Thursday, August 14, 2008

How to Make Vegan Fish or Mock Fish - Vegan Unagi Donburi

If you've ever been to Chinese Buddhist vegetarian restaurants and ordered dishes with 'fish' in it, you probably thought about how the mock fish was made. Below is a recipe that reveals the secret of Chinese Buddhist vegetarian fish. They use fresh or frozen yuba (which you may found it in the frozen or refridgerated sections of an Asian market) that is chopped into small flakes and then seasoned and wrapped in a nori sheet (sometimes a yuba sheet is added on the outside of the nori for a crispy skin). Then, it is steamed, cooled, and sliced into a fillet. Most Chinese Buddhist restaurants deep fry the yuba and nori wrapped 'fish' and then top it with flavored constarch thickened sauce.

Fresh or frozen yuba pockets (pictured) are hard to find in certain parts of this country (or your country). I found it in a nearby Asian market. But it is easier to find dry yuba sheets or sticks in Asian markets near you, probably? You'll have to do a few extra steps with yuba sticks because it is harder to soften them.

2 lbs fresh or thawed yuba pockets OR 2 pkgs dried yuba (6 oz. dried each) - see how to prepare below3 tsp sugar
6 tsp vegetarian bouillon mix powder
Note: I used Harvest 2000 Vegetarian Bouillon Mix chicken flavor or Bill's Best Chiknish1/2 tsp salt (use 1 tsp if using chiknish since it is not salty)
1-2 tsp kelp granules or more, depending on how 'seafoody' you want it to be
6 Tbsp cornstarch
1 1/2 Tbsp sesame oil
4-6 nori sheets

Glue mixture:
2 Tbsp Cornstarch mixed with 2 Tbsp water

Preparing with dry yuba sheets or sticks:Soak dry yuba in a lot of warm water in 2 large bowl. Make sure the water covers the yuba. Let it sit over night or at least 6 hours.
If they are not soft enough, boil a large amount of water in a large pot, simmer soaked yuba about 5 - 8 minutes. The idea is to make the yuba soft. After soaking, a few sections of the yuba are still hard. Simmering them for a few minutes will help.

Let them cool and then squeeze the water out as much as you can, then proceed to the next step below.

Preparing 'fish' mixture (with fresh or dryyuba):
Chop the yuba with a knife or put the yuba (soaked yuba) in a food processor and process about 5 seconds only. Do not process too long. The idea is to chop them to small flakes.
Squeeze the water out of the yuba (especially if using dried yuba sticks). You may use a piece of cloth or drain the yuba in a colander and squeeze the water out using your hands. Transfer the yuba to a large bowl and add the rest of the ingredients, excepts the nori and glue. Mix really well.

'Fish Fillet' :
Layer a piece of nori on a cutting board. Brush lightly with the cornstarch and water mixture (glue mixture). Scoop about 1 1/2 cup of the 'fish' mixture on the bottom half of the nori sheet. Press it down with your fingers or a spoon. You need to press and squeeze the filling tightly so it won't fall apart after it is steamed and cooked. I found out that if you wet your hands, the mixture will less likely to stick on your fingers or you can use a saran wrap.

Then, fold the other half of the nori over and make sure there is a 1/2 inch overlap to cover the fish (see picture). Seal the fish using cornstarch and water mixture that is spread over the 1/2 inch overlap and press and squeeze the 'fish' mixture tight together as much as you can. Repeat with the rest of the mixture for each nori sheet.
Steaming 'Fish Fillet' :
To prevent sticking to your steamer, put a few of cabbage leaves or lettuce leaves on your steamer, arrange fillet on top of the leaves (see picture). I have used Chinese bamboo steamers without leaves and it works nicely (didn't stick). Steam for 20 minutes. Let the fillet throughly cool before transferring it out of the steamer. Put them in the refridgerator to cool off some more for a few hours before cooking it. They freeze well.

Cooking Tips:
It is best to use the 'fish' for cooking after it is refridgerated for a few hours or frozen and then thawed.

JAPANESE VEGAN UNAGI DONBURI ('Eel' On Rice Bowl, pictured above)

Also, featured in Dimensión Vegana in Spanish Language with Video.

