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Grilled Tempeh in a Spicy Vegan Manchurian Sauce
Hakka cuisine occupies a unique culinary space somewhere between Chinese and Indian. My local Hakka restaurant serves astonishingly flavourful dishes with lots of chilies, garlic and ginger (another reason to love Toronto restaurants). One of my favourites is Manchurian sauce. The vegan option with Manchurian sauce is plate full of little fritters like pakoras, made with cabbage and carrot, served over rice. It's tasty, but I was hoping for something with a little more protein to make a complete lunch. As I committed to duplicating the sauce at home, I mentally jettisoned the fritters and settled on grilled tempeh as the protein. Tempeh tastes pretty neutral, but it's substantial and it's got a healthy dose of vegan protein.
The real star of the show here is the Manchurian sauce. The dominant flavour is a little hard to nail down though. You definitely taste the cilantro, but it competes on a level footing with the ginger and garlic. Then the spice from the chilies hits you. You taste each of them and all of them at the same time. It's one my all-time favourite sauces.
Tempeh and Rice
1 package plain tempeh (250 g, about 1/2 lb), sliced into 1/4" strips
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup jasmine rice
10 whole sprigs of cilantro (leaves and stems), trimmed, submerged and rinsed
3 green onions, white parts (save the greens for garnishing at the end)
5 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
2 Tbl ginger, grated
2-3 pickled Thai red chilies
1/4 cup canola oil
1/4 tamari (or soy) sauce
1/4 tsp salt (optional)
1 tsp sesame oil
1 Tbl corn starch
Slice the tempeh lengthwise, about 1/4" thick and coat with 1/4 cup olive oil in a shallow container with a lid.
Coat the tempeh in the oil.
Prep the sauce ingredients. Submerge the cilantro (leaves and trimmed stems) in a large bowl of cool water to dislodge any grit, then rinse and shake dry.
Clean the green onions and separate the whites from the greens. Set the greens aside for a garnish and cut the whites into one-inch lengths. Slice the garlic and add it to a food processor along with the cilantro and green onion pieces.
Grate the ginger directly into the food processor.
Add 2-3 pickled red chilies.
Add the canola oil, tamari sauce, optional salt, and sesame oil along with 1/4 cup of water to the food processor. (Do not add the corn starch at this point.) Process until completely combined and liquified.
Light the BBQ to grill the tempeh. Set to medium heat.
Transfer the sauce from the food processor to a saucepan. Bring to a rapid simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently. Cook for about 10 minutes, continuing to stir, then reduce heat to low.
Grill the tempeh for 5 minutes on each side.
By the time the tempeh is done, the rice should be pretty much done as well. Leave the rice covered.
Mix the corn starch into a measuring cup containing 3/4 cup water.
Bring the sauce to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, and add the corn starch mixture.
Continue stirring over medium-high heat until sauce thickens (should only take a minute or two).
It should have the texture of a thick gravy. Remove from heat.
Break the tempeh into bite-sized pieces and distribute over a plate of rice. Ladle the sauce on top of the tempeh and garnish with 1/4" slices of green onion (slice using scissors).
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Posted: Thursday, August 18, 2016