Monday, January 17, 2011

Sunday Night Feast: Stir-Fried Seitan (or Chicken) with Bok Choy and Crispy Noodle Cake/Spring Rolls

I wanted to have kind of a special dinner that would be similar to going out to a Chinese restaurant complete with one of my favorite foods in the world: fresh spring rolls.

Spring rolls are really a pretty straight forward food to make, if you can find spring roll wrappers. I also found a recipe for peanut dipping sauce. The sauce was...ok. Not my favorite. It is going to take some experimentation to find the right sauce.

To make spring rolls, you first have to decide what you want in the spring rolls. We made pretty straightforward spring rolls.

Spring Rolls

spring roll wrappers (we were able to find these at Cub and at Whole Foods)
1/2 cucumber, peeled with seeds removed and cut into matchsticks
1 carrot, peeled and cut into matchsticks
rice vermicelli/rice sticks, prepared
unsalted dry roasted peanuts, chopped
mint leaves
cilantro leaves

You may also want to add meat, tofu, or mock duck. I've had spring rolls with pork and shrimp, the options are pretty limitless.

  1. Soften the spring roll wrapper in lukewarm water, this takes very little time, maybe 10 seconds.
  2. Spread the spring roll wrapper on a plate. If you have problems with the spring roll wrapper sticking, you may want to use a lettuce leaf to cushion the spring roll wrapper.
  3. Spread about 5-6 mint leaves on the spring roll wrapper.
  4. Spread about 5-6 cilantro leaves.
  5. About 1/3 of the way from the bottom of the spring roll wrapper, lay down the carrot matchsticks, cucumber matchsticks and a small handful of the rice vermicelli.
  6. Sprinkle peanuts on top of the filling.
  7. Wrap spring rolls. Fold over the sides first, then wrap the bottom of the spring roll wrapper over the filling and the folded over sides and roll the spring roll up.
To add more flavor, you may want to consider tossing the ingredients with a tbsp or so of fish sauce and lime juice with about 1/2 tsp sugar. Serve with a peanut-based dipping sauce. I'm not posting my recipe because I didn't like it that much. If you find any other recipes you like, please share!

For the main course, I found a recipe on Cook's Illustrated for Stir-Fried Chicken with Bok Choy and Crispy Noodle Cake. I had to vegetarian-ify it for Garison's sake. Fortunately, the substitutions were pretty simple. I used seitan cut into strips to replace the chicken and vegetarian oyster sauce (based on mushrooms). Another substitution I had to make was to replace Chinese egg noodles with standard vermicelli. I would not make this substitution if not absolutely necessary. If you must, cook the noodles past al dente, so they are nice and soft.

The recipe turned out exactly like the kind of food you'd find in a Chinese restaurant. The consensus was we don't really need to go out for Chinese food anymore.

Stir-Fried Seitan with Bok Choy and Crispy Noodle Cake


Noodle Cake
9 ounces Chinese egg noodles (fresh) or vermicelli
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons vegetable oil

Stir-Fry Sauce
1/4 cup broth (I used vegetable broth)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon dry sherry
1 tablespoon oyster sauce or vegetarian substitute
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 package seitan (regular or chicken-style) cut into small pieces or strips (if not a vegetarian, go ahead and use about 1 lb of chicken, cut into small strips)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon dry sherry
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon unbleached all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 medium clove garlic , minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1 teaspoon)
8 teaspoons peanut oil or vegetable oil
1 head bok choy, stalks sliced into 1/2-inch slices, and greens cut into small pieces
1 small red bell pepper , cut into 1/4-inch strips


Prepare ingredients:
  1. Prepare the noodles according to the package directions. When done, drain thoroughly.
While the noodles cook:
  1. Whisk together the sauce ingredients; set aside.
  2. Toss the seitan with the soy sauce and sherry; set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the sesame oil, cornstarch, and flour; set aside.
  4. In a small bowl, mix together the ginger, garlic, and 1 teaspoon peanut oil.
  5. Chop the vegetables if you have not done so already.
Once the ingredients have been prepared, make the noodle cake:
  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering.
  2. Spread the noodles evenly across the bottom of the skillet and press with a spatula to flatten into a cake. Cook until crisp and golden brown, 5 to 8 minutes.
  3. Flip the noodle cake over carefully.
  4. Cook until golden brown on the second side, about 5 to 8 minutes.
  5. Move the noodle cake onto a plate or cutting board and let sit for at least 5 minutes before slicing into wedges and serving.
Prepare the seitan:
  1. Stir the marinated seitan into the sesame oil-cornstarch mixture until coated.
  2. Heat 2 teaspoons peanut oil in the skillet over high heat until smoking.
  3. Add the seitan to the skillet in a flat, even layer. Cook, without stirring, until golden brown on the first side, about 1 minute.
  4. Turn the seitan and cook until lightly browned on the second side; about 30 seconds.
  5. Transfer the seitan to a bowl. Cover to keep warm.
Stir-fry the vegetables and assemble the stir fry:
  1. Add the remaining tablespoon peanut oil to the skillet and return to high heat until just smoking.
  2. Add the bok choy stalks and red bell pepper and cook until lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Push the vegetables to the sides of the skillet to clear the center.
  4. Add the garlic-ginger mixture to the clearing and cook, mashing the mixture with a spoon, until fragrant, 15 to 20 seconds.
  5. Stir the garlic and ginger into the vegetables and continue to cook about 30 seconds longer.
  6. Stir in the bok choy greens and cook until beginning to wilt, about 30 seconds.
  7. Add the cooked seitan.
  8. Whisk the sauce to recombine, then add to the skillet and cook, tossing constantly, until the sauce is thickened, about 30 seconds.
  1. Cut the noodle cake into wedges.
  2. Spoon the stir fry on top of the noodle cake and serve.

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