Tastes of our Travels: Vegetarian Banh Mi

February 4, 2014

After returning from Vietnam, our banh mi cravings have gone from occasional to non-stop. And while these addictive sandwiches aren’t too difficult to hunt down stateside (any foodie worth her sea salt should be able to point you in the right direction), we’re pleased to report that they’re a cinch to whip up right in your own kitchen. Stuffed with caramelized, sweet-and-spicy cauliflower, our vegetarian rendition gets a zippy finish with lemongrass aioli and do chua, Vietnamese-style quick pickles.


‚ ‚ ‚ ‚ ‚ ‚ ‚ ‚ ‚ ‚ ‚ ‚ ‚ ‚ ‚ ‚ ‚ ‚ ‚ ‚ ‚ ‚ ‚ ‚ ‚ ‚ ‚ ‚ ‚ ‚ ‚ Served on the Jardin Des Plantes Dinner Plate.


For the cauliflower:
1 head cauliflower
1 cup soy sauce
½ cup brown sugar
2 tbs. sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ cup sweet chili sauce
¾ cup water
Sriracha to taste

For the aioli:
1 cup canola oil
2 pieces of lemongrass, 6 inches each
1 large egg yolk
2 tbs. lemon juice
Salt to taste

For the‚ do chua:
2 large carrots
1‚ daikon
¾ cup water
¾ cup rice wine vinegar
¼ cup sugar

For the sandwich:
1 sesame baguette
Shredded romaine
Fresh cilantro
Jalapeno (optional)
Cracked black pepper


Cut the cauliflower into bite-sized pieces and set aside. Combine the remaining ingredients to make the sauce; add the cauliflower to the sauce and marinate overnight. Before serving, cook the cauliflower in a frying pan over high heat until it begins to caramelize in the sauce.

Cut the lemongrass in half lengthwise and massage with your fingers. Add the lemongrass and oil to a small pot and let simmer for 20 minutes. Let the oil cool to room temperature, then remove and discard the lemongrass. In a food processor or blender, combine the egg yolk, lemon juice, and salt. While the blade is running, slowly add the oil in a thin stream. If it gets too thick, add a splash of water.

Use a mandolin to cut the carrot and daikon; set aside in a glass bowl or jar. Combine the water, vinegar, and sugar in a pot. Bring to a boil, remove from heat, then pour the hot brine over the veggies. Let cool. (These can be made ahead of time.)

Start by cutting your baguette in half lengthwise and lightly toasting it. Spread a layer of lemongrass aioli on one side, and on the other add the cauliflower along with some of its sauce. Top with the do chua, shredded romaine, chopped cilantro, sliced jalapeno and a little cracked pepper.