Vegan Sweet and Sour Sauce

     This Vegan Sweet and Sour Sauce is quick, easy and delicious.   Sweetened with pineapple juice and colored with ketchup, it’s a bit healthier than the store-bought stuff.  I made this to go with the Whole Foods 365 Chickenless Nuggets, but it’s also good on vegan egg rolls, battered and fried tofu, etc.  More photos below.

VEGAN SWEET AND SOUR SAUCE

INGREDIENTS
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 Cup sugar
6 ounces pineapple juice
2 Tablespoons ketchup  (for color)
1/4 Cup white vinegar
1/4 Cup water
2 teaspoons Tamari or soy sauce

DIRECTIONS
Put cornstarch and sugar in small saucepan and dry whisk together.  Add rest of ingredients, and on medium heat, stir often and bring to a simmer.  Stirring constantly now, continue to simmer gently for 5 to 10 minutes, until it thickens and becomes glossy.  Remove from heat and let cool.  Store in fridge, where it will thicken a bit more.  Serve cold or at room temperature.

Notes:  If you must, you can add 2 drops red food coloring to make it look like Chinese-restaurant sauce.  Whisking the dry ingredients first prevents the cornstarch from clumping.  You can buy the pineapple juice in packs of six-ounce cans.
  I buy the pineapple juice in a pack of 6 oz. cans.
  So good!

Quick and Easy Homemade Gochujang Paste

 

IMG_0270    I found this quick and easy recipe for Gochujang paste here, and simply reduced the amounts, and converted them into Tablespoon and Cup measurements too.  I don’t use a lot of Gochuchang, and this will supposedly last for 6 months in the refrigerator, as long as all your ingredients have that long of a shelf life.  Most authentic recipes call for letting the Kochujang ferment at room temperature for 30 days, or covering and uncovering the paste outdoors on a daily basis, which involves a lot of salt to prevent spoilage, etc.  I looked at buying some Gochujang paste, but was put off by added ingredients like corn syrup, calcium phosphate, etc.  Some store-bought pastes also contain wheat starch in the form of  isomaltooligosaccharide, which may not be good for those who are gluten free (not sure).  By making it at home, we can also use organic miso, and organic sugar.  Use Gochujang in stir-fries, sauces, dressings and marinades–anywhere you want a little spice!  On to the brilliant little 5-minute recipe.

QUICK AND EASY GOCHUJANG PASTE

INGREDIENTS
4 oz. mild white miso  (1/2 Cup)
1.75 oz. sugar  (3 Tablespoons)
2 oz. Tamari  (2 Tablespoons)
.88 oz. Korean red pepper powder  (1/4 Cup)
2 to 3 Tablespoons water

DIRECTIONS
Dry whisk the sugar into the pepper powder.  Add miso and stir until moist and blended.  Add Tamari and stir again.  In smallest saucepan, heat mixture over medium-low to melt the sugar a bit.  Add water by the Tablespoon, and stir with a wooden spoon to blend.  Cool and put in clean glass container with lid.  Supposedly will keep in fridge for up to 6 months.  This makes enough Gochujang paste for one or two recipes, but you can double or triple the first 4 ingredients and then add a little water as needed.
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A nice big bag of Korean red pepper powder was $4.99.

Vegan Honeydew Matcha Bubble Tea

IMG_2593     This vegan Honeydew Matcha Bubble Tea or Boba is delicious, and much healthier than anything you can buy in a mall, where they generally use fruit powders and sugar syrup.  Matcha green tea is an acquired taste for some, so if you’re not sure about it, omit it from the recipe, and then just add a pinch or two to your own individual drink.

Makes approximately 2.5 Cups,  or 2 to 3 servings

VEGAN HONEYDEW MATCHA BUBBLE TEA

INGREDIENTS
2 Cups raw honeydew melon chunks (bite-size pieces)
3/4 Cup black tapioca pearls  (boba)
1 Cup almond milk
1/2 Cup So Delicious Creamer
1 teaspoon matcha green tea powder
2 teaspoons light agave syrup  (not dark)

for Simple Syrup to store tapioca pearls in:
1/2 Cup water
1/2 Cup sugar

DIRECTIONS
For the Simple Syrup:  In smallest saucepan, bring the 1/2 Cup water just to a boil.  Add the sugar and stir to dissolve any visible sugar.  Reduce heat to a simmer and let simmer a few minutes (less than 5 minutes).  Turn off heat and set aside.

In a large pot, bring 8 Cups of water to boil.  Stir the water and slowly swirl in the tapioca pearls and stir gently to keep pearls from sinking to bottom of pot.  Reduce heat and let simmer for 15 minutes.  Remove from heat, cover and let sit for 15 more minutes.  Rinse a pearl under cool water and chew to test for softness.  In a colander, drain and rinse pearls under cold water.  Put pearls into a glass jar.  Pour the Simple Syrup over the pearls and let cool uncovered and unrefrigerated.

In a blender, puree Matcha, almond milk, creamer, melon and agave syrup, making sure to put the matcha into the blender first, so it doesn’t poof powder all over the top of the blender.  If you do not have a blender, use a food processor to puree the melon and then mix it with everything else.  Chill in refrigerator.  When ready to serve, add 2 Tablespoons cooked tapioca pearls (drained of syrup) to each glass, and top with honeydew milk tea.  A straw is nice.  I like paper straws so I serve with a long, skinny ice-tea spoon to scoop up those chewy, chewy pearls.  In Mandarin, this perfect, toothsome chewiness is called QQ.

Notes:  The tapioca pearls can tend to harden a bit in the refrigerator.  To soften, drain the pearls, cover them with water and microwave for 1 to 2 minutes, testing after one minute.   You can stretch the batch of tea a bit by adding an extra 1/2 Cup of vegan creamer.  You can freeze any leftover melon chunks for future use, if you want.  For inspiration, I visited Kitchen Simplicity.  To make it cruelty-free, I specify almond milk and agave syrup.  Upon reading the ingredients of several large boba chains, I noticed they use non-dairy creamer as a base in their bubble teas, so I have done the same.  Never heating the matcha helps minimize its natural bitterness.  I found the boba (tapioca pearls) at an oriental grocery in Salisbury, MD, but there are good sources online, and boba pearls come in various colors.

Nutrition values for the entire batch, not including boba:  Calories 328.  Fat 3.  Saturated fat 0.  Trans fat 0.  Cholesterol 0.  Sodium 214.  Potassium 150.  Carbs 64.  Fiber 2.  Sugars 59.  Protein 3.  Vitamin A 14.  Vitamin C 106.  Calcium 4.  Iron 6.  Nutrition values for 2 Tablespoons of boba:  Calories 41.  Fat 0.  Cholesterol 0.  Sodium 23.  Potassium 3.  Carbs 10.
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IMG_2587  I was able to find this locally.

