Citizens – your glorious leader is a renowned carnivore, yet even I can occasionally be swayed to the delights of the vegetarian on rare occasions!
This is one of them, and few people have mastered the art of making vegetarian cuisine emulate meat better than the Chinese Buddhists!
As noted on buddhism-guide.com:
Buddhist cuisine is a kind of cuisine mainly for the believers of Buddhism. It is known as zhāi cài (zhāi means “purification” or “discipline”, cai means “cuisine” or “vegetable”) in China.
Reincarnation is one basic tenet of Buddhism, and this includes rebirth of humans as other animals, and vice-versa. As a result, many Buddhists do not kill animals and many also do not eat meat. Other common reasons cited are that killing animals and/or eating their meat are a violation of the Five Precepts, bad for one’s own karma, and because of a compassion for other animals.
Many vegetarian Buddhists are not vegan, but for those who are vegan, such beliefs are often due to objections about the circumstances in which the animals producing products such as milk and eggs are raised.
Some Mahayana Buddhists in China and Vietnam also avoid eating strong-smelling plants such as onion, garlic, chives, shallot, and leek, and refer to these as wu hun (五葷, ‘Five Spices’).
One theory behind this Buddhist dietary restriction is that these vegetables have strong flavors which are supposed to excite the senses and, thus, represent a burden to Buddhists seeking to control their desires.
Another theory is that these are all root crops, and harvesting them requires killing organisms in the soil. The latter explanation is accepted in the Jain religion that sprung up in India at the same time as Buddhism, and quite possibly influenced its practices. It is unclear, historically, what the original reason was for this restriction.
Buddhist vegetarian chefs have become extremely creative in imitating meat using prepared wheat gluten, also known as “seitan” or “wheat meat”, soy (such as tofu or tempeh), agar, and other plant products. Some of their recipes are the oldest and most-refined meat analogues in the world.
Soy and wheat gluten are very versatile materials, because they can be manufactured into various shapes and textures, and they absorb flavourings (including, but not limited to, meat-like flavourings), whilst having very little flavour of their own. With the proper seasonings, they can mimic various kinds of meat quite closely.
Some of these Buddhist vegetarian chefs are in the many monasteries which serve wu hun and mock-meat (a.k.a. ‘meat analogues’) dishes to the monks and visitors (including non-Buddhists who often stay for a few hours or days, to Buddhists who are not monks, but staying overnight for anywhere up to weeks or months).
Many Buddhist restaurants also serve vegetarian, vegan, non-alcoholic, and/or wu hun dishes. Some Buddhists eat vegetarian only once per week or month, or on special occasions such as annual visits to an ancestor’s grave. To cater to this type of customer, as well as full-time vegetarians, the menu of a Buddhist vegetarian restaurant usually shows no difference from a typical Chinese or far-Eastern restaurant, except that in recipes originally made to contain meat, a chicken flavoured soy or wheat gluten might be served instead (e.g. “General Tsao’s chicken” made with flavored wheat gluten).
Citizens, despite my aversion to veg, this is one mock meat dish that truly satisfies – my version is quite traditional, but has a few TFD-inspired bits of genius added in to make this truly the ne plus ultra, nay, the NIRVANA of karmic vegetal delight!
Battle on – The GeneralissimoPrint
- 2 sheets bean curd skin (tau puay)
- 220ml water
- ½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
- Marinade (combine in a small bowl):
- 1 tsp five spice powder (ng heong fun)
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp light soy sauce
- 1 cube red fermented bean curd (tau ju)
- 110ml water
- 4 tsp Asian sesame oil
- 4 tsp dark soy sauce
- 1 tbs sugar
- 1 tsp white pepper
- 1 tbs peanut oil
- 10 dried black mushrooms (Shiitake); soaked in hot water to cover for 30 minutes, rinsed, squeezed dry, stems discarded and caps sliced thin
- ½ cup julienned strips of carrot
- ½ cup shredded bean curd skin
- ¼ cup julienned strips of rinsed canned bamboo shoots
- To Optionally Fry and For Garnish:
- ¼ cup peanut oil
- 1 ½ cups shredded lettuce
- Fold each bean curd skin into a rectangle, then secure the edges with toothpicks or sharpened satay sticks.
- Soak both these pieces of folded bean curd skin in the combined soda bicarbonate solution for 10 to 15 minutes, then drain well.
- Spread the marinade ingredients all over the bean curd skin. Leave aside for 30 minutes.
- Make the filling: In a small bowl stir together the sesame oil, soy sauce, sugar and white pepper. In a heated wok, heat the peanut oil over high heat until it just begins to smoke, add the mushrooms, carrot and bamboo shoots and stir-fry the mixture for 1 minute.
- Add the soy sauce mixture and ¼ cup water, stir-fry the mixture for 3 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender and the water is evaporated, and transfer the filling to a bowl.
- Cut the bean-curd skin into 6 (6- by 4-inch) rectangles with kitchen shears, moisten the rectangles lightly with wet hands and divide the filling among them, arranging it along a long side.
- Place 1 piece of bean curd sheet on the work surface, keeping it flat and straight. Put half portion of the torn bean curd sheets near to the curve end, cover it with the fried shreds and top them with another half portion of the torn sheets. Fold the closest edge over the ingredients. Roll up each rectangle jelly-roll fashion, leaving the ends open (wet the end a bit to seal).
- Repeat with the remaining bean curd sheets.
- Grease a steam-proof dish, arrange the rolls seam side down in one layer without touching one another and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon water. Arrange a round metal rack level in a wok, add enough water to reach almost up to the rack, and bring to a boil, covered.
- Set the dish on the rack, steam the rolls, covered, for 10 minutes, or until they are translucent, and remove the plate from the wok.
- Slice the steamed rolls into about 3 cm chunks, and serve (hot or cold) with Worcestershire sauce or black vinegar.
- To optionally fry:
- In a large heavy skillet heat the oil over moderately high heat until it begins to smoke and in it fry the rolls, turning them, for 1 to 2 minutes, or until they are golden brown. Transfer the rolls with tongs to paper towels and let them drain briefly. Cut each roll into fourths and serve the rolls on a platter lined with the lettuce.
- Calories: 424.13 kcal
- Sugar: 7.8 g
- Sodium: 539.98 mg
- Fat: 33.18 g
- Saturated Fat: 5.92 g
- Trans Fat: 0.0 g
- Carbohydrates: 13.54 g
- Fiber: 4.0 g
- Protein: 25.06 g
- Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
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