Monday, April 01, 2013

Vegan Lemongrass Tofu or Faux Fish

Above: Lemongrass soy/faux fish.  Below: Lemongrass tofu.
We visit vegan Vietnamese restaurants pretty often.  Our favorites are nearby Loving Hut and Thuyen Vien.  Lemongrass soy fish or tofu is on their menu and we love this dish.  I've been trying to develop a recipe that I want to blog but somehow could not get the taste right until I found a perfect sauce to replace the fish sauce.  I found it by way of facebook, a discussion with a fellow vegan about a replacement of fish sauce.  This sauce is called Toyomansi, a Filipino soy sauce with calamansi in it.  Perusing a nearby Asian market, I found it, here is the picture of the bottle below:

Toyomansi, a delicious fish sauce replacement.
I thank my fellow vegan in fb for her suggestion.  This sauce is quiet delicious.

Making it with faux fish or soy fish:
Another discovery, lately, for me, is a store with a lot of vegan faux meat in Monrovia, CA, called Vege USA.  This Taiwanese based company for faux meat and seafood products has been in business since 1998.  They were creating vegetarian products instead of vegan products.  However, visiting the store (the headquarter has a small market or store) and talking to the worker in the store, this company is in the process to turn their products to vegan.  There is a whole freezer section dedicated for vegan products.  The process takes a long time but they are trying.  I was able to get a good vegan soy fish from them.  In the past, I made my own vegan soy fish but lately buying it is easier.  Some people will say that they don't like faux meat or seafood.  Oh well, I grew up eating fish and love the 'seafoody' flavor so I still enjoy eating faux fish.

Making it with spongy tofu:
If faux fish is not your thing, you can make this dish with tofu.  I suggest the extra firm tofu.  I found that tofu can be bland in a stir fry dish unless I soak and marinade the tofu pieces first with the spices.  I fix the problem by freezing the extra firm tofu first overnight and then leave it to thaw the next day on a colander.  Before freezing it, do not squeeze the water out of the tofu.  I usually take out the tofu from the box, wrap it in a saran wrap tightly and put it in the freezer.  The water in the tofu will be frozen and crystallized so when it is thawed, it forms holes as pictured below.  After it is thawed, I squeeze the water out and the tofu becomes spongy.  If the tofu is soft, there are a lot of water in the tofu so when it is thawed, the tofu reduced to half of the original size.  For this dish, I prefer the extra firm spongy tofu. The benefit of using the spongy tofu is that the sauce and spices easily absorbed into the tofu so it is not bland.  The tofu is really like a sponge absorbing the spice and sauce well.   But then again, some people do not like the texture of spongy tofu.  In that case, extra firm tofu can be used in this dish (without freezing and thawing).  It is a matter of preference.

From left to right:  extra firm tofu, extra firm spongy tofu, soft spongy tofu
Vegan Lemongrass Soy Fish or Tofu
Serve 6
Printable Recipe

4 cups soy fish or extra firm spongy tofu or extra firm tofu (drained, pressed)
2-3 Tbsp. Canola or Safflower oil
4 garlic cloves
5 shallot cloves
2 stalks fresh lemongrass, use the white stalk only and remove the fibrous and leafy tops, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 medium red jalapeno or 2 red thai chili, optional
¼ tsp. salt, optional
Note: toyomansi or vegan fish sauce can be salty. Salt may not be necessary.
2 Tbsp. Brown Sugar
3 Tbsp. Toyomansi or Braggs Liquid Aminos or Vegan Fish Sauce
½ tsp. curry powder
1 cup vegetable broth (non-salty kind is preferable)

  1. Preheat oven to 425 F. Cut soy fish, tofu or spongy tofu to bite sizes. With a brush or oil -spray bottle, apply oil soy fish or tofu pieces (using ½ to 1 tablespoon of the oil).
  2. Bake soy fish or tofu until crispy, about 25minutes - for fish and 35 minutes for tofu, flip over about halfway of cooking. The fish or tofu should be brown and crispy. Set aside to cool.
  3. Using a food processor, grind lemongrass, garlic, shallots, optional red chili, and salt until it is very fine. Scrape the side a couple times to gather ingredients. The final result is a spice paste.
  4. Heat a large wok or nonstick frying pan on a medium high heat. Add 2 tbsp. oil. Then, immediately, add the herb paste (from no. 3). Stir fry this herb paste for 10 minutes. Be patient, this is dry frying process. It needs to be slightly brown and dry before continuing to the next phase. Add a little more oil or water if it starts to stick to the pan. The aroma of browned herbs will be delicious.
  5. Add baked soy fish or tofu and mix with the browned herbs, mix well and stir fry for 1-2 minutes.
  6.  Add toyomansi or liquid aminos or vegan fish sauce, brown sugar, curry powder, and mix well with soy fish or tofu mixture.
  7. Add vegetable broth. Let the soy fish or tofu soak all the liquid and stir fry for another 5 minutes. Another option is not to use broth and have this dish as a dry dish. I like it both ways.
  8. Take it off heat and enjoy with my perfect brown rice and Indonesian Salad with Spicy Grated Coconut Dressing or Indian Kale-Cabbage Thoran.
Baked soy fish until crispy.

 After:  Spice paste was sticky before.  After 10 minutes, it is brown, fluffy, and loose.
Serve Lemongrass fish or tofu with brown rice, Indonesian salad, or Indian Thoran, a perfect combo.


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plasterer bristol said...

This sounds lovely, will be giving this a try, thanks for sharing.