One of the best and most pleasurable things about serving vegan food to non-vegans is seeing their surprise when they discover how good it can be. I don’t particularly understand the surprise, and maybe that’s why I enjoy the reaction. Yes, individual palettes vary greatly but it is possible to have a few standards, and just because you become a vegan doesn’t mean your taste buds evaporate. Do I like Brussel sprouts? Not at all. Do I eat them? Very rarely. The common misconception prevails, however, that being vegan necessitates adapting to foods that don’t taste very good. The most bizarre encounter I have with this prejudice is when people stick up their nose at food that they routinely eat anyway. If an omnivore makes potatoes, they’re delicious. If a vegan makes potatoes, they have a weird aftertaste. Don’t believe people could be this stubborn? Feed your nearest spud-loving carnivore a potato and tell him/her that it’s vegan and see their reaction. We have increasingly corporate taste buds – our tongues become walking advertisements for the meat and dairy lobbies, regurgitating tired, old adages about nutrition. There is an active movement that teaches us to resist something simply because it’s labelled as vegan or vegetarian.
The average North American probably considers tofu a vegan/vegetarian alternative, and resist consumption based upon that idea, but that assessment of this particular food is a cultural prejudice we’ve built up. In Asia, tofu is not vegan food – it’s just food. While shopping at a grocery store in Chinatown recently I picked up some tofu jerky and was disappointed to find that it was not remotely vegan, and not even vegetarian friendly. The sauce contained beef stock. I’m curious; would this make tofu any more appetizing for the average meat eater?
One of the first recipes I began serving to others as a vegan was a BBQ tofu jerky. I think the reactions I received were a big part of what made me first take an interest in food and cooking, and it continues to be one of my most crowd-pleasing and frequently requested dishes with both other vegans and meat eaters.
2 Blocks Extra Firm Tofu (Soyganic makes an excellent organic smoked tofu that is perfect for this recipe!)
¼ cup sugar
1 tbsp ginger
1 156ml can of tomato paste
¼ cup of soy sauce
1 tsp of garlic powder
1 tbsp liquid smoke
- Slice the tofu into about 3/8 of an inch thick strips – they can be thicker or thinner according to personal preference but I find that this is the ideal thickness to get the right, chewy texture after the tofu is fried.
- Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Place the tofu in a single layer without overcrowding the strips. Cook the tofu on medium heat, flipping frequently, until both sides are slightly browned and crispy.
- In a small bowl, mix together the sugar, ginger, tomato paste, soy sauce, garlic powder, and liquid smoke.
- Add the sauce to the frying pan. Stir the sauce until the tofu is thickly coated, then cook until it starts bubbling. (2 or 3 minutes).
- Serve hot or cold!