My vegan sister and her vegan supporter boyfriend are coming over for dinner tonight. M and I decided we were going to attempt to cook a completely vegan-friendly dinner. They are moving to London, England in about two weeks so we won’t see them for a while. We want this dinner to be a lasting impression. I will start by showing you all the main ingredients I used in preparing the dishes.
Firm tofu is a great product to use as it is so versatile. You can stir fry it, marinate it, or fry it. It also comes in soft and medium. If you want to have a chequer texture, firm is the best choice. Soft is great for soups. Last night I pressed some tofu to rid of the excess liquid in it. All it takes is to place it between two plates and place a heavy weight on top while it sits in the fridge. You’d be surprised how much water comes out of it.
This is a product called Fried Tofu Balls or Puffs. They are so delicious. Sometimes I just pop them in my mouth on their own. They are great in hot pots, stir fries, or own their own. Again, they will take on any flavour of sauce you use. Bonus: They are FUN to eat!
I did a lot of the prep work, or mise en place, as it’s called in the culinary world, ahead of time. My favourite aromatic is this variety of garlic that comes as one bulb – no peeling of separate cloves. Solo garlic. It is truly a cook’s dream come true as it saves so much time. Not only that, you also don’t end up with all the paper-thin skins flying around everywhere. As for flavour I would say it’s quite good, maybe a little less garlicky than its cousin.
A favourite kitchen tool of mine is this garlic and ginger grater. It also comes in ceramic form – a better quality one. I love the flavour of ginger but gag when I accidentally bite on a piece of ginger. Weird, I know. But that’s me. This grater gives me ginger flavour without the chunks. It is super easy to use and even easier to clean – just wash with soap and water. You can find this tool at any asian supermarkets. And the bonus part is that it is inexpensive. This one cost me $2.99.
At one point in time, I had scallions growing in jars of water on my kitchen window sill. The problem with that is the water starts to smell if you don’t change it often. So I stuck my grocery store-bought ends into a plant pot in our dining room and just let it grow there. Now I will have scallions whenever I want – and they will always be fresh and not wilted or dry, as they tend to get in the fridge.
I love mushrooms in general. Their earthy flavour and meaty texture lends to a lot of possible ways to prepare them. The King Oyster is by far my favourite as it is so big and you just get a lot of mushroom in one bite. The smaller ones are called Shimeji Mushrooms. They are so cute. Sauteed with garlic and butter or olive oil, they are delicious just like that! I bet they would taste great in an omelet as well!
I found this fresh bean curd sheets as well and I had Z cut them into strips to resemble noodles. They have a great texture and has so many possible applications. Here’s a link to Mark Bittman’s article on Playing with Tofu Skins. And if you’ve never tried or are curious about the different types of tofu products, read this article.
And now for the dishes. I will start with the most popular one.
I like to use Pinterest to search for visually appealing dishes and I came across a Honey Sriracha Tofu. I didn’t have a lot of Sriracha left and didn’t want the dish to be too spicy in case the kids wanted to try it. So I used a sweet chili sauce instead and this eliminated the need for honey. The tofu is coated with potato starch, which was shallow fried first to obtain the crispy outside. After removing the tofu from the wok, I fried up some onion, ginger, scallions and green pepper. I then returned the tofu into the wok with the aromatics and added my soy and sweet chili sauce. This dish is pure deliciousness.
This dish was also very good. The ‘noodles’ were first pan fried to get the crispy texture (texture is everything when it comes to food!) and then stir fried with the Shimeji mushrooms and onions, garlic and ginger. As for sauce, I used soy sauce and some sesame oil. Simple flavours.
We love lettuce cups and I usually make it with ground pork. To substitute for the meat, I diced the meaty King Oyster mushrooms and stir fried it with onions, garlic, carrots and used hoisin to flavour and season the dish. Served with fresh iceberg lettuce, it makes for a light appetizer.
Mixed Greens with Fried Tofu Balls
The last dish is a simple stir fry of snow peas, broccoli and fried tofu balls. A corn starch and vegetable stock makes the sauce for this dish. This could also be used as the topping for crispy fried chow mein noodles to make a vegetarian version of chow mein.
All in all, I would say this was a successful dinner and everyone thoroughly enjoyed it – at least the adults did. I loved this challenge as it really forced me to cook with a lot of produce since sometimes I am guilty of us not eating enough greens. And can I also say that this meal was also entirely gluten-free?
Now that I have done this, I am up for more challenges. What challenge would you like to see me do?