A very inauthentic version of the classic Vietnamese street food. Smoked tofu marinated in soya sauce, crunchy quick pickles, soft herbs, mayonnaise, and sriracha make up the wildly tasty filling, encased in a crusty, homemade mini burger bun. The perfect party food or game day snack!
This Sunday, the England Men’s football team will be in the final of the European championship; their first tournament final since 1966. Given the momentous nature of the occasion, obviously my first thought was what to cook.
‘Game-day’ food isn’t really a thing in the UK. In the US, inviting people round and putting on a bit of a spread to watch ‘the game’ is commonplace, whereas here, we’re more likely to be in the pub with a warm lager and a packet of pork scratchings. So I did a bit of googling to get some ideas and I learned that: (1) almost anything can be made into a mini pizza; (2) there is nothing I want to eat less that bacon wrapped puff pastry; (3) lasagna can be made into a dip???; (4) there are approximately zero game day recipes that couldn’t accurately be described as ‘loaded’; (5) if in doubt add cheese; (6) if still in doubt add tortilla chips.
Unfortunately the idea of loaded lasagne nachos but as mini pizzas didn’t really appeal, but sliders were a frequent occurrence in my research, and something I could definitely get on board with. And as far as sandwiches go, you can’t get much more loaded than banh mi. This Vietnamese street food really packs in the flavour, and for this vegan version I’m using smoked tofu, marinated and fried for some wonderful salty, smoky, umami substance, beautifully tangy quick-pickled carrot, red cabbage and radish, and aromatic fresh herbs. Vegan mayo and sriracha add extra layers of deliciousness and cucumber provides some cool and refreshing crunch. You will be amazed how much flavour you can pack into just a few glorious bites.
How to make vegan banh mi sliders
The dough is simple; flour, dried yeast, salt, a pinch of sugar, and some warm water. This gets mixed together and then kneaded for 8–10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Then, pop it into a large greased mixing bowl, cover with cling film, and leave to rise for 75–90 minutes until doubled in size.
Lightly flour a your worksurface, and line a large baking tray with baking paper. Press your fingers into the dough to ‘knock it back’ aka release the gas that has built up, and tip it out onto your work surface. The dough makes about 20 mini slider buns, so divide the dough into quarters, and cut each quarter into five equal sized pieces (I work on one quarter at a time, so put the other three back in the bowl under a tea towel to prevent them from drying out). If you want to be super precise, each piece of dough should weigh about 41g.
To shape the buns, you can just squish each piece into a ball shape, but shaping them properly takes barely any more time, and gives them a bit of rigidity to encourage them to rise upwards, rather than outwards. Flatten each piece of dough into a rough square, then stretch out each corner in turn, just until you feel some resistance from the dough, and fold it into the middle. You’ll then have another very rough square, and again, take the corners and fold them in (you’ll notice that you need to stretch it much less to reach the point of resistance in the dough). Then flip the dough over, flatten it a little, then rotate it a few times between the outer edges of your palms to form it into a nice round. Transfer to the baking tray and repeat with the remaining dough, leaving a little space between each ball on your baking tray.
Once the buns are shaped, they need to rise for another 30 minutes before baking, by which time they should be just touching each other. Cover them with a greased polythene bag – you can get proper proving bags but I use a clean bin liner. Grease the top inside half of the bag and put the baking tray inside (so the bottom of the tray is on the un-greased half). Lift the top of the bag to fill it with air, then place on a work surface, quickly folding the edges of the bag underneath the tray, to trap the air inside and create a canopy over the buns. You can still use the bag as a bin liner afterwards.
A few minutes before the buns go into the oven, place a sturdy baking tray on the rack below. Brush the buns with a little non-dairy milk (I use soya milk), then put them on the top rack in the oven. At the same time pour half a cup of water into the baking tray below and close the oven door. This will create lots of steam which will help make the buns a little crusty (bahn mi is usually served in crusty baguettes which we’re trying to emulate a little here). Bake for 11–12 minutes until the buns are golden brown on top, then remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.
You can make these rolls in advance, but if you’re not using them the same day then they’re best stored in the freezer for freshness. Otherwise, while the rolls are baking is a good time to make a start on your sandwich fillings. Slice your smoked tofu into thin pieces, about 0.5cm thick, and roughly the size of your buns. You’ll need about 40 pieces to allow 2 per bun. Mix together some soya sauce, toasted sesame oil, sugar, crushed garlic and ginger (or galangal) in a large shallow dish, then ensure all of the tofu pieces are fully coated in the marinade. Set aside, turning the tofu pieces from time to time so they soak up all that delicious flavour evenly.
Next up is the quick pickle. I often prefer quick pickles to regular simply because the vegetables retain their freshness and more of their crunch, though don’t have the same storage capabilities. In a large jar or leak-proof container, mix together some rice wine vinegar (or neutral vinegar such as cider or white wine vinegar), salt and sugar, and give it a shake to mix everything together. Chop the vegetables into very thin strips – for carrots and daikon the easiest way to do this is with a julienne peeler, but red cabbage will require fine slicing. If you can’t find daikon or mooli (large Asian radishes) then finely slice regular radishes. Add the vegetables to your jar, put the lid on and give everything a really good shake, then set aside until ready to use.
For the rest of the fillings, roughly chop some fresh mint and coriander, shop a cucumber into 20 thin slices, and finely slice a red chilli (this is optional but I love the additional fresh heat). Gather your vegan mayonnaise and sriracha – you can use any chilli sauce you like, but sriracha is a particularly delicious Asian chilli-garlic sauce that is often used in banh mi.