Grilled Teriyaki Tofu Steaks

IMG_2133    This vegan Teriyaki is great for the grill, or you can fry it up in a pan.  You can use this Teriyaki Sauce on tofu steaks, or tempeh or vegan meats, such as a vegan burger served with a ring of grilled pineapple on top, etc.  We like the leftovers in sandwich wraps for lunch, tucked in with shredded kale or lettuce, pickled onions, Vegenaise, and grated carrots.  This is my Dad’s teriyaki sauce that we grew up with.  As a young military man, he would go to this little mom-and-pop place in Monterey, California.  He loved their teriyaki and asked the nice Japanese lady there for the recipe.  She revealed the recipe to him (he was exceedingly handsome) and luckily for us, he wrote it down all those decades ago.  To grill tofu, make sure your grill grate is clean and smooth–I rub it with a wire brush, or a steel wool pad and then rinse it clean with the hose. Once the grill is hot, take tongs and dip a wad of folded paper towel into a dish of cooking oil, and swab the grill grate before adding the tofu, and repeat when turning the tofu.  You also want to make sure there’s a little oil in your marinade.  Soak your skewers for hours, and use two skewers per piece of tofu (for stability).

GRILLED TERIYAKI TOFU STEAKS

Serves:  3 to 4

INGREDIENTS
16 oz. block of Extra-Firm tofu,  pressed and drained
 for Teriyaki Sauce
1/2 Cup soy sauce or tamari sauce
1/2 Cup sugar  (not brown sugar)
1/2 -inch piece ginger root grated
1 jigger sake or gin or whiskey  (a jigger = a shot, or 1.5 oz. or 44.3 ml)
     (I use a mini bottle from the liquor store = 50 ml)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 clove garlic pressed, or crushed and chopped
1 Tablespoon cooking oil  (not canola)  (I used peanut oil this time)

DIRECTIONS
Soak slender wooden skewers in water overnight, or for several hours.  Press and drain tofu.  Stir all sauce ingredients together until sugar is dissolved.  Slice tofu thickness in half.  Then cut each piece into two equal rectangles.  Soak tofu steaks in marinade over night, or for several hours, turning them over at least 2 or 3 times.  Before grilling, skewer each piece of tofu using two skewers, so the tips of the skewers protrude out the other end just a bit.  Make sure grill is very clean and smooth, and oil the hot grill before adding the tofu.  Grill each side.  Or, pan fry in a non-stick skillet on medium heat, until a nice caramelized sear is achieved.

Notes:  You can also marinate sliced tempeh.  I use organic Tamari sauce, but in Hawaii, Kikkoman soy sauce is the favorite, and many locals use the Kikkoman Less Sodium Soy Sauce, which is good, and my Dad is a Kikkoman man, of course.  Since the original recipe did call for “a jigger” of any of the three alcohols, I used gin this time for that juniper-berry flavor, but I think my Dad usually used sake or whiskey.  The original recipe calls for 1/4 teaspoon MSG, which I eliminated.
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Sweet and Pungent Spinach

IMG_1447    The title of this recipe is a traditional Chinese one, in honor of the upcoming Chinese New Year on January 31, 2014.   This year, Chinese New Year officially begins on February 4, and it will be The Year of The Wooden Horse,  or The Year of The Green Horse.  As an Earth Dog, I’m predicted to have a very good year, hurrah!  This fast and delicious recipe is from a Chinese cooking class my Mom took back in the 1990’s.  I’ve reduced the oil and sugar, and added the flake salt.  See photos of the original recipe below, including the Chinese teacher’s chop (seal).

SWEET AND PUNGENT SPINACH

Serves 2

INGREDIENTS
5 ounces fresh spinach  (142 grams)    (I usually double it, see notes below)
1 teaspoon peanut oil
1/4 Cup peanuts  (I like salted cocktail peanuts)
a sprinkle of fine sea salt, or any good salt

DRESSING INGREDIENTS
1 Tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar

DIRECTIONS
In a large, non-stick skillet, heat oil on medium or one click below medium.  In a little bowl or cup, mix dressing ingredients.  Stir fry spinach until crisp tender but not too wilted–this happens very fast!  I turn my heat off half-way through and let the hot skillet do the rest as I stir.  Toss spinach with dressing and put into individual serving bowls.  Serve immediately with peanuts and salt.

Notes:  Because American spinach is generally very small and tender, I do not remove the spinach ribs.  The spinach cooks down a lot.   I usually double the amount of spinach for the two of us, but I keep the dressing amounts the same.  Spinach is loaded with iron, calcium, protein and Vitamin A.
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Sesame-Orange-Glazed Tofu Nuggets with Broccoli and Red Bell Pepper

IMG_0643    Here’s a link to a great review of this recipe by Your Vegan Mom.   This recipe is from The Chinese Vegan Kitchen cookbook by Donna Klein.  I’ve made this entire recipe and we liked it a lot.  It’s surprising how you roll the tofu cubes in the sesame seeds before you dredge them, and they do stick, and they don’t burn.  But, as an aside, they do benefit from a sauce–the sauce in this recipe being the perfect one.  However, today, for a quick lunch, and let’s be honest, for mofo, I decided to see how quickly I could get this together.   So, I improvised–I left out the tofu, and just cut up some vegan General Tso’s chicken from Whole Foods.  This saved a lot of time, and you could just throw on some cashews or walnuts instead of the General Tso’s.  I made a packet of Nissin Top Ramen (Oriental flavor, which is animal-free), drained the noodles and split them onto two plates.  I did steam the vegetables, and consider this important.  But people, it’s the sauce that makes this dish, it’s a winner!  I did not deviate from Donna Klein’s sauce, and it doesn’t take long to make.  With this sauce, you can elevate any stir fry!  I probably only used half a teaspoon of oil to sauté the veggies before I added in the sauce.  I used Mae Ploy Sweet Chili Sauce (because I love it), instead of the chili paste called for, but I did cut it down to teaspoons because Lars is a lightweight when it comes to spicy.  Excellent meal in under one hour.   The sauce is mild but very flavorful, with the gentle sweetness of the orange, and the kick of the chili.  I’ve eaten at my share of upscale Chinese restaurants and this dish is comparable.  You can riff on it too, add some fresh grated ginger, mix up the veggies, use some fancy Chinese vinegar, etc.  I can’t wait to try several other recipes from The Chinese Vegan Kitchen cookbook, including the Velvet Corn Soup!

Bangkok Street Cart Noodles

IMG_0437    This recipe for vegan Bangkok Street Cart Noodles is slightly adapted from the March/April 2012 issue of VegNews.  To me, it tastes like a good Pad Thai.  If you make your sauce and chop all your veggies ahead of time, it’s much quicker to throw together at dinnertime.  Both Lars and I loved this dish.  Instead of cubed tofu, I sometimes just use the vegan General Tso’s Chicken from Whole Foods, which also saves time.

