Recipe: Vietnamese Sandwiches with Tofu (Banh Mi Chay)

Vietnamese Sandwiches with Tofu (Banh Mi Chay)
Vietnamese Sandwiches with Tofu (Banh Mi Chay)

I must be a sandwich, ‘cuz I’m on a roll. Ba dum dum. Yeah. Anyhow, when I last wrote about Vietnamese sandwiches  (banh mi), it was to tell you where to find them in Seattle. Until last night I’d never made them at home.

Considering that they retail for under $2, there isn’t much reason to make them yourself unless you don’t have access to them or you want to vary the ingredients, which was my motivation. I thought I would use the outstanding tofu from Thanh Son Tofu on 12th Ave, and add avocado and mint leaves. I picked up the rolls from Seattle Deli. (Which is also a fine place to have a sandwich, but you have to ask them not use fish sauce if you want a vegetarian one.)

My Banh Mi turned out decent, but I think it could use more of a bump in flavor next time. Some ideas would be to flavor the mayo intensely with a chili sauce and/or citrus, marinate the tofu, or add some drops of chili-flavored sesame oil.

For the baguette rolls, you want ones that are about 10" long, seriously crusty on the outside, and fairly soft in the crumb. I believe the Vietnamese ones are made with part rice flour, which would add to the crispy crust, but if you can’t find those, the best French baguette you can find will do well.

Vietnamese Sandwiches with Tofu (Banh Mi Chay)
Vegetarian, vegan if you omit the mayo
Serves 4

  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into small batons
  • 1/2 daikon radish, peeled and cut into small batons
  • 1/2 c. water
  • 1/2 c. white vinegar
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1/2 English cucumber, cut into small batons
  • 1/2 white onion, sliced thin
  • 1 or more jalapeno or other hot pepper (to your taste), sliced thin
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • mint leaves
  • cilantro leaves
  • 1 pound firm tofu, sliced into 1/2" thick slabs
  • oil for pan–frying
  • mayonnaise to taste, seasoned with sriracha or other flavoring as desired
  • 4 crusty baguette-style rolls
  1. Marinate the carrot and daikon in the water, vinegar and sugar.
  2. Pan fry the tofu in a small amount of oil until nicely browned on both sides. Drain, pat dry with a paper towel, and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Cut the baguette part way through. Dress it with mayo. For my taste, rather heavily.
  4. Fill each sandwich with all of the ingredients, and offer additional sriracha sauce on the side.
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Posted by Michael Natkin on Monday, April 28th, 2008 in Main Courses, Recipes, Vegan or Modifiable.

17 Responses to “Recipe: Vietnamese Sandwiches with Tofu (Banh Mi Chay)”

  1. Reply
    April 29, 2008 at 12:42 am #

    I use recently a lot of avocados in my sandwiches… avocado and tofu sounds like a very good combination, thank you for sharing 🙂

  2. Reply
    April 30, 2008 at 6:38 pm #

    Shizam! That’s a heck of a sandwich. I bet the daikon is a great addition.

  3. Reply
    May 1, 2008 at 7:18 pm #

    I love Banh mi sandwiches but have only had the ones with meat. Your version sounds great and makes me want to experiment on my own.

  4. Reply
    May 5, 2008 at 4:37 pm #

    Yum… this looks and sounds fantastic. We are blessed here in L.A. to have an amazing all vegan Vietnamese restaurant in the area (Vinh Loi Tofu in Reseda) so I always get to satisfy my Banh Mi cravings with his delicious versions. Your recipe is spot on though, so if I ever get the craving after they’ve closed (as often happens!), this will come in handy 🙂 Whoever thought a sandwich could be so addicting?

  5. Reply
    November 24, 2008 at 11:55 am #

    Thanks for posting this recipe, tho’ I’m sad to have to make them myself now. Just prior to relocating to Eugene (where my Banh Mi search has been fruitless) I finally found THE place in Seattle for these delights, after much research:
    link to

  6. Reply
    Tom Bombadil
    May 7, 2009 at 12:46 am #

    It would be a lot more flavourful if you made it the proper way, with two or three kinds of meat.

    • Reply
      February 15, 2013 at 8:47 pm #

      Dear Tom,

      Many of us are vegetarians, I’m one for the past 45 years. Believe me, it’s possible to eat well and flavorfully without killing animals.

