Banh mi, the popular Vietnamese sandwich, is traditionally meaty (some contain two kinds of pork, both liver and roast meat). This classic street food is also delightfully crunchy with pickled root vegetables, creamy with seasoned mayonnaise, and aromatic with cilantro. Here, banh mi goes vegetarian with roasted eggplant cubes. In a hot oven, the vegetable cooks without soaking up excess oil, and it’s ready to absorb spoonfuls of a flavorful Asian dipping sauce. With soy sauce, fish sauce, rice wine vinegar, chili-garlic sauce, and fresh ginger, the sauce combines sweet, salty, and sour tastes in one bowl. Add some to the mayonnaise to season it, and stir in carrot matchsticks, cucumber, jalapeno, and scallions. Vietnamese bakeries make special baguettes that have lots of crust and not too much crumb, or use a crusty French loaf, and you’ll understand why this Southeast Asian classic is the sandwich of the moment.
¼ cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon fish sauce
¼ cup rice wine vinegar
1½ teaspoons chili-garlic sauce (such as sriracha)
1 small piece (½ inch) fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1½ teaspoons sugar
1. In a small bowl, combine soy and fish sauces, rice wine vinegar, chili-garlic sauce, ginger, garlic, scallion, and sugar.
2. Whisk well; set aside.
3 small eggplant, cut into ½-inch cubes
1 tablespoon peanut or canola oil
Black pepper, to taste
½ cup mayonnaise
1 carrot, cut into fine matchsticks
½ cucumber, thinly sliced
1 jalapeno or other chili pepper, cored and thinly sliced
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 large baguette, split
½ bunch cilantro, leaves
¼ cup peanuts, chopped
1. Set the oven at 425 degrees. Have on hand a rimmed baking sheet.
2. In a large bowl, toss eggplant with peanut or canola oil and black pepper. Spread on the baking sheet. Roast for 20 minutes.
3. Transfer to a bowl. While eggplant is hot, add all but 3 tablespoons of the sauce; toss well.
4. In another bowl, stir mayonnaise with the remaining 3 tablespoons sauce. Add carrot, cucumber, jalapeno, and scallions; toss well.
5. Layer dressed vegetables and eggplant on the baguette. Garnish with cilantro and peanuts. Cut into 4 sandwiches. Karoline Boehm Goodnick