Once the tofu has had 30-45 minutes in the marinade, place a large frying pan over a medium heat with a couple of tablespoons of oil. Once hot, add the tofu slices (you may need to do two or three batches) and fry for a few minutes on each side until deep brown and crisp at the edges. Transfer to a dish lined with kitchen paper to cool and drain any excess oil.
Once the buns are completely cool, slice each of them in half, and spread a thin layer of mayonnaise on both halves. Then on the bottom half of each, stack a cucumber slice and 2 pieces of the fried tofu. Then add a small tangle of pickles, a sprinkling of fresh herbs, and a squirt of sriracha. Perch the top half of the bun on top – you can always use a cocktail stick or a length of bamboo skewer to hold everything in place – then place on your finest party platter. Or a regular plate or chopping board is also fine.
This is great party food for any occassion, sport-based or otherwise. But the benefit of having this as game-day food is that even if your team are terrible, at least your taste-buds will be celebrating.
Please let me know if you give this a try! I would love to hear how you get on. You can comment below or use the star rating at the top of the post, or tag me on Instagram or Twitter @greedybearbakes.
Vegan Banh Mi Sliders
Marinated smoked tofu, crunchy quick pickles, soft herbs, mayonnaise, and sriracha, packed into a crusty, mini burger bun.
For the buns:
- 500g (4 cups) strong white flour
- 1½ tsp instant dried yeast
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 300ml (1 cup + 3 tbsp) warm water
- 1–2 tbsp non-dairy milk (soya is best)
For the tofu:
- 450g (1lb) smoked tofu* (I use Tofoo brand)
- 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
- 4 tbsp soya sauce
- 1 tbsp soft light brown sugar
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 tsp galangal paste (or 1 tsp minced ginger)
- 2–3 tbsp oil
For the quick pickle**:
- 3 medium carrots
- 1 daikon or mooli radish, or 200g radishes
- 100g (1½ cups) red cabbage
- 4 tbsp rice vinegar
- 1 tbsp sugar
- ¼ tsp salt
- 20g (1 cup packed) fresh mint
- 20g (1 cup packed) fresh coriander
- 1 cucumber
- 1–2 red chillies (optional)
- 100g (½ cup) vegan mayonnaise
- sriracha to taste
- Add all of the ingredients for the buns in a large mixing bowl, and mix with your hands to a shaggy dough. Tip onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 8–10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Clean and lightly oil your mixing bowl, return the dough to it, cover the bowl with cling film and leave to prove for 1½ hours or until it has doubled in size.
- Line a large baking tray with greaseproof paper and lightly flour your work surface. Knock the air out of your dough, tip onto the work surface, and divide into four equal pieces. Return three of them to the bowl and cover with a tea towel while you work on the remaining quarter. Divide into 5 equal pieces (each should weigh approx 41g). For each piece, flatten it into a rough square, and gently pull and fold each corner into the middle. You should have another very rough square, and once again, pull and fold each corner into the middle. Turn the dough over and turn in between your palms to form a round, then place on the baking tray and repeat with the rest of the dough. Leave to rise in a greased polythene bag for another 30 minutes.
- Pre-heat the oven to 220C fan. 5 minutes before the buns are due in the oven, place a sturdy baking tray on the middle shelf of your oven. Gently brush the buns with 1–2 tbsp non-dairy milk and put the buns on the top shelf, and at the same time pour 125ml (½ cup) water onto the baking tray below. Close the oven door and cook the buns for 11–12 minutes until golden brown on top. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
- While the buns are baking, make a start on the fillings. Slice the tofu into 40 pieces about 0.5cm thick and roughly the same size as the buns. In a shallow dish, mix together 1 tbsp sesame oil, 4 tbsp soya sauce, 1 tbsp soft light brown sugar, 1 clove minced garlic, and 1 tsp galangal paste. Add the slices of tofu and coat in the marinade, then set aside for at least 30 minutes, turning them over from time to time.
- Use a julienne peeler to finely slice the carrots and daikon, and finely slice the red cabbage (or radishes if using). In a large jar or leak-proof tub, mix together 4 tbsp rice wine vinegar, 1 tbsp sugar, and ¼ tsp salt, then add the shredded vegetables. Put the lid on the shake vigorously, then set aside.
- Roughly chop 20g each of fresh mint and coriander, cut 20 thin slices of cucumber, and finely slice the red chilli, if using.
- Once the tofu has had 30 minutes in the marinade, put a large frying pan over a medium heat with a couple of tablespoons of oil. Once hot, add as much tofu as you can fit in a single layer in the pan. Cook for 2–3 minutes on each side until dark brown and crisp around the edges, then remove to a plate lined with kitchen paper. Repeat with the remaining tofu, adding a little more oil if necessary.
- To assemble, slice each bun in half (once they are completely cool), and spread a thin layer of mayonnaise on both sides. To each bottom layer, add a cucumber slice followed by 2 pieces of tofu. Then add a small tangle of pickles to each bun, a sprinkle of fresh herbs and sliced chillies (if using), and finish with a squirt of sriracha. Put the other half of the bun on top, securing with a cocktail stick or piece of bamboo skewer if necessary. Serve immediately as part of a mouth-watering party spread.
*If you can’t get smoked tofu, you can use regular tofu or tempeh, and add ½ tsp smoked paprika or ¼ tsp liquid smoke to the marinade.
**Carrot and daikon is traditional in banh mi, and I love the addition of red cabbage, but you can switch things up if it’s easier e.g. adding an extra carrot if you don’t have red cabbage, omitting the radishes, or using white cabbage or kohlrabi instead of red. If you don’t have rice vinegar you can use white, cider, white wine, or sushi vinegar as an alternative.