Wednesday, April 6, 2011
I’m a meat lover and don’t think I can ever convert to a vegetarian. However, I also love vegetables to a point that I got to have vegetables everyday (although not every single meal). Each week, there would be a day (maybe two in the future) that I prepare meatless dishes only and this is one of the vegetarian dish that I make most often for this special day of the week.
Why a meatless day for a carnivore? I guess my body is telling me I need to “detox”! After consuming all the meats for a week, my body longs for a dish that is light and easy to digest. During the summer, I often make salads. (You can find some of my salad recipes here, here and here.) But for winter or cooler days, it’s better to have a hot and hearty dish. This Vegetarian Chop-Suey dish fits the bill. Want to know why it is semi-home made? You’ll see why as you read along.
First, we need some vegetarian protein sticks. What a funny name, huh?! They are actually dried soybean curd. They are convenience to use, nutritious and has a great texture. You can find them in most Asian supermarkets.
Soak them in hot tap water for 10-15 minutes. Drain and gently squeeze out excess water and they’re ready to be used for the stir fry. During the cooking process, these Vegetarian Protein Sticks will absorb quite a bit of the sauce. So, they turn out to be very flavorful and delicious.
Up next, some beautiful baby Bak Choy. I always love the baby version as they’re more tender. Wash and drain them well. I cut some of the bigger ones in half, vertically, so all of them cook evenly.
What make this dish so hearty? The star ingredient is King Trumpet Mushroom. The nick name for these mushroom in Chinese is “chicken drumsticks mushroom” or “abalone mushroom”. It is because of their shape resemblances the drumsticks, and their texture is similar to the abalone. These mushrooms are super meaty and add so much texture to the dish.
Simply julienne them into thin strips and they are ready to go. Of course, thin strips mean faster cooking time too.
Up next, the sweet yellow onions. Simply thinly sliced them and sautéed them until crisp-tender. They add a wonderful tender-crisp texture and sweet flavor to this dish.
Last but not least, the secret ingredient to make this dish 'semi-home made' (and my life much easier) is a can of vegetarian chop-suey (羅漢齋). I buy these cans all the time and never pay attention to the English name until now. :) The term chop-suey literally means the mixture of many chopped ingredients. Which is exactly what’s in this can. There are bamboo shoots, straw mushrooms, fried gluten, carrots, fried tofu, fungus, baby corn, soy sauce, salt and sugar, etc. It’s fully seasoned and the sauce in this can is delicious. You don’t need to add much to the rest of your ingredients except white pepper and sesame oil.
I’m seriously considering having 2 meatless days a week instead of just 1. With a dish so healthy and so easy to make, why not? The most important thing is, you’ll feel GOOD after eating it. I can guarantee that you won’t even miss the meat (for that day, at least). Try this recipe out, your body will thank you afterwards.
I created this Vegetarian Chop Suey dish as an entry for April’s Kitchen Play sponsored by the National Onion Association. This dish is inspired by the Onion-Bacon Salad with Warm Crème Fraîche Dressing. This is a cooked, Chinese version of the salad dish. Why? It is because as much as my kids LOVE onions, they only eat them cooked. They surely did enjoy this dish.
For more information about the Kitchen Play contest, please review the complete contest rules.
Vegetarian Chop-Suey (羅漢齋) Semi-Home Made:
1/2 a medium yellow onion, julienned
1/2 carrot, cut into thin disks
20 Vegetarian Protein Sticks, soaked in hot tap water for 10-15 minutes, drain and gently squeeze out excess water
1 pound of baby Bak Choy
1 pound of King Trumpet Mushroom, julienned
1 can (14.5 ounce) vegetarian chop-suey (羅漢齋)
a pinch of white ground pepper
a dash of toasted sesame oil
In a wok or heavy-duty sauté pan with medium-high heat, add 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil or olive oil. Sauté the onion, carrot and baby bak choy together until crisp tender, season with a little bit of salt if desired. Remove to a large serving dish.
In the same wok, add another 2 teaspoons of oil and sauté the King trumpet mushrooms until tender, 4-6 minutes depending on the size of your strips. Season with a little bit of salt, a pinch of white ground pepper and a dash of sesame oil. Taste one strip to check on seasoning and doneness. Remember, don’t add too much salt as the canned chop-suey is well seasoned. Remove to the same large serving dish with the bak choy mixture.
Next, pour the entire can of vegetarian chop-suey (羅漢齋) in the wok with the softened vegetarian protein sticks, cook until sauce is boiling. Return the mushrooms and bak choy mixture back to the wok. Stir occasionally and cook until heated through. Check seasoning, add a pinch of pepper and a dash of sesame oil if needed. Serve with a bowl of rice or noodle and enjoy.