Stir Fry featuring Asian-Style Soy Chikun Strips
South of the Border Salad featuring Tex-Mex Soy Chikun Strips
These soy-based chikun strips are incredibly easy to make and remarkably resemble grilled strips of seasoned chicken. The ingredients are simple: tofu and a seasoning marinade. The secret is all in the preparation technique. A tofu press is recommended in order to compress the tofu properly and remove as much water as possible. However, the traditional plate and heavy weight method will work too, but the texture may not be as dense.
Each block of tofu will yield 8 ounces of prepared chikun. Most households do not possess more than 1 tofu press, so if you wish to prepare additional chikun strips, press the first block and then store in the refrigerator in an airtight container while additional blocks are pressed. For additional blocks, simply double or triple the water and seasonings in the recipe.
IMPORTANT! DO NOT use a toaster oven for baking the tofu!
• 1 block (14 oz) extra-firm water-packed tofu (not silken tofu)
• ⅓ cup water
• 1 tsp nutritional yeast
• ½ tsp fine sea salt or kosher salt
• ½ tsp onion powder
• ¼ tsp poultry seasoning
• ¼ tsp garlic powder
Press the tofu until thoroughly compressed and as much water has been removed as possible (keep stored in the refrigerator while pressing). This will take a minimum of several hours (overnight being ideal). Blot the tofu with a paper towel.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place a stainless steel cooking rack on a baking sheet and line with parchment paper. Place the block of tofu on the parchment paper and bake for 1 hour and 30 minutes. The tofu will develop a firm golden crust while baking. Let the block cool completely after baking.
Trim the crust from the block of tofu since it will be rather tough. Small amounts of crust may remain – that’s okay. For chikun strips, simply slice the tofu into strips. For shredded chikun, use the tines of a fork to tear off bite-size pieces. Place the strips or shreds into a zip-lock bag.
Now, in a small bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. The dry seasoning powders may take a moment to dissolve, so keep whisking until blended. Pour the seasoning marinade over the tofu in the bag. Press as much air out of the bag as possible; seal and refrigerate for several hours (overnight is best).
Note: Other herbs and spices can be added to the marinade to accommodate specific ethnic food flavors.
For a Tex-Mex variation, prepare the marinade with the basic recipe and add 1 tsp mild chili powder, an additional ½ tsp onion powder, ½ tsp ground cumin, an additional ¼ tsp garlic powder and ¼ tsp chipotle chili powder.
For an Asian Stir Fry variation, marinate and sauté the chikun as directed and add a dash or two of tamari while sautéing. Toss with a tablespoon of chili garlic sauce just before removing from the skillet.
For a Mediterranean variation, prepare the marinade with the basic recipe but reduce the water to ¼ cup. Add 1 T lemon juice, 1 tsp dried basil, 1 tsp dried oregano, an additional ½ tsp onion powder and an additional ¼ tsp garlic powder. Finish with fresh ground black pepper.
The strips or shreds are now ready to be pan-grilled or sautéed. This step is necessary to prepare the chikun for serving or using in recipes. Lightly oil a non-stick skillet with cooking oil and place over medium heat. Add the chikun including any residual marinade.
Sauté until the excess liquid has evaporated and the chikun is golden. Use a gentle touch while sautéing; the chikun is firm but can break apart excessively if stirred roughly. Use immediately in your favorite hot recipe or chill for use in cold recipes (wraps, salads, etc.) For soups, add the chikun the last 10 to 15 minutes of cooking time to avoid becoming too soft.
Store any leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Use within 5 days or freeze up to 1 month.
Seasoned Tofu Chikun Strips
Falafel is a small, deep-fried patty made from ground chickpeas and a blend of herbs and spices. For my own signature version, I also incorporate ground split peas (which is optional) and season with my own blend of spices. Falafel is a traditional Arabic food, usually served in a pita, which acts as a pocket, or wrapped in a flatbread and topped with various sauces and vegetable garnishes. This recipe yields about 16 falafel patties.
