Banh Mi, Banh You

Back when Mr. Lunch and I were little wee sprouts living in the big city of Toronto as students in the early 2000s, we discovered the joys of Banh Mi subs.  Toronto’s primary Chinatown district has its share of hole-in-the-wall, non-descript-from-the-outside little sandwich shops slingin’ these Vietnamese bad boys for, at the time, about $1.50 a pop.  For a couple of dreadfully poor kids on a very, very tight budget, getting a big French loaf stuffed with tofu, cilantro, chilis, pickled veggies and cucumber was just the ticket.  For the authentic experience, you must rip the bag open the moment you leave the shop and eat it while sauntering down a smelly Chinatown alleyway.  But I digress.

Our love of Banh Mi has followed us throughout the years, and dare I say, we’ve gotten pretty good at making them at home.

Vegan Banh Mi

The one thing missing from the at-home experience is being shouted at by a small, sweet Vietnamese lady from across the counter, “little spicy?” to which you say “yes!”…only to discover what she really meant is she is going to hide a large, fully intact Thai bird’s eye chili somewhere inside your sandwich for you to find later.  At which point it will feel like your eyes are going to bleed.

What You’ll Need:

  • a couple good, crusty French sandwich loaves
  • daikon radish and carrot
  • cucumber
  • cilantro
  • vegan mayo
  • fresh chilis or sriracha
  • a block of tofu

Get your tofu going.  Create a quick marinade with chopped lemongrass, chopped fresh garlic, soy sauce, chili flakes, turmeric, a drizzle of oil, and thinned with a bit of vegetable stock.  Cut your tofu into slabs and dredge your pieces in said mixture in a pan and let marinate for as long as you can, or for as little as 10 minutes.  Reserving your marinade, take your tofu and drop it in a hot oiled pan and fry until golden brown.  Throw your reserved marinade on and let bubble away until reduced.  Boom.  Done.


Make a quick pickle out of julienned daikon and carrot.  I love this recipe from The Superfun Times Vegan Holiday Cookbook.

Cut your sandwich loaf in half lengthwise, slather with mayo, chuck in your tofu, generously pile on your pickled veggies and cucumber, top with cilantro (and peanuts if you’re feeling fancy), add your chilis or sriracha, and enjoy.

Lox and Cream Cheese

Végélox, bottom left

When we were in Montreal in June, we ate at Aux Vivres as it had been recommended to me several times.  Even though I was advised that I HAD to get something with the smoked coconut bacon, when I saw they had something called végélox on the menu, I had to have it; I really liked smoked salmon in my pregan days.

It was amazing.  I made “mmmmpfffhh!” sounds and with my mouth full, said, “ommhhhhyygoood” several times.  When we made the trek home a few days later, I felt bad that I may not have that sandwich for another another long while until we get back there.

When I got home, one of the first things I did was google: “vegelox recipe” and this popped up!  It seemed like a weird recipe but I thought I’d give it a go.  Turns out, it is the real thing, just like the one in the restaurant.

At the restaurant, they stuff a chapati bread full of tofu cream, végélox, capers, mayo and lettuce.  I think the tofu cream is pretty necessary to the taste and texture of the sandwich, so I made my own dupe, trying to remember what it tasted like.  I’d say it was a complete success.

Aux Vivre’s Végélox (vegan smoked salmon)

1 cup organic carrot pulp
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
2 tbsp dulse flakes (You can find dulse, a seaweed, at your health food store. In order to make dulse flakes, dry it in a warm oven and grind into a powder.) [Crystal’s note:  I used crumbled nori and it worked great]
1/2 tsp salt
3-4 dashes of liquid smoke
Mix everything together and adjust seasoning to taste.
Tofu Cream
1 block extra firm tofu, crumbled into food processor
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp olive oil
1.5 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp agave nectar
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 tsp salt
black pepper
In a food processor, add tofu with liquid ingredients first and blend, scraping down the sides periodically, until it is a smooth texture.  Add nutritional yeast, salt and pepper and pulse to incorporate.  Taste for salt and adjust seasonings accordingly.
Sandwich/wrap assembly:
Spread a generous amount of tofu cream, a good amount of lox spread, top with vegan mayo, capers and lettuce.  For a real Aux Vivres experience, get a nice, soft chapati.  Really great in a sprouted-grain wrap, cut into cute pinwheels, or on a sandwich.  Or just as a canapé – a smear of tofu cream, topped with lox and a couple capers.  
So, while it doesn’t recreate the experience of being in Montreal at this lovely place, it at least will tide me over until I can return.  Now I just need to recreate one of the drinks I had there, le creamsicle.  Coconut milk, orange juice, carrot juice, vanilla…mmm.