BANGKOK STREET CART NOODLES

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS
1.5 packages Kame brand Japanese curly noodles (Chuka Soba)
(or thin rice noodles, maybe vermicelli, not sure)
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil

Sauce
1 teaspoon sweet chili sauce  (I use Mae Ploy brand, a Thai brand w/garlic already in it)
1 teaspoon hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1 Tablespoon tamarind concentrate
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon sugar
2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice  (or juice of one lime)
¼ Cup soy sauce or Tamari
1.5 teaspoon grated fresh ginger (optional)
½ Cup vegetable broth  (I use Better Than Bouillon, the organic/vegetable base one)

1 Tablespoon vegetable oil (safflower or peanut or grapeseed oil)  (not canola)
12 oz. pkg. Tofu, pressed and cubed into ½” dice.   (or General Tso’s vegan chicken from Whole Foods, slice pieces in half)
2 bell pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips or tiny dice
1 Cup of some other vegetable here, such as snow peas, fresh corn off the cob, chopped kale, etc.
4 green onions, sliced into thin rings.  Use all the white parts and only half of the green parts

ESSENTIAL TOPPINGS
plenty of fresh lime wedges, at least two limes worth
3/4 Cup peanuts, coarsely chopped
Fresh cilantro, chopped.  About ½ Cup.
Sprouts, rinsed well and dried.  About 1 Cup  (optional)

DIRECTIONS
Cook noodles according to package.   Rinse noodles in cold water, drain well and toss noodles with 2 teaspoons sesame oil, and set aside.
In a jar, combine chili sauce, hoisin, tomato paste, tamarind, cornstarch, sugar, vinegar, lime juice, tamari, ginger and broth.  Mix well and set aside.
In a large skillet over medium heat, heat 1 Tablespoon oil, and fry tofu cubes until browned.   Remove tofu from skillet and set aside.
Add all sauce, seitan (if using), bell pepper, any other vegetables (if using), and green onions, and stir fry one minute.    Add noodles back into skillet and stir to coat.
Serve immediately, with lots of fresh lime wedges, chopped peanuts, fresh cilantro, and optional bean sprouts.

Notes:  Prep as much as you can.  I make the sauce ahead to save time, and keep it in the fridge.  I think the original recipe just called for “rice noodles” but am not sure.  If the cooked noodles sit too long, they can clump together, so don’t prepare them more than an hour ahead.
IMG_2668  My favorite tamarind concentrate

Yuba Barbecue Ribs

IMG_9975This recipe for BBQ Yuba ribs caught my eye on Pinterest.    There are also other recipes for barbecue Yuba ribs, like this one and this one.  I have this 1981 cookbook called Kathy Cooks Naturally  by  Kathy Hoshijo.  Kathy had a TV show on PBS back in the 1980’s, called Kathy’s Kitchen.  The cookbook is not vegan but it’s perhaps closer to vegan than vegetarian, and a lot of the recipes are already vegan and do not need to be converted.   Other recipes are converted simply by switching in agave or plant milk.  I don’t think she has any eggs in this book either.  So, back to our main ingredient–Yuba.  Yuba is a by-product of soybeans.  When soy milk is heated, a thin film forms on the surface, and this is Yuba.  Yuba can be fresh, half-dried or completely dried.  The dried form is often available in Oriental grocery stores and can be labeled as “Bean Curd” and are available in sheets and sticks and rolls.  Fresh Yuba is highly prized in Japan, and dried Yuba is about 50% protein and rich in minerals.  Monks have eaten Yuba for centuries to maintain a compassionate and healthful diet.  So, in Kathy Cooks Naturally, she has Yuba recipes for Yuba Chips, Mock Bacon, Yuba Seaweed Rolls, Mock Peking Duck, Monk’s Ham, Yuba Sausage, Southern Fried Chicken, Festive Mock Stuffed Turkey, Yuba Vegetable Rolls and Monk’s Chicken.  On to the BBQ!  This is my very first time making Yuba and it was quick and easy, and I can see how versatile this food is.  The whole package was $2.50 and could easily feed 3-4 people as a main dish, depending on who you’re feeding.   I followed Miyoko Schinner’s recipe pretty much, except I switched in a bottle of store-bought BBQ sauce, and reduced the oil.  This is a fast, delicious main dish, but I agree with Miyoko, these vegan ribs would make great football food too.  And yes, good enough to serve for company.

YUBA BARBECUE RIBS

Serves 3-4

INGREDIENTS

1 package Yuba dried bean curd sticks (see photo below)  (5.3 oz. pkg.)
1 bottle Kraft Original Barbecue Sauce
2 Tablespoons peanut oil, or safflower oil (or some other oil suitable for high heat)

DIRECTIONS
Place Yuba sticks in a 13-inch glass baking dish and cover with water
(the Yuba will float at first,  but it will settle down).
Cover baking dish and place in refrigerator overnight.

The next day:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
With scissors, cut Yuba sticks into 5-inch or 6-inch sections.
Remove Yuba from water, drain it and place it on a plate.
Wash and dry the baking dish, and line the bottom with parchment paper.
Put 1 Tablespoon of the oil onto the parchment paper and rub it around.
Pour BBQ sauce into a large bowl and stir the remaining Tablespoon of oil into it.
Toss the drained Yuba sticks into the BBQ/oil sauce and mix until well coated.
Lay coated Yuba sticks onto the oiled parchment paper in the baking dish.
Bake for 20 minutes.
Remove from oven, turn Yuba ribs over and brush them with remaining BBQ/oil sauce.
Bake another 15 minutes.
It’s good if the ribs are a bit blackened in a few spots.
Although Miyoko Schinner’s original recipe says they should be “somewhat” firm, don’t try to get the ribs totally firm.

IMG_9967  This is how I bought the Yuba from the Asian Food Center, at 2505 N. Salisbury Boulevard, in Salisbury, Maryland.

IMG_9974  Yuba sticks after soaking overnight, and draining.

Sweet and Sticky Cashew Tofu

IMG_9855I made this last night for dinner and can attest that it is delicious.  This recipe is by Erin at Olives for Dinner.  Why can’t I get a dish like this in my local Chinese restaurant, waah.    The only thing I would do differently next time is run the noodles through the sauce, or fry the cooked noodles in the pan for a minute.  I used Kame brand Japanese Curly Noodles (chukka soba) and they were perfect for this dish.  p.s.  I used white button mushrooms and salted cashews from a can, because that’s what I had on hand, and it was still great!

Veggie Heaven in Denville, New Jersey

IMG_9675Peking Duck, Barbecue Char Siu spare ribs, Thai iced tea, and so much more, and it’s all vegan!  While driving up to New Hampshire, we stayed at the Sonesta ES Suites in Parsippany, New Jersey.  Veggie Heaven restaurant is in Denville, New Jersey, only 3 miles away from this hotel.  The menu is huge, and every single thing on it is vegan, it BOGGLES the mind.  After eating there the first time, we changed our hotel reservations on the way back, to stay again at the Sonesta in Parsippany, so we could eat once more at Veggie Heaven.  This was Lars’ idea, but I readily agreed.   Food photos below.  Be aware there is a large pagoda next door that is also a restaurant, but that is not Veggie Heaven.  Veggie Heaven is the single-story restaurant next door to the pagoda, and when you walk in, you’ll be pleasantly surprised.  It’s clean and crisp, with sparkling dishes, lots of warm wood and white drum lights.  The bathroom is clean, the waiters are super friendly.  Go for it!

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Decor is hip, warm and clean.

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Peking Duck – vegan

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BBQ spare ribs, vegan Char Siu

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Mango Bubble Tea

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Compassionate placemat

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Vegan Roast Pork Spring Rolls

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We think the waiter called this “Smooth Duck” but are not sure.
It was different from the Peking Duck, with a crispier outside, good.
Comes with steamed veg, is popular with customers.

