While on my most recent 3h trip to the Asian market, after getting distracted by the variety of produce, the whole aisle of noodles and cooking spices and sauces, I made it to the frozen section. Already laden down with supplies of ingredients that I sort-of-remembered reading about and therefore had to experiment with and supplementing my stash of curry leaves, rampe, Thai basil, and kaffir lime leaves I found the “veggie meat”. As always when in an Asian market, I am suspicious of the English on the package, especially when the package looks exactly like shrimp. And is beside the real shrimp. A quick scan of the ingredients promised “glutinous” something, which I took to mean that this mysterious shrimp-looking like thing was indeed “veggie shrimp” and into the basket it went. How could I resist? I’d have to save the jackfruit for another day – but in the meanwhile my busy brain was trying to figure out how to honour this theme ingredient.
I don’t cook with mock meat usually – I prefer to call a spade a spade and use tofu, tempeh, or if I’m really ambitious some homemade seitan. But “veggie shrimp”? It was begging to be tried. I decided that I wanted something Thai, and something ‘clean’, so I could taste the shrimp. No use experimenting with an ingredient if you are just going to disguise the taste with a spicy red curry sauce! I was thinking the heady combination of ginger and garlic, and wanted some zip to come from the lime leaves and lemongrass … and with the necessary addition of Thai chillies, this dish was born.
For the first time (ever) I made a concentrated effort at writing down what I was throwing into the saucepan. Turns out my efforts are not wasted – this dish was crisp, clean, and simple. Refreshing and easy to make, it had some nice heat from the Thai chillies I used but wasn’t too spicy. The veggie shrimp was interesting for a novelty item, but I cannot say it replaces tofu in my heart. I dry-sautéed the chillies, lemongrass, lime leaves, garlic, ginger, and peanuts. This made the kitchen smell amazing, and really highlighted the lemongrass. I served it with vermicelli, but rice would soak up the sauce and be lovely as well.
Ginger Garlic Thai Stir-Fry
Time: 20min (ish)
1T. lemongrass, minced
1T. fresh ginger, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 kaffir lime leaves
3 red Thai chillies, chopped
0.25c. peanuts, unsalted
1 package (180g) “veggie shrimp” (or extra-firm tofu, cut into whatever fun shape you want!)
1.5T. soy sauce, divided
1.5T. rice wine vinegar, divided
3c. bok choy, chopped (or 2 heads baby bok choy)
1 medium carrot, sliced on the bias
~0.3c. asparagus, cut into 5cm pieces (Tip: separate the stalks from the tops. You will be adding them at different times!)
3 green onions, roughly chopped
1 bundle vermicelli
Other stir fry additions that would be excellent:
– mung bean sprouts, (chinese) broccoli, napa cabbage (instead of bok choy), bell peppers …
1) Prepare the vermicelli as per package directions
2) Preheat a large pan (or wok, if you have it) on medium heat
3) Add the lemongrass and chillies to pan. Stir frequently so as not to burn. Sauté until fragrant
4) Add the ginger, garlic, and peanuts. Stir frequently. Sauté until peanuts lightly roasted
5) Add veggie shrimp, and sear each side of the shrimp.
6) Add 1T. soy sauce and 1T. rice wine vinegar to mixture. Stir and cover. Stir fry until veggie shrimp warmed through
7) Time to add the stir fry veg! If throughout the stir fry the pan is looking dry, add splashes of water. This also helps deglaze the pan.
8) Add the carrots and asparagus stalks. Stir and cook until stalks bright green and carrots almost to the crunchiness of your liking
9) Add the green onions, asparagus tops, and bok choy. Sauté until bok choy is bright green and wilted
10) Splash remaining 0.5T. of soy sauce and rice wine vinegar into mixture. Stir.
11) Turn off heat, add lime juice (to taste). Taste for seasonings. Garnish with fresh cilantro and serve over vermicelli.