Ingredients for the falafel:
• ¾ cup dried chickpeas and ¼ cup dried yellow or green split peas
– or 1 cup dried garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
• ¼ cup diced onion
• 4 cloves garlic, chopped
• 1 and ¼ tsp sea salt or kosher salt
• 1 tsp minced fresh rosemary or ¼ tsp dried powdered rosemary
• 1 tsp ground cumin
• 1 tsp ground coriander
• ¼ tsp red pepper flakes
• 6 T garbanzo bean (chickpea) flour or soy flour
• 2 T olive oil
• ½ tsp coarse ground black pepper
• ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley, loosely packed
Other ingredients needed:
• vegetable oil for frying
• pita or flat bread
• Tzatziki sauce, Tahini Sauce and/or Hummus
• thinly sliced onion
• sliced cucumbers
• chopped tomatoes
Place the dried chickpeas and split peas (or chickpeas alone) in a large bowl and add enough cold water to cover them by at least 2 inches. Let them soak for 24 hours, then drain thoroughly. DO NOT use canned chickpeas.
Place the drained, soaked chickpeas and split peas, onion, garlic, salt, rosemary, cumin, coriander and red pepper flakes in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a chopping blade. Process the mixture until all the peas are coarsely ground. Remove the lid and scrape down the peas as necessary to incorporate them into the mixture. DO NOT purée! It is important to retain a “grainy” texture”.
Sprinkle in the garbanzo bean (chickpea) flour, olive oil, black pepper and parsley and pulse the mixture several times to combine. Turn the mixture into a bowl and refrigerate, covered, for a minimum of 30 minutes.
Form the chickpea mixture into balls about the size of walnuts and then gently press to flatten into small patties. The mixture will be moist and some will stick to your fingers, so keep a moist towel on hand while you work. Place the patties on a plate or cutting board.
In a deep skillet or wok, heat ½-inch of oil to 375°F, or for a full 5 minutes on medium-high heat. Fry the patties in batches for about 1 to 2 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.
Stuff half a pita with 3 falafel patties or serve on a plate. Garnish with fresh produce and condiment(s) of your choice. Store any remaining falafel in a covered container or zip-lock bag and refrigerate.
To reheat, wrap the falafel securely in foil and place in a 350°F oven for 15 minutes – or briefly reheat in the microwave.
• 1 T Better Butter (from either cookbook) or commercial vegan margarine
• 1 cup uncooked rice of your choice
• vegan no-chicken broth, vegetable broth or water*
• ½ medium onion, diced
• 2 cups mix of chopped broccoli and cauliflower
• Colby Melt or Tangy Cheddar Melt (from The Non-Dairy Formulary)
• additional soymilk to adjust consistency as desired
• sea salt or kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper, to taste
*The amount of broth or water required will depend upon the rice you are using; use the appropriate amount according to the directions on the package. For this dish, I use white basmati rice and 1 cup uncooked basmati rice requires 2 cups of broth or water.
In a large saucepan, bring the broth or water to a boil. Add the butter or margarine, rice and onion. Stir well, cover, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for the amount of time suggested on the rice package.
Meanwhile, while the rice is cooking, prepare your cheese melt and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
During the last 10 minutes of cooking time for the rice, add the vegetables on top of the rice and replace the lid. Do not stir! The vegetables will steam while the rice completes cooking.
Stir the cheese melt into the rice/vegetable mixture and season with salt and pepper to taste. If the mixture seems a bit dry, stir in small amounts of soymilk in increments until the desired consistency is reached.
Transfer the mixture to a lightly oiled casserole dish, cover and bake for 30 minutes.
Uncover the casserole dish, set the oven on broil and lightly brown the top of the cheesy rice mixture under the broiler, about 5 minutes. Serve immediately.
