Driving way too far to buy a two-dollar sandwich is one of the only things I miss about eating meat. I would often stock up, buy extras for friends, and eat mine on the return drive. My seat was routinely dusted in baguette crumbs. (This was my favorite place; the website is shockingly nice considering that the place is smaller than my living room and located in a strip mall.)

HOWEVER. I have discovered the perfect non-meat (seitan) and preparation method (marinating and high-heat stir fry), and once you fix up all the bahn mi fixings, you can make these sandwiches ad nauseum (for me, that usually happens when I run out of bread). This recipe is cobbled together–the seitan is from post-punk kitchen, the bahn mi assembly from an enthusiast’s website. I’m offering the marinade.

I also have some tips.

-Slice your bread down the middle, leaving one bread edge intact (see the photo below). Wrap it in foil, put in in a 350 oven for 5 minutes, then assemble the sandwich.
-Don’t use too much of any filling. A two-dollar sandwich doesn’t have much of anything in it, and at home it’s easy to pack the thing too full.
-Be especially careful with the jalapenos. I always think I’ll want one with every bite, and really I just want one every five bites.
-Sear the seitan over really blistering heat. Open the windows, turn on your fans, etc.

If you’re scared of seitan, I have a couple ideas for you. First–buy it at the store instead of making it yourself. If you like it, then you can start boiling your own hunks of gluten brain. Second–in my experience it is the favorite non-meat of omnivores. So if you haven’t tried it before, and you’re a meat-fan, you will probably enjoy it a lot.

Vegetarian Bahn Mi with Stir-fried Seitan

one batch seitan

2 t grated ginger
2 t dark soy sauce
2 t sugar
1 t toasted sesame oil
3 T canola or other mild oil, divided

pickled daikon and carrots
sliced cucumber
sliced jalapeno
cilantro sprigs

Make your seitan, or buy some. (I use the PPK recipe, but since I’m lazy I used 1 t garlic powder instead of fresh, and halve the cooking liquids.)

Slice it very thinly. In a large bowl, mix together the ginger, dark soy, sugar, sesame oil, and 1 T of the canola. Squeeze dry the sliced seitan and dump it in the bowl. Stir to coat, and marinate for at least an hour, up to a day.

Heat a large skillet or wok over high heat for five minutes. Add the remaining 2 T canola oil and swirl the pan to coat it. Add the seitan in a single layer and let it sit without touching it for 2-3 minutes. Then stir, and let it sit again for 2 minutes. Once more, and you’re done. You’re aiming for crispy, caramelized slices.

Now, go to this website, look at the pictures, and assemble the sandwiches according to your desire. AGAIN: go easy on the jalaps.