Time: 1 hour 15 minutes || Active time: 15 minutes
I came to the Banh Mi late in life (as I imagine most Brooklyn Jews did), but when I fell for it, I fell hard. The general idea, at least in the vegan versions I’ve tasted, is charred meat (seitan and tofu most often), super spicy creamy spread, pickled veggies to help cool you down, and the fresh cilantro and mint just make the whole thing. Since Banh Mi by definition calls for bread, this is a very deconstructed version, but you could easily reconstruct this baby and serve it on a good, chewy baguette, just leave out the lettuce. For me, right now it’s 100 degrees outside and I want salad!
I decided to use shiitakes as my meat, first of all because I’ve never seen anyone else do it but also because I wanted something relatively light but still entirely meaty. I love the hot/cold contrast in salads and this one doesn’t disappoint. The crisp, flavorful salad, coated in a simple spicy almond butter dressing, with the sweetness and acid from the pickled veggies, up against the charred, juicy, salty shiitakes stir up emotions in me that a salad probably shouldn’t.
If you’ve never pickled anything before, you’ll feel a great sense of accomplishment pickling your first veggies in this recipe! And don’t worry, it’s the simplest thing in the world, you just throw some vinegar and sugar in a bowl, stir, and toss in the veggies for an hour or so. Despite all of the components, the recipe is really, really easy.
For the pickled veggies:
1/2 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar sugar
1 scant cup thinly sliced radishes
1 scant cup thinly sliced cucumbers
For the dressing:
4 tablesoons almond butter
3 tablespoons pickling liquid
1 tablespoon sriracha (or more to taste)
1 to 2 tablespoons water
For the shiitakes:
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1/2 lb whole shiitakes, stems trimmed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon tamari or soy sauce
For the salad:
12 oz crisp salad greens (like romaine)
1/2 cup mint leaves
1/2 cup cilantro
Prepare the veggies:
Stir together the rice vinegar, sugar and a pinch of salt. Toss in the radishes and cucumbers to coat. Let them rest for about an hour, giving them a stir with your hands every so often.
When the pickled veggies are done, prepare the dressing:
Mix together almond butter, 3 tablespoons of liquid from the pickles you just made, Siracha, 1 tablespoon water and a pinch of salt. Since almond butter varies from brand to brand, you may need a little more water to thin it out enough to coat the salad. You may also want to use more Sriracha, I actually used an extra teaspoon for a bit more spiciness, but it depends on your taste.
Prepare the shiitakes:
Preheat a large cast iron pan (or any heavy bottomed pan) over medium-high heat. Drizzle in the oil, then add the shiitakes. Cover and let the shiitakes cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. They should be softening up a bit and releasing moisture. Now uncover, and cook for 3 more minutes or so, until they are slightly browned in spots. Add the garlic and saute a minute more. Lastly, add the splash of soy sauce, and stir until it’s well incorporated.
Toss the greens with the dressing to coat. Plate the greens and top with the pickled veggies. Throw some herbs on top, and finish with the shiitakes. Serve immediately.