Monday, January 14, 2008

Bánh Mì Chay - Vegetarian Vietnamese Sandwich


One of my favorite places in NYC is Nicky’s Vietnamese Sandwiches. It’s a tiny storefront in the East Village and they only serve bánh mì, which are awesomely delicious Vietnamese sandwiches. Banh mi are traditionally made with pate and pork, but Nicky’s makes a few other versions using different meats, including a vegetarian version with marinated portobello mushrooms. I used to get one about once a month, sometimes eating it in the tiny store at one of the two small tables, sometimes taking it home with me to my apartment just a few blocks (and later, a few subway stops) away. They were so simple, but so so so so good – the combination of a crunchy baguette, pickled carrots, cilantro, and magically marinated mushrooms was divine.


Sadly, I haven’t had one in the year and a half I’ve lived in Baltimore – it isn’t quite the culinary mecca that NYC is (although I recently learned that Red Emma’s, which is just a block away from my building, has a vegetarian version made with lemongrass-marinated tofu).

When I was back in the East Village for New Year’s Eve, I decided that we should start the year off right and get ourselves lunch at Nicky’s. After a few bites, I remembered why I used to get them so often, and I also decided that I wasn't going to wait a year and a half before I had another one, and so I came up with this recipe. It tastes just like the one at Nicky's, so now I can tide myself over until I move back to NYC.


Banh Mi Chay
(serves 2-3)
For the pickled carrots:
½ cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 carrots
For the marinated mushrooms:
Juice of ½ lime (about 2 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 cloves of garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon sriracha sauce
3 portobello mushroom caps (about 6 ounces total), cut into 1” strips
For the sandwich:
1 large baguette
2-3 tablespoons mayonnaise
½ medium-sized seedless cucumber
½ jalapeno pepper, thinly sliced
¼ cup cilantro leaves
1 teaspoon soy sauce
***************
Make the pickled carrots:
In a small saucepan, bring the vinegar, sugar, and salt to a boil. Remove the mixture from the heat and let it cool for 5 minutes.
In the meantime, peel and coarsely shred or finely julienne the carrots, then transfer the shredded carrots to a non-reactive bowl or container. Pour the vinegar mixture over the carrots. Refrigerate overnight. (If you’re in a rush, you can leave it at room temperature for an hour, but overnight is best.)

Prepare the mushrooms:
Mix all the ingredients for the marinade in a quart-sized plastic bag. Add the mushroom strips and marinate overnight in the refrigerator or for 1 hour at room temperature.
Assemble the sandwich:
Heat oven to 400° F.
Put the marinated mushroom strips and the marinade in a baking dish and bake until the mushrooms are soft, about 12 minutes. Let them cool for at least 5 minutes.
Cut the baguette open by slicing it in half but not going all the way through. Spread the mayonnaise on one side of the baguette. Place the baguette on a baking sheet and heat it until it is crisp and lightly browned, about 6-8 minutes. Let it cool for a few minutes before assembling the sandwich.
In the meantime, cut the cucumber lengthwise into ¼” thick slices and squeeze the liquid out of the pickled carrots.
Assemble the sandwich by arranging the cucumber slices in a single layer on the baguette, then topping them with the mushrooms, pickled carrots, and cilantro. Sprinkle the soy sauce on top and close the sandwich.
Cut into 3 or 4 sections and serve.

5 comments:

Meghan said...

again...
this looks DIVINE! ;)

Rachel said...

This sounds good. I love these types of sandwiches.

Michael Natkin said...

Yup yup, look's good! Here's my version.

Ellen Nielsen said...

Oh man, I love the banh mi chay at Red Emmas! I ate them almost every day when I lived in Baltimore. Does anyone know what they put in the sauce? I want to replicate it at home (far away in Chicago) . . .

malini said...

I've been craving this sandwich since last Friday. I'm so making this sandwich.

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