When I decided to be strictly vegetarian, it really wasn't that hard for me. Most of the time, I ate meat out of convenience, not out of a true love for its taste. (My fiancé is the total opposite, a carnivore through and through.) However, there are two things I find myself occasionally craving: bacon and barbeque. Veggie bacon is pretty tasty, but nothing like the real thing. Every time I think about real, crispy, greasy bacon, I have to stop my mouth from watering by thinking about where it really comes from. The other thing I found a bit hard to relinquish was barbecue. I LOVE a good pulled pork sandwich. However, right after I made my commitment to give up meat, W. tempted me into getting one. I am proud to say I took one bite, was disgusted and passed it off to him. However, the word "barbeque" is a vague term. And I love all sorts and styles: Kansas City, Memphis, Texas... they are all wonderful. However, I also have been a longtime fan of Korean BBQ. And if you've ever gone to a restaurant that does Korean BBQ, you'll know that it's not exactly easy to be vegetarian. Sure, you can munch on a few of the banchan they bring you, but meat is where it's at as far as the barbecuing goes.
Anyway, this is my very first, feeble attempt to create a vegetarian meal inspired by Korean barbeque. And I think it turned out quite well!
TVP Ssäm Bap
(Korean Lettuce Wraps)
1 c. medium-grain white or brown rice
2 T. vegetable or canola oil, divided
1 small onion, chopped or thinly sliced
2 medium carrots, julienned or grated
½ red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
2 scallions, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
2-inch piece fresh gingerroot, peeled and grated
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 (12-14 oz.) package ground beef-style TVP crumbles (recommended: Gimme Lean)
1 recipe Hoisin Sauce
1 head Boston or Bibb lettuce, leaves washed and separated**
For the Hoisin Sauce (Yields ¼ c.):
4 T. soy sauce (preferably reduced sodium)
2 T. ketchup
1 T. peanut butter
1 tsp. unsulphured molasses
½ tsp. honey or agave nectar
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 tsp. rice vinegar
½ tsp. white vinegar
½ tsp. brown sugar
¼ tsp. hot sauce (about 10 drops) or red pepper flakes
¼ tsp. garlic powder (not garlic salt!)
1/8 tsp. black pepper
Start by making the rice, following package directions or using a rice steamer.
Then, make the sauce: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine all the ingredients and stir constantly until well-blended, then remove from the heat.
Next, make the filling: Heat 1 T. of the oil in a large, deep-sided skillet and sauté the onion until translucent and sweet, about 3 minutes. Add the carrots, bell pepper scallions and cook for 3-5 minutes, or until tender. Add the garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes and sauté an additional minute. Move the vegetable over to one side of the pan and add the remaining 1 T. oil to the skillet. Add the TVP crumbles and cook until warmed through. Stir in the sauce and stir until well combined.
Serve family style. To assemble the wraps, spoon the 1-2 T. of the rice onto a lettuce leaf, then top with the filling. Fold the leaf closed and enjoy!
Suggestion: If you can find ssamjiang sauce in your local Asian market, spread that onto the lettuce leaf before adding the rice.
** Usually they give you buttery Bibb lettuce in Korean restaurants, but I already had hearts of Romaine (and they are a lot cheaper!), so that's what I used as my wrappers. It worked just fine.
Sweet and Spicy Korean Braised Potatoes
2 T. olive or canola oil
2 medium potatoes, diced – about 2 cups
1 medium onion, chopped or thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ c. water
3 T. light corn syrup
1 T. gochujang (Korean red pepper paste)*
1 T. granulated or cane sugar
2 tsp. soy sauce (preferably reduced sodium)
2 tsp. rice vinegar
2 tsp. unsulphured molasses or barley malt syrup
1 tsp. gochugaru (Korean chile powder), regular chile powder or red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tsp. sesame oil
Toasted sesame seeds, for garnish
Place the chopped potatoes in a colander and rinse under running water to remove excess starch. Drain and set aside.
Preheat a large, deep-sided skillet over medium-high heat, then add the oil. Sauté the potatoes until they are somewhat translucent, then add the onion and cook until softened. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more.
Lower the heat to medium-low, then add the water, corn syrup, gochujang, sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, molasses and chile powder. Mix well to combine, then cover. Simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender but still hold their shape and a thick, dark sauce has formed. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Add the sesame oil and stir. Cool to room temperature, then spoon into a serving dish and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.
*This ingredient can usually be found at your local Asian market. However, if none is available, you could substitute 1-2 tsp. of sriracha sauce instead, which is carried in the International aisle of most grocery stores.
White Girl Kimchi
½ head Napa cabbage, chopped
2 c. cold water
2 T. sea salt, divided
4 cloves garlic, minced – about 1 T.
1 T. fresh, grated gingerroot
2 scallions, chopped
½ - 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. chile powder
2 tsp. granulated or cane sugar
½ c. water
2 T. rice vinegar
2 T. white vinegar
Place the cabbage in a large bowl and sprinkle with 1 T. of the salt. Pour the water over the cabbage and place a dinner plate in the bowl to keep all of the leaves submerged. Refrigerate overnight. Squeeze the leaves and discard the liquid. Rinse well to remove excess salt.