Nac Mac Vegan: adventures in rabbit food

05/05/2009

Those vegan Chinese buffets

Filed under: Eating out — Tags: , , , , — Feòrag @ 10:09

One good thing about London is the vegan Chinese/Thai buffets that are everywhere, it seems. There’s a chain of them, plus a couple of independent ones, and it means that reliably vegan food is never very far away.

Most of them are called either Tai or Veg, and the chain is run by some kind of Buddhist cult. If they’re recruiting, they don’t exactly make any great efforts – you might, if you look, spot the plain A4 notices giving details of meditation sessions and cookery classes, but that’s as evangelical as they get.

The food is not the most fantastic in the world – there’s an over-reliance on fried items, and they definitely like their MSG – but it’s only £5.50 for as much as you can eat in the daytime (I think it goes as high as £6.50 in the evening), and it’s all vegan. No worries about what you can eat, nor about cross-contamination.

The food is Chinese Buddhist, but not monastic grade – onions and garlic are used, and it relies heavily on fake meats made from various combinations of soya, wheat gluten and konnyaku. The fake prawns can be unnerving at times. There are vegan interpretations of sesame toast, prawn crackers, spring rolls (probably the standard Tsingtao brand, beloved of caterers everywhere) and potstickers. There are curries, and a range of stir-fried stuff in other sauces, plus various rice and noodles, though they seem to have stopped providing plain boiled rice. Some of them do vegan duck pancakes.

It is possible to eat healthily – there’s a salad section with plenty of stuff that isn’t fried, including fruit, and a cold, spicy tofu dish.

As with any buffet, is probably best to go at a time when it’s busy enough that the food is fresh, but not so busy that you can’t get anywhere near the counter! There are too many of them to list here, but most of them are mentioned at the Vegan London eating out guide.

10/03/2009

Sichuan Aubergine and Tofu

Filed under: Chinese — Tags: , , , — Feòrag @ 11:38

This recipe is based on one in Classic Food of China by Yan-Kit So, a book which is absolutely essential reading for anyone interested in Chinese cuisine. Very few of the recipes are vegan, but the background material on the history and variety of Chinese food is fascinating.

The quantities below serve two when served as a single dish with rice.

2 aubergines
½ block of tofu
8-10g Chinese black fungus
vegetable oil for deep frying
2-3 cloves garlic
2cm (or so) fresh ginger
as many small, hot, dried red chillies as you can bear (start off with about 10)
1 tbl sake (shaoxing wine is more authentic)
½ tsp sugar or other sweetener
1 tbl soy sauce
1 tbl rice vinegar
1 tbl strong stock or water
2 spring onions, cut into rounds

Cover the black fungus with warm water and leave to soak for an hour. Rinse them well – there will be grit – and break off the thick knobbly bit at the base. Break into small pieces and set aside.

Chop the garlic and ginger finely and put in a small bowl. Set aside.

Mix the sugar, soy sauce and rice vinegar in another small bowl. Make sure the sugar is dissolved. Set aside.

Cut the aubergine into large cubes, leaving the skin on. Dice the tofu similarly. Heat up the oil in a deep fat fryer, a chip pan or a wok and fry the aubergine in batches until it begins to brown. Deep fry the tofu until golden. Set aside, draining on a few sheets of kitchen roll.

If you used the wok for deep frying, find somewhere to put the oil – it can be re-used. Leave a tablespoon or so of oil in the wok, and make sure you have all the ingredients to hand. Heat the oil in the wok on a high heat until it starts to smoke. Don’t panic. Add the garlic and ginger and stir it a couple of times, then add the chillies and stir. They should puff up a little. Add the tofu, aubergine and fungus to the pan and continue to stir fry for a few seconds. Dribble the sake around the edges of the food – it should sizzle in a satisfying manner – then add the sugar/soy sauce/vinegar mix and the stock. Cover the wok and reduce the heat. Simmer for 10 minutes until most of the liquid is absorbed. Add the spring onions and serve. Optionally, you can dribble a little bit of sesame oil over it, for added flavour.

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