Furthermore, it’s almost time for the Toronto Veg Fair again!  Each year, we have have a great time and I look forward to it a whole bunch.  This year, Isa freakin’ Moskowitz is going to be demoing, as well as the lovely Terry Hope Romero from NYC, and Taymer Mason is coming all the way from Barbados.  We’ve made a lot of stuff by those 3 ladies and I’m honestly so excited to see them all and meet the ones I haven’t before.  Also, there’s going to be a meetup of some people I know from the PPK, so that should be really fun.

All in all, it makes me feel warm and squishy to be surrounded by so many people who are so passionate about veganism, animal welfare, activism, environmental issues, etc.  It serves as a real reminder of why I am vegan and how it’s impacted my life in a profound and wonderful way.

– Crystal

BBQ Tofu, Smoky Mac and Cheese and Collard Greens

The closest I’ve been to anything remotely Southern US-like is driving through Tennessee and Georgia on our way to Florida when I was 8 years old.  So it’s a pretty far stretch to say I know anything about culture in those parts.  What I do know is that I love adapting the flavours of what I think a good old Southern meal should have and making it vegan.  This was a quick, weeknight version of a comforting Southern-style meal.  Another great thing is, while you may think of Southern food as being high on the heart-attack-as-soon-as-you-finish-your-meal scale; this one wasn’t.  Totally cholesterol free (like all vegan food), and low in fat.  
The smoky mac and cheese is whole wheat macaroni, smothered in the Easy Breezy Cheezy Sauce from Appetite for Reduction (with an added 1/2 tsp liquid smoke stirred in when the sauce is finished cooking).  So good!  So quick!   
Since our little barbecue is covered in a foot of snow right now, the tofu was cut into triangles and then dry-fried in a pan until it was golden with some nice charred bits.  Then it was doused in a generous bath of some locally made BBQ sauce we found at the farmer’s market – smoky, sweet and hot.  Yum.  It was left to bubble and thicken on the tofu for a while before serving.

The collards were made using a recipe from Appetite for Reduction, the Ye’abesha Gomen (Ethiopian Collards) recipe. Regardless of it being called Ethiopian Collards, the recipe produces tender, soft collards that complement the heartiness of the rest of the meal.

Also, last Sunday we went to try out The Early Bird, a new diner/greasy spoon place that just opened up and is run by one of Trevor’s oldest and dearest friends.  They have a vegan soup option each day, and a couple of sandwiches on the menu which can easily be made vegan by removing the dairy element and replacing it with some nice, grainy mustard.  I had the Ginger Beer Battered Tofu Sandwich with a bowl of Ginger Carrot Soup.  Good stuff!  It’s always great having new places to go and get something to eat.

Show posters everywhere at The Early Bird 

– Crystal

Miso-Glazed Eggplant Sammiches

We made a batch of this Miso-Glazed Eggplant and have been eating it in sandwiches for days!  It’s super easy. My only advice is to thin the marinade quite a bit, otherwise it’s almost like a paste and will spread on too thickly and be very salty.  Also, we skipped the scallions since we were using it for sandwiches.

Spread with a little vegan mayo, mustard, mixed greens, hot sauce, and whatever else you’ve got kickin’ around, it’s a delicious sandwich.
We went to the London event for the Worldwide Vegan Bakesale on Saturday!  It gets bigger every year.  All proceeds from the London bakesale go to benefit Cedar Row Farm Sanctuary, so it’s baked goods you can feel good about.  This is what we got:

Yum!  Speaking of YUM, my dear friend Ronald from the Netherlands sent me an amazing care package.  He included all my favourite foreign goodies (so many tins of tartex paté!  speculoos spread galore!) as well as about a million other great things I had never had before.  I’ll never have to buy sweets again!

