小菜 [ small vegetables 1 ]

 Vegan tomato egg udon 蕃茄炒蛋 using beancurd sheets 腐皮 + a tofu soft scramble.

I forgot that my mum’s version has thinly sliced crescents of white onion that become soft and sweet when fried, freckled with brown; I’ll try that the next time. This would have worked better with fresh yuba, which is thin and fabric-soft and is best to recreate the way skeins of egg fold over themselves; the beancurd sheets are like a very set omelette with a bit of a chew to it. But taste-wise, there’s a slight fresh creaminess, a sort of almost cheesiness to it that I find delicious. The tofu soft scramble was just a way to coat and bring the mixture together: blended tofu with a bit of cornstarch, stock, turmeric for colour.

I’m not posting a distinct recipe for this and may develop it in the future. Or I may not!

Charsiu king oyster 叉燒杏鮑菇

I love the way the marinade coats and caramelises into the oyster mushroom whilst maintaining the distinct shiny, burnished coat of fragrant five spice and sugar, bright red with the mellowing colour fading into the flesh. King oyster mushrooms soak up flavour so amicably and are so kind to heat treatment; they do just as you say and crisp into the same kind of helmeted salt and sweet characteristic of the traditional barbequed pork slices.

I like to either let the marinade either reduce to a sticky char to really get the bit of smoke and crust; if I can’t be bothered with soaking the pan for cleanup I give it a blast under the oven grille till the most vulnerable parts blacken into sweet crispy deliciousness. I’ve also marinaded the mushrooms for up to 3 days just so the flavour really sinks in luxuriantly, before cooking the same way (reserving the splash of stock/water for the cooking process).

I use the loose term ‘spoon’ for you to vary the amount to your liking; this is just a rough ratio based on a large tablespoon portion. What is important is the proportion of the ingredients; feel free to be adjust for scale as you like.

1 heaped spoon liquid sweetener (maple syrup, agave syrup, honey etc)

1 spoon light soya sauce

1 spoon vegetarian hoisin sauce  

about 1/2 spoon of vegetarian oyster sauce

1 tsp kecap manis or dark soya sauce

1 tsp sesame oil

about 1/4 tsp five spice powder (or a whole star anise)

white pepper to taste

1/2 spoon red yeast rice powder (optional, for colour)

a splash of vegetable stock or water

Mix all ingredients in the saucepan and bring to medium heat. Stab 2 to 3 king oyster mushrooms with a fork or a knife to allow the flavour to enter. Coat them in the bubbling marinade, turning repeatedly, for about five minutes; then cover with a lid and let it simmer away on low heat for 15-20 minutes until the sauce is reduced to your liking.

I usually char the mushrooms under the oven grille, whilst reserving the rest of the sauce; then I toss them to coat again once they’re out and nicely crisped. Slice thinly for the traditional charsiu look.

Vegan japchae 잡채 with sweet dashi pickled beancurd in place of omelette ribbons. I sliced about three beancurd sheets, tightly rolled up, into ribbons and blanched them in boiling water for about 5 minutes. I then pickled them overnight in vegan dashi broth that I warmed up with a splash of rice vinegar, mirin and a spoonful of sugar to dissolve; the idea is to mimic the seasoning for Japanese tamago (my intention is not to conflate the two distinct cuisines! This is just the way I treat beancurd sheets in general when trying to substitute egg). I let it cool to room temperature before chilling in an airtight tupperware.

For the japchae, I roughly followed this recipe from Ahnesty; I liked the idea of treating each component separately, to bring out the best of each distinct vegetable. I admit that usually my japchae making is optimised for time (an all-in method, with the toughest/firmest items like carrot and tofu first) but it was nice to really pay attention and care, to slow down the slicing and run my joints through the sensorial, pneumatic loops of pan transfer, flash-frying, out with the spatula flick.

Simmered mushroom cold tofu hiyayakko 冷奴 / 香菇凉拌豆腐. I’ve made a reel for these and the rough recipe is in the caption. This has been my go-to in the towelette humidity and exhaling heat of these few weeks; something cold but bright-eyed and clear. I often find myself a little healed upon the last scoop of querulous soft-set soy, an errant curl of spring onion, a few threads of enoki.

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