The Earthy Pâté Swap For A Flavorful Vegan Banh Mi

With its healthy helping of fresh cilantro, shredded carrots, cucumber slices, and pickled radishes, a banh mi looks like it'd be a fairly friendly option for vegans and vegetarians — if only it weren't for those slices of meat and oh-so-delicious chicken and pork liver pâté that cuts through every bite. That isn't to say that if you visit a banh mi shop you won't have any vegan or vegetarian options. Most shops will offer tofu as a substitute, still those will usually come with a forewarning from the shop owners clarifying that no pâté spread will be included. That just goes to show how essential it is to your bahn mi.

If you've ever had a banh mi before going vegan, you may have a faint memory of that somewhat funky, and earthy tang the pâté brought to your sandwich, making every vegetarian version you've had after feel slightly incomplete. Without it, your banh mi just isn't the same. Thankfully, as with many other vegan and vegetarian substitutes, there's a mushroom you can lean on to get that flavorful banh mi bite without any animal intestines or fish sauce needed. Earthy and funky in their own right, it's a wonder why using a mushroom pate on a banh mi hasn't been thought of sooner. Plus, it'll go great whether you double up on the fungi or opt for tofu for your protein substitute.

The answer is a mushroom pâté

Preparing a mushroom pâté for your banh mi sandwich really only requires a good blender or food processor. Which mushrooms you choose could be entirely up to you, and you're welcome to use whichever you have on hand. Portobellos and creminis would both work well, and you could even toss in some dried shiitakes or the rare Japanese mushroom matsutake if you wanna be a little fancier, even though mushroom powder would do too. When dried, mushrooms pack a much more intense flavor that will match the funky, earthy banh mi bite you remember from the days before going vegan.

For even more umami flavor, throw in a dash of vegan fish sauce and MSG, along with aromatics like shallots and garlic. You'll also want your go-to unsalted vegan butter to give it that creamy texture. For a bit more tang, head to an Asian market for some fermented beans and Chinese cooking wine. That is quite an ingredient list, so if you'd rather pick up a mushroom pâté from the store, it's understandable. Just make sure to double-check the ingredient list to make sure that it's completely vegan before you buy it. It's not traditional, so don't be surprised if your banh mi shop doesn't offer it. If anything, bring your own with you — there's no shame in your banh mi game.