Maple Smoked Tofu Steaks

This is my favorite savory tofu to date.  It’s fast, easy and best when it’s hot out of the pan.  It’s succulent with a hint of caramelization and sweetness.  If you or anyone you know is not yet crazy about tofu, this is a great intro dish.  Like my Easy Marinated Tofu Steaks,  this can be a main dish, or sliced up for any other use, such as Bahn Mi sandwiches, wraps, etc.  You could also cube it before frying, and then spoon the crispy cubes over other dishes that need a hit of extra protein;  rice bowls, noodles and the like.  But honestly, if you sit with it and open your mind and nose, this silky, hot tofu steak would be delicious simply atop a bed of brown rice, with a few pickled vegetables or greens on the side.  My favorite way to eat this so far is in a wrap with a little Vegenaise or hummus, sliced dill pickles and raw kale shreds.  Again, I love my Tofu Xpress to squeeze all the water out of the tofu, but you could always do it the old fashioned way.  One more photo below.   p.s.  There’s also a great Teriyaki Tofu under the Tofu Category on this site.

MAPLE SMOKED TOFU

INGREDIENTS
14 oz. package organic, extra-firm tofu
2 Tablespoons Tamari sauce
2 Tablespoons real maple syrup  (use the good stuff)
1 Tablespoon oil, such as grapeseed or safflower (not canola)
1 Tablespoon cooking sherry or sherry vinegar
1/4 teaspoon Liquid Smoke  (found in most grocery stores)
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS
Drain, press and drain tofu very well.
Mix all other ingredients and whisk to make a marinade.
Slice dry tofu into two or four thin steaks.
Marinate tofu in refrigerator for an hour or two, turning it over once or twice.
Fry tofu in a dry, non-stick skillet on medium heat, pouring any excess marinade into the pan as you go.
Do not add any additional oil, you don’t need it.
Fry tofu steaks until they are seared golden brown and gorgeous.

Notes:  One of my favorite ways to eat this is in wraps with raw shredded kale, Vegenaise or hummus, and slices of sour pickles.  This amount would make 3-4 wraps.

Nutrition:  Calories 538.  Fat 30.  Saturated Fat 3.  Polyunsaturated Fat 1.  Monounsaturated Fat 3.  Cholesterol 0.  Sodium 632.  Carbs 12.  Fiber 0.  Sugars 7.  Protein 53.  Calcium 80%.  Iron 54%.

Vegan Oyster Sauce

In order to veganize some classic Chinese recipes, I need vegan oyster sauce.  Although there are supposedly some you can buy, I doubt I could find them locally.  I found this simple recipe on Food Dot Com and think it’s kind of genius.  It does taste remarkably like what I remember oyster sauce tasting like.  It takes about 5 minutes to make and will last for three months in the fridge.  I found a bag of kombu type seaweed at my local health food store for about $5 and it’s way more than I need; enough to share with someone.  And now I’m inspired to find other ways to use it.  Maybe I’ll perfect my own miso soup, and use it to salt various dishes.  I heard recently that Eden Organic uses kombu to salt their canned beans.  From the Wikipedia link above, I see that Kombu is a natural sort of MSG, and is the umami flavor we hear so much about now.  Below, I cut the original recipe in half, as this vegan oyster sauce will surely go bad before I could ever use it all.  This is my 19th post for Vegan Mofo, and I even posted during Hurricane Sandy, while praying that the power didn’t go out.
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Vegan Oyster Sauce

Yield:  1 Cup

INGREDIENTS
1/2 Cup soy sauce,  or tamari sauce
1/2 Cup mirin (often available in the Oriental section of grocery stores)
a very small piece of kombu or kelp dried seaweed, measuring one inch at most

DIRECTIONS
Soak kombu in soy sauce and mirin overnight in an airtight container.
Remove kombu and discard (you now have a thin oyster sauce).
To thicken, place oyster sauce in smallest saucepan.
In a small, separate dish, mix 2 teaspoons corn starch with 2 teaspoons of water, until a smooth slurry forms.
Set oyster sauce on medium heat, add slurry and stir constantly until thickened  (This takes less than 5 minutes).
Cool, label with date, and store up to three months in fridge.

Notes:  I used Main Coast Sea Vegetables kelp, an American seaweed that is supposedly like the Japanese kombu.  Make sure to taste the vegan oyster sauce before adding it to dishes, as it is very salty (just like the regular oyster sauce with mollusks in it).  Adding shiitake mushroom stock enhances flavor, but is optional.  I think you could also use dried shiitakes to make a quick broth if you want to bother.

Rice-Cooker Balinese Black Rice Pudding or Bubur Injin

Supposedly, this exotic Black Rice Pudding from Bali is also called Bubur Pulut Hitam.  I think you can find other recipes using the name Bubur Injin, and there are other variations on this delicious dessert.  I found the black Thai sticky rice at Whole Foods; it’s their “365” store brand.   Believe it or not, I got the organic palm sugar from Amazon last winter.  The first time I made this, I made it the traditional way, in a steam pot, and permanently stained my white flour-sack dish towel.  So this time, I used my beloved Zojirushi Neuro Fuzzy Rice Cooker, and it was a snap.  My recipe below also eliminates the traditional overnight soaking of the rice.  Compared with the steaming, I got a softer texture with the Zojirushi, so if you’re a stickler about that chewier texture, such as you would supposedly get on the street in Bangkok, then this method may not be for you.  But for me, it tasted great and was so easy.  p.s.  You can find videos for this very popular dish online.
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Bubur Injin or Balinese Black Rice Pudding
    or Rice-Cooker Thai Black-Rice Pudding

Serves 6-8

INGREDIENTS
2 Cups Black Thai Rice (such as the 365 brand from Whole Foods)
1/4 Cup palm sugar  (or brown sugar)
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt.
2 Cups, or one 14 oz. can full-fat coconut milk
1/2 Cup sweetened shredded coconut (optional)
one fresh mango, peeled and cubed

DIRECTIONS
Rinse rice at least twice.
Cook rice in Zojirushi rice cooker, according to the directions for brown rice.
In a small skillet, toast shredded coconut over medium heat, stirring often, until nicely browned, and then set it aside to cool.
In a small saucepan, mix sugar, salt and coconut milk over medium heat, bring just to a boil, and then remove from heat.
Using a small measuring cup (1/3 Cup or less) put a mound of the cooked black rice in a very small bowl, and then spoon some of the coconut milk mixture on top of it.
Top each dish with some cubed mango and then sprinkle on some of the toasted coconut.

Note:  The palm sugar gives a subtle but authentic flavor twist to this dish.  The salt is a key foil to the sugar.  Make portions authentically small, as this is a dense dish.  I like Thai Kitchen brand organic coconut milk, found in grocery stores.

Trader Joe’s Vegetable Rolls or Vegan Egg Rolls

Found these Trader Ming’s Stir Fried Vegetable Rolls at Trader Joe’s in Annapolis last week.  I’ve been unable to find vegan egg roll wrappers, so bought these to try.  Just bake and serve, and they’re pretty good!  I served these with vegan fried rice, and homemade sweet-and-sour sauce.  I would definitely buy these again.

