If this week had a theme it would have to be vegan versions of my old restaurant favorites. Well, that and purple sweet potatoes. Really though, veganizing restaurant dishes is probably a long running theme on this blog. It makes sense. Restaurants are where I get my inspiration. I blog so much these days that I sometimes have to remind myself to eat out once in a while, and to order something new when I do.
Anyhow, today’s subject: banh mi, which is a Vietnamese hoagie for anyone unfamiliar. I thought this concept sounded totally weird the first time I encountered it. But then came a day that I was unexpectedly served one, after wandering into what appeared to be the only place still open in Philly’s Chinatown section one late night. There was nothing on the menu I could eat as a vegetarian. I explained this to the server and got ready to leave, when she assured me that they did have veggie food and would hook me up. That’s just what they did, placing a big, beautiful, tofu stuffed sandwich in front of me. It was gooooooood. And it was four bucks! I switched apartments a handful of times while living in the city, but every time after that I looked for a place in Chinatown, hoping I could stroll down the street for four dollar banh mis on a regular basis.
It was only recently that I discovered such a thing as a meatball banh mi. I never really thought about what might got into one of these things other than tofu, so I’m not surprised I missed this. Generally when I veganize recipes I like to make some kind of fun twist on the dish. Meatballs are always fun to veganize. I’d found my twist.
Cannellini beans make a great veggie meatball base, so that’s what I used here. I added in some fresh basil, soy sauce and chili paste to kick up the flavor a bit. They turned out great. These were exactly the meatballs I wanted in my banh mi, but if you’re craving some other vegan meatbally dish, they would be tasty in just about anything.
Vegan Meatball Banh Mi
For the Vegan Meatballs
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 small onion quartered
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1-14 oz. can or 1 3/4 cups cooked cannellinin beans drained and rinsed
- 1 cup panko
- 1/4 cup fresh basil
- 1 tbsp. soy sauce
- 1 tsp. Asian chili paste
- 1/4 tsp. black pepper
For the Relish
- 3 tbsp. water
- 2 tbsp. rice vinegar
- 1 tbsp. agave
- 1/2 tsp. sesame oil
- 1/3 cup julienne cut carrots about 1-2
- 1/3 cup julienne cut cucumber
- 1/3 cup julienne cut daikon radish
For the Sandwiches
- 4-6 inch sandwich rolls sliced open
- vegan mayo
- 1 jalapeno pepper sliced
- 2 tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
- 2 scallions chopped
Make the Vegan Meatballs
- Preheat oven to 400º. Coat baking sheet with oil.
- Place garlic and onion into food processor bowl. Pulse a few times until coarsely chopped.
- Add beans, panko, basil, soy sauce, chili paste and pepper. Pulse again until blended, stopping to scrape down sides of bowl as needed. Roll into 1 inch balls (about 20).
- Arrange on baking sheet. Bake 30 minutes, turning 1-2 times to ensure even baking.
Make the Relish
- In medium bowl, whisk together water, vinegar, agave and sesame oil. Add carrot, cucumber and daikon. Stir to blend.
Assemble the Sandwiches
- Slather rolls with mayo and stuff with meatballs. Top with relish, jalapenos, cilantro and scallions.