Portobello Banh Mi
Gosh golly, I have really been meaning to post this portobello banh mi for a while now. Perhaps life has gotten in the way a bit, and perhaps I just eat them way too fast whenever I make them. Who knows? (Me. I know.)
I inhaled my very first Vietnamese banh mi sandwich sometime around a year ago- I remember that it was from Lela’s Bistro on NW 23rd and it was filled with pork belly, which had beautiful and succulent layers of fat that first crackled and then melted in my mouth as I ate it (and then I melted). And then I decided that I would honestly prefer not to eat anything but banh mi sandwiches for the rest of my days. Since that fateful sandwich, I have been on a sort of banh mi tour of west Portland. In my mind, I collect data from each sandwich, mentally listing and frankenstein-ing and adding up to the perfect conceivable version.
On this journey I have concluded that the most crucial element that makes it or breaks it is not the meat in the sandwich, and it’s not the pickles or veggies- it’s the baguette! Since I started making my own banh mi at home, I have learned that the quickest way to ruin it is to use a good baguette. Those rustic, chewy, glutenous baguettes you find on the fancy side of the bakery by the olive bar are absolute garbage here. What’s needed is something with a tender, yielding crumb and a thin, crackling crust. Go for the cheap, yellow-ish, shiny-crusted second-cousin of a baguette, over by the donuts. A lot of my favorite things are found by the donuts. Mainly, other donuts.
While traditional Vietnamese banh mi are most often stuffed with pate and some form of charred pork product (though fusions stuffed with Korean bulgogi and kimchi are equally amazing), and while I certainly enjoy eating the meaty varieties, I prepare my own meatless rendition at home to cut down on cost, fat, and effort. I once again employ the mighty portobello mushroom as a very acceptable stand-in for the meat, and honestly, I find it just as much of a pleasure to eat. Thick slices of portobello are marinated in soy, fish sauce, and a few other flavors and then oven roasted. The warm strips are stuffed into a soft baguette, along with mayo, quick-pickled carrot, cucumbers, scallions, and cilantro. The whole thing tastes marvelously fresh and balanced, with a wonderful variety of textures and colors.
Definitely licked some mayo off my lens focus ring during this shoot, by the way.
- 2 large portobello caps (look for firm and thick)
- 1/2 c. water
- 3 T. soy sauce
- 2 T. rice vinegar
- 2 T. brown sugar
- 1 T. fish sauce
- 1 T. sesame oil
- 1 t. ground ginger
- 1/2 t. liquid smoke
- pinch red pepper flakes
- 1 carrot, peeled into ribbons with veggie peeler
- 1/2 c. warm water
- 2 T. rice vinegar
- 1 T. sugar
- 1 t. salt
- 1 cucumber, 1/4" julienne strips
- 1 scallion, cut to 4" lengths, then julienne
- handful cilantro, torn
- 2 6" pieces soft baguette (or 2 baguette rolls), sliced open
- sriracha or hot pepper slices (optional)
- Preheat oven to 375. Trim stems from mushroom caps, then slice caps into 1/2" strips. Place in a large glass baking dish in an even (if not single) layer.
- Whisk together soy sauce, rice vinegar, brown sugar, fish sauce, sesame oil, ginger, liquid smoke, and red pepper flakes. Pour over the mushroom slices.
- Bake 10 minutes. Flip, bake another 10 minutes.
- Remove from oven. Using a colander, carefully drain off all liquid, then return mushroom slices to baking dish in an even layer. Bake an additional 10-15 minutes, or until browned.
- Place carrot ribbons in a jar or storage container.
- Whisk together the water, rice vinegar, sugar, and salt. Pour over carrot ribbons. Set aside.
- Spread a thin layer of mayo all over the inside of each baguette. Add sriracha if you want!
- Fill baguettes with warm portobello slices, pickled carrots, cucumbers, green onions, and cilantro.
- Any remaining carrot pickles will keep in the fridge for up to a week- they'll get more pickle-y the longer they sit.