06 October 2011
A bun in the...steamer.
hoisin bun recipe that uses seitan. I've heard that jackfruit mimics the texture of shredded pork, which would seemingly make it more ideal as a manapua filling than other meat substitutes. I consulted the char siu recipe from Authentic Chinese Cuisine for the Contemporary Kitchen (Bryanna Clark Grogan, 2000), using drained jackfruit (the canned type that is stored in brine) and just over half of the sauce from the recipe. The results were indeed very much like stringy shreds of meat. The jackfruit didn't taste quite like the manapua filling I knew as a kid, but the five-spice flavor was a nice touch. I also used the dough recipe from Bryanna's book, but used half cake flour and half all-purpose flour to lighten the texture of the cooked buns. The result was airy buns with a delightful, sweet-savory center with deceivingly unappetizing looks.
Neither the noodles nor dashi powder are usually vegan, so recreating saimin initially sounded a bit challenging. Sure, I could throw thin spaghetti noodles in plain old vegetable broth, but the resulting concoction would not have the flavor or texture that would appropriately resemble the dish's traditional counterpart. I managed to find egg-free ramen noodles at a Japanese grocery store, but the dashi was still problematic. After wondering what I could use to replicate the deep, savory flavor of a traditionally fish-seasoned broth, I decided to make my vegan version with kombu dashi with sauteed onions and mushrooms and a splash of shoyu. Add-ins included shredded cabbage, baby bok choy, chopped tofu "ham," and sliced green onions. Much to my surprise and delight, my saimin tasted quite similar to the non-vegan original. The hot, flavorful broth and chewy noodles were so comforting. It's nice to know that I can still enjoy a hearty bowl of saimin.