Dining in Asian restaurants can be a minefield for vegetarians – you’re never too sure if that Thai salad is going to come drenched in fish sauce or if your vegetarian fried rice will be loaded with oyster sauce and the odd piece of char siu pork!
To avoid the dining angst, we’ve taken five of our favourite dishes from Asian restaurants and given them a vegetarian makeover for you to try at home. And even if you’re not a vegetarian, why not try these flavour-packed recipes for Meat-free Monday?
For a vegetarian take on a Chinese restaurant favourite, make a batch of honey sesame ‘chicken’, substituting cubes of firm tofu for the chicken breast.
Thanks to their meaty texture and iron-rich properties, mushrooms make an ideal swap for beef. Choose shiitake mushrooms or large field mushrooms for the most satisfying heft, then simply ditch the beef and double the mushroom content in this Japanese sukiyaki recipe, or try a Korean-style mushroom bulgogi, swapping the 500g beef steak for a mix of sliced mushrooms.
In Southeast Asia, fish sauce is used to flavour everything from curries to salads, so it can be hard to tell if that tofu curry you’ve just ordered really is vegetarian. A simple substitute is soy sauce, but you’ll want to reduce the amount as soy sauce is stronger than fish sauce. For a satisfying Thai dish, add 1 tbs soy sauce in place of the 2 tbs fish sauce in this vegetable massaman curry and be sure to buy a vegetarian curry paste.
One of the easiest ways to inject authentic Asian flavour into your vegetarian meals is by using a meat-free ‘oyster’ sauce, like Lee Kum Kee Vegetarian Stir-fry Sauce. Use a splash in this vegetarian stir-fry.
Did you know that many Buddhists observe a meat-free diet throughout the month? Thanks to this, Asian cooks have become experts at making faux meats using soy, TVP and other proteins. Trawl the frozen section of your local Asian grocer for pretend prawns and mock meats, then use them in this quick-smart hoisin stir-fry with prawns, ramen noodles and Chinese broccoli. Alternatively, try strips of tempeh for your supermarket.
Find your nearest Asian Store