As something of a coda to last week’s post on the vegetarian bánh mì, I present to you the tofu hoagie. On my last trip to Philadelphia I found myself in an unfamiliar neighborhood, waiting upon the arrival of an associate. Luckily, they had told me beforehand that there was a fine sandwich to be had at the Fuh Wah Mini Market, the tofu hoagie. Imagine my surprise when I found not a generic sandwich starring tofu, but a bánh mì. While it’s true that this bánh mì is a tofu hoagie, in the same sense that a croque-monsieur is a ham sandwich, it doesn’t really properly express what’s going on. The first time I spoke about Philly cheese steaks on this blog, I criticized an establishment for a “misguided but strong provincialism [that seemed] exactly Philadelphian.” I thought back to that phrase as I ate my sandwich, having a good laugh. I imagined an enterprising sandwich shop nearly going broke trying to sell bánh mìs, watching Philadelphian after Philadelphian walk by, glance at their shop with a confused look, and move on to lunch somewhere else. Finally, realizing their mistake, they re-categorize their wares under the familiar “hoagie,” and the business is saved. To say “only in Philadelphia” would be trite, but imagining that situation in any other city I know of seems absurd. In Philadelphia, it seems vaguely reasonable. You can find a lot of people who will say a lot of things about Philadelphia, friends, but you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone who will say it isn’t special.
The sandwich itself was tasty, with considerably more pepper than you find in most bánh mìs. To tofu had a fairly firm texture, having (presumably) been drained and well cooked. The baguette was crisp, and the veggies fresh and crisp. Everything I previously said about vegetarian bánh mìs applies here, but that doesn’t mean that the sandwich didn’t hit the spot on a warm afternoon in the city that loves you back.
Was the tofu flavored? The two times I’ve had a tofu banh mi, the tofu had been seasoned with lemongrass and I felt it was the wrong direction when pared with the veggies.
(Then again, I have a natural bias against tofu, so maybe that comes into play.)
There was some sort of vague soy/salt/savory flavor going on, but it played in the background versus the pepper, jalapeño, and veggies.