Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Chinese Style “Bourbon Tofu”

Like many people these days, I have a family that is pretty divided when it comes to eating preferences. I'm mostly vegan due to allergies, my mom will go for almost anything but prefers the lighter meats (chicken and fish) or vegetarian based dishes, my sister is perfectly happy eating just pasta or rice for dinner, and my stepfamily is of the strong belief that if there isn't meat on the table, it's not dinner. Ironically, when we were planning my stepdad's birthday party (normally a meat-fest) we received word that one of the guests - his daughter and her boyfriend - were vegan. My mom commissioned me to not only explain to my stepfamily at home what vegan meant in the first place, but to come up with some recipes that not only they but the rest of the guests would enjoy.

Chinese Style “Bourbon Tofu”About the same time, a large box was delivered to my doorstep from the wonderful people at San-J. I'm no stranger to their tamari - it's my go-to because it is delicious, not to mention gluten free and also comes in low-sodium varieties. I was thrilled to discover they had sent a bottle of Organic Tamari (Gold Label), as well as two of their cooking sauces - Sweet & Tangy Sauce and Szechuan Sauce. San-J (founded as San-Jirushi) began in 1804 in Japan as a tamari and miso company and began selling tamari in the United States in 1978 as an importer to natural food and industrial food markets. tamari quickly proved itself to be desirable to American tastes and San-Jirushi decided to build a plant to brew tamari in North America. Today, San-J continues the tradition of quality with a variety of tamari, Asian cooking sauces, salad dressings, soups, and rice crackers available throughout United States and Canada.The current San-J President, Takashi Sato, is an eighth-generation member of the founding family.

The tamari inspired me to make a vegan, gluten free version of one of my family's favourite Chinese-American dishes - Bourbon Chicken. Ironically, the dish contains no alcohol - it was named after Bourbon Street in Louisiana, and is essentially cut up chicken parts marinated in a sweet, tangy and spicy mixture before being stir fried (or shallow fried, depending on the restaurant). I not only wanted to veganize the recipe, but make it healthier as well, so I served it with brown Basmati rice, added a ton of broccoli and used organic, agave-sweetened ketchup. Since the tofu is coated in cornstarch, it crisps wonderfully and the sauce thickens into a velvety blanket of flavour - the soy gives the dish a deep umami note and balances out the brown sugar and apple juice, while heightening the ginger and pepper flakes.

Needless to say, this bowl of tofu disappeared lickety-split, and was devoured by both our vegan and non-vegan guests. The only ones who lost out were my sister (who was at work that evening) and my tofu-phobic stepdad. Not to fear, though - we got him with another dish that night, and he still doesn't know it!

Chinese Style “Bourbon Tofu”

Shared with Gluten Free Wednesdays

Chinese Style “Bourbon Tofu”
Serves 4
12 ounces extra firm tofu, frozen, thawed, drained and pressed
3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ tsp ground ginger
¾ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
¼ cup apple juice
¼ cup brown sugar
3 tbsp ketchup
1 tbsp rice vinegar (not seasoned)
¾ cup water
½ cup San-J Black Label Tamari
1/3 cup cornstarch
2 tbsp canola oil, for cooking
3 cups chopped broccoli florets, lightly steamed
2 cups cooked brown Basmati rice, for serving
  1. Cut tofu into bite-sized pieces.
  2. In a shallow dish, whisk together garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes, apple juice, brown sugar, ketchup, vinegar, water, and soy sauce.
  3. Add tofu and marinate at room temperature for 2 hours.
  4. Drain any excess marinade from tofu (reserve it for later) and coat tofu pieces in cornstarch.
  5. Heat oil over medium heat in a large frying pan and fry tofu until golden brown on all sides.
  6. Add reserved marinade and broccoli to the pan, bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes, until thick.
  7. Serve over rice.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 376.5
Total Fat: 12.6 g
Cholesterol: 0.0 mg
Sodium: 1,555.2 mg
Total Carbs: 58.0 g
Dietary Fiber: 2.9 g
Protein: 15.1 g

Right now, Canadians can download and print a coupon for 75 cents off the purchase of either San-J tamari or cooking sauces!

Note: San-J provided me with the tamari to review free of charge. All opinions are my own.