  7. Reply
    August 17, 2009 at 1:53 pm #

    Can’t wait to try this! It’s also vegan if you use a vegan “mayo” such as Vegenaise (it actually tastes better than regular mayo IMHO). Thanks for sharing this recipe!

  8. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    August 17, 2009 at 2:10 pm #

    I keep hearing how great Vegenaise is. I’ll have to try it… I like to make
    my own, and I like Hellman’s / Best Foods when I don’t have time, but I
    don’t like to buy them because the eggs are presumably from badly treated
    hens… and the organic brand of egg-based mayo I’ve bought before has a
    distinctly unpleasant flavor.

  9. Reply
    October 4, 2010 at 10:20 am #

    Ok, I like the concept but don’t fry the tofu without seasoning!!!!!


    Marinate the tofu for at least an hour with the following:

    onion powder
    soy sauce
    garlic powder
    garlic (fresh mashed through a press if possible and slathered on tofu)
    thai hot chili sauce or sriracha

    While tofu is marinating, make the pickled daikon and carrots (it would be better if you make this the day before.)—the pickle is what gives the sandwich its kick.

    Before soaking them in the sugar, vinegar , water mix—pour salt over them and knead them for a few minutes to release excess water (which should collect at the bottom)

    Rinse veggies. Mix vinegar and sugar and a little lukewarm water and pour over to cover veggies. Allow to sit at least for an hr. If you have mason jars, you can put in there and it will last 4 wks.

    You can follow rest of recipe from here. Pan fry tofu. TOAST THE BAGUETTE-IT WILL TASTE MUCH BETTER

    Slather on mayo, cucumbers cut into matchsticks, carrot/daikon pickle, tofu and cilantro.

    VOILA Bon Appetite!

  10. Reply
    October 4, 2010 at 10:24 am #

    Well yea thats possible considering that this is a vegetarian recipe site lol!

    Try my marinade for the tofu in the comment I left below. Go easy on the salt if you use more soy sauce.

  11. Reply
    Michael Natkin
    October 4, 2010 at 10:42 am #

    Thanks for the comment, Calista! For what it is worth, I disagree with you about the tofu. Good quality firm tofu, patted dry and pan fried in a sufficient quantity of oil to brown nicely and develop a crust is delicious without any additional season except salt or soy sauce. This is especially true if you seek out a locally made tofu that is very fresh. But to each their own! There is nothing wrong with additional seasonings if you prefer it that way. I find that they don't really penetrate the tofu and can be added to the finished dish just as sucessfully.

  12. Reply
    October 5, 2010 at 1:53 pm #

    I love tofu! but i am not very good at cooking 🙁 however i will do my best to prepare this delicious sandwich!

  13. Reply
    Mia (foodie)
    October 20, 2011 at 9:35 am #

    I dust my tofu with salt, garlic powder, and onion powder before frying. It gives it enough flavor without having to go through the marinade process and then drying it before frying.

  14. Reply
    May 19, 2012 at 7:05 pm #

    Michael, do you know how they do the very thin, chewy, seasoned tofu that is on a bought bahn mi like I’ve had in Chicago? Its texture is not at all like regular tofu, it has a much “meatier” quality, and a nice lemongrass flavor. I’ve been making bahn mi with regular firm tofu (marinated a little with soy, garlic and lemongrass), and I like it, but the ones I’ve had in chicago from vietnamese restaurants in my sister’s neighborhood are even more flavorful. Here in Louisville where I’ve found tofu bahn mi they use regular tofu like me. I just wondered if you were familiar with the “tofu” I’m talking about. I love the avocado idea by the way, we’ve made our last few batches with it and we love it 🙂

    • Reply
      May 19, 2012 at 7:31 pm #

      Hey Stephanie – I think I know what you mean, yes, though I’ve never tried to recreate it exactly. I’m not a big believer in marinating tofu, I don’t think the flavor really penetrates. I’d rather just cook the tofu plain and then glaze it with something flavorful. I think if I was going to try and make the texture you are describing, I’d get the firmest tofu I could, pat it really dry, fry it in plenty of oil, then glaze it with soy sauce / sugar / lemongrass and put it back in a hot skillet to caramelize. That might be close at least.

  15. Reply
    May 23, 2013 at 11:02 am #

    Just fyi, I think the secret wonderful ingredient they add at the sandwich shop in Philly is an assortment of sauteed mushrooms. It is soooo good!

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