This part of my life began when my very sick partner was diagnosed with Celiac. Even the slightest exposure to gluten can make him very ill for several days, so I have pursued gluten-free options with thorough aggression. In the U.S. a recent surge of gluten awareness means we have more choices than ever, but it still means hunting and analyzing and tracking down parent companies. After several years now of doing so, I want to share my tricks and tips with others who are still struggling.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Recipe Box: Gluten-Free Banh Mi

Banh mi simply means bread, and you can usually find these Vietnamese sandwiches in the form of a baguette stuffed with all kinds of deliciousness.  At some places, like the Tin Drum chain of restaurants and some food trucks, the banh mi is referred to as a "Vietnamese taco" and is served on flatbread.  While baguettes are possible to make gluten-free, flatbread is quick, easy, and delicious.

In fact, when I set out to search for a flatbread recipe, I had no idea that I already had one.  Many recipes for gluten-free wraps or pitas online use a ridiculous amount of xanthan or guar gum to create the chewy flexibility.  For some folks, that's fine.  For my partner and I, xanthan gum really messes up our digestive system and we feel really ill for a few days if we have too much.  So the recipe from Gluten Free on a Shoestring caught my eye for being gum free.  Then I noticed that her recipe was pretty much traditional Pão de Queijo (Brazilian tapioca bread) but rolled out and pan-cooked instead of baked into rolls.  Maybe this should have been an obvious solution considering the chewy deliciousness of Pão. 

The best timing on this is to make the dough first so that it can rest in the fridge.  Then matchstick the veggies to give them time to pickle.  Then prep the rest of the filling ingredients.  The exception of course is if you're slow-cooking some fancy pulled pork or something, in which case that obviously has to happen first. 

With Pão de Queijo you bake the dough while it is still warm and sticky, but for wraps they really need to sit in the refrigerator until quite cool to make them workable.  Otherwise you will never be able to roll them flat.  Do not skip this step, but if you need to shortcut it you can separate the dough into individual balls (about 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup each), flatten them slightly, and stick them in the freezer for 10 minutes.  I have not yet frozen the dough completely to see how it behaves after thawing, so don't leave them in longer than you have to.

Once you have the dough made up, it can sit in the fridge for three days wrapped air-tight in plastic wrap.  This makes it perfect for quick meals, as you can just tear a couple of hunks off, cook them up, fill them with leftovers or lunchmeat, and have a hot meal in 20-30 minutes. 

Ingredient substitution:

If you can't find daikon radishes, use half the amount of shredded red radishes and increase the carrots.
If you can't find shisito peppers, which might be sold at an Asian grocery as sweet peppers, then you can substitute a combination of green bell pepper and jalapeno pepper to your desired spiciness.  Dice or shred the seeded jalapeno very small. 

WRAPS:  (full Pão de Queijo recipe here)
1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup butter, cut into chunks
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups tapioca flour (also sold as tapioca starch)
2 cups shredded or grated cheese (anything meltable: mozzarella, cheddar, colby, etc.  We use the bagged pre-shredded Mexican blend or mozzarella from Publix)

  • Bring the milk and butter to a full rolling boil, stirring often to prevent scorching
  • Remove from heat and dump in the tapioca flour all at once and stir vigorously until it is all moistened
  • Move to stand mixer with paddle or dough hook attachment
  • Mix on low until cool enough to touch without scorching, but still warm (may need to stop and pull the sticky dough off the beaters if it clumps)
  • Add half the eggs, beat until incorporated, then repeat with the other half
  • Add the cheese and beat until incorporated
  • Separate into two or more chunks and cool completely in fridge (up to an hour).  Will cool faster in smaller pieces, or rolled out into a long snake.  
  • Dough keeps in fridge for 3 days if tightly wrapped.

  • Preheat a cast-iron or non-stick skillet at least 10" in diameter to medium heat
  • Tear a chunk off the dough about 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup in size.  
  • Flour a surface with tapioca starch (have more on hand)
  • Dust the dough with starch and roll out, dusting as it sticks, to preferred thickness.  Tortillas can be very thin, roti should be about 1/8 inch thick.
  • Cook on skillet for about 2 minutes. Should be stiff enough to pick up with a spatula, with brown spots on the underside.
  • Flip and cook for an additional 2 minutes. If desired, brush with olive oil and garlic/herbs, then flip and cook an additional minute.
  • move to a plate and cover with a paper towel to keep warm, or use a tortilla warmer.
  • These do not keep well in a cold lunch, but can be re-heated by cooking on a hot skillet for 30 seconds each side.


Makes about 4 wraps.  Multiply the recipe if you want leftovers for the next few days.

1/2 cup carrots, shredded or cut into matchsticks
1/2 cup daikon (white) radish, shredded or cut into matchsticks
1/4 cup red onion, shredded or cut into matchsticks
1/4 cup shishito peppers (sweet mild peppers) seeded, shredded or thin sliced 
1/2 cup white or rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup white sugar

Boil the water, vinegar and sugar until sugar is completely dissolved.  Let cool (can quick-cool in fridge or freezer)
Pour over veggie mix, mix well, and let sit for at least 30 minutes.
Drain off liquid. Leftovers are good in fridge for up to 3 days

OTHER INGREDIENTS:  (All optional)
 Chopped cilantro
lime juice
meat (chicken, beef, and pork are most common)
shredded or matchsticked cucumber

A little meat, a lot of pickled vegetables, a smear of mayo, a handful of cilantro and a drizzle of lime gets you what you see in the photo.  But as this is a pretty versatile wrap, you could fill it with just about anything and be happy with the result. 

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