Recently we went to a Vietnamese restaurant I’ve been wanting to try for some time, not only because I like vietnamese food, but also to try their stand-out sandwich they call “Pho Baguette.” It’s Pho-simmered-beef meets Bahn Mi. A departure from tradition, to be sure, but what sounds wrong about brisket, pickled vegetables and pate on a french baguette moistened with broth? Nothing!!
Unfortunately, we happened to pick the hottest day of the year, and one of the busiest for restaurants in general (Mother’s Day), for our visit. The wait would have normally been a nice opportunity to catch up with my son, but the restaurant was entirely outdoor and it was sweltering. I suppose it could have been an authentic Vietnamese street-food summer experience, you know . . . to have a cold sweet drink and wait in the heat, but nobody was up for it. Since then I’ve been curious about that sandwich, so I decided to make one myself. Except it’s all Pho and no Bahn Mi, save the bread. Oh, and there’s no meat. I know, I know, but 4 lbs of meat and marrow bones went into the broth, so the beef’s there in spirit.
It turned out to be a very delicious dish indeed, and right in keeping with birgerbird style — inspired by restaurant food, highly adapted . . . and a little all over the place. It’s really easy to make if you have homemade bone broth on hand. Here’s the recipe:
Yield: 4 servings
4 cups bone broth, or substitute purchased chicken or beef broth
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced thin
1 stick cinnamon
1 piece lemongrass, whacked with back of a knife
1 piece star anise
4 long baguettes
1 cups bean sprouts
1 green mango, cut into matchsticks
1 carrot, grated
1 bunch basil
1 buch thai purple basil
1 bunch mint
1 bunch rau ram
1 bunch cilantro
4 large red leaf lettuce leaves
8 oz tofu, weighted down between 2 books or a brick and a pan, you get the picture
2 Tbps olive or coconut oil
2 Tbsp sriracha
2 Tbsp mayonnaise with a drop of sriracha mixed in
4 oz peanuts, crushed
2 Tbsp fish sauce
Juice of 1 lime
2 Tbsp sweet chili sauce
2 Tbsp soy sauce
4 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 tsp sugar
2 Tbps minced red chile
Heat up broth with cinnamon, star anise, ginger and lemongrass and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and take off heat. Drop a few leaves of each herb into the broth and let infuse.
Meanwhile, mix jalapeño, bean sprouts, all herbs, carrot, lime juice, fish sauce, chili sauce, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, peanuts and chile. Toss with hands and make sure all leaves are coated. Split baguettes lengthwise, hollow out a little bread and pack herb mixture into top half of bread. Really press the herbs into the bread. Place a lettuce leaf on top. If there is leftover dressing from the herbs, pour over herbs on bread.
Spread bottom half of baguette with mayo.
Slice tofu into several pieces, about 1/4 inch thick and spread with sriracha. Broil briefly.
Lay tofu onto bottom half of baguettes. Place onto top baguettes and weigh down with a heavy skillet or other makeshift weight.
Gently heat up the broth, strain herbs out, and ladle into bowls. Serve broth with sandwiches and dip away!