Have we ever discussed sandwiches??? I don't think so. Sandwiches are sort of a point of contention in the Cho-Alt household. You see, Reuben could probably eat a sandwich every single day of his life and be the happiest Reub in all the land. Seriously. I think he dreams of hoagie bread and deli slices. Me on the other hand, I dream of dumplings and could probably not eat a sandwich for the rest of my life and be pretty okay. I don't know why, but I've never really loved sandwiches. However, when I do have a sandwich it will mostly likely be a roast beef sandwich on a sourdough roll, NOT toasted, with provolone, tomatoes (maybe), a little bit of mayo, and avocado if I'm feeling fancy or willing to spend an extra dollar. Part of being in a relationship though is making sacrifices. So I eat sandwiches a little more often than I like to. Things could be worse. He could be obsessed with video games or be into racing or something... The hardest thing is when he wants a sandwich for dinner and I just can't do it. Sandwiches just don't feel like a real dinner for me. I believe in breakfast sandwiches and lunch sandwiches. But dinner sandwiches are a little weird. Paninis and bánh mìs sort of fall in that dinner sandwich grey area though.
Something real weird happened to me last week. I had a craving for a sandwich. GASP. I! Kristina! Me! Sandwich! Reuben was shocked and delighted. I picked up a deli sandwich for lunch and then it just snowballed into this really weird week where I just kept eating sandwiches everyday. I feel weird about it. I don't know what came over me. One day it was a deli sandwich, the next day I made pesto chicken sandos for dinner, Reuben made me an East Coast hoagie, then we got burgers (which is a sandwich I think... hot dogs are not sandwiches though), then I made these bánh mìs, I got a Chick-Fil-A sandwich yesterday, and then more bánh mìs! Holy, Carb. Do you think I've had enough slices of bread yet? The answer is yes.
Let's talk about these Bánh Mì before I can't even stomach the idea of another sandwich. I love a classic bánh mì đặc biệt, which has Vietnamese cold cuts, head cheese, and some a pate. It's the best! But I also love me a tasty vegetarian bánh mì. Crispy eggplant is so incredibly good piled in between crusty bread, sweet and tart pickles, and addictive lemongrass sauce. Eggplant always makes a great meaty/non-meat alternative.
Some important things to note about a great bánh mì. BREAD. Like any great building, you need a great foundation. Bread is the foundation of a great sandwich. The bread needs to be light, soft, and toasty. I recommend going to your closest asian market and picking up some soft french rolls. Or hoagie rolls if those are hard to find. You could use a french baguette, but I really think the texture is too dense and chewy. Next thing is pickled daikon and carrots! I use this Serious Eats recipe and it is so freaking easy to make and super delicious. They add the perfect crunchy, sweet, and sour punch. Lastly, the sauce! I'm not normally a saucey person. I'm actually a pretty dry food person. But this sandwich needs sauce. This lemongrass sauce is super addicting. It's quick to throw together and also works as an awesome marinade for meats! If you check the boxes on all these, you'll guarantee yourself pretty tasty sandwich that even the non-sandwich-loving person in your life will love!
Lemongrass Eggplant Bánh Mì
makes 2 bánh mì
1 large Chinese eggplants
2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 soft french rolls
1 sliced jalapeno pepper
Pickled Daikon and Carrots
2 lemongrass stalks
1 1/2" chunk of grated ginger
1 tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup hoisin
1 tbsp Sriracha
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
To Prepare the Lemongrass Sauce:
1. Begin by preparing the lemongrass sauce. Peel the hard outer layers of the lemongrass stalk until you reach the pale yellow inner layers. Cut off the bottom 2" inches of the stalk, which is the bulb. Finely slice the 2/3 up the stalk. Save the top 1/3 of the stalk for future soups or broth!
2. Place sliced lemongrass and chunk of ginger in food processor. Pulse in the food processor for 1 minute until finely chopped and almost pasty. Add in olive oil, hoisin, Sriracha, salt, and white pepper. Pulse a few more times until well mixed.
3. Place the sauce in a glass container and refridgerator until ready to use.
To Prepare the Bánh Mì:
1. Slice the eggplant at a steep angle into 1/4" slices. Place the slices in a large bowl. Add cornstarch and salt to the bowl and toss eggplant until it is evenly coated.
2. Heat vegetable oil in a skillet until hot. It should be hot enough so that once the eggplant hits the oil it should instantly start to sizzle. Add in a few slices of eggplant to the pan. Do not overcrowd the pan, you want one single layer. Fry for 3 minutes on each side until crispy. Remove eggplant from the oil and allow to drain a paper towel. Repeat until all the eggplant has been fried.
3. Toast up the soft french rolls in the oven for about 4-5 minutes. Smear a little bit of the lemongrass sauce on the roll. Layer on a few slices of fried eggplant, add a little more sauce, then the pickled daikon and carrots, a few slices of jalapeno, and then a few bits of cilantro. Add more Sriracha or hoisin based on taste and enjoy!