Vegan Sweet and Sour Chicken – Luau Soy Curls

This easy vegan main dish will satisfy any cravings for sweet-and-sour chicken.  You know, that classic “Chinese Restaurant” dish the Cantonese created for their American customers decades ago.  Good enough for company, and great over brown rice, You can use Butler Soy Curls, which are a nice staple for the pantry.  Or you can use a product like Beyond Meat Chicken Strips, which is even easier.  I saw another recipe for a similar dish, on Chez Bettay, but I haven’t tried it yet.  I adapted this version below directly from the Butler Soy Curls web site.  The first time I made this, we felt the Butler recipe was too salty, so I omitted the extra salt below.

Hawaiian Luau Soy Curls

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS
3 oz. Butler Soy Curls
or  Beyond Meat Chicken Strips (any flavor)

1 Cup hot water or vegetable broth
1 onion chopped
1 red bell pepper chopped
1 green bell pepper chopped
20 oz. Can of pineapple chunks in natural juice (reserve juice)
3 Tablespoons Nutritional Yeast (aka Yeast Flakes)
4 Tablespoons Bragg Liquid Aminos   (I actually prefer Tamari or soy sauce)
2 Tablespoons oil for sautéing (I like Dr. Bronner’s Fresh-Pressed Virgin Coconut Oil, unrefined)

FOR THE SAUCE
Reserved juice from pineapple (entire amount from can)
juice from one lemon, or up to 1/3 Cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 Cup Brown Sugar
2 Tablespoons cornstarch

DIRECTIONS
Put Soy Curls into a bowl and cover with hot water or broth,  let stand for about 10 minutes.  Drain well.    Chop onion and set aside.   Chop peppers.
Reserving the juice, drain pineapple.

In a small bowl mix sauce ingredients (pineapple juice, lemon juice, sugar and corn starch).    Stir until cornstarch is completely dissolved, and set aside.

In frying pan on medium heat, put 1 Tablespoon of oil.   Sauté vegan chicken in hot oil until a hint of crispiness appears.    Add Nutritional Yeast , and Bragg’s or soy sauce, and sauté until golden brown.   Remove vegan chicken from frying pan.

Add final Tablespoon of oil to pan, add chopped onion and sauté until soft.Add chopped peppers, and pineapple chunks to onions, and sauté until peppers are cooked but still a bit crunchy.

Add cooked Soy Curls back to pan with vegetables. Pour Sauce mixture into pan and stir until mixture becomes slightly thick (this happens pretty quickly)Remove from heat and serve immediately over brown rice.

Notes:  If using soy curls:  If using vegetable broth to rehydrate the soy curls (instead of water), and it’s got sodium in it, you might want to reduce the Bragg’s by one Tablespoon.

Ginger Scallion Noodles – Ginger Scallion Saimin or Ramen

This famous sauce by David Chang of Momofuku Noodle Bar takes only about 20 minutes to make (not counting cleanup).  I approached this recipe for Ginger Scallion Noodles with a homesickness for saimin, and was not disappointed.  I can see where some might balk at the intensity of this dish, and maybe that’s where I’m at too, so I checked out this other post, where someone at Gourmet modified this classic Asian dish by throwing the raw Ginger Scallion Sauce into very hot oil.  This mellowed and blended the pungent ingredients.  I also learned to not use canola oil, because, to quote Francis Lam, it can taste “like a piece of metal trying to be a piece of fish.”  I too recently noticed this after frying something in fresh canola oil.  I followed Chang’s suggestion and bought a small bottle of grapeseed oil.   Envisioning a Zen noodle experience like that in the film Tampopo (minus the dead animals), I forged ahead.  I will say, however, that I thought the amount of oil in Lam’s recipe was way too much, and I reduced it to even less than Chang’s recipe.  I also wanted something more than a plate of noodles; maybe some hot saimin to further melt and integrate the ingredients, and so I simply made an instant broth and bought some Japanese noodles.  You could also use an instant vegan ramen (such as Nissin Top Ramen Oriental flavor) and add this amazing condiment to it, along with a rainbow of other food garnishes.  I ate the first bowl and thought it was pretty good.  The next day, I ate another bowl, and realized this was growing on me.  I’m going to try adding a bit more of the Tamari and sherry, and maybe a crushed garlic clove, but either way, I’ve got this under my skin now.  I made this for my Dad when he was here and he liked it too.  We ate it hot today with strips of vegan char siu in it, and I highly recommend this.  The meaty texture of the vegan char siu got soft and tender in the steaming broth and released it’s own spiciness, and suddenly I was just eating slowly, immersed in the flavors, fragrance and heat, . . . zazen!
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Ginger Scallion Noodles

Makes:  Certainly enough for 4 to 6 people.

INGREDIENTS
2 medium bunches of scallions (greens and whites) (at least 5.5 oz. or more)
2 oz. peeled, fresh ginger
2 Tablespoons grapeseed oil  or  peanut oil
2 teaspoons Tamari (or usukuchi soy sauce, or Kikkoman)
2 teaspoon sherry vinegar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
Japanese noodles and hot broth,  or instant ramen (make sure it’s vegan)
vegan char siu (optional) or other toppings of your choice (cubes of fried tofu, sprouts, mushrooms, shelled edamame, any vegetables thinly sliced or chopped, etc.)

DIRECTIONS
Rinse and trim scallions, and process to a fine mince in food processor.
Scrape processed scallions into a glass bowl.
Process the freshly peeled ginger the same way, until finely minced but not pureed.
Add processed ginger to the scallions and stir well.
Salt the ginger and scallion mixture, and stir well.
Heat the grapeseed oil in a metal pot, until it just barely begins to smoke.
Add the ginger scallion mixture to the hot oil in the pot, and immediately stir and remove from the heat.
Stir well and scrape the hot mixture into a glass bowl.
Add the Tamari and sherry vinegar and stir again to blend.
Refrigerate, use right away,  or freeze in cubes in an ice cube tray.

My favorite way to eat this is to cook Japanese noodles and put them in a steaming broth (or vegan ramen).  Slice vegan char siu on top of the noodles and then with your chopsticks, push the slices under the hot broth so they soften.  Eat with joy.

Vegan Momofuku Pork Buns a la David Chang

Here’s a vegan version of what is arguably David Chang’s most famous dish, from Momofuku Noodle Bar in New York City.  These Vegan Pork Buns are so good that we had them for dinner two nights in a row.  Using vegan bao buns and vegan char siu might seem complicated and time consuming, but they are really neither.  All the elements of this dish are easy.  The only thing that can’t be made ahead are the quick pickled cucumbers, and they take literally 2 minutes to make and are ready in 10 minutes.  One tip is to make the bao buns ahead and put them immediately into the freezer.  Then they’re ready when you want to make the char siu and throw the whole thing together.  Another thing to consider is that the scallions are absolutely essential to the taste of this dish, as is the hoisin sauce.
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Vegan Momofuku Pork Buns

Makes:

INGREDIENTS
vegan bao buns
vegan char siu
small jar of hoisin sauce
scallions, washed and trimmed, and cut into small circles
1-2 “meaty Kirby” cucumbers, peeled (I used regular cukes)
1 Tablespoon sugar and 1 teaspoon fine sea salt (for cucumbers)

DIRECTIONS
Steam frozen bao buns for 2-3 minutes until soft and warmed through.
Slice cucumber into 1/8-inch-thick rounds.
Mix the one Tablespoon of sugar with the 1 teaspoon of salt.
Toss cucumber rounds with salt/sugar and wait 5 minutes.
Rinse cucumbers and set to drain in colander.  They are ready.
Chill cucumbers in fridge if you are not using them immediately.
Open bao buns and slather with hoisin sauce.
Arrange cucumber pickles on one side of the bun and vegan char siu on the other side.
Scatter with scallions, and EAT.
Serve with sriracha sauce if you like (we did not).

