This dinner had me pulling some home-made seitan from the depths of the freezer and our ol' Charney cookbook from the shelf. It's a formula we know well - cook some rice, chop some veges, stir-fry 'em quickly with a few condiments from the pantry. But there's something about this recipe that I don't think we would have managed on our own: the seitan chunks are chewy and satisfying but not overpowering, the asparagus and capsicum are fresh and crunchy, there's just enough savoury sauce clinging to the veges, and there are whole dried chillies that I'd never let Michael toss in without a chef's express instructions.
The balance was dead on - I reckon this kung pao is at least as good as the ones we've eaten around town.
Kung pao seitan with asparagus
(adapted slightly from a recipe in Ken Charney's Bold Vegetarian Chef)
2 tablespoons tamari
2 teaspoons mirin
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon vegetarian Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon black bean or chilli bean sauce
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon arrowroot
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 carrot, thinly sliced into half-moons
1 large bunch asparagus, chopped into bite-sized lengths
340g seitan, preferably chicken-style, chopped into ~1cm cubes
3 cloves garlic, minced
10 small dried red chillies, 1-3 of them broken open
1 red capsicum, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1/4 cup roasted peanuts
230g can water chestnuts, drained
Chop the vegetables and seitan as directed above and set them aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together the tamari, mirin, sugar, sesame oil, Worcestershire sauce, bean sauce, pepper, arrowroot and 1/4 cup water. Set the sauce aside.
Heat up the vegetable oil in a wok or large frying pan. Add the carrot and asparagus and stir-fry them for about a minute. Pour in 1/4 cup water and allow them to steam for a further minute. Add the seitan, garlic, and chillies and stir-fry for half a minute. Add the capsicum and peanut and stir-fry for another half-to-one minute, until the capsicum is slightly softened. Pour over the sauce and gently stir it through the vegetables until the sauce is thickened. Stir in the water chestnuts and serve over rice.