Whenever I return from vacation, especially if we have been back East visiting the Baltimore clan, I feel the need to eat really healthy and clean. This past trip was a little better than others because we were staying in a house. This meant I was able to cook a few meals and eat some healthy food. One night I made Grilled Vegetable Quesadillas and another I made a Niçoise Salad. By contrast, one night we ate at a crab shack where my choices were limited to the side dishes part of the menu. When I asked the waitress if I could have just a baked potato instead of “cheesy smashed potatoes” she said, “I’m not sure if I have ever seen a whole potato back there.” True story.
I ate a lot of salad but I also ate a lot of french fries off my boys’ plates. I also fully enjoyed happy hour. In other words, by this week I was definitely feeling the need for some tofu. When I’m feeling that need, I turn to Asian food.
I made these sandwiches last spring for my clients. I remember having an “oh wow” moment with my first bite. That is always a good sign. I’m happy to report I had an “oh double wow” moment with last night’s first bite. A “why don’t I make this every week?” moment. If you like these flavors, you will love this sandwich.
A few notes on the recipe. By all means, make the pickles in advance. I made them the day before but the recipe states you can keep them for several weeks in the refrigerator. You will want to dry your tofu very well before pan-frying it, otherwise it will splatter something fierce when it hits the oil. I dry each piece individually with a paper towel. The tofu mixture can be made several hours in advance and sit out at room temperature – I think the flavor improves if you do so.
One Year Ago: Raspberry Cream Cookies
Tai’s Vietnamese Tofu Sandwich
Adapted from Everyday Greens
Makes 4 sandwiches
Carrot-Daikon Radish Pickles (recipe follows)
1 package extra firm tofu, 12-16 ounces
Vegetable oil for frying (DT: I used peanut oil)
Salt and pepper
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1/2 tbsp. minced garlic
1/2 tbsp. minced fresh ginger
2 cups flavorful chopped canned tomatoes, with their juice
2 tbsp. Tamari or other soy sauce
1/2 tsp. sugar
Pinch of cayenne pepper
4 soft French rolls (DT: I used small ciabatta)
12 to 16 cilantro sprigs
Make the Carrot-Daikon Radish pickles.
Cut the tofu into 1/2-inch-thick slices, cut each slice into quarters, and each quarter into two triangles. Pour enough oil into a large non-stick skillet to thoroughly coat the bottom and heat just until below the point of smoking, when the first wisp of vapor appears. Fry the tofu until golden and crisp, about 3 minutes per side. Drain the tofu on paper towels, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and set aside.
Heat 1 tbsp. of the tofu frying oil in a skillet, add the shallots, 1/4 tsp. salt, and a pinch of pepper, and cook over medium heat for 2 minutes. Sir in the garlic and ginger, adding a little water if needed to keep everything from sticking to the apn. Add the tomatoes, tamari, sugar, and the cayenne and cook until the tomatoes thicken, about 15 minutes. Add the tofu and simmer for about 5 minutes.
Cut the rolls in half and scoop out the centers. Spoon the filling into the bottom halves of the rolls, making sure to include all of the sauce. Scatter 1/4 cup of the pickles and a few sprigs of cilantro over the filling. Place the top on each sandwich, press it down to hole the filling in place, and slice in half on the diagonal.
Carrot-Daikon Radish Pickles
Makes 1 quart
2 large carrots, thinly sliced
1/2 large daikon radish, peeled, quartered, and thinly sliced
1/2 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 jalapeno chili, seeded, and finely chopped
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup water
2 tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
Place the carrots, daikon, onions, and chili in a bowl. Combine the remaining ingredients in a small saucepan, bring to a boil, and pour over the carrot mixture. Set aside for at least an hour to pickle, or transfer to an airtight container, and refrigerate.