When you live on a vegetarian and gluten-free diet, it can be hard to eat outside of your home. Among the things I miss the most is Asian food of all types, particularly dishes which I would buy at Chinese and Thai restaurants, maybe once or twice a month.
When I received my diagnosis back in April of 2013, I didn’t think about going on a gluten-binge and saying goodbye to all those dishes I would never be able to eat again. That is in part, because I wanted to get healthy desperately, and also because I was still pretty clueless about what it means to be diagnosed with celiac disease and that I would eventually be able to eat at least small amounts of gluten. Also, I didn’t know what would be difficult to obtain in a gluten-free version and what would be easily available.
Had I gone on a gluten-binge though, I would have eaten pretty much every spring roll in sight and gotten my fill of Thai and Chinese food. For one, soy sauce contains wheat, and is thus verboten. As a vegetarian, eating alternatives such as oyster or fish sauce is also not something I’m going to do.
So, I learnt to cook stir-fries. I have tried often and failed miserably at making spring rolls.
I also bought a wok and learnt how it is seasoned and maintained. I would probably never comfortably eat out of a wok that is not gluten-free ever again because of this. I would probably out of a wok that has been in use with Kikkoman Soy Sauce. You know why? This soy sauce is gluten-free, even though it contains wheat in the list of ingredients. You can read all about it on the Kikkoman website, the gluten-content is below 10 ppm and thus considered gluten-free by EU-law. It might be different by you (different laws, different attitude towards products which contain ingredients with gluten, even if the 20 ppm mark is not succeeded) or you may be allergic to wheat. When I found out though, I was really, really happy. I love Kikkoman soy sauce and have never really warmed up to Tamari, and I’ve been happily consuming Kikkoman soy sauce ever since then.
During the fall of 2013, I also discovered a book by Laura B. Russell, called “The Gluten-free Asian Kitchen”. I immediately bought it. My favorite recipe, Braised Tofu in Mushroom Sauce, is on page 126. I’ve cooked this dish many times since then. I used to order a very similar dish as take-out back when I still ate gluten, and you cannot imagine just how happy it makes me to know how to make it at home any time that I like. I have made variations of this dish, one containing no mushrooms, and only green beans, with mung bean sprouts or corn and zucchini. As long as you keep the sauce, the seasoning and the braised tofu, you can vary this dish indefinitely. I do suggest you make it with a variation of mushrooms at least once and that you keep mushrooms in the mix, because it is incredibly delicious. I also urge you to use shiitake and oyster mushrooms, if you can get them, because (at least in my eyes) they have a quality about them that reminds me of Chinese food (as it is served in Chinese restaurants across Europe). I love the garlicy flavor of the sauce, and the spicy flavor of ginger. So good! We eat this dish with a good portion of steamed basmati rice. I apologize in advance: as delicious as this dish is, I find it does not photograph well. And about those spring rolls: I will keep at it though, and I’m certain that I will succeed eventually. It’s just a matter of time. And skill.
Ingredients (for two people):
400g tofu (I only buy the Taifun brand, fyi, if you’re in Germany)
2 TBL gluten-free flour mix
vegetable oil (for fryring)
3 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp ginger (grated)
Soy sauce (or gluten-free tamari) to taste
jalapeno flakes (or fresh a fresh chile, cut into small pieces)
½ tsp sugar
1 1/2 cup vegetable broth
1 tbp gluten-free flour mix or corn or potato starch (with a bit of water mixed in; optional – it makes a frothier sauce)
parsley or coriander or both
500g green beans or 600g assorted mushrooms (shiitake, button, oyster, etc.) or any other combination of vegetables you’d like, e.g. zucchini
salt, pepper to taste
Cut your tofu into slices and then rectangles or squares, about 2 cm by 2 cm.
Place your gluten-free flour mix into a large bowl, and add the tofu slices. Mix with your hands, ensuring every piece of tofu is covered in flour completely.
Heat the vegetable oil in your pan, and then add the tofu slices and fry on both sides until they are crispy. If you like, you can season them with a little salt. Turn off the pan, let the tofu slices rest on a paper towel, allowing them to drain a bit of their oil.
Wash your green beans, cut off the ends and cut them into equal-sized pieces (about three or four cm length). If you are cooking this dish with mushrooms, was these and cut them into slices.
Peel your garlic and either cut or crush them with a garlic crusher.
Heat your wok (or frying pan) with more vegetable oil and add the garlic and the ginger. Let fry for about two minutes until fragrant. Add the green beans (and/or mushrooms) and let fry for about two minutes, then add the soy sauce, the vegetable broth and cover the work or pan with a lid. Let cook until the green beans are tender. Depending on the vegetable you are cooking, you should adjust cooking times (e.g. zucchini will only run you about three minutes, whereas the green beans need more like twelve). Add the sugar and – if need be – season your sauce with more soy sauce and pepper. Add the parsley. Then add the gluten-free flour mix that you have diluted in water and stir well. If you are cooking this with mung bean sprouts, now is the time to add them. You want to eat them while they are hot, still raw and crunchy! Now, add the pieces of tofu and distribute evenly among the vegetables. Serve immediately, accompanied with a good portion of steamed basmati rice.Enjoy!