Tofu Portobello Bahn Mi + my brief time in food service
The summer before junior year, I had a short dip in the food service industry. Yup. 20 year old Megan worked for a catering company as a window waitress/server. It was one long, hot, miserable summer. I have memories of writing tickets on oiled-stained copy paper and carrying trays filled with baskets of burgers and turkey bacon wraps. Besides the hot conditions of the kitchen, horrible tips (since I wasn't allowed to serve alcohol and was stuck woman-ing the window), and fair share of strange customers, the food was really pretty good. I liked sneaking a few extra sweet potato tots that fell out of the basket and loved scraping the leftover guac out of the container with a fresh tortilla chip before I washed it (I didn't want to waste food!)
My ultimate favorite dish was the bahn mi sandwich. I hadn't had a real authentic one before, so my tastebuds went wild when I tried the sriracha mayo with the tangy pickled veggies, spicy jalapeño, and tender grilled pork pieces. It was so simple and delicious with so much flavor. I left that window having learned some valuable lessons:
+ I should never work in a kitchen in the summer without a proper ventilation system (hot)
+ There is a LOOOOT of waste in the food industry (sad)
+ Cash registers made in the late 90s have cryptic abbreviations on them (confusing)
+ Bahn mi sandwiches are so frickin delicious (yay! yummy!)
Fast forward 3 years, add a vegetarian (sometimes pescetarian) diet to the mix, remove the hot, sad, confusing, yummy summer job, and BAM!!! I bring you a tasty, remixed version of that bahn mi. This one's got marinated tofu and mushrooms instead of the pork - but who even misses that?
Tofu Portobello Bahn Mi
Makes 1 baguette, serves 4 hungry peeps
2 cups vinegar
2 tbsp sugar
1 medium daikon radish
2 portobello mushrooms
1/2 block tofu
teriyaki sauce (Yoshida is my fave)
1 French baguette (fresh!)
2 tbsp mayo
1 tsp sriracha
Start by prepping your pickling liquid. I'd suggest making it in something that has a lid, like a mason jar or sealable tupperware. Add white vinegar, sugar, and a few shakes of salt and stir, letting the sugar dissolve. You want the jar/container to be able 2/3 full of liquid (to leave space for the veggies). Then slice your carrot, cucumber, and daikon into thin matchstick pieces. I left the skin on the cucumber but peeled the carrot and daikon. Once chopped, add to your pickling liquid and put the lid on, shaking the veggies around to get them marinating. You can do this step a day or two ahead, or just an hour before for lightly pickled veggies.
Slice your tofu and mushrooms into long thin slices. Pat your tofu dry and marinate with mushrooms in teriyaki sauce for a few minutes. Then pan fry the tofu and mushrooms till cooked through, about 5 minutes. Set aside.
Carefully slice your jalapeño and rip off some fresh cilantro leaves. Combine mayo with sriracha and spread onto both sides of your baguette, sliced lengthwise. Add your cilantro, jalapeño, and pickled veggies to your bread, then top with tofu and mushroom. Slap on the top slice and divide the long baguette into 4 equal sandwiches, about 6-8 inches per sandwich. EAT. With some homemade fries or potato chips is best!
If you don't like things too spicy, try cooking the jalapeños with your mushrooms and tofu to take the edge off, or leave them out altogether. Keep the sriracha mayo but go light on the sriracha. It's got a nice flavor that really brightens up the bread.
I'm happy I got to go through the adventure of working in food service back in college. It gave me the strange/rare opportunity to know the basic ingredients of your standard bahn mi. Plus, the abandoned sweet potato tots! Did I mention the tots that I generously sacrificed from being thrown in the trash? I really did those little guys a favor by eating them... This may not be a traditional recipe, but this bahn mi sandwich is sure tasty, cheap, and satisfying.