Thursday, August 13, 2009

All-U-Care-to-Eat $2.99 buffet!!!

Earlier today my husband and I were walking around Baltimore (lamenting the fact that we both go back to work soon....) and shopping a little. In one of my favorite local used bookstores, Read Street Books, I stumbled upon the strangest little cookbook entitled: Cuisines of the Axis of Evil and other irritating states: A Dinner Party Approach to public Relations

The book features recipes from Korea, Iran, Iraq, Israel, India, Pakistan, Cuba, Burma, China and the good ole US of A. Without beginning any political discussion (this isn't a political blog...I'm thinking about the recipes), I want to tell you that this book is great. It has many recipes that are vegan and then many more that can easily be veganized. Since I love Asiatic Cuisines, I obviously bought it. And then.... I spent the entire walk home planning dinner. We set everything up like our own little All-U-Care-to-eat Chinese buffet.

Here was the menu:
  • Vietnamese Style Spring Rolls 越南春卷
  • Sticky Rice 大米
  • Stir-Fried lotus Root 炒莲藕
  • General Tso's Tofu 左宗棠豆腐
  • Tropical Fruit Smoothie 水果时髦饮

The Vietnamese Spring Rolls were filled with soaked rice noodles, cucumber, red pepper, carrot, parsley, lettuce, chives and a homemade orange-ginger vinaigrette.

The Stir-Fried Lotus Root was seasoned with garlic, ginger, soy sauce and a little sesame oil. Fresh lotus Root can be purchased at most Asian grocery stores. Before using, it needs to be peeled. To prevent browning it can be soaked briefly in water with a splash of vinegar.

The General Tso's Tofu was a veganization of a recipe from the new cookbook. The recipe is posted below.

And finally to cool down all of that heat, we drank delicious tropical fruit smoothies! They were made from a combo of frozen lychees, cherries, banana and pineapple combined with lime juice, coconut milk, agave nectar and fresh minced ginger.

It was all great. After dinner we relaxed with Polynesian cocktails and watched Planes, Trains and Automobiles. It was a great date night and we didn't even have to leave our house.

General Tso's Tofu


1 block extra firm tofu, pressed and cut into small chunks
1 cup broccoli florets
1 cup cornstarch
1 cup peanut oil + 2 TBS additional oil
4-8 small dried hot chilli peppers (I used 4 and it was wimpy... my DH had to add extra hot pepper)
1 packet liquid vegetable broth concentrate
white pepper

for sauce:
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
3 TBS hoisin sauce
3 tsp agave nectar
2 TBS rice vinegar
1 TBS sake or mirin
2 cloves minced garlic
2 TBS minced ginger

optional garnishes: minced scallions, sesame seeds or parsley


1. Marinate tofu in the vegetable broth concentrate and pepper (do not add water!) stir to coat all pieces. Let sit for approximately 30 minutes to one hour. Use this time to combine all the sauce ingredients in a small bowl.

2. Right before cooking, set oven to low heat and line an oven safe pan with a few paper towels.

3. Heat the cup of oil in a wok or frying pan with steep sides. Working in small batches, lightly coat tofu in the cornstarch and fry until crispy. Place cooked tofu in prepared pan and keep warm in the oven. (Note: If you just dump the tofu into the cornstarch it will become a gluey mess... I found putting the cornstarch on a plate and turning the indivual tofu chunks with tongs to be the best method.)

4. When all of the tofu is done, pour off the oil into a jar to cool and wipe out the pan. Return to the stove and add the two tablespoons of additional oil to the pan.

5. Carefully cook your peppers (Watch out for your eyes and nose!) until the oil is slightly colored and the peppers are soft. Add your broccoli and sautee briefly.

6. Return the tofu to the pan.

7. Pour the bowl of sauce ingredients over the tofu and stir continually until sauce becomes slightly thick.

Garnish, if desired and serve over rice.

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