Cheesy Broccoli Cauliflower Rice Casserole
This is my signature recipe for creating a deliciously vegan and yet easy-to-make alternative to fish. The filets are coated with a plain or seasoned dry breading of your choice and then baked. To add a seafood flavor, try incorporating some ground or flaked kelp, dulse or nori seaweed into the breading mixture. To spice things up, add Cajun or Southwestern seasonings to the breading – the possibilities of seasoning combinations are endless. For those who are gluten-free, simply use gluten-free bread crumbs. Or try coating the filets with crushed nuts. Crushed macadamia nuts or pecans make an excellent coating; or combine breadcrumbs and crushed nuts together. You can also create “mock fish sticks” which are very popular with children. After baking, the filets are finished by browning in the skillet in a small amount of cooking oil.
Canned green jackfruit provides the amazingly moist and flaky texture in these filets. It can be found in Indian and Asian markets. Look for the label “Green Jackfruit” or “Young Green Jackfruit” and be sure that it’s packed in water or brine, not syrup. You may notice cans of ripe jackfruit stocked nearby but don’t be tempted to substitute as it is very sweet when ripe and packed in sugar syrup.
• ½ carton (6 oz.) firm or extra-firm silken tofu
• 2 cans (17 to 20 oz. each) green jackfruit in water or brine
• 1 T No-Eggy Mayo (from either of my cookbooks) or commercial vegan mayonnaise
• 1 T unmodified potato starch, cornstarch or arrowroot powder
• 1 tsp onion powder
• ¾ tsp sea salt or kosher salt
• ½ tsp garlic powder
• ¼ tsp ground white pepper
• plain or seasoned dry breadcrumbs, regular or panko; and/or finely crushed nuts (about 1 cup total)
Slice the tofu into 2 slabs and drain on paper towels or a clean, lint-free dish towel. Gently press the tofu while draining to encourage as much liquid as possible to transfer to the towel(s).
Drain the liquid from the cans of jackfruit and rinse the fruit thoroughly (especially if it was packed in brine) and drain in a colander. With a sharp knife, remove the tough core from each chunk of jackfruit and discard. Break the chunks apart with your fingers and remove the soft seeds and discard.
Green Jackfruit pulp with core and seeds removed.
Wrap the stringy pulp in a paper towel or clean kitchen towel and squeeze to remove any excess remaining water. This will yield about 6 to 7 ounces of jackfruit pulp. Add the chunks of jackfruit to a food processor and pulse several times to shred into flakes. Do not purée the fruit. Transfer to a mixing bowl and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Add the tofu to the food processor with the remaining ingredients and process into a paste. Add the paste to the shredded jackfruit and mix well. Form filet shapes from the mixture no more than ½-inch thick (4 filets).
Add the bread crumbs or coating of your choice to a bowl or a plate. Press the filets into the crumbs/coating and place the breaded filets onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 30 minutes, gently turning the filets after 15 minutes.
To finish the filets, add just enough oil to a large skillet to cover the bottom and place over medium heat. Pan-sear the filets in the oil until golden brown on each side and transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel.
Serve immediately with a squeeze of lemon or the garnish or sauce of your choice.
Flaky Un-Fish Filets
Fried Oyster Mushrooms is my vegan version of fried clams or oysters. I use organic cornflake cereal crumbs for the breading because the light cereal sweetness mimics the sweetness of fried clams and oysters. Regular fine breadcrumbs will work too.
Fresh oyster mushrooms are often difficult to locate and when they are available, they’re rather expensive. However, canned oyster mushrooms can be purchased from your local Asian market and are very inexpensive. They also have the perfect texture for this recipe. Canned abalone mushrooms work well too. Serve with vegan tartar sauce or cocktail sauce. Here I’ve served them with a vegan fire-roasted jalapeno and lime tartar sauce (recipe follows).