Notes:  The scallions and hoisin are essential parts of this dish.  Supposedly, the pickled cucumbers will keep for up to 4 hours, but I found them too limp for my liking even one hour later, so I suggest not making them until the last minute.

Vegan Char Siu Seitan – Vegan Chinese BBQ Pork

I found this easy recipe for vegan char siu pork on Cooking With Leyla.   I used her versatile seitan recipe, and I found the NOH Chinese Barbecue Char Siu Seasoning Mix packet in the Asian section of my local grocery store.   Leyla uses half of the seitan for Char Siu, and sets aside the rest for other recipes.  This BBQ pork seitan would be great in my Local Hawaiian Fried Rice, or in Char Siu Bao, using the Bao Buns recipe also on this site.  I used it to make David Chang’s Momofuku Noodle Bar “Pork” Buns.
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Vegan Char Siu Seitan  or  Vegan Chinese BBQ Pork

Makes:

INGREDIENTS
2.25 Cups gluten flour Vital Wheat Gluten,  such as Bob’s Red Mill brand
1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
1 Cup water
1 vegetable bouillon (or 1 teaspoon Better Than Bouillon)
1 Tablespoon Tamari sauce

COOKING BROTH
10 Cups water
2 vegetable bouillon cubes (or 2 teaspoons Better Than Bouillon)
2 Tablespoons Tamari sauce
3-4 slices of fresh ginger (at least 1″ x 1″ each)

and
NOH Chinese Barbecue Char Siu Seasoning Mix (1 or 2 packets)

DIRECTIONS
Heat the one cup of water,  add bouillon, and mix until dissolved.
Let water sit until it’s room temperature.
Add Tamari to the water and stir.

Put gluten flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl, and dry whisk.
Add the one Cup of bouillon water and bring together.
You can use a spoon but you’ll have to use your hands at the end.
I added another 1/4 Cup of water, to bring it together.
Turn dough out onto a lightly-floured surface and knead about 30 times.
Put dough into a clean, oiled bowl, cover with a towel and let rest for 15-20 minutes.

Cut dough into four sections.
Stretch each section into a long oblong.  Then cut them at least in half.
Put at least half of them aside to marinate whole for char siu.
You can marinate the rest as char siu too, or use a different marinade on it.  You can cut the other two stretched sections into half-inch pieces, for individual pieces.

In a very large pot, bring 10 Cups of water to boil.
Add bouillon cubes or Better Than Bouillon, and Tamari and ginger.
Reduce heat to a simmer.
Add the smaller pieces of dough in 15-20 pieces at a time, because the seitan will swell in size as it cooks.
Let simmer 15-20 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon or spider strainer, lift cooked seitan pieces from the pot,  and set aside to cool in a colander.**
Then cook the two large pieces of char-siu seitan, in the same way.

TO FINISH THE CHAR SIU
Once they are cooked, marinate the two large char siu seitan chunks in the NOH sauce mix for almost 24 hours.  This will simply entail adding 1/2 Cup water to the dry seasoning packet mix to make the marinade.  I used two packets for ease, but one is fine.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Line a sided baking sheet with parchment paper and place a metal cooling rack on it.
Put the two marinated seitan chunks on the rack.
Bake in oven for 30 minutes; 15 minutes each side.
Remove from oven, and let stand about 3 minutes.
Slice (I sliced mine about 1/4 inch or 1/3 inch thick).
Use char siu in fried rice, or char siu bao.

**You can then freeze the smaller pieces of seitan in portions for future dishes.
To use frozen seitan, remove from freezer at least one hour before cooking.

Notes:  Leyla suggests that you could alternate the flavour of the seitan in the dough stage.  Add liquid smoke to make “bacon” or poultry spice to make “chicken,” etc.

Vegan Buns for Char Siu Bao a la David Chang

Here, I have veganized a recipe by David Chang of Momofuku Noodle Bar in New York City.  One of my favorite things to eat growing up was manapua, or Char Siu Bao.  With these authentic bao buns, we can have vegan Char Siu Bao.  First I will give this recipe for the buns themselves.  I used these buns to create a vegan, cruelty-free version of David Chang’s steamed pork buns.  David Chang does not make his bao buns in the traditional shape, but rather folds them into little sandwich buns, so that’s what I’ve done here too.  I simply eliminated the needless milk powder he puts in his recipe, and used vegetable shortening instead of Lard.  I can’t let this recipe go without lamenting the fact that David Chang is a victim of old society, which wrongfully teaches us that we have the right to enslave and murder other beings, and that it’s healthy to eat them.  I pray that he wakes up one day and chooses to put his considerable talent and work ethic toward compassion.
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STEAMED BAO BUNS

Makes 40-50 buns

These buns are easy and keep in the freezer for months.  You need to make at least this many buns or there won’t be enough dough in the mixing bowl for the dough hook to pick up.

INGREDIENTS
1 Tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1.5 Cups water at room temperature
4.25 Cups bread flour
6 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon fine sea salt
Rounded 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 Cup vegan vegetable shortening, such as Spectrum brand, at room temperature.

DIRECTIONS
Add the yeast, shortening and water to the bowl of a stand mixer outfitted with a dough hook.  (or check Youtube for a video showing hand-kneading of bao dough)
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda.
Add flour mixture to the yeast water.    Mix on the lowest speed, just above a stir.
Note:  if you are using a KitchenAid Mixer like mine, mix on Speed 2 only with dough hook (check your directions).    Mix this way for 8-10 minutes.
The dough should gather into a neat, not-too-sticky ball on the hook.
When it does, lightly oil a medium mixing bowl, put the dough in it and cover with a dry kitchen towel.    Put in a warmish place and let rise until dough doubles in bulk, about one hour and 15 minutes.

Punch dough down and turn it onto a clean surface.    Using a bench scraper or knife, cut dough in half and then divide each half into 5 equal pieces.
Gently roll the pieces into logs, then cut each log into 5 pieces, making 50 pieces total.
The pieces should be about the size of a ping-pong ball and weigh about 25 grams, or a smidge under an ounce.    Roll each piece into a ball using your palm on the counter.
Cover the balls with a damp, lint-free towel, and allow them to rise for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, cut out fifty 4-inch squares of parchment paper.
Put some grapeseed oil or canola oil in a ramekin.    Coat a chopstick with the oil.
You’ll also need a pastry brush.    Flatten one ball with the palm of your hand.
Use a rolling pin to roll it out into a 4-inch-long oval.
Brush one half of the oval with some of the oil.
Lay the oiled chopstick across the middle of the oval, and fold the oval in half to form the bun.
Withdraw the chopstick, leaving the bun folded, and put the bun onto a square of parchment paper, and then stick it back under the kitchen towel, and form the rest of the buns.
Let the buns rest for 30-45 minutes; they will rise a little.

