Gluten-Free, Soy-Free Living: Challenge #2 Yummy GF Chinese Stir Fries without SOY SAUCE

September 6th, 2008 yum Posted in Chinese, Dinner Party, GF Support Groups, Karina Friendly, Mushrooms, Nut Free, Party Food, Soy Free, Vegan, Vegetables, Vegetarian, Vietnamese, jicama, soy-free challenges 8 Comments »

Recently I had the special challenge of creating completely allergen free food for our latest CeliacBayArea potluck. These dishes had to be gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free, egg-free, bean-free, nut-free, and even coconut-free. What’s a soy, coconut, nut loving girl to do? One of my go-to potluck dishes that I enjoy making is a simple spring roll, but my favorite dipping sauce uses nuts in some form or another. Luckily, some time back I’d discovered a lovely and easy sweet chili sauce that went beautifully with spring rolls. I’ve often made this as well as a peanut sauce in case there are people at the party allergic to peanuts. However, as I thought about the party, I wasn’t sure my ordinary, salad-like spring roll would do. Many (although not all) of our diners were not vegetarian, and I thought they might find a salad-type roll a bit light and unsatisfying. But what if I made a heartier filling with mushrooms- something seasoned like a rich Chinese food dish- and combined it with fresh cilantro (just a leaf or two) and some rice noodles? Wouldn’t that be hearty and tasty, and give my soy-free friends a chance for Chinese food flavors that they don’t often get to enjoy? I had a plan. I’ve been working on a jicama stir-fry for a while, ever since I discovered how delicious it is fried in flavorful oil. For this variation, I combined jicama, carrot, and mushroom for a hearty and pleasant stir fry with sweet and savory elements. The sauce required some thought- ordinarily I would have used sesame oil to give it savory appeal, but since nuts were out I had to look elsewhere for my flavors. I came up with a savory sauce using alcohol, vegetable stock (yes, mine is soy-free and guten-free! I use the bouillon on the left for all my Chinese dishes), honey, and rice vinegar. On its own it wasn’t special, but combined with the salty and savory elements of the stir fry, it really brought everything together. The verdict of my tasters? DH loved the stir fry and kept stealing bits of it, to my chagrin. He wanted to just eat it on rice, but I had other designs for it. And as far as the potluck- I think our allergen-free members really enjoyed the flavor. Allergy-boy (a fervent carnivore) liked the combination of vegetables, and my friend JM (of okra fame) wanted the recipe. Perhaps the greatest compliment of all- even though I’d made enough for an army (I thought), with two boxes filled with two tiers of rolls, our small-ish party managed to eat almost all of the summer rolls I’d brought. So much for leftovers… heheh. Although I am lucky enough (I think) not to be intolerant to soy, with some of the negative press around it, it seems like it doesn’t hurt to take a break from it once in a while. And, when you can make something this tasty, and this allergen-free, being soy-free no longer seems like such a restriction. After all, how yummy IS soy sauce, when it comes down to it? When’s the last time you felt like glugging it straight from the bottle? I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to think I could do without it.

How to make Spring/Summer Rolls and peanut sauce recipe
Summer Rolls Vegan Lunchbox-Style
Gluten-Free Soy-Free Chinese Fried Rice Recipe
Soy-free Szechuan Chinese Pea Recipe
Soy-free Szechuan Chili-Zucchini Brown fried Rice Recipe

Coming Soon
Gluten-Free Soy-Free Living- Challenge #3 Gluten Free Vegetarian Sushi without the soy sauce (and without missing it!)
Recipes, Tricks and tips for gloriously yummy (and healthy) Japanese dining- out AND at home!
Past Episodes
Gluten-Free Soy-Free Living- Challenge #1 Gluten-Free,Soy-Free, Dairy-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

Soy-Free Chinese Jicama Stir Fry
Ingredients
1/2 cup Canola Oil (or peanut, if allergies don’t forbid)
1 tbsp. szechuan peppercorns
a few slices of fresh ginger
2 large garlic cloves
2 scallions, just the white part

1 small jicama or 3/4 large jicama, peeled and cut into sticks
2 carrots, peeled and cut into sticks
8 med-lg. mushrooms (white or crimini), washed, stems removed, sliced

1/4 tsp. salt (NO LESS! Chinese food NEEDS the saltiness, and remember, you’ve already cut down on sodium by not using soy sauce)
2 tsp. fresh ginger, minced

Sauce:
1/2 cup vegetable stock (or make from vegetable bullion)
1 tsp. mirin
1 tsp. brandy
1/2 tsp. rice vinegar
2 tsp. honey
a touch of salt
1 tsp. cornstarch
(the important measurements here are the VEG STOCK AND CORNSTARCH. proportions of the alcohol and honey etc. are estimated- just add until you’ve created a balance in sauce that you like. This isn’t a lip-smackingly yummy sauce on its own- it is to add depth of flavor to well seasoned vegetables that are already flavorful)

Directions
Szechuan oil:
Heat a wok on high and add Szechuan to pan, tossing lightly. Turn heat to low and toast peppercorn lightly, stirring frequently- about a minute and a half. Add the peanut oil and raise heat to medium or medium high, depending on your stove. Once oil begins to bubble lightly (if it ever does), add ginger, and garlic cloves. Lower heat and let cook until the garlic cloves and ginger turns brown. You may want to turn them in the oil to get them brown on both sides. When they are golden brown remove them and discard. Add in the white part of the scallions and let it brown, and then remove it from the oil and discard. You should have nicely flavored oil by now. If you have the patience, let cool and strain into a glass container (with a lid). If you don’t have the patience, strain with heat resistant metal strainer after letting it reach a cooler temperature into a heat resistant metal or glass. You don’t need to clean your wok if you are planning on immediately making this stir fry.