• 2 cans (about 7.5 oz. drained weight) oyster mushrooms or abalone mushrooms (available in Asian markets) or 1 lb. quartered fresh oyster mushrooms
• ¼ cup all-purpose flour
• ¼ cup non-dairy milk
• 2 T No-Eggy Mayo (from either of my cookbooks) or commercial vegan mayonnaise
• cornflake crumbs or fine breadcrumbs
• sea salt or kosher salt
• vegetable oil for frying
To make cornflake crumbs, place the cornflakes in a zip-lack or paper bag, seal and crush with your hands. They can also be crushed in a food processor.
If using canned mushrooms, drain the water. Remove any tough portion of the mushroom stems and slice the mushrooms into strips.
Place the mushroom strips into a zip-lock bag and add the flour. Seal and shake well to coat the mushrooms.
In a small dish, mix together the milk and mayo until smooth and pour into the zip-lock bag. Add a few pinches of salt, seal the bag and shake until the mushrooms are coated.
Add the cornflake crumbs or the breadcrumbs to a bowl and dredge the mushroom strips in the crumbs until well-coated.
In a deep wok or skillet, heat about 1/2-inch of oil over medium-high heat until the oil begins to shimmer. Fry the mushrooms until golden – they cook quickly, about 30 to 45 seconds, so watch them carefully.
Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a plate lined with paper towels. Serve hot with the condiment of your choice for dipping.
Fire Roasted Jalapeno and Lime Tartar Sauce
• 1 large jalapeno pepper
• ½ cup No-Eggy Mayo (pg. ) or commercial vegan mayonnaise
• 2 T minced fresh onion
• 1 tsp fresh grated lime zest and a squeeze of fresh lime juice
• sea salt or kosher salt to taste
Place the jalapeno directly on the stove burner over medium heat. Turn frequently with tongs until the pepper is blistered and blackened. Place the pepper in small zip-lock or paper bag and seal to hold in the steam. Let cool. The skin should slip off easily. Cut off the stem end, split the jalapeno lengthwise and remove the seeds. Finely mince and add to a small bowl.
Add the mayo, onion, the lime zest and a squeeze of lime juice. Mix well and season with salt to taste. Refrigerate to blend flavors and until ready to serve.
Fried Oyster Mushrooms with Fire-Roasted Jalapeno Lime Tartar Sauce
Bhindi masala is a very popular Indian dish consisting of spiced okra, onions and tomatoes. Okra is a powerhouse of nutrition due to its high soluble fiber, vitamin C, and folate content. It’s also high in antioxidants and a good source of calcium and potassium. Okra contains a large amount of mucilage: a slimy substance which is responsible for its high soluble fiber content. This gooey mucilage is very evident when okra begins cooking but dissolves when thoroughly cooked and mixed with the acidity of the tomatoes.
• ¼ cup olive oil, divided in half
• 1 tsp cumin seeds
• 1 large onion, chopped
• 1 medium green chili, finely diced (mild or hot, your choice)
• 1 lb. fresh okra (bhindi) cut into ½-inch pieces
or a 1 lb. bag of frozen cut okra, thawed
• 1 tsp sea salt or kosher salt
• 4 tsp coriander powder
• ½ tsp turmeric
• ½ tsp dry ground mustard
• ¼ tsp chili powder (mild or hot, your choice)
• large tomatoes, peeled and chopped * or 1 can (15 oz.) diced tomatoes
*To peel fresh tomatoes, drop them in boiling water for 1 minute and then immediately transfer to an ice water bath; the skins will slip off easily.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the cumin seeds and cook for about 30 seconds.
Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and the onion and green chili. Sauté until the onions are translucent. Add the okra and salt and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables begin to lightly brown, about 15 minutes. The okra will be very slimy – this is normal.
Now, stir in the masala (coriander, turmeric, mustard powder and chili powder) and cook for 5 minutes.
Add the chopped tomatoes, mix well and continue to cook until the tomatoes are cooked through and any excess moisture has been evaporated, about 15 to 20 minutes; the mixture should resemble a thick stew.
Add additional salt to taste and serve hot.
Bhindi Masala (Indian-Spiced Okra)