Vegetarian Banh Mi

I have always loved Chinese food (excluding a large period of my childhood when I burnt out on stir fry after my sister requested it constantly for dinner), but in my early years my love was mostly devoted to Americanized Chinese food.  Fried, salty, and covered in soy sauce were my requirements, and I always managed to pick around any vegetables that snuck their way onto my plate. I remember being baffled when I went to my aunt’s house and people chose to wrap their egg rolls in lettuce.
While those dishes are still delicious, I have now learned the value of more traditional dishes and including vegetables.  Not only have I begun wrapping my egg rolls in lettuce, but I have also begun to try new Asian cuisines- just recently I went to a good Korean place here in town, and I am now addicted to kimchi   Korean food here in the Texas panhandle- who knew?  I have also begun to try some Vietnamese cuisine as well and have begun experimenting in my own kitchen with Vietnamese dishes.
Banh mi are Asian sandwiches, a result of French colonization in Vietnam.  In general, banh mi sandwiches have fresh herbs and vegetables like cucumbers, do chua (pickled carrots and daikon), and cilantro   Real variety comes with the protein you put on your sandwich: pork, beef, chicken, tofu, meatballs are all possible options.  My version is a vegetarian version of the banh mi.  As soon as I saw the words “tempura sweet potato”, I knew I was had to make and love this sandwich.
This sandwich does require some work: advance prep to let components chill and develop flavor overnight and deep frying- but it. is. so. worth it.  The tempura sweet potato is to die for (please make extra so you can have some tempura sweet potato fries on the side, you will regret it if you don’t), and the mix of the salty veggies and the fresh cilantro is wonderful.  I definitely will be making more banh mi soon.
VEGETARIAN BANH MI
Adapted from Serious Eats
INGREDIENTS

For the Do Chua:
2 carrots, julienned
1/2 medium daikon, julienned
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 cup water
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar

For the Scallion Oil:
4 scallions, chopped
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon soy sauce

For the Tempura Sweet Potato:
2 sweet potatoes
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup cold soda water
Vegetable oil, for frying
Salt, for seasoning

Toppings:
1 loaf French bread
1 avocado, thinly sliced
Cucumbers, thinly sliced
Cilantro, chopped
Pickled jalapeños

DIRECTIONS

For the Do Chua:

In a large bowl combined carrots, daikon, salt, and sugar.  Massage vegetables until salt and sugar is absorbed.  Add water and rice wine vinegar.  Stir.  Chill overnight.

For the Scallion Oil:

In a bowl combine scallions, sesame oil, and soy sauce.  Set aside.

For the Tempura Sweet Potato

Heat oil to 400°F.

Slice sweet potato in half and cut into 1/4 inch strips.  In a large bowl mix flour, cornstarch, and salt together.  Stir in cold soda water.  Dip sweet potatoes in batter one at a time.  Shake of excess batter and repeat with remaining sweet potatoes.  Fry for 3-5 minutes, agitating often, until golden brown.  Drain on paper towels.  Salt immediately after.

For the Banh Mi:

Wrap French bread in foil and warm in oven.  Slice into four pieces and create a slit in each.  Spread avocado on one side of bread and top with scallion oil mixture.  Layer cilantro, cucumber, jalapeños  and do chau on top.  Place tempura sweet potato pieces on top.

Makes 4 sandwiches.

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