– Crystal

Portabello Sammiches and Oven-Baked Onion Rings

We have been working through the newest cookbook in our repertoire, Appetite for Reduction by Isa Chandra Moskowitz.  I was totally sold on the book when I saw it included a recipe for oven-baked onion rings.  And there’s hardly any fat in them, which is a nice bonus.  I love onion rings and was skeptical at first that these would live up to my expectations, but they certainly did!  The recipe is posted online here, but I still recommend picking up the book because it’s full of great recipes (which I’m sure we’ll be posting a lot more of).

Our sandwiches consisted of Balsamic Glazed Portabellos, vegenaise, shredded carrot, baby spinach and sriracha hot sauce on fresh sandwich rolls.  It was so good.

– Crystal

PS:  We’re working on finding a solution for the unavoidable taking pictures of food after all the natural daylight is done for the day!  Sandwiches shouldn’t be so moody…

We Can Make Sammiches

The other day I got a hankering for a Bánh mì sandwich, which is like a Vietnamese sub. You can buy these in Toronto for a dollar, but they’re rarely, if ever, vegan. They usually consist of crusty bread, pickled carrots, mayo, cilantro, and some tofu (or meat, if you swing that way).
Well for various reasons I could not, or did not wish to, recreate these perfectly. Instead I used ciabatta buns, vegenaise, mustard, carrots, baby spinach, and this leftover baked tofu that Crystal had made last week. I don’t know how she made it, but I assume there was some soy sauce, liquid smoke, olive oil, and garlic involved.  Then I added a hearty squirting of Sriracha sauce. I put that s*** on everything!

– Trevor

Crystal’s note:  The baked ‘fu is ridiculously easy.  Slice up your tofu in 1/4″ thick slabs lengthwise, and marinate in a mixture of olive oil, lemon juice, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, and black pepper.  That’s my go-to, adjusting to taste as I see fit.  The marinade variations are endless, though!  Spread the tofu in a shallow baking dish, pour the marinade over top, flipping to evenly coat.  When you are satisfied it has soaked enough (I go anywhere from 1 hour to all day in the fridge), pop the baking dish in a 400° oven for 30 minutes, flipping half way.  This makes tofu good enough to grab out of the fridge and eat cold with your hands, or put on a sandwich.  

Trevor’s Tofu Bacon (Terky Bacon)

When we’re looking for a quick lunch, I often throw together some sandwiches with this quick and easy tofu “bacon”. This is my own recipe, which was inspired by the Tempeh Bacon recipe in the book Vegan Brunch.  Using tofu instead of tempeh saves us the hassle of trying to buy tempeh, which is about as easy to find in London, Ontario as it is to find a stack of hay in a giant pile of needles. Say what? Sorry for the weird analogy.

 The trick with this is to use extra firm tofu, and to slice the tofu very thin (but not so thin that it falls apart).

Place the sliced tofu in a dish suitable for a quick marinade. Smother it with all the ingredients listed below and let it sit for a few minutes (or if you’re way too hungry to wait, just use it right away). Heat a little oil in a cast-iron pan and then lay the little bacons out and just fry them up until they are pretty dark and crispy. Splash a little extra marinade on them as they fry. Then chuck them on a sandwich with some lettuce, tomato and veganaise for a delicious BLT. Or put them in whatever kind of sandwich you want, I don’t care.  


Extra firm tofu (you won’t need much, just a few slices off of a block)
Olive oil (something like 2 tablespoons)
Liquid Smoke (a few splashes)
Soy Sauce (use dark or mushroom flavored if you have it)
Maple Syrup (enough to drizzle over everything lightly)
Salt and Pepper
Apple Cider Vinegar (just a splash)
Smoked paprika (enough to sprinkle over all the tofu lightly)