A banh mi sandwich is a simple Vietnamese sandwich made with grilled meat and fresh vegetables in a French baguette bread. The use of perfectly seasoned meat, tart pickled vegetables, fresh herbs and creamy mayo makes banh mi sandwich the perfect blend of salty, sweet and sour, with a touch of umami.
The great thing about such a sandwich is that it is so easily customizable. The success of this sandwich does not hinge solely on the protein used, like it does for a traditional burger or other such sandwich.
Speaking of protein, you needn’t resort to meat alone. Mushrooms work great in a Vietnamese marinade, especially something hearty like portabella mushrooms.
Portabellas (also referred to as portobellos) are matured crimini mushrooms; they are earthy, chewy and packed with flavor. They can be a bit pricey, so make it a point to treat them well when you do indulge.
The best way to use these mushrooms would be to marinate and grill them like you would do with a nice cut of meat. They can also be stuffed and served whole, but thick cuts of grilled portabellas are the perfect vegetarian replacement in a sandwich.
While the sandwiches themselves are really easy to make, you do need a bit of foresight in preparing the pickled vegetables. Fresh, crunchy vegetables like radishes, carrots and cucumbers are used.
I decided to pickle only the red radishes. They were pickled overnight in a hot chili-infused vinegar solution. Sweet, sour, salty and crunchy, that’s the perfect pickle!
Chop up the rest of the vegetables and herbs (I used cilantro, you can use basil or mint too) and it is chow time, baby!
And oh, before I forget, a word about the mayo used. I seldom use mayo and didn’t use any here. You could use it by all means. But let’s whip up a healthy yogurt aioli with roasted garlic and a touch of Worcestershire sauce, shall we?! Just play around with the flavors until you are satisfied and come up with your own sandwich spreads. There’s nothing more fun than that, right? In my opinion, yogurt is the perfect healthy stand-in for a host of things like sour cream and mayonnaise. This low-fat take on a traditional aioli or mayo spread adds the perfect creaminess to this sandwich, with none of the guilt.
There is no rhyme or reason to how you stuff a banh mi sandwich. Use a hearty slice of baguette or similar crusty bread. I used store-bought whole wheat artisan bread rolls. Spread butter and aioli on the slices, stuff with the mushrooms, pickled radishes and other vegetables, sprinkle generously with fresh cilantro leaves and enjoy.
GRILLED PORTABELLA MUSHROOM BANH MI SANDWICH
You will need: (Makes 2 sandwiches)
For pickled radishes,
- Red radishes – 5-6, thinly sliced
- White vinegar – 1/2 cup
- Water – 1/2 cup
- Salt – 1 tsp
- Sugar – 3-4 tbsp
- Red chili flakes – 1-2 tsp
For grilling mushrooms,
- Portabella mushrooms – 2, large ones
- Dark soy sauce – 2 tbsp
- Fish sauce – 1 tbsp
- Honey – 1 tbsp
- Lime juice – 1 tbsp
- Red chili flakes – 1 tsp
For yogurt aoli,
- Yogurt – 1 cup, lightly whipped
- Garlic – 1 clove, finely minced
- Worcestershire sauce – a few shakes
- Salt – a pinch (if needed)
For the sandwiches,
- Whole wheat bread roll or large slice of baguette – 2, split open
- Butter – just enough to spread on the slices
- Yogurt aioli – as required
- Grilled portabella mushrooms – 2, thickly sliced
- Pickled red radishes – as required
- Carrot – 1, thinly sliced
- Cucumber – 1 small, de-seeded and thinly sliced
- Cilantro leaves – a handful, roughly torn
- Red chili flakes – a pinch, optional
- Pickled red radishes: In a saucepan, bring the vinegar, water, sugar, salt and red chili flakes to a gentle boil. Place the radish slices in a clean jar. Pour the hot pickling liquid over it till the radishes are fully submerged. Allow to cool, cover and refrigerate till needed.
- Grilled portabella mushrooms: Combine all the marinade ingredients and coat the mushrooms thoroughly. Refrigerate for 30-60 minutes, if possible.
- Pre-heat the oven to 400 deg.F and place a grilling rack over a rimmed baking pan. Place the mushrooms on the rack, shaking off excess marinade. Roast for 8 minutes per side or till mushrooms are tender and you see juices oozing out when poked with a knife. Remove mushrooms from oven, rest for a few minutes and slice thickly. Keep aside.
- Yogurt-garlic aioli: Combine all the ingredients, adding the sauce and salt till you are satisfied with the flavor. (It helps to roast the garlic clove, I simply roasted it for a few minutes along with the mushrooms.)
- Banh mi sandwiches: Lightly butter both sides of the bread. Spread yogurt aioli generously on both sides. Arrange a few slices of the portabella mushrooms, some pickled red radishes, fresh vegetables and lots of cilantro leaves. Sprinkle more red chili flakes on top if you like. Serve with your favorite beverage.
- Instead of pickling only the red radishes, you can pickle all the vegetables you wish to use.
- For a non-vegetarian version, replace the mushrooms with your meat of choice, taking care to increase the roasting time and cook them properly first.
- You can also use basil or mint leaves instead of cilantro leaves.
The great thing about a banh mi sandwich, aside from the fact that it’s absolutely delicious and healthy, is that, this is the perfect sandwich where you can get away with using slightly stale bread. You know, when you finally decide to use up the elbow end of a baguette that no one wants to eat? That’s when you make a personal size sandwich stuffed with all your favorite things and savor the goodness!
So tell me, what is your favorite kind of sandwich? Do you prefer all meat or are you open to vegetarian alternatives? How do you use portabella mushrooms? Do share.
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- By Stephanie Lynn