Mix your sauce ingredients in a small bowl and reserve. Add cornstarch last by mixing it with a small amount of the sauce first and then adding it to the sauce.

Take two tablespoons of the flavored oil and heat in your wok over high heat.

Toss in your salt and then, a few seconds later, your fresh minced ginger. As it starts to brown, throw in your jicama sticks. Move them in the wok with cooking chopsticks or other wooden cooking device (I have a wooden paddle thing I’m rather fond of) to allow them to brown evenly and not burn as well as get evenly coated with the yummy oil. After two minutes or so, add in the mushrooms, and then the carrots. You do NOT want to overcook the carrots, so watch them carefully. You want the mushrooms to be nice and soft and melty and the carrots to be crisp tender. Continue moving the food around as needed. When the dish seems ALMOST done, stir your sauce one last time and create a well in the center of the wok. Add the sauce to the center of the wok and then fold in the veggies as it thickens. Make sure the sauce has evenly coated all the veggies and then turn off the heat. Remove from wok and place in serving dish.

Notes
If needed, you can add more oil right before you add the mushrooms and carrots, but try to let the oil heat up a little before adding the next ingredients, and keep the jicama away from it on the sides of the wok. You can also experiment with LESS oil, but it adds a lot of flavor and the interest to the dish, so I would try it first with the given amount and then adjust for your own tastes. Steamed veggies are an alternative for the super-health conscious- but I’ve never been keen on them and the goal here is to achieve lip-smacking Chinese restaurant style tastiness without soy or gluten.

You can serve this with rice (white or brown), rice noodles, or even in a summer roll rice paper wrap. Craziness, I know. :)

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An Easter Brunch with flavors of Vietnam and Japan

April 9th, 2007 yum Posted in Easter, Holiday, Vegetarian, Vietnamese, tofu No Comments »

vietnamnoodles2.jpg farmersmarketgoodies.jpgThis Easter morning I went to our local farmer’s market to get produce for the week. While I was there, I passed some beautiful, fresh Thai basil that caught my interest.. and I began to envision a meal centered around the basil. I saw a Vietnamese noodle salad… with fresh basil served on the side… enjoyed on our balcony for a light, refreshing brunch. So, with my salad in mind, I bought some beautiful organic baby daikon and baby carrots, as well as some gorgeous purple scallions. Then I went home and began researching. What I was picturing was a little something like “Bun thit nuong (Bún thịt nÆ°á»›ng): One of the more popular (and simple) Vietnamese dishes, basically a combination vermicelli plate, a kind of vermicelli counterpart to CÆ¡m tấm. Grilled pork (often shredded) and vermicelli noodles over a bed of greens (salad and sliced cucumber), herbs and bean sprouts. Also often include a few chopped up egg rolls, spring onions, and shrimp. Served with roasted peanuts on top and a small bowl of NÆ°á»›c chấm.” (source: Wikipedia) I have only discovered Vietnamese food fairly recently, due to the high volume of international restaurants in the Bay Area. Pho restaurants are common, and occasionally offer rice noodle dishes with seafood that may be gluten free. Pho itself may also be gluten free, but I prefer not to eat beef, so I haven’t tried it. While true vegetarian dishes seem rare in many Vietnamese restaurants, I thought it would be fun to make a dish that could either be vegetarian or incorporate some seafood (in the form of fish stock), so I compared recipes to come up with my own take on Bun Thit Nuong. Once I assembled the ingredients, we sat on our balcony and enjoyed the afternoon, munching on the crisp Thai basil and crunchy vegetables with rice noodles in a light broth. It might not have been a conventional Easter feast- but it was refreshing and the flavors seemed appropriate to the bright spring day.

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Vietnamese Rice-Noodle Salad
Salad  Rice  Asian  
Ingredients
5 cloves garlic
1 cup loosely packed chopped thai basil or cilantro
1/4 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
3 tablespoons white sugar
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 tbsp fish sauce (or more, to taste- optional)
1 (12 ounce) package dried rice noodles
2 carrots, julienned
1 cucumber, cut into sticks
4 radishes, sliced
1/2 block firm tofu, pressed, cut into strips and fried
1 cup vegetables of choice sauteed in oil and seasonings.
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
4 leaves lettuce
1/4 cup unsalted peanuts
4 sprigs fresh mint
1 cup vegetable broth or 1 cup broth made from Thai kitchen garlic seasoning and oil packet prepared without noodles.
Directions
Mince the garlic with the fresh herbs and the minced chilies. Combine with lime juice, fish sauce, sugar; stir and let sauce sit for 5 minutes.

Prepare rice noodles by boiling for 2 or 3 minutes and rinsing them in cool water and drain.

Prepare vegetables and arrange on plate. When ready, take bowl and add noodles. Add broth to taste and combine vegetables and toppings of choice. Garnish with fresh mint and fresh Thai basil and peanuts.

Cucumber and Radish Salad (Sunomono)
Ingredients
6 radishes
1 small cucumber, peeled
5 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp salt
Directions
Slice radishes and cucumber into thin slices. Add teaspoon of salt to the sliced cucumber and radishes and wait 5-10 minutes. Rinse off the salt and drain the water through a strainer. Combine the vinegar and sugar and pour it over the cucumber and radishes. Leave for at least fifteen minutes.

Best the same day or within a few hours of making.

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