I've said this before, but sometime I just repeat. Being a Vegetarian in the US is tough business. I mean, when we go out to eat and look at the menu, there are 76 options if you eat meat and there are 4 options if you don't. And out of the 4, 2 are added on the menu by you - like when you ask the restaurant to serve you the Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo without the chicken. Or the Panang curry - with no meat and substitute tofu. Or the great American BLT sandwich without the bacon of course - what's great or American about it after that anyways?
And one such experience is with the very famous lettuce wraps for appetizers. PF Changs has one of the best lettuce wraps and until recently, they had only the chicken version available. I'm yet to go and try their vegetarian version. But every time we've been there before, and order the food and wait around, I see one of my neighboring tables being served the famous chang's lettuce wraps. And the hungry humans sitting on that table pick up their fresh green lettuce, dump some chicken filling and go crunch munch when I'm sitting there starving for my chowfun and ma po tofu. Not anymore - next time I'm getting my plate of the vegetarian lettuce wraps - hope its worth my wait.
I've been planning to make this for a while now. I wanted to do something new with the soya granules that's been sitting in my pantry for some time. So, if you are a soya chunk or soya granules lover, you will love this recipe. If you're not, its ok - you can still eat a little bit to get your protein in and give your muscles some food too. And its a perfect appetizer to serve when you're cooking Chinese or Asian food. I had invited a friend's family for dinner and had Indian Chinese on the menu and this was of course a part of the meal.
So, this is what I used. I had about half a packet left and used it all up. This would serve about 6-8 people.
Boil the granules in hot water for about 10 mins and then wash and rinse under water. Wash it thoroughly a couple of times. Squeeze out all the excess water and set aside the cooked soya granules.
In a small mixer, make a paste of all these below -
Onion - half a medium onion - roughly chopped
Garlic - 3-5 single pods.
Ginger - about 1 inch piece - roughly chopped
Coriander seeds - 1 tbsp
Cumin seeds - 1 tbsp
Red Chillies - 3-4
Without any pre cooking, just blend all these together into a raw paste.
In a wide pan, add 2 tbsp of oil. You can use sesame seed or regular vegetable oil. When the oil it hot, add the ground paste to this and start cooking till the raw smell goes away.
Add about 1/2 cup of finely chopped onions to the cooked paste. Saute for a couple of mins.
Now, add the cooked and strained soya granules to this paste. Mix well and cook on medium heat for a few mins.
Now comes the spicing up part. Here, what I added. You can add any kind of flavoring you like to improve the taste.
1/2 tbsp of Chilli garlic sauce
1 tbsp of Soy Sauce
1 tbsp of Chilli Soy
1 tbsp of white vinegar. You can also add a citrus flavor with some lime or orange juice for a citrus soy taste.
Mix well and let this all cook for about 10 mins. Add some salt if you think its needed. The soy provides enough saltiness.
When done, top off with some cut green onions.
Serve warm with some grated carrots and crispy chowmein croutons on the side. This adds a lot of crunch and balance to the soft soya filling.
Cut the stalk off at the bottom of a fresh whole lettuce and gently peel out the whole leaves and place on on top of the other. Refrigerate until you are ready to serve. The cold bland lettuce works great with the warm salty soya filling and the crunchy noodle and carrot offer a welcomed crunch to the appetizer.
Don't let your protein sit away in a pantry shelf. Time to get it out and make it pretty.
Enjoy. Peace out.