“I say, La la la la la la la la. Will you call my name? As you walk on by.”
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I seem to remember an MTV promo from the early ’80s where my VJ crush Martha Quinn does a station ID by saying, “This is MTV and we have Simple Minds.” The lack of any searchable confirmation or video evidence leads me to believe I dreamed the whole thing. Dreaming about Martha Quinn was a major pastime for me in the early ’80s. Regardless of whether it happened, it is undeniable that Simple Minds’ “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” became one of the channel’s iconic videos and Simple Mind’s biggest hit.
Either you believe The Breakfast Club is one of the greatest movies of the ’80s and the peak of John Hughes as a director or you are wrong. Simple Minds became a household name in the U.S. thanks to the epic final scene using “Don’t You (Forget About Me)”. Copied & parodied countless times over the decades, the John Bender skyward fist of defiance is a seminal ’80s moment.
Remarkably, Keith Forsey and Steve Schiff (while working on The Breakfast Club soundtrack) wrote “Don’t You (Forget About Me) specifically for Simple Minds, but the band turned them down. The band felt they should only record their own material. It was then offered to a Who’s Who of MTV superstars – Bryan Ferry, Corey Hart, The Fixx’s Cy Curnin, and even Billy Idol. All of them turned it down. Finally, Jim Kerr’s wife, a.k.a. The freaking amazing Chrissie Hynde finally convinced the band to relent and the rest is angsty ’80s pop history.
Which really has nothing to do with tofu sandwiches.
I originally made a version of this sandwich during Banned Books Week, when I was running a small cafe in a library. I made a special menu I called “Banh Mi, Not Books.” In addition to a chicken banh mi & a banh mi style hot dog, I made a baked sriracha tofu banh mi even going to the length of making a sriracha sauce with aquifaba. Over the years, I made variations of that original sriracha tofu banh mi, but they never really came together.
Essentially, I was not a fan of tofu sandwiches. I understand their place in the vegetarian sandwich spectrum, but they never really add up for me. That is until recently when I learned to fry and made my first truly satisfying tofu sandwich. That sent me back to this sandwich where I decided to take a more traditional Vietnamese approach to the ingredients. Rather than a marinated and glazed baked tofu, I opted for the cleaner dau ran tam hanh or fried tofu dipped in a warm fish sauce and scallion mixture. Combined with the traditional condiments and a slightly spicy sambal mayo, this is perhaps the cleanest and best tofu banh mi I’ve ever had. Definitely not one you’ll forget about.
DON’T YOU FORGET A BANH MI
Crispy tofu with fish sauce & scallions, pickled carrot & daikon. cucumber, sambal kewpie mayo, and pickled jalapenos on a baguette
Makes 2 – 3 sandwiches
For the sandwich
Fried tofu with scallions (Dau Ran Tam Hanh) (see recipe below)
Pickled carrots & daikon (Do Chua) (see recipe below)
Sambal Kewpie mayo (see recipe below)
Rock Candy Jalapenos
Cut a 6-inch piece of baguette and split lengthwise. Spread the mayo on each side inside. Place a few slices of cucumber, then tofu, some do chua, and finish with a few jalapenos. Eat with your left hand while defiantly stabbing your fist-clenched right hand skyward.
PICKLED DAIKON & CARROTS (Do Chua)
Makes about a pint
1 large carrot, peeled, cut into 3” matchsticks
1 medium daikon radish, peeled, cut into 3” matchsticks
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 cup water, boiling
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
Combine carrots, radish, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Using fingertips, massage salt, and sugar into vegetables until dissolved. Let the vegetables marinate for 15 minutes. Add boiling water and rice vinegar. Stir to combine thoroughly. Let the mixture rest on the counter for 15 minutes. Pack vegetables into a quart-sized mason jar. Pickles can be used immediately, or for best results, seal the jar and refrigerate at least overnight and for up to 1 week.
SAMBAL KEWPIE MAYO
1 1/2 tablespoon Kewpie mayo
1 tablespoon sambal oelek
Combine ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to thoroughly combine.
FRIED TOFU WITH SCALLIONS (Dau Ran Tam Hanh)
14-ounces super or extra firm tofu
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons fish sauce
5 tablespoons hot vegetable broth
3 tablespoons thinly sliced scallions, green parts (about 3-4 stalks)
Pat dry tofu and cut into planks.
Heat a generous amount of oil in a deep skillet or wok over medium to medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add tofu slices and let them cook until the bottom is golden about 2-3 minutes. Flip the tofu slices and cook the other side until it is also golden, another 2 minutes or so. Transfer tofu to a plate lined with a paper towel.
Place scallion slices in a bowl, and drizzle 2-3 teaspoons of hot oil that you just used to fry the tofu over the scallions to partially cook them. In a separate bowl, combine fish sauce with the hot broth. Scoop out the scallion slices (leaving the oil behind), and put them into the broth mixture. Stir it. Dip each tofu slice which is still very hot into the scallion fish sauce mixture for 5-6 seconds, then place them on a serving plate.