When I was growing up, Bà, my grandmother, would make this giant pork meatball-sausage-type thing called chả lụa. We called it chả. Her recipe involved food-processing large amounts of pork, mixing it with potato starch and fish sauce, then wrapping it in tin foil and boiling it. I later learned that the original recipe involves wrapping the pulverized pork in banana leaves, but those are apparently harder to come by in the USA, so a lot of the Vietnamese diaspora substitutes tin foil.
One of the ways to eat chả was by slicing it and sticking it between two halves of a baguette with cucumbers and soy sauce. When I visited Vietnam in 2014, my second cousin taught me the name for this: bánh mì. In some cases, it can be stuffed with more things–pickled daikon and carrots, for example. This sandwich apparently was one of the upshots of getting colonized by the French (also Vietnamese hat coffee). “Bánh” is the Vietnamese word for “bread” and mì is “wheat.” So, literally, wheat bread.
We used to make this a lot for road trips, and I thought about it when E and I were trying to figure out what to bring as we drove down to her parents’ for Shavuot. So I came up with this really really liberal version of bánh mì. I think it preserves many elements of the taste and texture (the cucumber crunch on the sausagey-type “meat” plus the umami flavor in the soy sauce+mushrooms), though it looks absolutely nothing like the original.
Super-“Americanized” (?) bánh mì-inspired sandwich:
- 2tsp light olive oil (or canola oil)
- 1 red onion
- 4-6 oz baby bella mushrooms
- 8 oz chorizo seitan (we used Upton’s Naturals)
- 1-2 tsp [Huy Fong] Chili Garlic Sauce aka rooster sauce (Sriracha might also work if you add garlic to the saute)
- 2 or 4 pitas (depending on how thick they are you might want to double wrap them)
- 2-3 mini cucumbers
- Soy sauce to taste
Prep: 10 min, Cook: 10 min, Assembly: 5 min. Allergens: soy, wheat. Pareve, vegan. Makes: 4 pita-half sandwiches.
- Prepare the vegetables: Wash, then chop the onion and the mushrooms (keep separate). Slice the cucumbers to about 0.5 cm.
- Heat the olive oil for a minute then stir-fry the onions on high until they begin to brown (~5 minutes). Add the mushrooms, chorizo seitan, and chili garlic sauce. Stir-fry for another 3-5 minutes until the mushrooms begin to soften and leak water.
- Remove from heat. Spoon chorizo mix into pita halves, mixing in ~15 slices of raw cucumbers per pita half. Add extra soy sauce if desired. If you’re having trouble with the pitas coming apart, either double wrap them, or wrap them in tin foil (or a plastic bag).
We ate these in the car and they were pretty good. We also added some avocado slices to some of them because we’re millennials and why not (this made them taste less like real bánh mì).
Anyways, that was pretty exciting, and we made our 8.5 hour road trip without getting too hungry. The sandwiches were pretty good with seltzer. Not so good with Gatorade.
I’d like to try making chả lụa seitan at some point (or try making it with chicken without the fish sauce), so we’ll see.
Shabbat shalom + chag sameach!!!