Vegan kung pao.

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I often feel very blessed to live where I live. That does not only go for my current whereabouts, where I’ve been living, off and on, for a total of 12 years, and where I, in all likelihood, will spend the rest of my life as well, but also for the places I called my home, be it temporarily, in earlier times. The splendid medieval town where I grew up, bombed to pieces a century ago, but stubbornly rebuilt. The magnificent capital of a bygone imperial era which carries the architectural grandeur of a glorious past as oversized clothes which suddenly no longer fit a shrunken frame. The medieval university town with meandering streets lined by 5-storey high Fachwerk-buildings that expand level after level and house many bookstores and anecdotes of eminent poets and philosophers. The nordic capital where the nearly lilliput size of its stock exchange, parliament and national theatre remind of a humbler past – especially compared to what its historically more powerful neighbours can boast of – but which slowly but steadily adapts to its rapid growth and current status as the world’s best place to live in by expanding its skyline with exciting architecture (which simultaneously turns the city into the world’s best place for young architects to find employment). THE other nordic capital, Scandinavia’s undisputable cultural hub and tourist magnet, booming as well, yet preserving its essential greenness and persisting on family-friendliness and an overall high quality of living in all areas of life.

All of these places I was happy to call my home at one point in my life, and all for a multitude of various reasons. And of course I love to revisit them – both in my memories and during short trips.

One of the many reasons I am happy to live where I am living – again – right now (although of course I could name plenty of issues which I find disagreeable here too, but that’s life: the ideal world is an eternal utopia – ha, utopia!) is a pretty down-to-earth and practical one: places where I can eat and buy vegan items have been continously popping up over the last few years, and this makes day-to-day life as a vegan WAY easier than it used to be. There are, for instance, TWO Loving Hut restaurants nearby, both run by a hands-on, extremely entrepreneurial and sympathetic vegan young woman, and one of these restaurants has KUNG PAO on its fixed menu.

I have started to LOVE this dish, which I previously never had heard of. I haven’t been able to convince the restaurant owner to share the magic recipe with me yet (to be honest, I haven’t directly asked her for this one yet), but I think I have come pretty close in recreating the dish at home.

Essential ingredients are broccoli florets, bell peppers and cashews, but in order to please my children’s palates too, I have added some peas and string beans (an overabundance of broccoli and bell peppers would have been too off-putting for them, although my eldest this time actually told me over his plate that he LIKED the red bell pepper pieces).

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Vegan kung pao.

Serves 4.

Ingredients

For the sauce:

  • 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp vegan “oyster” and mushroom sauce (lucky for me, they sell this at one of the local Loving Hut restaurants) – if you don’t find this, replace by an extra tablespoon of soy sauce and a tablespoon of tomato ketchup.
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1-2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 5 tbsp water
  • salt and pepper

For the rest of the dish:

  • 2 x ca. 200 grams of tofu or some vegan strips (I used the beef-style strips from the Vegetarian Butcher. Their chicken-style chunks would of course work well too here). When using tofu, I can definitely recommend this recipe from the Buddhist Chef.
  • 1 shallot
  • 1 – 1,5 bell pepper, diced (red and yellow look nice in this dish)
  • 1,5 cup broccoli florets (or cauliflower might work well here too)
  • 1 – 2 carrots, sliced or diced
  • some peas and/or green beans: optional (as explained above, I added these to please my children :-))
  • 2-3 scallions
  • a handful of raw or toasted cashews

Serve over rice

Instructions

  • For the sauce: Dissolve the arrowroot in a bowl with some water and mix in all other ingredients for the sauce as well. Keep at hand for the step below.
  • For the actual dish: Fry the beef-style strips or tofu in a skillet and set aside. Heat some oil in a skillet and add the shallot, carrots and the diced peppers. Cook for 3 minutes. Add the broccoli florets and and cook whilst stirring occasionally for another 5 minutes until the veggies are almost fork-tender. Add the cashews and the sauce and cook for 1 minute over high heat or until thickened. Add the vegan strips or tofu back to the skillet. Add the spring onions and serve over rice while still warm.Sprinkle some sesame seeds over the dish for garnish.
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