Crumbed Eggplant Bánh Mì

I’ve been kind of absent the past few days, I had hoped for a few more posts with good intentions of sharing some lamingtons with you. Unfortunately the time pressure meant that said lamingtons never saw the light of day. Oh well, some other time. But for now, today’s prompt:

Lunch on the go.

I am usually at work when I need to get lunch ‘on the go’, and there are two things I usually pick from to fit the bill – bánh mì (from one of the multiple places along Smith st) or sushi from Wabi Sabi Salon. My favourite place for bánh mì is Trang Bakery as they have a range of vegan options on offer. Unfortunately it is down the far end of Smith st to me, which means it can be a bit of a challenge to get to in my half hour lunch break. But as I do outreach work, I’m often driving from or back to the office and can stop at Trang on the way/back. My favourite bánh mì there is the tempura eggplant – it is the absolute bomb diggity.

So today, I’ve made my own eggplant bánh mì as an homage to Trang. This is certainly not something speedy to make (although if you had all the constituents made ahead it is quick to throw together) but it’s definitely something you can eat on the run. Well I can anyway.

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At Trang Bakery, they put a colourful relish-like spread on the rolls in place of pâté, which is both mysterious and delicious. As I did not have the willpower to try and replicate it, I’ve created my bánh mìs with a mushroom pâté and a sriracha blended mayonnaise. I’m a big fan of all the extras – plenty of chilli, crushed peanuts and fried shallots. They also drizzle something out of a squeezie bottle on them at Trang which is a little sweet, and I suspect might be hoisin or a blend. I did some drizzling of my own of hoisin and it tasted great. It’s a keeper.

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Try not to be alarmed by the great ingredients list – all the processes are simple, and only involve a little time. The most consuming activity is the battering of the eggplant, but once that’s out of the way it’s all smooth sailing.

Crumbed Eggplant Bánh Mì
(makes 4)

4 bread rolls
1 Lebanese cucumber
, julienned
¼ cup fresh coriander, roughly chopped
4 chillis, sliced (optional)

2 Tbsp crushed peanuts (optional)
2 Tbsp fried shallots (optional)
Hoisin sauce for drizzling

Eggplant:
2 Japanese eggplants
1/3 cup cornflour
3/4 cup breadcrumbs
¾ cup soy milk
¼ cup flour
½ tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder

1 tsp apple cider vinegar
Pinch of salt and pepper
Spray olive oil

Pickled veg:
½ cup carrot, julienned
½ cup daikon, julienned
½ cup warm water
½ cup rice wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar
Pinch of salt

Mushroom Pâté:
1 tsp sesame oil
2 cups cremini mushrooms, diced
1 small onion, diced (about
¼ cup)
2 cloves garlic, minced
½  cup cashews, toasted
1 Tbsp soy sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

Sriracha Mayonaisse:
¼ cup vegan mayonaiise
1 tbsp sriracha
1 Tbsp lime juice
1 tsp soy sauce

For the eggplant:
Peel eggplants and slice them diagonally into rounds. Salt them and leave them in a colander over the sink for about 15 minutes to allow some of the liquid to drain. Rinse and pat dry.

Preheat oven to 220C and line a baking tray with paper. Place cornflour in a bowl. In another bowl, whisk together soy milk, flour, garlic, onion, apple cider vinegar and salt and pepper. In a third bowl, place the breadcrumbs. Take each piece of eggplant and coat with cornflour in the first bowl, before dredging it in the batter mixture and then coating in bread crumbs. Repeat with each piece, then spray with olive oil. Flip and spray the other side. Place in the oven for approx 30 minutes – flipping once – until lightly browned.

For the pickles:
Dissolve sugar in the warm water in a small bowl. Add rice wine vinegar, salt, carrot and daikon and submerge the vegetables. Set aside.

For the mayo:
In a small bowl, stir all ingredients together. Set aside.

For the pâté:
Heat sesame oil in a pan over medium heat. Add onions and mushrooms and saute for five minutes. Add garlic and cook for a further minute. Transfer to a blender or food processor and add the remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth.

To assemble:
Slice open bread rolls and spread pâté on the bottom and sriracha mayo on the top. Arrange eggplant on the bottom, followed by eggplant, pickled veg, coriander and chili. Sprinkle with fried shallots and peanuts if using, then drizzle with hoi sin sauce.

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cornweb

Baked Rice Paper Rolls with Cashew Dipping Sauce

Winter is usually about soups, curries, stews and other hearty dishes, but sometimes you just need something a little more colourful. Rice paper rolls are the ultimate summer dish, but no longer are they banished to hot weather alone.

