Saturday, April 17, 2010

Going meatless: Hits and misses

Opened can of vegetarian "mock duck"...Image via Wikipedia

I've started to look for meat substitutes in nearly every food store I visit. Is this a sign we are wavering on our meatless pledge -- now more than six weeks old? Will we be going back to eating meat? Well, we've discussed it, but that's where it remains.

I was happy with some of the items I found at Whole Foods Market in Paramus, but not with Westoy vegetarian stir fry strips ($3.39), which turned out to be seitan. I thought seitan was made of soy, but these strips are made of wheat protein and provide "the same texture and mouth feel that a piece of chicken or beef would have with only half the calories and only 1.5 grams of fat," the box states.

I stir fried the strips with organic red Swiss chard. I didn't especially like the color, texture or taste, but when my wife ate the leftovers, she thought the strips tasted fine, and I won't be returning a second, 8-ounce box for a refund.

On Thursday, I visited New King Fung Supermarket on Kinderkamack Road in River Edge to return a Japanese bowl with an errant brush mark, and took a closer look at its prepared soy items, most of them shrink-wrapped and kept cold.

Another shopper showed me vegetarian chicken and vegetarian duck ($3.99 each), but the ingredients included MSG as well as soy and mushrooms so I passed. I bought sweet-and-spicy soy chunks, fried triangles of tofu, spicy soy discs and fried Japanese tofu ($2.49 or less), plus a vegetable with dark green leaves that resembles bok choy.

For dinner Friday night, we steamed white rice, and I heated up the sweet-and-spicy soy chunks. I blanched the vegetable and sauteed it with Chinese rice wine, soy sauce, mirin and sesame oil. The soy triangles were pan fried with a sauce of chilis and shrimp. A nice meal.

The jumbo Black Tiger Shrimp I bought at Costco were some of the best I have ever had. I marinated them in the juice of a big lemon, extra-virgin olive oil, garlic powder, black pepper, no-salt organic seasoning and salt for an hour or so, then pan fried them in more olive oil until they curled up and turned white. 

I plated them and the sauce was thick with spices -- perfect for sopping up with crusty bread. My 12-year-old son was raving. We ate the shrimp with bow tie pasta in pesto sauce (Costco).
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