I mean why not, right?
Maybe it’s just me, the ultimate seeker of novelty, but I get full on excited at the thought of getting up close and personal with something new. This Chinese New Year, I’m stepping into previously unknown territory and exploring the vegan possibilities in the world of Chinese food.
Before anybody points it out, I know that “Chinese food” is kind of a ridiculous generalisation because China is enormous and has a gazillion different cuisines within it – what I’m really talking about here is our Westernised version of the stuff, anything you can find by glancing at the takeaway menu.
Vegan Chinese takeaway
According to the PETA guide to vegan takeaway, most Chinese restaurants have plenty of tofu knocking about in the kitchen, and the majority of their meat dishes will have tofu equivalents. So if you are into the soy vibe, ordering a Chinese takeaway should be pretty much plain sailing. Their vegetable dishes should be safe (steamed or stir fried veg, crispy seaweed) as should their plainer noodle and rice sides, but double check before ordering just in case. Oh, and spring rolls. Spring rolls are usually totally cool. I recommend reading the One Green Planet guide to Chinese takeaway too, it covers all imaginable bases.
Sweet and Sour Tofu
I adapted this from Ching’s Chinese Food in Minutes. Sweet and sour is one of my favourites because, you know, pineapple. Her recipe uses pork which is omitted here for obvious reasons and replaced with tofu. She also recommends (optionally) adding brown sugar which I wasn’t totally into, so I’ve skipped that too. I’m not sure if I’m 100% sold on tofu yet, I’ve read a few articles in a few places (some reputable, some less so) about it being not the best possible thing to put in your body, and I can see how that would be plausible. Also, it’s very nothingy. I think I might have preferred to just put an extra vegetable in there, you know? It’s a learning curve. We’re all learning and curving together out here.
Adapted from Ching’s Chinese Food in Minutes
1/2 a block pressed tofu
1 tbsp freshly grated root ginger
1 red pepper, cut into chunks
1 green pepper, cut into chunks
1 227g tin of pineapple chunks
1 tablespoon tamari
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1 teaspoon cornflour blended with 1 tablespoon cold water
salt + pepper
cooked rice to serve (Ching recommends egg-fried, but we’re skipping that in the name of doing the whole vegan thing for the day)
- Slice tofu into bitesize chunks – about the size of halloumi bites, you could say. Heat about a tablespoon of oil in a frying pan and let it sizzle for a good few minutes either side until golden brown and crispy. Set aside on some kitchen towel.
- Give the pan a wipe round (or, use a wok instead) and heat a little more oil – you wanna go high heat at this point, it’s Chinese cooking after all.
- Add the ginger and pepper chunks, stirring with some urgency to ensure the ginger doesn’t catch, cook for two minutes. Add the pineapple (juice and all) and bring to a bubble. Season with the tamari and vinegar, then add the blended cornflour and stir to thicken.
- Throw the tofu in, stir to incorporate. Serve with rice.