Lately I’ve had a lot of cravings for Chinese food. I miss going to my favorite places and getting takeout. I miss the cartons (and what’s happened to those lately? Too many plastic tupperware containers. That SO takes away from the Chinese food experience), the chopsticks, the fotune cookies. I even miss the dozen packets of duck sauce and soy sauce that I never, ever use.
The only thing I don’t miss is having to explain my Vegan and other dietary requirements. “It can’t have any meat or chicken or fish or egg.” “Is that made in chicken stock or fish stock?” “Are the vegetable spring rolls deep-fried in the same oil as the chicken wings?” “No MSG.” It can be exhausting if I’m not at a restaurant that already knows me.
So I’ve been making my own Chinese food: stir-fries, sesame noodles and my recently posted Kung Pao Tofu. When I make my own, I get to control the amount of sodium, sugar and whatever else is going into my food. Plus, I get to make it gluten-free.
The most fun part is getting to make up my own combinations of ingredients. So often I would peruse a menu only to wish I could swap the veggies from 2 different dishes with the sauce of a third. But in my kitchen, I can have whatever combinations I want or just clean out the fridge and use up the veggies that are nearing the end of their shelf-life. Once you know the method, the combinations are endless: rice or noodles, green beans or broccoli, edamame or tofu, maybe peanuts.
This time I decided to make lo mein. I used the veggies I had in the fridge: mushrooms, bell pepper, scallions, baby bok choy and asparagus. I topped it with peanuts and it tasted creamy and delicious. Now I just have to buy some Chinese cartons and chopsticks so I can have the full experience. But I’ll skip the dozen packets of duck sauce and soy sauce 🙂
For the sauce:
1/4 cup vegetable broth
1/4 cup gluten-free tamari
2 tsp. brown rice vinegar
2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 Tbs. agave nectar
For the lo mein:
1 lb. brown rice noodles
1 Tbs. peanut or safflower oil
1 Tbs. fresh ginger, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 scallions, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 Tbs. gluten-free tamari for seasoning
1 bunch asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1 inch pieces
3 baby bok choy, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
10 oz. mushrooms, sliced
2 tsp. corn starch
toasted peanuts for garnish
Fill a large pot with water to boil for the noodles. Note: you are going to reserve some of the cooking water for the sauce later.
Mix the ingredients for the sauce together in a mug or bowl. Set aside. Chop all the vegetables first so they will all be ready to just throw in the pot. I cut everything into long strips including the bok choy. I put the leaves of the bok choy aside.
When the water is boiling, add salt to the pot and put the noodles in. Stir them. If you are using gluten-free noodles, they take longer to cook, about 15 minutes or so. When they are 3/4 of the way done, start on the vegetables. You don’t want to cook them too early or else they will lose their color and crunch. Put the peanuts in a small, dry skillet and cook until they smell peanuty. Don’t let them burn. Set them aside when ready.
In a deep skillet or wok, heat the oil until it shimmers. Add the garlic and ginger. Don’t let them burn. Have the next ingredient ready. Add the scallions and a drop of tamari. Adding a drop of tamari or soy sauce after each ingredient helps develop the flavors. Add the asparagus, then the bell pepper, then the mushrooms and the bok choy stems. Mix well.
Using a mug, take some of the cooking water from the pasta pot and add it slowly to the veggie mix. Add 2 tsp. of corn starch to thicken and glaze the sauce. When the noodles are al dente, drain them and add them to the vegetables. Mix the noodles well with the vegetables. Add the reserved bok choy leaves, the sauce you prepared earlier and mix well. Turn off the heat. Garnish with the peanuts and serve.