This week I am making vegan spicy Thai 'fish' and stir-fried cucumber with wood ear mushrooms and red chili. They are served with jasmine brown rice. This is a rather long blog but I presented 2 recipes. So I hope it is worthwhile to read them.
About the Spicy Thai 'Fish' dish:
I bought the vegan fish frozen from an Asian market. It is made with soy bean curd and seaweed. I actually can make it at home from scratch with yuba and seaweed. But that's another blog, I think. It is also easier to buy since it is readily available here, in my area.
The 'fish' is browned on cast iron frying pan with a little bit of oil, on both sides. The seaweed will become crispy. Toasted and crispy seaweed is delicious, in my opinion. But I love 'sea' flavored dish so this is a treat for me.
The other ingredients are: Thai basil (known also as Cinnamon Basil), chopped garlic, chopped chili such as jalapeno or serrano, diced red and yellow/orange bell pepper.
I made this recipe many times. I received this recipe from my friend Yongkie years ago and have modified it many times by reducing the sugar content. I finally use agave nectar in my cooking.
I also use special Asian soy sauces for a replacement of fish sauce or oyster sauce. When I mention light soy sauce or a replacement of fish sauce, I use this soy sauce brand: Healthy Boy Soy Sauce with Mushrooms. It is not easy to find but I believe that this is important in Thai or Vietnamese cooking which uses fish sauce heavily. As a vegan, I need to find a replacement of fish sauce as closely as possible. Bragg's Liquid Amino can also be used as a replacement of fish sauce. It has that natural brew flavoring. However, I still prefer the Thai mushroom soy sauce. I go as far as L.A. to visit Thai markets to get this brand. I really take my Thai/Vietnamese cooking seriously, I think. Please don't use Tamari or Japanese soy sauce because it will not taste the same. If you can't find the mushroom flavored soy sauce you can surely find Bragg's Liquid Amino in your area. Or, perhaps, you can buy them on-line (click the links).
I also use dark mushroom soy sauce in my Asian cooking. I love this brand: Pearl River Bridge Mushroom Flavoured Superior Dark Soy Sauce. I use this dark soy sauce in my Asian dishes. This is not Ketjap Manis (an Indonesian sweet soy sauce) which is used for another type of cooking in my kitchen.
This Thai 'fish' recipe is very simple when you have all of these ingredients on hand. I am trying to grow my own Thai basil or cinnamon basil in pots. Now, my plants haven't matured yet ( see picture). The leaves are still so small. I still rely on Asian market to get my cinnamon basils. Hopefully, in another month, I can enjoy this herb and cook more vegan Thai or Vietnamese dishes.
Spicy Vegan Thai 'Fish' serve 4-6
1 Vegan Thai 'fish' (buy frozen), pan fry until crispy and toasty, set aside in a warm oven
canola oil for pan frying and stir frying
1.5 cups Thai/Cinnamon Basil (leaves only)
1/2 large red bell pepper, diced
1/2 large yellow/orange bell pepper, diced
2 Tablespoon garlic, chopped finely
2 Tablespoon red or green jalapeno, seeds removed (reduced amount accordingly for less spicy)
Sauce Mixture: (combine in a small bowl)
3 Tablespoons light soy sauce or fish sauce replacement (see above)
1 Tablespoon dark soy sauce (see above)
1 Tablespoon rice vinegar
1.5 Tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 Tablespoons agave nectar (3 Tablespoon if you like it sweeter)
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
- Put 1 teaspoon of oil in a cast iron frying pan and pan fry 'fish' both sides until crispy and toasty. Set aside in a serving platter in a warm oven.
- Heat wok until very hot. Add 1 - 2 teaspoons oil, add garlic, stir fry for 3o seconds, then, add red and yellow bell pepper, stir fry for a minute.
- Add Thai basil, stir fry until basil leaves are wilted and soft.
- Add sauce mixture, stir, and let it become hot and boiling.
- Immediately, pour over warmed and ready 'fish'
- Serve immediately
About the Cucumber Stir Fry with Wood ear mushrooms and Chili:
Stir-fried CUCUMBER, you asked? Yes! I watched Kylie Kwong's cooking show on TV one day and she was preparing stir fried cucumber. I thought it was pretty interesting and thought that Iwould like to give it a try. I had to reduce the amount of ginger since DH doesn't like ginger that much. I also veganized the dish with Vegetarian Mushroom Flavored Stir-Fry sauce instead of oyster sauce.
The trick to stir fry cucumber is to act quickly after cucumbers are added. If sauces are added and combined quickly, then, immediately remove wok from the heat, I think, you'll find that the cucumber is still crispy. You'll also need to serve the dish immediately.
This dish is unusual because it needs fresh wood ear mushrooms. This kind of mushrooms grow on trees and looks like an ear. That's why it is called wood ear. The use of this kind of mushroom is very common in Asian dishes. They sell dried ones in Asian markets that you can soak in warm water to re-hydrate them but I prefer the fresh ones. The fresh ones cook very quickly. If you can't find this kind of mushrooms you can substitute with other kind of mushrooms but you'll need to stir fry them before hand and set aside. Then, when you add the cucumbers into the wok, you can add the cooked mushrooms at the same time. Other wise, the cucumber will be too soft to wait for the mushrooms to be soft and cooked.
Below are the ingredients: cucumbers, finely sliced garlic, julienned green onions, sliced red jalapeno (fresh red chili), diced wood ear mushrooms, and julienned ginger.
Stir-fried Cucumber, Wood Ear Mushrooms, and Chili serve 6-8Adapted from Kylie Kwong's recipe
2 large cucumber, peeled
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1/3 cup ginger, julienne finely
6 cloves garlic, finely diced
5 green onions, trimmed , and cut julienne into 3-inches long
8 oz. fresh wood ear mushrooms, cut in bite pieces
1 -2 large fresh red chili (red jalapeno), sliced diagonally
1/4 cup Chinese cooking wine or dry sherry
2 Tablespoons Vegetarian Mushroom Flavored Stir-Fry Sauce
2 Tablespoons light soy sauce
2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
1 Tablespoon agave nectar
1 teaspoon sesame oil for drizzling before serving
- Cut cucumbers in half length ways and scoop out the seeds using a spoon. Cut in half width ways, place halves cut-side down on a chopping board and slice on the diagonal (julienne) into 3-inch pieces.
- Heat work until very hot. Add peanut oil and let it heat up before adding garlic and ginger. Stir fry for 10 seconds. Add cucumber, wood ear mushrooms, red chili, and green onions and stir-fry for 30 seconds.
- Quickly add wine or sherry, mushroom flavored sauce, soy sauce, vinegar, and agave nectar.
- Combine quickly for about a minute until all ingredients are hot. Take it off from heat.
- Lastly drizzle with sesame oil before serving. Serve immediately.