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Eggplant “Meatball” Banh Mi Vietnamese Sandwich

Eggplant “Meatball” <em>Banh Mi</em> Vietnamese Sandwich Related:   appetizers, Asia, bread & savory pastries, kid-friendly, pareve, vegetables & legumes, vegetarian

Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Yield: 4 servings

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The Vietnamese banh mi sandwich has taken the culinary world by storm. This eggplant “meatball” version is a refreshing change from the usual banh mi filled with meat pâté or pork. The extras—sriracha mayo, pickles, veggies and herbs—are just as important as the filling, creating a unique sandwich that’s fun, flavorful, crunchy and fresh-tasting. Did I hear banh mi party?

Ingredients

  • Eggplant "Meatballs"
  • 1¼ pounds (625 g) purple globe eggplant
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped Thai or Italian basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped green onion (scallion), white and green parts
  • 1½ cups (75 g) panko breadcrumbs
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • Sriracha Mayonnaise
  • ½ cup (100 g) good-quality mayonnaise
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons sriracha
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice
  • ¼ teaspoon soy sauce
  • Sandwiches
  • 4 (10-in/25-cm-long) mini baguettes or bollilos (Mexican buns) (you can also cut two baguettes into four 10-in/25-cm sections)
  • ½ cup (75 g) Quick Vinegar Daikon and Carrot Pickles, drained
  • ½ cup (50 g) thinly sliced cucumbers or radishes
  • ¼ cup (5 g) fresh coriander (cilantro) sprigs
  • 1 jalapeño or Fresno chili cut into slices (optional)

Preparation

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Place the eggplant on a rimmed baking sheet, brush with the oil and prick all over with a fork. Roast for about 1 hour, until the eggplant skin is grayish and wrinkly and the flesh is tender (poke with a fork to test). Remove from the oven and allow to rest until cool enough to handle. Halve the eggplant lengthwise and scoop out the flesh onto a cutting board, discarding the skin. Chop with a knife until it turns mushy.
  • Combine the chopped eggplant, soy sauce, egg, pepper, garlic, basil, green onion and panko in a large bowl. Mix together gently with a wooden spoon until well combined. If making the meatball mixture ahead, place in a sealed container and refrigerate for up to one day. Spray a large rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. Scoop up 1 tablespoon of the eggplant mixture at a time and form into golf-ball-sized rounds. Roll tightly and place on the baking sheet 1 inch apart. You should have about 20 to 24 “meatballs.” Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 hours.
  • Pour 1 inch (2.5 cm) of oil into a large saucepan or cast-iron skillet and set over medium-high heat until the temperature reaches 375°F (190°C) on a deep-fry thermometer. Working in small batches, gently lower the “meatballs” into the hot oil, taking care not to overcrowd the pan. Fry until golden brown on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Turn with a spatula and fry the other side until golden brown, another 2 minutes or so. Drain on a rack over a baking sheet or paper towel-lined plate. Raise the heat to bring the oil back up to temp and repeat until all the “meatballs” are cooked.
  • When you’re ready to make the sandwiches, whisk together the mayonnaise, sriracha, lemon juice and soy sauce in a small bowl to make the Sriracha Mayonnaise. Split each baguette in half lengthwise. Scrape out enough soft crumbs from each half to leave a 1/2-in (1.5-cm) thick shell. Spread Sriracha Mayonnaise over both halves. Arrange 4 to 5 meatballs in the well on the bottom half, followed by pickles, cucumbers, coriander and jalapeños (if using). Press the baguette halves together. Slice in half and serve.
  • Tips:
  • For healthier meatballs, you can bake them. Preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C) and bake for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown.
  • Cooked "meatballs" can be refrigerated overnight or frozen in a freezer-safe zip-top bag or freezer container for up to 3 months. To reheat, place frozen "meatballs" in a 350°F (180°C) oven for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Reprinted with permission from Farm to Table Asian Secrets—Vegan and Vegetarian Full-Flavored Recipes for Every Season by Patricia Tanumihardja (Tuttle Publishing, 2017).

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