The great thing about rice paper rolls is how versatile they are – you can pretty much make them with whatever you have on hand. As a result, each time I make them they are slightly different. While I’ve only included veggies in these ones, I often add a strip of marinated tofu or tempeh to each roll, or even some edamame beans or avocado (though I haven’t tried avo in the baked version). When I am making fresh rice paper rolls, I always tend to separate out each ingredient and place them neatly in the rolls, but with these I’ve just mixed all the bits up in a bowl and chucked them in – perhaps more reminiscent of a spring roll filling. Easy as bro.

bakedriceppaperrolls3

Like the filling, the dipping sauce I use varies each time – sometimes I just grab some sweet chili or rice wine vinegar and soy straight from the bottles, or sometimes I feel inspired to whip something up especially. I initially intended to do a peanut dipping sauce, but after finding there was no peanut butter (sacrilege!) I improvised with cashews and sesame oil, which had quite a similar effect.

I did have a go at pan frying these dudes, and then tried baking them – while they were both good, I preferred the texture of the baked ones which seemed to get a little crispier while still retaining some chewiness, as well as being less oily.

bakedricepaperrolls1Baked Rice Paper Rolls with Cashew Dipping Sauce
(makes about 22)

2 cups purple cabbage, shredded
2 cups green cabbage, shredded
1 cup spring onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups carrot, julienned (about 1 large carrot)
2 cups bean sprouts
1/4 cup fresh mint, roughly chopped
1/4 cup fresh coriander, roughly chopped
100g brown rice vermicelli noodles
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
3 Tbsp soy sauce
1 chili, finely chopped
Rice paper sheets

Olive oil for brushing

Cashew dipping sauce:
1/2 cup cashews, soaked
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp sriracha
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp fresh ginger, minced

Preheat oven to 180C, and line two baking trays with paper.

Place vermicelli noodles in a bowl, and cover with warm water. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together cabbages, spring onions, carrot, mint, coriander and bean sprouts. When noodles are tender, drain them and using kitchen scissors, roughly chop them so they become smaller pieces. Add to the bowl with the veggies.

In a small bowl, mix together chili, rice wine vinegar and soy sauce. Pour over the veggie mix.

Now prepare a large bowl with warm water to dip the rice paper sheets in. One at a time, lay out the sheets, place filling in the centre and roll up, folding the sides in first then rolling away from yourself. If you aren’t familiar with how to wrap rice paper rolls, jump on youtube and do a quick search.

Lay rice paper rolls down on the prepared trays, then spray or brush with olive oil. Bake for 15 minutes, then flip them and bake for another 10-15.

To make the dipping sauce, place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. If too thick, keep adding water one tablespoon at a time until you reach the desired consistency.

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Trang Bakery, Collingwood

Ever since I was alerted to the fact that there was a new Vietnamese place on Smith St serving vegan bahn mi’s by Cindy and Michael of Where’s the Beef, I have been an eager regular of Trang Bakery. Being quite north of Johnston st, Trang is a little out of the way of the regular hubbub of Smith St, however it doesn’t stop them attracting a line out the door each lunch time, and going the extra distance is definitely worth it.

With a huge range of vegan options including mock duck, chicken, fish, pork, lemongrass tofu, tempura eggplant, chicken burger, prawn (and possibly more), they really are my new best friend. At $5 (or $5.50 for eggplant) they are a great cheap and filling eat.

trangeggplantEggplant is my most commonly ordered – especially since they have changed the way they’ve cut the eggplant to better fit the roll. I guess it’s probably my favourite as I always feel a pang of disappointment if I get there later in the day and there’s no eggplant in the tray.

trangtofuThis is the lemongrass tofu – it’s between this and duck for my second place. You have the option of peanuts and chili (yes and hell yes), wholemeal of white bread, and an array of fresh veggies. They also put some kind of paste on the bottom – Michael and Cindy describe it as a roasted eggplant relish, and some special sauce and shallots on top. Heaven!

trangchicken This is the last one I have a decent photo of – I think it is the roast chicken, but could be duck – I can’t remember. I haven’t forayed into the seafood options as have never been a fan of real or mock seafood – too fishy (unless you batter some tofu, deep fry it and call it fish a la Cornish Arms) so can’t vouch for them, but I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve had here.

There are also some donuts and sweets that I’ve just discovered are vegan (though haven’t tried) and they have other options like noodles and rice paper rolls, however I can never resist the bahn mi. Trang have expanded and opened up a second shop in Hardware lane in the CBD. Let’s hear it for our vegan-friendly friends!

Trang Bakery and Cafe
382 Smith Street, Collingwood
Open 7 days, 8.30am – 4pm