I love Asian style food. Many dishes are bursting of fresh ingredients and a combination of different flavors. A dish never tastes only salty, only sweet or only bitter. It is always a combination of different tastes. Today’s recipe is a perfect example of this philosophy of cooking. It’s easy to make vegetables with soy sauce.
The Thing with The Umami…
There are five basic tastes. Sweetness, sourness, bitterness, saltiness, and umami. We all know the first four flavors that I mentioned. But what is umami? Umami can be translated as ‘pleasant savory taste’. Its existence was first proposed in 1908 by the Japanese chemist Kikunae Ikeda. Umami taste receptors respond to glutamates. Foods that are rich in umami flavors are meat broths, mushrooms, seaweed, tomatoes, and fermented products such as fish sauce, soy sauce, and cheese. Umami taste is also described as ‘brothy’ and ‘meaty’. It’s not a new invention. Already the ancient Romans used umami in their cuisine. In this dish, the Umami comes from a generous shot of soy sauce.
High Heat – Short Cooking Time
Asian cuisine is not only about Umami. It’s not only about what you add but also about how you cook it. Typically for Asian style cooking is stir-frying in a wok. A wok is a large round-bottomed pan. The stir-frying in the wok keeps the cooking time short, adds a nice smoky flavor to the food.
As I have no wok, I had to find my method. To imitate that smoky wok flavor, I fry the vegetables one by one on high heat for a short time. This way, they get fried outside and remain crisp inside.
The Secret is The Garlic
For the proteins, I added some diced deep-fried (chickpea)tofu to the vegetables in soy sauce. To get a deep and delicious flavor you have to add a lot of freshly chopped garlic. I added about 3 tablespoons chopped garlic using about 2 whole bulbs of garlic.
This recipe tastes as least as good as restaurant-style vegetables in soy sauce. It’s an incredibly delicious soothing, affordable meal that is even vegan and full of umami.
Try it and you’ll love it! Check also my recipe for vegan peanut curry!
Ingredients for about 4 people:
- 2 tablespoons dried black fungus („champignon noir“)
- 1 large onion
- 3 carrots
- 2 bell peppers
- 1 zucchini
- 2 hands of broccoli florets
- 3 tablespoons of chopped garlic
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 red chili (optional)
- 2 tablespoons corn starch
- 300g tofu (I used homemade chickpea tofu)
- salt and black pepper to taste
- water, about 2 cups
- oil to fry (veggies and tofu!)
- cooked white rice to serve (use 1 ½ cups dry rice!)
- sesame seeds to sprinkle
- The thirst thing to do is to soak the dried black fungus in cold water.
- Next, peel the onion, halve it and slice it. Heat some vegetable oil in a wide skillet and put the onion stripes into the hot oil. Stir the onions regularly and fry them until slightly brown outside. Leave the oil in the skillet and set the onions aside. Use a large bowl, so that all the fried veggies fit in.
- While the onions are frying, peel the carrots and trim their edges. Then, halve them lengthwise and cut them diagonally into slices. When the onions are ready, fry the carrots in the hot oil. They should have some brown spots outside and remain slightly crisp inside. Set the carrots aside.
- Next, remove the seeds of the bell peppers and cut them into nice chunks. Fry them in the same oil and set them aside.
- Finally, fry the sliced zucchini and the broccoli florets in the same way and put both into the bowl with the other vegetables.
- Heat some vegetable oil in a small pot and dice the tofu. When the oil is hot, deep-fry the tofu until nicely brown and crispy outside. Let it drain on some kitchen paper.
- Peel the garlic and chop it finely and slice the chili (optional) finely. Afterward, heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a wide pan. Sauté the garlic and chili and add 2 tablespoons of sugar. Then, add the soy sauce. Add about 2 cups of water. Bring the sauce to boil and taste it. Add salt or more soy sauce if necessary and season it with some black pepper. Now add the fried veggies and the soaked and drained black fungus. Cook it all for about 2 minutes.
- Meanwhile, mix the cornstarch with another cup of cold water and put it into the soy sauce veggie mixture. Bring the vegetables to boil again. The corn starch will thicken the sauce a little and makes it shiny. When it is still not thick enough for you, add more corn starch. Make sure to dissolve it in some cold water before you add it. Otherwise, you will have starchy lumps in your sauce. After about 3 minutes of cooking, all the flavors are well combined but the vegetables are still slightly crisp inside. That’s how it should be. Now add the deep-fried tofu and turn off the heat. Taste the dish once more and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Serve the vegetables with soy sauce with cooked white rice and garnish with some sesame seeds.