Set up a steamer on the stove (I just have a metal pot with steamer insert).
Working in batches so you don’t crowd the steamer, steam the buns on the parchment squares for 10 minutes.    Remove parchment.
Use buns immediately, and if they get cold, you can re-steam them for a minute.
Or, let buns cool completely, and freeze them in plastic bags for up to a few months.

To reheat frozen buns, steam for 2-3 minutes per side until puffy, soft and warmed all the way through.

Notes:  During both rises, I was interrupted and had to leave for a couple of hours at a time, and the dough still came out fine, but I don’t recommend it.  I used a metal pot with a steamer insert, and the buns did not stick to it because of the parchment squares.  If you want slightly larger buns, try making 40 instead of 50.

Vegan Fried Rice – Local Style

  With Seitan, caramelized onions and fresh corn.

Here’s a good, quick Fried Rice.  In Hawaii, there’s always someplace to get good local-style Fried Rice, but not here on the Mainland.  So, you can make this at home with whatever you have on hand.  This time, I used one of our favorite combinations of grated carrot, caramelized onion and fresh corn kernels.  Some considerations with Fried Rice, which is in essence a Stir Fry, are the order in which you add things to the pan, how finely ingredients are chopped, and most importantly, the seasonings.  I’ve tried using more shoyu (soy sauce) to get more oomph, but it backfires every time.  The key is subtlety–have some balance, keep it simple, not too much oil, and of course, use REAL rice!  If you’ve ever lived in Hawaii, you know that a common joke is to accuse someone of using “Uncle Ben’s” rice.  Yes, the rice must be actually cooked, by you, but you can use a rice cooker, of course, as most Hawaiians do.  I grew up having white “sticky rice” at every meal, but now I like brown rice, and for Fried Rice, I use short-grain brown rice, and it’s delicious.  This photo is not garnished because I didn’t have any green onions on hand, but they are important in this dish.  The protein i used this time was the General Tso’s Vegan Chicken from Whole Foods, cut into quarters, and sauteed with the rice toward the end.  But you could press and cube tofu and cook it beforehand, use nuts, etc.

VEGAN FRIED RICE – LOCAL STYLE

Make rice one day ahead.  Rice must be cold.  Freshly cooked rice will just make a sticky mess.

Serves 3 to 4 people

INGREDIENTS
2 teaspoons sesame oil, divided
1/8 tsp fine sea salt, or Hawaiian salt
4 Cups cold cooked rice (real rice only)
1 large onion, chopped finely
1 carrot, grated
½ C fresh vegetables, chopped fine
A protein, such as diced seitan or pressed-and-cubed tofu or shelled steamed soy beans, or nuts, etc.
2 Tablespoons Tamari sauce
1 Tablespoon Black Bean Sauce  (my personal secret ingredient)
Black pepper
For garnish:  green onions, sesame seeds, etc.

DIRECTIONS
Whisk together the Tamari and Black Bean sauces, and set aside.
In a large, non-stick skillet, heat 1 teaspoon of sesame oil.
If using tofu, fry it until firm or slightly browned, and set aside.
Heat the remaining sesame oil.
Add onions, carrot, the salt, and sauté until onions are a bit caramelized.
Add other vegetables now, if you have not added them with the onions.
Break up lumps of cold, cooked rice  (with your hands) and add to pan.
Stir until rice is heated and grains are separated.
Stir until thoroughly heated and mixed.
Sprinkle Tamari sauces mixture over rice and mix evenly through.
Sprinkle with black pepper if desired.
Garnish with green onions, sesame seeds, etc.

Note:  If using heavy, raw vegetables, chop them finer and add them earlier; when you add the onions, so they have time to really cook.  They key with this dish is to chop things somewhat uniformly.  We like our vegetables to be chopped pretty fine so it’s a more married dish.  When the fresh, local corn is ripe, we like it in this dish.

Grilled Seitan Bulgogi

This vegan seitan bulgogi (Korean barbecue) tastes authentic; very good.  I’ve seen a version of this recipe in several places, so it’s hard to know who started it.  The oldest posting I found is from a now-defunct vegan blog, but the new “hot” recipe is from a blog called Get Sconed!, and it’s a tribute to one of her favorite TV shows, Lost.  I’m thinking I’ll make this for my Dad the next time he comes to visit.  Lars and I really liked this and I’ll be using it again on the grill  this summer.  I served it over short-grain brown rice flavored with coconut milk and dried (unsweetened coconut).  I used seitan sausage I made myself, sliced on a slant.
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Vegan Grilled Seitan Bulgogi

Serves 6

INGREDIENTS
1/4 Cup vegetable broth
3 Tablespoons Tamari or soy sauce (no Bragg’s, please)
2 Tablespoons sherry
2 Tablespoons dark agave nectar (light colored agave works fine too)
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
1 Tablespoon rice vinegar
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic crushed or minced
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 green onions chopped (1/4 cup)
2 lbs. plain seitan, sliced on the bias

DIRECTIONS
Whisk together broth, Tamari (or soy sauce), sherry, agave nectar, sesame oil, rice vinegar, sugar, ginger, garlic and pepper in a shallow dish.
Stir in green onions.
Add seitan, marinate two hours.
Preheat grill or grill pan to medium heat (or cook it in a cast-iron skillet on the stovetop, as I did).
Drain seitan, and grill 2 to 3 minutes on each side, or until browned and firm.

Note:  If using a cast-iron skillet, you must watch it so it doesn’t stick, maybe scoop it with a spatula and add a touch of oil.   A non-stick pan might be useful here, not sure.  I only had time to marinate mine for an hour but it still tasted wonderful. 

Szechuan Dan Dan Noodles

This recipe for vegan Dan Dan Noodles can be mostly prepped ahead, and then thrown together at dinnertime.  I made this the first time with soba noodles, but upon reheating, the soba stuck together and made a gloppy mess.  So now I use Ka-me brand Curly Noodles (Chuka Soba) from the store and they’re great, lending a Chinese-food flavor and texture.  But, many dried Oriental noodles would do.  You can play with this, as many chefs do.  For veggies, I’ve used chopped green cabbage, finely chopped celery, grated carrots, bell peppers, etc.  You could use water chestnuts, or throw in handfuls of chopped frozen spinach.  Again, you can make the base of the sauce the day before, and you could even chop everything that morning so you’d have everything ready for a quick throw-together at dinnertime.   p.s. If you want to go all out and be authentic, Penzey’s has the real Szechuan peppercorns, but plain ground black pepper is also good.  Traditionally, this is made with Chinese Chili Oil, but I’ve kept this recipe in such a way that it uses ingredients most people might have at home.

