Eating out vegan can be a challenge at times, but should be no more difficult than asking a few pointed questions. Some establishments are more accommodating than others, nevertheless finding something to eat on any menu is always possible - even if that means ordering a green salad with oil and vinegar. Boring, but still possible.
Dining at P.F. Chang's, a chain casual Chinese-American restaurant, is more on the easy side because the personnel tend to be more educated regarding their menu and are more knowledgeable about items that are vegan or vegan-friendly.
Each ethnic restaurant comes with its own set of standard questions to ask in order to discover hidden animal ingredients. Asian restaurants tend to use fish sauce, oyster sauce, lobster or other shellfish sauce and egg in pasta or a specific dish. This is, of course, in addition to the usual meat and dairy.
P.F. Chang's has a vegetarian menu, so the work is done for you, but if you want to replace tofu in any meat-centered dish, it is wise to inquire in particular about the sauces.
All this is leading to one of our favorite dishes on the menu - Stir-fried Eggplant. My son loves this especially, but when we discovered that the eggplant is deep-fried, we were a little startled. In fact, that vegetarian dish, thanks to the frying, is one of their most calorie and fat laden menu item.
Ouch. Stir-fried, huh?
Making the eggplant at home is a better option and avoiding the deep frying is a must - but the eggplant has to be tender while at the same time not so tender that it completely falls apart.
Roasting the eggplant is a great way to go, but that is not a pleasant prospect in the middle of summer. Anything to keep the oven off! Because grilling uses minimal oil and still cooks the eggplant, I went in that direction. No secret about my love of my cast-iron grill pan.
And since my CSA is bursting with zucchini, that got into the mix, too. It is actually a welcome textural addition. I also added cashew nuts for crunch and because my youngest loves nuts in savory dishes - and I agree with her. Besides, cashews are a pretty standard fare in Indian and Asian recipes.
Use my method to cook brown rice, and this meal can be ready in about 30 minutes. The sauce is sweet and spicy, the eggplant is tender and this is another make-at-home dish that is better than the original.
SWEET AND SPICY EGGPLANT AND ZUCCHINI PRINTER-FRIENDLY RECIPE
Sweet and Spicy Eggplant and Zucchini
8 tablespoons (½ cup) vegetable broth, divided
1 tablespoon neutral oil, divided
Fresh ground black pepper
1 medium eggplant (about 1 pound), cut into 1-inch slices
2 medium zucchinis, cut into 1-inch slices
½ cup cashew pieces
1 tablespoon arrowroot starch or cornstarch
6 tablespoons reduced-sodium tamari
1 to 2 tablespoons sambal oelek
2 tablespoons brown rice vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 celery ribs, cut into ¼-inch slices
8 garlic cloves, minced
1 (1-inch) piece ginger, grated
4 scallions, cut into 2-inch pieces
1. Heat a grill pan over medium heat. Combine 2 tablespoons broth, 1 teaspoon oil and plenty of black pepper in a large bowl. Toss the eggplant slices with the marinade and grill the slices until almost tender, about 4 minutes on each side. Turn the slices a quarter turn after 2 minutes to achieve a hashtag pattern. This will help the eggplant cook but not burn. Transfer the eggplant to a work surface and cut each slice into quarters. Set aside.
2. Toss the zucchini slices with the remaining marinade and grill until almost tender, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer to a work surface and cut into bite-size pieces. Set aside.
3. Heat 1 teaspoon of oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Stir in the cashews and cook until golden, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
4. Combine 2 tablespoons of broth with the cornstarch in a small bowl and set aside. Combine the remaining 4 tablespoons of broth, tamari, sambal oelek, vinegar and sugar in a small bowl and set aside.
5. Heat the remaining 1 teaspoon of oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Stir in the celery and cook 1 minute. Stir in the garlic, ginger and scallions and cook 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium and add the reserved eggplant, zucchini and tamari mixture. Stir, cover and cook until the eggplant is tender, about 3 to 5 minutes.
6. Stir in the cornstarch mixture and cook just until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in the reserved cashews. Serve with cooked rice.
© 2014 Copyright Zsu Dever. All rights reserved.
I am linking to these recipe parties: Healthy Vegan Fridays, What I Ate Wednesday and Virtual Vegan Linky Potluck.