A lot of Vietnamese dishes are inspired by French cuisine, because Vietnam was a longtime colony of the French empire. Bánh mì sandwich is an example of a dish that reflects the fusion of both cuisines. The sandwich consists of cilantro, fresh chiles, pickled carrots and usually a meat filling (grilled chicken, bì which is shredded meat with roasted rice powder) or sometimes a vegetarian filling, served on a baguette, spread with mayonnaise on one side and butter on the other.
For the veggie option, I normally fill the sandwiches with bì chay (shredded tofu with roasted rice powder). But this time, Aunt Danielle stopped by and we made mắm chay. She knows it’s my husband Lulu’s favorite, so she makes it very often. As I’ve said before, Aunt Danielle is a sweetheart and an amazing cook, except that she does not share her recipes. She used to run a successful restaurant in the early 90s. She taught me a lot of Vietnamese staple dishes to cook for the family until she found out about PhamFatale.com through her friends. I had to confess and she was not happy. It’s funny; family and friends are a lot more reluctant to share their tips and secrets with me, so I have to do a little bit of recon and intelligence gathering.
In the end, Aunt Danielle hasn’t entirely showed me how to make mắm chay. We prepped and mixed the ingredients together but she hid a few tricks from me. All I can tell you is that there are a lot of ingredients similar to bì chay involved, such as fried tofu, bean thread noodles, dry roasted rice powder (thinh) and seasonings (fried garlic, sugar and salt). What makes it different from bì chay is the addition of galangal (a type of ginger), young pickling cucumber, chayote squash (trái su su), ripe papaya, fresh pineapple and dried daikon radish cured in brine.
Even though the sandwich is reminiscent of the typical French jambon-beurre (ham and butter sandwich), bánh mì provides a taste of Vietnam. Lulu’s been addicted ever since I first introduced him to the Vietnamese version, and if you try one, you will be too!
1. Info for Banh Mi Mam Chay (Vietnamese Vegetarian Sandwich Recipe)
- Cook Time: unavailable
- Total Time: unavailable
- Servings: 2
- Calories: unavailable
2. Ingredients for Banh Mi Mam Chay (Vietnamese Vegetarian Sandwich Recipe)
- 1 (28-inch) baguette (or 2 individual “petit pain” bread rolls), halved and sliced lengthwise
- 1 baby cucumber
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon butter, softened to room temperature
- 1 teaspoon Maggi sauce (see tips)
- 1-½ cups mắm chay (or bì chay)
- ½ cup carrot and daikon pickles (đô chua)
- 1 jalapeño pepper, stemmed and thinly sliced
- 4 sprigs cilantro
- Cut the cucumber into 2-3” matchsticks. Sprinkle with salt. Let sit for 15 minutes and pat dry with paper towels.
- Remove the inside of the bread. Drizzle the inside with a little Maggi sauce. Spread a thin layer of butter in both sides of the bread.
- Fill the sandwich with mắm chay, cucumbers and pickled carrots and daikon. Add the sliced jalapeño pepper. Garnish with 2 sprigs of cilantro. Close the sandwich tightly.