Monday, September 3, 2007

Meaty alternatives

2 Sep 2007, ST

Q I often like to try new recipes, but being a vegetarian, sometimes I am stumped for choices. Are there some good substitutes for chicken, fish and prawns in recipes? I don't like using mock meats.
Pooja Chandiramani

A Speaking as an omnivore, I can't stand mock meats either.

The joy of vegetarianism, from a culinary standpoint anyway, is the enormous range of flavours, textures, colours and aromas that the vegetable world affords the curious cook.

So don't think in terms of 'substitutes for meat' - simply enjoy vegetables for their own sake.

However, if what you need is a substantial-textured main ingredient to replace meat in a recipe, explore the mushroom ranks: Eryngi (aka king oyster), abalone, pai lin, portobello, and large shiitake mushrooms all have a pleasing succulence when cut into thick slices or chunks.

For a more starchy solidity, try cubes of steamed cassava (tapioca), taro or Japanese sweet potato.

Many vegetables cook down into a pleasing denseness of texture and flavour when roasted, such as kabocha squash, zucchini, capsicums, parsnips and carrots.

For textures reminiscent of seafood, look for water-packed konnyaku pieces in Japanese supermarkets. These are sometimes shaped to resemble small prawns or pieces of squid.

These wholly vegetarian morsels, which are made from the juiced flesh of the high-fibre konnyaku yam, are springy to the bite.

Rinse them well to remove their slightly fishy odour before using. They need to be cooked only briefly and actually get firmer when simmered.

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