There is a Chinese restaurant my husband and I used to patronize regularly, pre-Celiac days. Everytime we drive by it, we both sigh. We fondly remember walking into the dimly lit restaurant, sliding into a booth – seemed that every single one of them had electrical tape filling up the cracks in the vinyl. And when the waitstaff came to take our order, we would rattle off exactly what we wanted, without even looking at the menu. We had the same thing every time and we knew the number of each dish by heart.
No more sighing for us. Granted, we can’t waltz into the restaurant and order off the menu. Way too risky. Even if the food were inherently gluten free, the waitstaff don’t speak much English and the chances of cross contamination are way too high for us. So, instead, when we find ourselves craving Chinese food, we roll up our sleeves, pull out our wok, and stir fry like crazy.
Our homecooked Chinese meal was almost exactly like what we used to eat at our favorite Chinese restaurant. Except that tonight’s menu was gluten free and vegan. It included Sweet & Sour Tofu, a recipe I adapted from Ginger Lemon Girl’s Sweet and Sour Chicken recipe, Fried Rice, and yes, “W6” (the number of the broccoli dish we always used to order). I know I’m bragging, but lemme tell you, it was finger-licking good. In fact, being the little piggy that I can sometimes be, I displayed a huge amount of restraint in allowing myself one plateful. My husband, on the other hand, went back for seconds and then for thirds. He moaned after he took the last bite, but said it was totally worth it! I think he was partially trying to distract himself from the movie we’d rented (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) which we both thought was really stinky.
If you want to make this entire meal, it requires some skill to pull it off so that everything is ready at approximately the same time. If it’s your first time, perhaps you might want to try making the Fried Rice and the Broccoli either the day before or earlier in the day (assuming you’ll be serving it for dinner). But if you’re good at multi-tasking, heck, go for it.
Sweet & Sour Tofu
I will explain how I prepped the tofu. For the rest of the recipe that I used, please go to Ginger Lemon Girl’s Sweet and Sour Chicken recipe.
Drain a one pound package of extra-firm tofu (I love Trader Joe’s – it’s really firm). Place on a flat plate, cover with another flat plate, cover the top plate with a heavy weight (I use a cast iron pot). Let it sit for a minimum of one hour (more is better). When you’re ready to proceed, drain off the water that pooled underneath the tofu. You might want to pat the tofu with a wad of paper towel, just to make sure that it’s as dry as possible.
Cut tofu into desired shape. I cut my tofu into cubes. Then follow Ginger Lemon Girl’s recipe. I chose to bake my tofu cubes, but after 15 minutes, I removed them from the oven and then pan-fried them in a little bit of peanut oil, just to crisp them up.
Fried Rice (no eggs)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2″ piece of fresh ginger, grated
1/2 cup cubed carrots
1 small red bell pepper (or yellow or green), diced
1/2 cup snow peas, sliced at an angle
4 scallions, thinly sliced
2 cups uncooked jasmine rice, cooked until done and cooled
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/3 cup wheat-free tamari
Heat a wok or large non-stick large skillet over high heat. Add oil to the pan. Add garlic, ginger, carrots, pepper, snow peas, and scallions. Stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add cooked cooled jasmine rice and combine with veggies. Stir fry for 2 minutes, until rice and veggies are coated in oil and everything is evenly combined. Add frozen peas (they will defrost) and tamari. Stir fry for one more minute.
Broccoli in Sesame Garlic Sauce
1 head of broccoli, cut into small florettes
1/3 cup rice vinegar
2 1/2 tbsp wheat-free tamari
1/4 cup sugar, honey, or agave
1 1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 minced garlic clove
2 tsp Asian Chili Garlic Paste
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
1/2 cup peanut or other vegetable oil
1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
Steam the broccoli and quickly dunk in ice cold water bath to stop the cooking. Drain.
Whisk the rice vinegar, tamari, sugar, ginger, garlic, chili garlic paste, and sesame oil. Slowly drizzle in the peanut oil and continue to whisk. Pour over the broccoli. Top with toasted sesame seeds.
Grab your chopsticks and enjoy!