An Asian/vegan/gluten-free extravaganza

I really love most Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese and other Asian cuisines.  They are vegetarian-friendly and for the most part dairy-free, and thus cooking authentic recipes requires little substitution or adaptation.

The other day I had a good friend over who spent a year in Thailand and shares my enthusiasm for this regional cuisine.  She also eats gluten-free and even with our combination of diet restrictions, most Asian food meets our needs!  So we put together a wonderful feast blending some dishes from Thailand, Vietnam and Burma.

My recipes below were adapted from The Asian Vegan Kitchen by Hema Parekh.

This book has a really lovely assortment of authentic recipes from multiple countries.  Just be forewarned that you may become, as I was, a bit overwhelmed by the sheer number of required ingredients not readily available, and a few new techniques.

So I tried to keep our dinner menu simple:  rice, noodles, a salad, a couple sides, and a few sauces and garnishes.  Here’s what we made:

Spring rolls

Go here for my recipe.
So simple and fun to make with friends, no cooking required, and so yummy!
I sliced up a bunch of veggies beforehand and we each filled them to our liking.

Green mango salad
I had a version of this a few years ago while in Vietnam and my whole life since then has been a quest to recreate it.  AMAZING.  So delightfully tangy and spicy, you will be surprised how much you like this.
The one I had in Vietnam was a simpler version — I am guessing it has just a simple sauce with cayenne powder, lime juice, maybe some soy sauce?  But this recipe below is good too.

Ingredients
1-2 large green mangoes, peeled and grated
2 cloves garlic
5 small hot chilies
3 shallots
1 T soy sauce
1 T lime juice
1 T sugar
1/2 t salt
Fresh cilantro

Combine the garlic, chilies and shallots in a food processor and blend until smooth.  Mix with other ingredients and toss with mango.  Garnish with cilantro.

Stir fried spinach and tofu

If you visit Southeast Asia you will inevitably have a chance to taste water spinach, also referred to as morning glory.  Cut into long, thin strips and usually sauteed with a simple dressing, it is great with rice and noodles.  It is actually considered invasive in the US however so it can be difficult to find.  Regular spinach is a suitable substitute, and what I ended up using.

Ingredients
1 large bunch spinach, coarsely chopped
2-3 scallions, sliced, white parts discarded
1/2 package tofu, water pressed out and cut into strips
1 stalk lemongrass, minced and crushed
1 package enoki mushrooms
3/4 inch piece of ginger, peeled
3 shallots
3 fresh chilies
2 cloves garlic
zest of one lime
salt to taste
2 T vegetable oil
1 T soy sauce

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and quickly blanch the spinach for 1 minute.

Using a food processor, coarsely blend the ginger, shallots, chilies, garlic, lime zest and salt.

Heat oil in a large pan over medium heat and stir fry the tofu until golden.  Add the mushrooms and cook until softened.  Remove tofu and mushrooms.

In the same pot, saute the blended spice mixture for 2-3 minutes.  Add the lemongrass, scallions, tofu, mushrooms and spinach.  Drizzle with soy sauce and raise heat to high, cooking for an additional minute.

Sauces and garnish

You could easily make a meal just out of these with some rice and/or noodles.  Julienne some fresh carrots, daikon, cucumber, mung bean sprouts, etc; slice some chilies, cilantro and scallions; throw in some shitake mushroom caps, and crush some peanuts.  Serve them fresh, like with spring rolls, or lightly saute them together.  The sauces add a major kick of deliciousness.

For additional flavor, reserve the liquid used to rehydrate the shitake mushroom caps and use this liquid in place of water for the sauce recipes.

Spicy Chili Sauce

Ingredients
3 fresh hot chilies
2 cloves garlic
3 T cilantro
3 T lime juice
3 T soy sauce
3 T water
1 T powdered sugar

Blend all ingredients in a food processor until smooth and sugar has dissolved.

Vietnamese Dipping Sauce

Ingredients
1 cup water
1/2 cup soy sauce
2-3 reconstituted shitake mushroom caps, pureed
4 T fresh lime juice
3 T powdered sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 t cayenne pepper
1-2 scallions, chopped.

In a saucepan, combine water, soy sauce and mushroom puree and bring to a boil.  Turn down heat and simmer for 2-3 minutes.

Add all the other ingredients and stir until sugar is dissolved.  Adjust seasoning as desired and garnish with scallions.

I also served some sweet chili sauce/Thai Crystal, recipe here.

Everything was so delicious!  I was so glad I picked up that cookbook; it was definitely legit, and I can’t wait to try more recipes from it!

-R

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