Meat Lite: Hybrid Banh Mi

Editor's note: Philadelphia food writers Joy Manning and Tara Mataraza Desmond drop by each week with Meat Lite, which celebrates meat in moderation. Meat Lite was inspired by their book, Almost Meatless.

At my local banh mi joint, I'm always torn between the oh-so-virtuous tofu sandwich and the all-out cholesterol fest that is the pork and pâté version. Finally, I've bridged the gap with my homemade Meat Lite rendition. It's a great recipe to have on hand if you, as we recommend in Almost Meatless, cook a big pork shoulder when you have time and freeze the meat in 8-ounce portions.

It couldn't be simpler. Just buy a 4- to 6-pound pork shoulder, cut it up into four big but manageable pieces, season liberally, and brown pieces on all sides in a large Dutch oven. Add a bit of water, enough to come one-third of the way up the pork pieces, and bake on 350 degrees for about 3 hours--until it falls apart when prodded.

Of course, you can get rid of the pork altogether with an extra slice of tofu and have almost as excellent a banh mi. I like to spice up the mayonnaise with a squirt of Sriracha and a splash of lime juice. You can also add slices of fresh jalapeño before serving to increase the heat.

Meat Lite: Hybrid Banh Mi

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About This Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 bulbs lemon grass
  • 1 large jalapeño
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
  • 8 ounces extra-firm tofu (2/3 of a block) cut into 1-ounce slices (about 1/4 inch thick), pressed between clean kitchen towels to remove excess water
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 medium carrots, julienned on a mandoline
  • 1/2 seedless cucumber, julienned on a mandoline
  • 1 large jalapeño, sliced paper thin on a mandoline
  • 1/4 sweet onion, sliced paper thin on a mandoline
  • 1 long, thin baguette, 20 to 24 inches
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 8 ounces shredded pork (about 2 cups)
  • 4 to 6 springs cilantro

Procedures

  1. 1

    Process the lemon grass, jalapeño and garlic in a food processor until a paste forms. Add the oil, soy sauce, fish sauce and sesame oil and process until combined. On a rimmed dinner plate, spread about half the marinade, top with the pressed tofu slices, and cover with the remaining marinade. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour or up to overnight.

  2. 2

    Meanwhile, bring the water, vinegars, salt, and sugar to a boil in a medium sauce pan. Kill the heat; stir until the salt and sugar are dissolved. Place the vegetables into a container with a tight-fitting lid; pour the liquid over them. Refrigerate until cold.

  3. 3

    When you are ready to bake the tofu, preheat the oven to 350°F. Remove tofu slices from the marinade, scraping off any excess, and arrange on a baking sheet lined with a silpat or parchment. Bake for 1 hour, turning tofu slices after 30 minutes.

  4. 4

    To assemble the sandwiches, slice the baguette into 5 to 6 inch lengths, and split. Smear each side of the sandwiches with 1 tablespoon mayonnaise, and layer on 2 slices of tofu, 1 to 2 ounces of shredded pork, pickled vegetables to taste, and a sprig of fresh cilantro, and serve.

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