Takeout Fakeout: Vegetable Lo Mein with Veggie Protein and Brown Sauce Stir-Fry

Lo Mein with Vegetarian Beef

Nothing can really compare to the dependable flavors and convenience of your favorite local Chinese takeout spot. It tastes great, costs little, and we don't ask questions.

I rarely cook Chinese takeout style food at home, for this reason. When I was in my 20's and totally broke, with no job and lots of time on my hands, it's actually the first cuisine I played around with making at home. It's super easy, no special skills required. Sure, it's better if you have all the proper authentic ingredients, but not all supermarkets are created equal. For example, try finding hoisin or mirin in the middle of the Catskills... it's not something you're just gonna pick up on a whim. It's also a place with plenty of (unreliable quality) Chinese takeout restaurants.

A few weeks ago, craving vegetables, I ordered a basic bean curd vegetable dish with brown sauce. My kids realized they liked it too (they've never cared for Chinese food much before except scallion pancakes). They stole ALL my baby corns and water chestnuts. One ate all the broccoli and carrots, the other hijacked half of the bean curd. I was left with some onions and a couple bites of tofu. Surprise!

Stir Fry Veggies with Brown Sauce

So I decided to make takeout at home this week, so I could have plenty of baby corn in the brown sauce and extra yummy veggie beef in the lo mein (my husband's typical order). The kids, of course, didn't respond as well to what I cooked as what comes in a takeout box. One complained that the little broccoli leaves were too mixed in and picked out each tiny piece. The sprouts I added were a deal-breaker too. The other kid pretty much picked out the baby corn and water chestnuts and ate plain rice. Oh well, I thought it came out pretty good - except I definitely won't be putting the sprouts in this one again.

The new veggie beef wheat gluten protein from Nature's Soy, that I found in Fairway (in the refrigerated produce section) was really delicious. Everyone loved it, sautéed in a little hoisin sauce. 
The lo mein was very easy to throw together, and it was good to know that, made at home, everything was 100% vegan!


Lo Mein with Veggie Protein
Serves: 4
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15-20 minutes

For the Veggie Protein:
8 ounces vegetarian beef, pork or chicken, chunky or strip style – fresh or frozen
OR cubed extra firm tofu
1 tablespoon peanut or vegetable oil
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce

For the noodles:
8 ounces whole wheat lo mein noodles
1 tablespoon peanut or vegetable oil
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ginger, grated
1 small red onion, sliced
2 medium carrots, julienned
1 bell pepper, thinly sliced
2 scallions, sliced

For the sauce:
1/3 cup low sodium soy sauce or tamari
1 tablespoon brown sugar or coconut palm sugar
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
½ teaspoon ginger, grated
*1/8 teaspoon white pepper, optional
*spice optional: 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, chili garlic paste or sriracha to taste

1. Cook the lo mein noodles in boiling water until al dente, as per the package directions. Rinse immediately in cold water and set aside.

2. Prepare the sauce by mixing together soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, ginger and spice. Set aside.

3. Cook the protein: Heat oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the protein and stir fry until well heated through (timing depends on what type of protein you choose and if it’s frozen or not). Quickly stir in the hoisin sauce to coat the protein, cooking for only 1 minute. Remove from the pan and set aside.

4. In a clean skillet, heat oil over medium high heat. Add ginger and garlic, cooking 1 minute. Add onion, carrot, and peppers. Stir-fry 3-5 minutes. Toss in the noodles. Cook 2 minutes. Quickly mix in the sauce to coat all the noodles, and then add the protein.

5. Serve garnished with scallions, with hot sauce on the side.


Tofu Vegetable Stir-Fry with Basic Brown Sauce
This is a very mild sauce, made with the most basic items that can be found in any supermarket.
Serves: 4
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10-15 minutes

For the sauce:
1 cup vegetable stock, heated
¼ cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine (mirin) or sherry cooking wine
2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon corn starch
*optional: minced garlic or garlic powder

For the stir-fry:
1-2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
7 ounces (half package) extra firm tofu
¼ cup onion, sliced
1 cup broccoli florets
¼ cup carrot, sliced
½ cup other vegetables such as baby corn, bamboo shoots, sliced water chestnuts, snow peas

To serve:
Chopped scallions, sesame seeds or red pepper flakes.
Plain cooked rice

1. If you prefer your vegetables more tender, pre-cook them a bit by steaming or blanching in boiling water.

2. Prepare tofu by gently pressing the block in a paper towel, and cut into cubes.
3. Prepare the sauce. Heat vegetable stock and whisk in soy sauce, wine, oil and corn starch until dissolved. Add garlic if desired.

4. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Stir-fry the cubed tofu 4 minutes, until heated through. Remove from the pan.

5. Add 1 tablespoon oil to the pan and heat. