If you follow me on Instagram (or get my newsletter), you know Rene and I recently relocated from Syracuse back to NYC. Our month-long apartment hunt was brutal, but there was one upside: having dinner at the different restaurants in our soon-to-be neighborhood after each evening’s appointments were finished.
One night, we headed to Bunker, a cool tiki bar-esque space with amazing Vietnamese food. I ordered the mushroom banh mi: a combo of meaty grilled portobellos, crunchy pickled carrots and daikon, thin sheets of cucumber, and tons of grassy cilantro, all piled into a toasted mini baguette with homemade mayo.
I’m not big on superlatives, but this was one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had! Although the ingredients were humble, each element was essential to the harmony of the whole. It had the perfect balance of crunchy, chewy, and creamy textures, and of savory and bright flavors, with a bit of sweetness from the pickled veg.
Naturally, I had to recreate it at home. This vegetarian banh mi with portobello mushrooms comes together quickly (even on weeknights) and is a really fun way to eat a bunch of different vegetables at once.
About Quick-Pickled Carrots
DIY pickling may sound sophisticated but quick-pickling could not be any easier. You literally just soak the veg of your choice in a vinegar-water solution (with a touch of maple syrup or honey) while you prep the rest of the meal.
You can store leftover quick-pickled carrots (or daikon, radishes, onions, etc.) in their brine in an airtight container in the fridge for 4 or 5 days. I like to use the leftovers as a garnish on fried brown rice, grain bowls, or other sandwiches.
How to Make This Vegetarian Banh Mi
Start by prepping the carrots, as they will take the longest.
Next, the mushrooms. To clean the ‘shrooms, gently wipe the caps with a damp paper towel (if you wash mushrooms under running water, they will absorb some of the water and become rubbery when cooked). I like to remove the gills (the dark stripy bits on the underside of portobellos) because their texture is a little weird, but if they don’t bother you, leave them.
Then you’ll marinate the mushrooms in a mix of soy sauce and garlic, which gives them a salty, savory, garlicky flavor, and eliminates the need for salt. The marinating and cooking times of portobellos vary on their size – thicker mushrooms need a few minutes more than thin ones.
This vegetarian banh mi recipe calls for a whole half-cup of cilantro (this is not a typo). I like to give herbs as much airtime as anything else – to me, herbs are never just a garnish. If you’re in the cilantro-hater camp, use Thai basil instead.
For the Quick-Pickled Carrots
- 3/4 cup seasoned rice vinegar (apple cider or red wine vinegar also work)
- ½ cup water
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup or honey
- ¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into thin matchsticks
For the Sandwiches
- 2 medium portobello mushrooms
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
- 1 large garlic clove, crushed or grated
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon hot sauce, or more to taste
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 2 small cucumbers (preferably Persian), sliced lengthwise paper-thin
- ½ packed cup cilantro leaves
- 2 Vietnamese baguettes or Portuguese rolls, lightly toasted (See Note)
- Start with the carrots: In a jar or bowl, whisk together the vinegar, water, maple syrup, and salt until dissolved. Add the carrots, making sure all the pieces are submerged. Let stand while you prep the rest of the ingredients. (These will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.)
- Prep the mushrooms: Clean the mushroom caps with a damp paper towel. Using a spoon, gently scrape out the gills and discard. Trim the stems.
- In a shallow dish, whisk together the soy sauce and garlic. Add the mushrooms and massage to coat in the marinade. Let stand for 10 to 15 minutes, turning the mushrooms once halfway through to ensure they’re marinating evenly.
- Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together the mayo and hot sauce. Taste and add more hot sauce if you prefer more heat. Set aside.
- Heat the oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Discard excess marinade from the mushrooms and place them in the skillet. Cook 3 to 4 minutes per side (thicker mushrooms need more time than thinner ones), until the ‘shrooms are softened and lightly browned. Remove from the skillet and set aside for 5 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute. Then slice the mushrooms into ⅓”-inch-thick slices.
- To serve, divide the spicy mayo among the rolls and layer in the cucumbers, mushrooms, carrots, and cilantro. Serve immediately.
I like to toast these rolls whole, in a preheated 325ºF oven for 5 to 7 minutes.
- Serving Size: 1 sandwich
- Calories: 395
- Fiber: 4.3 g
- Protein: 9.1 g
Keywords: banh mi, portobello, mushroom, sandwich, vietnamese