Scrambled Tofu

I can’t say that I completely miss eggs but I do sometimes miss the simplicity they bring to cooking and baking. Need leavening or binding? Use and egg. Need a nice golden wash for your pastry? Use an egg. Whether a dish is sweet or savory, you can use an egg.

When it comes to vegan cooking, there are all sorts of various egg substitutes to use but it completely depends on what you’re making.

But when it comes to a morning scramble? Extra firm tofu is still the workhorse for this substitute.

IMG_7483b

I generally try to use as little tofu as possible for various reasons — I’ve used lightly mashed canned chickpeas as a good and very filling sub for many tofu-heavy recipes — but sometimes you want a good ol’ scramble so there you go. I stumbled on Isa’s Scrambled Tofu recipe years ago, tried it, loved it, and always come back to it.
scramble1

If you’re cooking with no oil, it’s quite doable with a decent non-stick pan at the least, cast iron skillet at the most. Since the tofu has so much water, you really want to let it dry out some. As it does this, that’s when the little browned bits will show up! (See above photo.) If you find your tofu sticking to the pan, add a small dash of water to the hot pan and, as it bubbles, you’ll be able to use your spatula to release any sticking bits.

After recently going to Chipotle and trying their tofu option “Sofritas”, I noticed that it almost had the texture of ground beef after they crumbled it and allowed a lot of the water to evaporate. I used to try keeping my scrambled tofu pieces bigger (see the picture at Isa’s site) but I realized I didn’t care that much as time went on!

scramble2

A tofu scramble is good by itself but always goes best with something else: potatoes and wrapped in the tortilla for a breakfast burrito, or put it on toast with salsa, etc. I’ve been meaning to get black salt (though it appears pink-grayish) aka kala namak for it’s “eggy” sulfur taste. When you use it in egg dishes (tofu scrambles, hollandaise sauce), it makes it taste like eggs. I finally dove in and ordered some — can’t wait for it to arrive later this week to try!

IMG_7484

Scrambled Tofu

Original recipe by Isa Chandra Moskowitz with adaptations, easily serves 2-4 average people depending on how many extras you add in

INGREDIENTS:

  • Spice Blend
    • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
    • 1 teaspoon dried thyme (crushed with your fingers) or scant 1 teaspoon ground thyme
    • 1 teaspoon garlic powder (optional)
    • 1 teaspoon salt (OR 3/4 teaspoon salt + 1/4 teaspoon kala namak black salt)
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground tumeric
    • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 pound extra-firm tofu, drained
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • Fresh black pepper, to taste (optional)
  • Additions: (optional)
    • Onion, finely chopped (add before or with tofu)
    • Bell peppers (add before or with tofu)
    • Mushrooms (add with tofu)
    • Carrots (grate and add after spice blend)
    • Olives (add at end after nutritional yeast)
    • Spinach (add at end after nutritional yeast)

DIRECTIONS:

First stir the spice blend together in a small cup. Add water and mix. Set aside.

Preheat a large, heavy bottomed pan over medium high heat. Saute the onion in a little bit of water (barely any) until just starting to cook. Break the tofu apart into bite sized pieces and saute with the onions for about 10 minutes. Get under the tofu when you are stirring, scrape the bottom and don’t let it stick to the pan, that is where the good, crispy stuff is. (If cooking oil-free, add just a little water to the hot pan help the tofu release.) The tofu should get browned on at least one side, but you don’t need to be too precise about it. The water should cook out of it and not collect too much at the bottom of the ban. If that is happening, turn the heat up and let the water evaporate.

Add the spice blend and mix to incorporate. Add the nutritional yeast and fresh black pepper. Turn the heat down to medium-low, cook for about 5 more minutes. Serve warm.

Recipe Notes:

  • Isa loves cumin and thyme! Thankfully I love both of these seasonings, too. They go together better than you’d expect. If you’re not a big fan of either, you can use less or definitely swap them out with someone different altogether.
  • Isa’s recipe originally calls for fresh garlic but I hardly do that. I tend to substitute it with garlic powder that I put in the spice blend — when I remember.
  • The nutritional yeast is a nice touch with the tofu scramble! How can one go wrong using the wonderful fairy dust of vegans??
  • I usually add in mushrooms, onions, and spinach. Sometimes we’ll lightly toss in freshly cut tomatoes at the very end, but we usually prefer adding them on top separately.
Advertisements

Vegan Pho is Phine Dining

There are just too many English puns to make with a word like pho: pho sho, pho yeah, pho king good, pho this-and-that.

I was told by Vietnamese co-workers a long time ago that it is not pronounced “foh” but rather as “fuh”.  Bonus points to you if you say it with a question mark afterwards (“fuh?”) which is much closer to how it actually sounds in Vietnamese. Or so I’ve been told.

IMG_1505

Being of Indo-Dutch descent and growing up in the melting pot of southern California, I’ve been surrounded by all sorts of delicious and strange Asian foods my whole life.  I’ve been to authentic Chinese and Thai restaurants, Korean BBQ, Vietnamese pho shops, Indonesian dives, noodle cafes, etc.