I used to order Unagi Donburi when I visited Japanese restaurants before I became a vegetarian. I sometimes missed the 'sea' flavor of Unagi. I was able to re-create this dish after I discovered how to make my own vegan fish. It is best to eat this dish accompanied by vegetable miso soup and vegan kimchi. Since the unagi sauce is so sweet, the saltiness of the miso soup balance it out. I also serve it with hot Genmai Cha (Japanese green tea with roasted brown rice). I am now back to eating Japanese food again.

1 recipe 'fish fillet' above
Note: For Unagi, I added 1/4 cup of reconstituted chopped wakame seaweed when making the 'fish fillet'. This will add more 'sea' flavor to the fillets. This is optional, of course.
vegetable oil
2 Tbsp. Toasted Sesame seeds
Dash of roasted sesame oil

4 cups steamed Japanese rice (short grain rice, white or brown)

1/3 cup Japanese soy sauce
1/3 cup Mirin (Sweet Style Japanese Mirin)
1/3 cup vegetarian Kombu Dashi or vegetable broth
2-3 Tbsp sugar, depending how sweet you like it or use agave syrup

Prepare the sauce:
Put the sauce ingredients together in a small pan. Simmer until the sugar is dissolved, about 5 minutes. Set it aside. I only use a small amount of sauce for each fillet. It is a matter of preference. Some people likes lots of sauce on their donburi. If you do, you can double the recipe.
Preparing the unagi:Heat a non-stick frying pan, then add 1/2 to 1 tsp vegetable oil. Pan fry 'fish fillet' in batches,2 fillets each time. Make sure both sides are crispy. Turn down the heat to low, pour 1/3 of sauce over fillets. Let the sauce cover the fillet and immediately take it off the heat. You don't want the sauce to crystalized in the pan. The longer you cook the sauce in the pan the thicker it will be. Repeat for the rest of the fillets.

Divide rice into 4 or 6 bowls. Transfer and divide the fillets and sauce on top of the rice. Sprinkle with dash of roasted sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds on top.

Yield: 4-6 servings


JohnP said...

Thanks for these directions! I have to try this.

Amber said...

I'm so excited to try this! This is my favorite japanese dish and I've been missing it since going vegan!

Myrna said...

WOW! Thank you for sharing all of this information. I am a vegan "newby" and was searching for a way to add "fish" taste to a modified casserole recipe, when I was lucky enough to "hit" on your very informative blog. I learned SO much -- like, kelp granules, yuba, and so many more ingredients. I had no idea there were so many things available! Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for a beautiful and detailed recipe!

Việt Nam Ăn Chay said...

Hi Spice Island Vegan,
Thanks so much for your blog. We've directed readers to the wonderful recipe of vegan "fish" on your site.
Keep up the good and blessed work.
Peace & joy,
Vegan Việt Nam

spiceislandvegan said...

Thank you Vegan Vietnam. I appreciate your comment. I can buy vegan fish commercially but this will help those who live far away from an Asian market.


Javier Guarascio said...

I did make this recipe twice and i have to say is perfect! Thank you very much! AMAZING post.

spiceislandvegan said...

Thank you Javier for your comment. I am glad it worked. I usually am afraid of if any of my readers can find the ingredients. I am glad that you could. :-)


Dimensión Vegana said...

I put a post of this recipe in my blog :)
with a video in spanish and some english :) THANKS again! I could find dry yuba and stick easily in Madrid.

spiceislandvegan said...

Way cool Javier! I am happy that you enjoyed it. Cool video! You can do a lot with yuba. I am glad you can find it even if it is the dry stick. I did a blog a while back making Mock Peking Duck with yuba. That one is also delicious. I love it. Crispy and crunchy.

Anonymous said...

can you boil instead of steaming? thanks for your reply

spiceislandvegan said...

I would not recommend to boil. It will disintegrate.

Nisha nehwal said...

In the post you have written, what you have to tell and explain is very unique, along with your beautiful post, your recipe is very tasty, it tastes great and the way to make it is excellent.
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