 cloves of garlic
1 in. of Ginger
1/2 cup Vinegar
1/2 cup Caster Sugar
Chili peppers ( I used 5-6, would recommend 2-3 if you like it mild)
Protein (Paneer, Tofu, Chicken)
Purple Cabbage (optional)
1. Trim and chop lemongrass and add it to a food processor. Add cilantro, garlic, ginger, lemongrass and 1 tsp of salt and process to a fine paste.
2. In a plate or bowl, rub the protein in the lemongrass paste until it is well coated.
3. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in the fridge for about an hour.
4. Cut carrots into thin strips and chop chili peppers to your liking.
5. Mix vinegar, salt, and sugar in a bowl that is preferably not metal.
6. Add your chopped carrots and chili peppers to the vinegar mixture and let it sit for 15-30 minutes.
7. Grill or pan fry the protein.
8. Assemble your sandwich with mayonnaise, the protein, and the carrots and peppers. I like to drizzle some of the vinegar mixture on top and garnish with a scallions and a few pieces of cilantro.