Last winter, soon after moving here, it hit me like a brick wall: I wanted something Asian-y to eat.  Some sort of typical Asian comfort food, like noodles.  Ooh, yes, a big bowl of aromatic pho to slurp down.  The idea took hold and, frankly, since pho restaurants are essentially non-existent in this part of Montana, I knew I had to make some myself.  From scratch.

IMG_1506

I know, I know, beef broth is traditionally used as the pho soup base, it takes many hours to make, it’s absolutely delicious.  I don’t dispute that!  Rather, since I wanted a vegetarian or vegan version (of which I’ve had many good versions before), the more important thing for me was to get the spices, the general flavor of the broth correct.   After scouring the internet and looking at many different recipes, I based my version on two of them.

IMG_1507

Recipe Notes:

  • I would say this recipe serves 6-8 people.  The amount of servings depends on how much steam escapes while making the broth: I’ve made it before where the recipe yielded 12 servings and another time, just 6.  This possibly is also directly related to bowl size, just a hunch.
  • Some recipes suggest charring the onion/ginger under the broiler or over a gas flame before placing in pot.  I’ve never done it before and it tastes just fine to me!
  • I’ve seen recipes where the majority of the spices are replaced with Chinese Five Spice.  You can look and see how it’s done here.
  • I’d suggest making the “meat” mixture more salty than you normal would because it won’t be as strong once the broth is added.
  • In place of tofu, other fake meats can be used: mock duck, seitan, etc.
  • Instead of soy sauce, I like to use Bragg’s Liquid Aminos.
  • Most of the time when I see a recipe calling for “salt”, I tend to use mushroom seasoning instead.  It’s found in Asian stores in sealed packets.  The seasoning itself is in the shape of small light brown granules and it adds a lot of flavor with very little salt (and no MSG according to all the packages I’ve seen).  To me, there doesn’t seem to be a noticeable difference in taste.
  • Since I’ve found that we use up the “meat” mixture halfway thru the broth, I recommend doubling this portion of the recipe (except for the tofu unless you love tofu).  You know the large packs of mushrooms you can get from Costco?  I use the whole thing.
  • I like to use at least two of the following at bare minimum: cilantro, green onions, Thai basil, mint.  Since it’s pretty hard for me to get my hands on Thai basil, I usually stick to green onions and cilantro.

Vegan Pho

Serves 6-8

Broth ingredients:

  • 12 c water
  • 1-2 large leeks (leaves only)
  • 1 onion (skin removed, cut in half)
  • 2-4″ bruised ginger

Broth spices:

  • 3-4″ cinnamon stick
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds
  • 1 cardamom
  • 5 whole star anise
  • 6 whole cloves

Added to broth later, all to taste:

  • 1/8 c soy sauce
  • 3/4 to 1 tbsp salt
  • 3 tsp sugar

“Meat” mixture ingredients:

  • Oil, as needed
  • 1 pkg water-packed tofu, drained, cubed
  • 1-2 large leek stems (more if they’re small)
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • Soy sauce, to taste
  • Salt, to taste
  • Black pepper, to taste

Fresh vegetables:

  • Bean sprouts
  • At least two of the following: cilantro, green onion, Thai basil, mint
  • Jalapeños, sliced
  • Lime wedges

Noodles:

  • 1 pkg dry/fresh flat rice noodles (I’ve used glass rice noodles in a pinch)

Side condiments which are essentially necessary, in my opinion:

  • Sriracha hot sauce
  • Hoisin sauce

DIRECTIONS:

Bring water to boil in med sized pot.  While waiting, add in: leek leaves, onion, ginger, spices in mesh bag (I’ve used a coffee filter tied with yarn).  After reaching boiling, bring down to simmer and leave covered for 45-60 min until onion and ginger is softened.  Remove onion, ginger, leeks, spice bag; add soy sauce, sugar, and salt to taste.

While waiting for the broth to cook, make the “meat” mixture.  Sauté tofu if desired, add mushrooms and sauté, lastly add leek stems till cooked.  Season with soy sauce, salt, and black pepper to taste.  (I added torn kale to my most recent batch.  You can use most any veggies: bok choy, carrots, baby corn, Napa cabbage, etc.)

Prepare fresh vegetables: clean bean sprouts and greenery (cilantro, green onions, mint, Thai basil–whatever you’ve chosen), slice jalapeños, cut lime wedges.

Prepare the flat rice noodles according to directions.  If using dry noodles, I like to prepare them the following way: break noodles into appropriate eating length and place in a bowl, pour hot water over the noodles until covered, cover the bowl and let it sit approx 2-3 min until noodles are pliable but not fully cooked, finally drain the noodles.

Arrange noodles topped with “meat” mixture and cover with hot broth.  Add your desired amount of fresh vegetables.  Stir in Sriracha hot sauce and hoisin sauce to taste.

IMG_1511

The first time I made this, I was blown away at how much our place smelled just like a pho restaurant.  And the broth?  So good.  I made some earlier this week and we just about inhaled two bowls a piece.  I don’t know if any Vietnamese friends would call this legitimate pho, but I do know it sure tasted like it to me.

My inner Asian is now satisfied.