I mean it readers, I do! In fact, EVERYONE in this house loves Chinese and would eat it every meal of every day if it weren’t for the penchant of American Chinese cuisine to fry everything. Are there veggies? Yes. Are there nutrients? Yes. Did the tofu soak up it’s weight in grease? Yes.
Some food, such as Indian, I’m willing to splurge on fairly regularly. Part of that has to do with the fact that in Columbus there are two 100% vegetarian Indian restaurants, so while I’m getting some extra oil, they’re very, very clear about what is and isn’t vegan, and I’ve never accidentally ingested meat at any of them. I wish I could say the same for the Chinese restaurants in the area.
Unfortunately, since we aren’t regulars at all of our favorite restaurants (I mean, it’s all you can eat vegan Indian food or a single order of General Tso’s Tofu for the same price, which would YOU pick more often?) they don’t memorize our dietary concerns. Also, sometimes the language barrier is just a little too tricky. I’m almost positive the “vegetable egg roll” I ordered last time had some pork in it. My body paid for that slip up dearly.
Most concerning, however, is Mike. Mike has an anaphylactic reaction to shrimp and other shell fish. Naturally, since we don’t eat anything that used to breathe or move, this isn’t usually a problem unless we’re at a restaurant that also serves seafood. Even then, most of the time a simple, “Hey, he has a shellfish allergy,” is enough to alert the kitchen staff that they need to cook his food on a different surface. No chef in his right mind is going to risk a lawsuit. Luckily, we’ve never had to use the Epipen I keep in my purse.
Sometimes, however, Chinese food can scare us. At least once a waitress has come back and said, “Oh! I forgot, that contains crab meat, but it’s just a little, you can barely taste it.” or “Oh, we cooked that in the same pan as the fried shrimp, but there’s no ACTUAL shrimp, so we’re cool, right?” No, no we are not cool and you’re lucky I don’t strangle you to death right now! Once, the item was nearly in his mouth when she reminded us. Needless to say, we don’t go to that restaurant anymore.
If we ever hoped to have Chinese food again without Mike needing an Epipen (or a defibrillator for the heart attack that waitress gave me), I needed to come up with something just as yummy that we could eat at home. And why not make it super cheap, healthy, and vegan while I’m at it?
Vegan Fried Rice
4 cups cooked brown rice
1 lb soft tofu
1 12 oz bag of frozen stir fry veggies (you can substitute fresh if you’d like, and you can DEFINITELY add more vegetables if you want! The more the merrier!)
1 tsp Canola Oil
1 tsp garlic
2 tbs lower sodium soy sauce, or tamari
1 tbs sesame oil
1 tbs maple syrup
1 tbs rice (or plain, if you don’t have rice) vinegar
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp ginger
pinch of red pepper (optional)
For those of you not familiar with the preparation of soft tofu, you’ll be delighted to find out it’s actually much easier and quicker than firm tofu. Simple drain the water out of the package, take a hunk of the tofu in your hand, and squeeze as much excess liquid as you can out. Repeat with the rest of the tofu, and crumble into a bowl. Tada, you’ve just pressed the tofu.
Heat the canola oil in a large skillet (wok if you have one) over medium high heat. Add the crumbled tofu and saute until heated through (about five minutes). Quite a bit of the excess water will disappear at this time. Add the frozen veggies, and saute until ALL the excess water is gone and the veggies are cooked through.
While you’re cooking the veggies, whip up the sauce. Whisk together the garlic, soy suace, sesame oil, maple syrup, rice vinegar, ginger, black pepper, and red pepper (if using). Set aside.
After roughly ten minutes, the veggies will be cooked and look like this:
Add the rice, reduce the heat to medium, and stir in the sauce.
Cook for about five more minutes, adjusting spices as you see fit. Perhaps you’d like some more fresh pepper? Or a sprinkle of sesame oil (I could drink that stuff, it’s so yummy. But you shouldn’t because it’s definitely oil!)? Personally, I like a bit more soy sauce, but since Mike does not, I add that privately to my own bowl.
Tada! You now have Mike’s go to order at every Chinese restaurant! The tofu replaces the eggs (I mean it; even the texture is similar) and combined with the veggies makes a complete meal. Plus, it’s tasty!
We still had to put it through the ultimate test, though. I sent it to our resident expert on Asian cuisine for review.
It’s a hit!
(Please ignore the pile of dirt from our seedlings that’s on our dining room table. It seems to not only be the food/craft/homework area of the house, but the only flat surface that receives a good amount of sunlight.)
Olive devoured her bowl in a matter of minutes, broccoli and all, and asked for seconds. Hooray!
This is easy, cheap, and really good dinner/packed lunch. Try it out the next time you find yourself reaching for a carryout menu. If nothing else, it won’t cost you ten bucks plus delivery, and it certainly won’t be grease soaked or shrimp tainted.