VEGAN DAN DAN NOODLES

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS
2 Tablespoons creamy peanut butter or Tahini
2 Tablespoons Tamari, or low-sodium soy sauce
1 Tablespoon white miso paste  (or yellow miso)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 Cup hot water

2 teaspoons peanut oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
½ tsp ground Szechuan peppercorns (or ground black pepper)
1/2 teaspoon fresh grated ginger

1 to 2 Cups chopped vegetables
12 oz. package soy crumbles, such as Beyond Beef,  or Boca
1 Tablespoon vinegar, such as brown-rice vinegar or umeboshi vinegar or Chinese black vinegar
squirt of Sriracha sauce (optional)

5 oz. (up to 8 oz.) pkg. Asian Curly Noodles, such as Ka-Me brand
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1/3 Cup chopped toasted cashews or peanuts (I use Planters from a can)
Optional: 1 Tablespoon sesame seeds

DIRECTIONS
Whisk together peanut butter, soy sauce, miso, sugar and 1 cup hot water in medium bowl, and set aside.   Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat.   Add garlic, pepper and ginger, and cook 1 minute.   Stir in vegetables, and cook 2 more minutes.   Add vegan meat crumbles and cook 2 minutes more.    Add tahini/miso or peanut butter/miso sauce to skillet and stir.  Bring to a simmer, and cook 3 minutes more.    Add vinegar and optional squirt of Sriracha sauce, and turn heat off.

Meanwhile, cook noodles according to package directions, but throw a teaspoon of sesame oil (or some other oil) into the boiling water to prevent noodles from sticking together.    Drain noodles, and place in a large bowl.  Toss with 2 cups of vegan meat sauce, or ladle the meat sauce on top.    Garnish with cashews or peanuts and then green onions.    Optional: sprinkle sesame seeds over all.   Serve hot.

Crispy Noodle Cake with Kale and Mushrooms

This recipe is from the April/May 2011 issue of Vegetarian Times. It says 30 minutes, but it took me a bit longer than that by the time I prepped the vegetables. This is absolutely delicious, different and a bit elegant. The addition of the nuts is mine. I do think the non-stick skillet helped with the sticky noodles. The crispy noodles will soften a little as they sit under the hot vegetables, but they’ll still be a bit chewy and will just taste even better that way!
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Crispy Noodle Cake with Kale and Mushrooms

Cooked ramen or angel hair pasta can be substituted for the yakisoba noodles. I used a 5 oz. package of Ka-Me brand Japanese Curly Noodles (chuka soba) instead and thought they were perfect  (see photo at bottom).  I found these noodles at my health food store but am guessing they’re readily available in the international aisle of many large groceries.  If you want more noodles, Ka-Me also has an 8 oz. pkg. of “Chinese Plain Noodles” that fry into a lovely cake also.

Serves 4, but if it’s the main dish and you’re using less noodles like I did, I’d say it serves 2.

INGREDIENTS
2 Tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons peanut oil, divided
1 17 oz pkg. yakisoba noodles, precooked.  I used a 5 oz. bag of Ka-Me brand Japanese Curly Noodles (chuka soba) instead and really liked them.
1 large bunch kale, stems and ribs removed, coarsely chopped (4 cups) (I used about half of a bunch)
1 medium carrot, peeled and thinly sliced (1 cup) (I used celery, but here you could use other vegetables you have on hand, such as water chestnuts, etc.)
8 oz. fresh shitake mushrooms (4 cups), thinly sliced (I just used one cup of chopped white mushrooms).
2 cloves garlic, pressed or crushed and minced
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger (essential)
¾ Cup low-sodium vegetable broth
2 Tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce, or Tamari
1 Tablespoon dry sherry
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons corn starch
Optional: Salted cashews for sprinkling on top (I really like this and it adds even more protein). If you want a healthier nut, use chopped raw walnuts, or you could throw the walnuts in with the kale at last minute.

DIRECTIONS
Precook your noodles.
Combine broth, soy sauce, sherry and sugar in a small bowl, and set aside.
Combine corn starch with 2 Tablespoons of water in a small dish, stir and set aside.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
Heat 1 Tablespoon oil in large non-stick skillet over medium heat (I used a 12-inch skillet)
Arrange cooked noodles in skillet, in an even layer, pressing down firmly. If noodles are too sticky, spray your spatula with some cooking oil.
Cook about 5 minutes or until noodles are golden brown (or just golden) on the bottom.
Carefully place large plate over skillet and invert noodles onto plate.   I don’t own a large round platter, but My 10.25″ dinner plate (inverted) fit right into the bottom of the skillet, over the noodles, so I was just careful to keep my hand on the plate and not touch the pan.
Add 1 Tablespoon oil to skillet, and slide noodles from plate back into skillet, to brown second side. Cook 2nd side, pressing down with spatula a few times, and then slide noodles onto baking sheet and place baking sheet into preheated oven.

Add 1 teaspoon oil to skillet and heat over medium heat.
Add kale, and sauté 2 to 3 minutes, until just wilted. Transfer kale to plate.
Heat remaining teaspoon of oil in skillet and add carrot (or other vegetable), and cook 2 minutes.
Add mushrooms, and cook 3 minutes more.
Stir in garlic and ginger, and cook 1 minute.
Add broth, soy sauce, sherry and sugar mixture. Bring to simmer and cook 3 minutes.
Add corn starch and water slurry to skillet, stirring until thickened (takes a minute or less).
Stir in kale (and raw walnuts if using).
Remove noodles from oven and transfer to large platter.
Pour mushroom/kale mixture over noodles, keeping to the center of the noodle cake, and leaving an inch or so of bare crisp noodle edge.
Optional: Scatter salted cashews over the top.
Serve.

Spicy Peanut Sauce

My favorite Thai restaurant is Lemongrass Too in Annapolis, Maryland.  They serve these amazingly fresh and crunchy garden rolls (like summer rolls), but what makes them is the dark peanut sauce, it’s almost black, if I remember correctly.  This one is not exactly that, but it’s somewhat close, and good.  Our local health food store makes summer rolls and sushi while you wait, luckily for me.  I can ask them to make it totally vegan, and they will.  But, then they give you a packaged sauce that leaves something to be desired.  So, now I can pick up some of those fresh summer rolls and come home and make this quick sauce to go with them.  This is an Epicurious recipe, by the way.  If I put it out for others, I will sprinkle some crushed peanuts as a garnish on top, so that others would know there are peanuts in the sauce, in case of allergies.

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Spicy Peanut Sauce

from Gourmet, June 1995

(An accompaniment to Herb Salad Spring Rolls)

Yield: Makes about 1 cup

INGREDIENTS
2 garlic cloves, minced  (original recipe calls for three cloves)
1/4 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
3 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3/4 cup water

DIRECTIONS
In a small saucepan cook garlic and red pepper flakes in oil over moderate heat, stirring, until garlic is golden.
Whisk in remaining ingredients and bring to a boil, whisking. Simmer sauce, whisking, until thickened, about 1 minute.
Serve sauce warm or at room temperature.
Garnish with crushed peanuts, if you have some.
Sauce may be made 3 days ahead and chilled, covered.

Tip:  My friend Jan taught me that it’s really convenient to keep a tube of tomato paste in the fridge.  I got a tube of double concentrated tomato paste, Montali brand, at the Italian Market in Annapolis and they usually have a very long expiration date too.  It saves opening a whole can of tomato paste!