Unusual ingredients – Homemade Vegan Chinese Dinner

As a resident of Jersey City, New Jersey I am so lucky to be living amidst immigrant populations from a variety of countries. In particular because the raw – VEGAN – ingredients available to me in the local stores are amazing.

There’s a special Asian grocery (for locals, it’s called 555 Asian Supermarket on Tonnele Avenue) where I can get unusual and delicious supplies for home made Chinese food.

Here’s a sample of what I bought recently:

Some Chinese vegetables, prior to being prepared

Some Chinese vegetables, prior to being prepared

In the photo above, we have beginning from the top left…

Bag of bean sprouts, rice wine vinegar, Chinese greens

Pea pods, bamboo tip, onions, zucchini

Lotus root, ginger root, garlic, single Chinese green, shitake mushrooms

And upon preparation for cooking, here’s how the veggies look:

The insides of the bamboo tip, lotus root, and ginger root

The insides of the bamboo tip, lotus root, and ginger root

As you can see in the center of the second photo, when I slice the bamboo open (far right) it has these cool looking spaces where the bamboo plant stores water. In the very center of this photo, you see the peeled and sliced lotus root, which also has a distinctive pattern that emerges with each slice.

What’s also wonderful about each of these vegetables is that they have their own texture. Lotus root is firm and crunchy, while the bamboo is soft and tender. Both are relatively flavorless, and take on the spices and flavors of other veggies that cook with them.

Ginger root, on the other hand, is quite spicy and makes a fantastic addition to Chinese veggies. The two chunks of ginger in the photo above are peeled, but not chopped up finely enough yet to add to the dish. I chop ginger much as I would chop garlic, into very fine pieces.

Once all of my veggies are washed and clean, peeled and chopped or sliced as needed … into the pot they go. The most time consuming part of cooking the Chinese veggie dinner is the preparation of the veggies. Lots of chopping.

But in the end…a little garlic flavored rice wine vinegar, some soy sauce, freshly ground black pepper and lots of veggies turns into…

Home made vegan Chinese dinner is served

Home made vegan Chinese dinner is served

Dinner is served!

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EFT: It’s Calling From Inside The House!

I have an evil presence in my home. It is calling from my refrigerator right now, laughing at me. Taunting me. Daring me to eat it.

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Will I actually injest this nefarious substance in the name of … D..d.d… di…. *cough, cough,* eating healthier?

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You duped me into buying you at the Korean grocery. I saw that coy look you gave me as you sat on the shelf beside the packaged Soba noodles.

Go on, you said, I don’t cost much. Don’t you like my pretty packaging?

NO…must…not…. I thought, but my resolve was already weakening.

Ahaha, you reply, you WILL eat me and you’ll learn to like it! You want to reduce your animal protein intake right? Well you still need protein and I’m a great source.

Ugh, I answer, disgusted with myself. You’re right. I know I have to do it, for my own good.

You were smug with victory as I put you in my basket.

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2012_08_06-tofu.jpg

All you health nut types have been eating Tofu for years. (Then again you probably drink wheat grass juice too, so there is no help for you whatsoever.)

You’ve stir fried it, you’ve put it in soups, hell you’ve even made tofu cheesecake out of it. (Gross, I say!) You and your evil minions have made Tofu a ubiquitous high protein staple, available to any innocent person walking down the isles of a local Korean grocery (and plenty of other shops; your distribution knows no bounds.)

I have purchased Extra Firm Tofu (hereafter referred to as EFT) in the hopes of frying it and maintaining enough shape (cubes?) to get a sear on it.

When I asked the lady at the Korean grocery how to prepare EFT, like do I marinate it, dump soy or oyster sauce on it, she says just cook it with whatever else I’m cooking and it will pick up the flavors of the rest of the dish.

I’m not sure how this is going to come out, but here are the ingredients I’ve got. I’m thinking of putting into this EFT dish. See, I don’t think of it as any other kind of dish since it will be contaminated by the EFT, but I’m TRYING damn it!

– EFT (god help me)

– Veggies: scallions, bok choy, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, shitake mushrooms, celery

– Soba noodles

– Sauce(s): I have oyster sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil

– Fresh ground black pepper

– Sesame seeds?

Anybody that cooks Tofu out there, please, for the sake of all that is holy, put an encouraging comment below on how to cook this menace and make it taste good.

The future of my waistline may depend upon your kindness, stranger.