Want to have a multitude of flavors in one bite? May I introduce you to Bánh Mi. The name comes from a Vietnamese sandwich with similar ingredients, known for taking care of every taste bud’s desire: sweet, savory, salty, sour, you name it. It is in there. A cacophony of flavors to be sure, but somehow it works. Food critic Anthony Bourdain once called it a “symphony in a sandwich.”
The word bánh is the Vietnamese word for bread, and, interestingly, they have used the French baguette for the traditional sandwich since French Indochina days. Since I’m not eating bread anymore, I found, and tweaked, a recipe for the rest of the ingredients to layer in a mason jar. It will keep in this way for up to five days, which will help with food prep for lunch on-the-go, or the lion’s share of dinner.
So, just what is used in a traditional Bánh Mi? Condiments and the veggies in Viet Nam can vary widely depending on where in the country you are dining. Most often, cilantro, radish, carrots, and cucumber are to be found. Meats used are pork, paté, (again the French influence) and ham. We are going to make a vegetarian Bánh Mi, but feel free to use cubed chicken or a meat of your choice in place of the tofu.
First, we’ll make our own tangy sauce with cilantro and lime, which will reside at the bottom of the jar. Then, after the rest of the ingredients are assembled all you’ll need to do is shake the jar and distribute on a large plate or in a bowl and enjoy. It’s a meal in itself, and so easy for busy weeks. Make ahead and they’re good for days. Grab and take off. Here goes:
Mason Jar Salad in the tradition of Bánh Mi
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds (pepitas) soaked 4 hours (skip this step if you have a high-speed blender)
1/3 cup fresh mint leaves, tightly packed
1 scallion, chopped, white and light green parts only
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves, tightly packed
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
1 pitted date
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 (14-oz) firm tofu, drained, pressed, cut into 1/2 in. cubes
2 medium carrots, peeled and julienned (can find pre-packaged)
2 scallions, thinly sliced
3 medium radishes, trimmed and julienned
2 Tblsp rice vinegar (get the low sugar kind, some of them are full of sugar)
1 tsp coconut sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup diced, seedless cucumber
3-4 cups romaine OR spinach, chopped
1 cup cooked quinoa
4 16-0z wide mouth mason jars
1. Dressing: Place all ingredients in a high-speed blender until smooth, 1-2 mins
2. Heat coconut oil in a large non-stick pan over medium-high heat. Add tofu, cook 10 mins, stirring frequently, until most sides are browned. Remove from heat. Season with salt (pinch of salt or to taste)
3. Place carrots, scallions, radishes in a bowl. Add rice vinegar, coconut sugar, and salt. Toss to combine and allow to sit for 15 mins. (You can do this while the tofu is cooking)
4. Assemble salads: place 2-3 Tbsp dressing at bottom of jar. Layer 1/4 cup quinoa (if using), 1/2 cup carrot/radish mixture, 1/4 cup diced cucumber, 1/4 cooked tofu. Top with 3/4-1 cup lettuce or spinach and attach lid. Repeat with the additional jars to make four complete mason jar layered salads.
5. Refrigerate. Salads will stay fresh for up to 5 days, so make ahead for meals throughout the week!
6. When ready to eat, shake the jar to distribute the dressing. Dig in. Delicious!!!