As a kid, I have fond memories of eating Chinese chicken salad at the mall with my Mom. Those contrasting textures and tastes of napa cabbage, spiced chicken and crunchy noodles had my 6-year-old palate in a veritable tizzy. Washed down with a large lemonade and with a pair of new saddle shoes in a bag, I felt like a very special princess. I'm sure most important to this shiny memory is the solo time I spent with my hard–working Mom, and our grinning at each other.
It's funny how much certain meals and smells pull at your heartstrings of time gone by. While I stopped eating chicken salads pretty soon after that lunch, I missed that mess of flavors and textures. I've recreated versions with tofu and chickpeas, but it just wasn't the same. Until I met my new favorite meatless product: soy curls! These things are made of textured vegetable protein and come dried. You just rehydrate them and stir fry them with any manner of strong flavors you have on hand. They absorb sauces and other ingredients beautifully; much like tofu. Don't be shy with your favorite marinades and a little oil — they cook up beautifully and are very tender.
Sesame-Ginger Soy Curls with Napa Cabbage SaladBuy Soy Curls Online: Food Fight Grocery & Amazon Related: Meat Substitutes: Love 'Em or Hate 'Em? (Images: Leela Cyd Ross)
Serves 4For the Soy Curls: 2 cups soy curls 2 tablespoons sesame oil 3 tablespoons soy sauce 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar 1 tablespoon brown sugar 1 teaspoon mustard 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger 1 or 2 shallots, finely sliced salt, pepper and chili flakes to taste For the Salad: 1/2 Napa cabbage, shredded 1 large carrot, shredded 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar Sesame oil to taste almond slices for garnish Place soy curls in a medium size bowl. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil and pour over the soy curls. Cover the bowl with a plate and let the curls reconstitute; this takes about 3-5 minutes. Strain and squeeze out excess water with your hands and set aside. In a large skillet, heat the sesame oil on medium-high heat for about 2 minutes. Add soy curls and all other ingredients. Cook on high heat for about seven minutes until soy curls are lightly browned and become a little crispy. Don't stir excessively, or else the soy curls won't brown or crisp. Stir only every minute or so. Add a little water if things are getting sticky or cooking too quickly. In a large bowl, toss together the cabbage, carrot, sesame oil, and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper, and plate the salad. Put soy curls on the bed of cabbage, garnishing with the almond slices.