A few years ago I tried a Vietnamese sandwich, grilled pork bánh mi, for the first time. This sandwich was tough to beat with its tart pickled vegetables, spicy jalapeño peppers, and salty meat - tucked in between a toasted baguette. I was in heaven. This past weekend Colin and I ate at a Vietnamese restaurant just outside of Indianapolis called, Pho 36. We tried their chicken bánh mi, and it was absolutely scrumptious! Especially when we added some of the spicy condiment, Sriracha, that was sitting on the table.
I decided that I needed to create a vegetarian sandwich - Vietnamese-style. Tofu is frequently used in the meatless versions of bánh mi - but fish sauce is often added to season it. While fish sauce is a classic ingredient that provides a distinct flavor, in order to make sure that my sandwich is vegetarian I have omitted it. I decided to give this vegetarian sandwich a twist by using roasted cauliflower that I seasoned with soy sauce, fresh ginger, and garlic - in place of tofu. While this is not the most authentic approach, it is so good! I bring you my cauliflower bánh mi with bean pâté!
The roasted, savory cauliflower offers a subtle meaty texture in this sandwich.
Pâte can often be found in the meat versions of these sandwiches, and frequently contains liver. I created a vegetarian white bean pâté to slather on the bread. My vegetarian bean pâté and roasted cauliflower combo is sublime when paired with the pickled carrots, the daikon radish, and cucumber - topped with spicy jalapeños and fresh cilantro.
By the way, all of the ingredients in this dish can be prepped the day before you assemble/serve the sandwiches! And the cauliflower is delicious served cold in this dish. This is helpful because it does take some time to prep the vegetables in this recipe. If you have a spiralizer you'll want to use it for the cucumber and daikon radish (I bought shredded carrots). Alternatively, if you don't have a spiralizer or you just don't feel like using it, you can cut the cucumber into thin slices. I used the food processor as a time saver for making the bean pâté (If you prefer not to make the pâté, this sandwich will still taste delicious with some mayonnaise and Sriracha as the condiments).
Before I toast the baguette slices, I scoop out a good portion of the bread from each slice (You can use the scooped out bread to make bread crumbs for a future dish). Scooping out the bread makes it easier to add a good amount of vegetables to this sandwich.
Then I toast the baguette. I also assemble this sandwich right before serving it in order to keep the bread crisp. If you find that you have some leftover cauliflower after having prepared your sandwiches, you can add it to a stir fry later in the week. And any leftover pickled vegetables can make a nice addition to a salad - topped with some ginger dressing. Enjoy!
Yield: 8 sandwiches
Quick Pickled Vegetables:
1/2 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 cups English cucumber, peeled and julienned (Or spiralized and cut into 2-3 inch long segments OR sliced thinly) (1 English cucumber)
2 cups daikon radish, peeled and julienned (Or spiralized and cut into 2-3 inch long segments)
2 cups carrot, peeled and julienned (Or spiralized and cut into 2-3 inch long segments OR purchase pre-shredded carrots)
1 head cauliflower, chopped into florets
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon canola oil (Or extra virgin olive oil)
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup white onion, diced
1 15-ounce can Cannellini beans, rinsed and drained (Or 1 3/4 cups of cooked beans)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1-2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce (Adjust to taste)
1 teaspoon Sriracha hot sauce (Can be found in Asian markets and most grocery stores in the international foods aisle)
1 scallion onion, minced, green part only
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 baguettes, halve and quarter each baguette (Each baguette will generate 8 slices or 4 sandwiches)
2 jalapeño peppers, thinly sliced
Sriracha hot sauce
1. Begin by making the quick pickled vegetables. In a small bowl, whisk the rice vinegar, salt, and sugar until well combined. Pour the prepped cucumber, daikon radishes, and carrots into a large and flat storage container. Then, pour the well combined vinegar solution into the container holding the vegetables. Gently stir the vegetable mixture a few times. Cover and store in the refrigerator for at least 30-60 minutes to create the pickled effect.
2. It's cauliflower time! Preheat the oven to 425°F. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the minced garlic, ginger, soy sauce, and oil until well combined. Next, pour half of the chopped cauliflower into the same bowl, tossing it in the marinade. Then add the remaining cauliflower to the same bowl and toss some more until the florets are coated. Spread evenly on a large baking sheet. Roast for 20-25 minutes, flipping the cauliflower once at the 10-12 minute mark (While the cauliflower is roasting you can make the bean pâté). Roast until the cauliflower is tender and slightly golden. Remove from oven and transfer to a clean plate.
3. Make the bean pâté while the cauliflower is roasting. Using your food processor or a high-powered blender, pulse the whole garlic cloves until minced. Next, add the onion, Cannellini beans, oil, soy sauce, and Sriracha, and pulse until smooth. Transfer to a serving bowl.
4. In a small bowl, stir the mayonnaise and chopped scallions until combined.
5. Make the sandwiches. Using 2 large cookie sheets, toast the 16 slices of baguette bread at 350°F for about 5 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer to a clean plate. If serving all 8 sandwiches at once, slather the bottom 8 slices of baguette bread with 1-2 tablespoons of the bean pâté (If serving less than 8 sandwiches at once, take the amount of bread needed and store the remaining slices of bread in a plastic container or storage bag for later use). Then add 1/2 a cup of roasted cauliflower to the bottom slices of the baguette bread, followed by using a slotted spoon to add at least 1/2 a cup of pickled vegetables (If you want your sandwich piled higher with vegetables, go for it!). Next, top with a few slices of jalapeño pepper, some cilantro leaves, and a drizzle of Sriracha. Now spread 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise on the top slices of baguette bread. Place the top pieces of baguette bread on top of the bottom slices of bread.
6. Celebrate the fact that you just made an awesome, flavor-packed sandwich! Serve with your favorite sides. Happy eating!