The old British classic baked beans on toast was in order today. Heinz beans are available in the supermarkets here. I actually find Branston’s a superior bean, and also less sweet. But it’s difficult to get back to the UK at the moment for global travel reasons, and then to get stuff back through customs for ridiculous political ones. So I have to take what I can get. Served over any kind of bread, it’s a quintessential vegan dish that everyone enjoys.
The Big Guy and I appreciate a good sandwich. There are few as satisfying, and vibrant in both colour and flavour as a Banh Mi. Mostly, they’ll contain pulled pork or shredded chicken. They come conveniently wrapped in a crisp baguette, so there’s no waste. Great for lunch on the go.
Banh mi require a bit of texture in the main filling, so a vegan version has to be about tempeh. The fermented beans are not Vietnamese, but I think give the sandwich more heft than would be possible with tofu. You can decide differently; the marinade I give below would work just as well for tofu.
At the start of the month, I’d done what I thought was suitable prep – I’d made sure to shop for vegan essentials, like quinoa, nutritional yeast, chia seeds and so on. I’d made sure to get some stock made. The one thing I overlooked was what could I replace fish sauce with? In hindsight, I feel a bit foolish, since I knew this month would feature a lot of South East Asian food, and most cuisines use some version of fish sauce to provide piquancy and umami in many dishes.
More prepared vegans than I would already have bought some coconut aminos, or maybe a kecup manis or a mushroom soy sauce. But lunch time was fast approaching, I wanted to marinate my tempeh, and I didn’t have any of these things. So I substituted with what I did have – kombu. I rinsed it under cold water until it was pliable, making it easier to slice really thinly. The seaweeds will all lend umami and a different kind of salty quality than the soy sauce, which I also used. It turned out to be an excellent marinade. This will feature on regular rotation in our house, long after veganuary is over.
Dinner tonight was a reapeat of the Chickpea and Spinach Stew with Orzo from yesterday. This is one stew that isn’t improved the next day. I’d recommend eating this fresh, if you’re going to make it.
Recipe: Vegan Banh Mi
Makes 4 Sandwiches
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time 5 minutes plus marination time
For the Marinade
2 tbsp of a neutral oil, such as sunflower, canola, groundnut
Juice of half a lime
2 stalks of lemongrass, tough outer parts removed and finely sliced
1 fat clove of garlic, minced
1 strip of kombu of approx 2cm x 5cm, finely sliced (or 1tsp fish sauce)
2 tsp light brown muscovado sugar (or palm sugar if you have it)
2 tbsp soy sauce
For the Pickled Vegetables
Most hard, crunchy vegetables will work here, as long as the pieces are really small
1 carrot, grated
A quarter of a red onion, sliced as thinly as I could get it
A quarter of a cucumber, deseeded and cut into small matchsticks
Red cabbage, passed 3-5 times over a mandoline on the thinnest setting
Other things that would be good:
Raw celariac, grated
Red bell pepper
For the amount of vegetables give, you will also need:
1-2 tsp salt
2 tsp light muscovado sugar, or palm sugar
3 tbsp rice vinegar
Scale up or down if you use more or less vegetables for your pickle
To Make the Sandwich:
1 tbsp of a neutral oil to cook the tempeh
A baguette, cut into four and then cut in half lengthways
Fresh mint & coriander leaves
Sriracha sauce (optional)
Vegan mayonnaise (optional)
Slice the tempeh widthways. You’ll need about 1cm thick slices.
In an airtight container, mix together all of the marinade ingredients.
Put the tempeh slices into the marinade, turning to make sure each side is covered. Seal the container and set aside. It can marinate for a minimum of one hour, but longer is better if you can.
Make a really quick pickle with the vegetables. The smaller the pieces, the faster it will pickle. Place these small pieces of whatever vegetable you’re using in a mixing bowl.
Sprinkle over both the salt and the sugar. Massage them into the vegetables by scrunching it all together in your hand. You’ll find that the veggies will quickly moisten, as the salt and sugar starts to draw out their moisture. Add the vinegar, give it a good stir and set aside.
Banh Mi are best served on fresh baguette. But you can refresh a day old one if you need to by splashing a little water on the crust, and rubbing it in with your hand. Warm it in hot oven, or use the air fryer on grill mode at 200°C for five minutes. Your bread will be lovely and crusty all over again.
Whether or not you need to heat your baguette, heat a heavy-bottomed frying pan. You want the pan to be pretty warm. Add a tbsp of your neutral oil and turn the heat down to medium – low.
Remove any lemongrass or kombu clinging to the tempeh slices. Cook in batches, turning frequently. Do not press the tempeh to the pan. The tempeh is done when it’s crispy on the outside, but not burnt. Be careful – the sugar in the marinade will burn quickly, so don’t walk away. Drain on kitchen towel before putting in your sandwich.
If you want to use a vegan mayonnaise, then spread generously on both the cut sides of the bread. On the bottom, put a heaping layer of the pickled vegetables, then the cooked tempeh, then the fresh mint and coriander leaves. Add sriracha to your taste, or leave it off altogether if you don’t like hot and spicy.
You can pickle any crunchy vegetables that you like. In season and fresh is best where possible.
If you don’t like fresh coriander, you can substitute for any soft herb you like. I particularly like thai basil, sweet basil and parsley instead. If you can get hold of perilla (sometimes called shiso) that would be good, Or you could just stick with mint if you like.
How to Store
The tempeh will be fine in the marinade for a week in the fridge. This would be perfect to meal prep at the start of the week for quick lunches.
The pickles can be made the evening before, as long as you drain off the liquid before storing. Otherwise you risk them getting too soggy. Store in an airtight jar.
Banh mi should always be assembled fresh after cooking the tempeh.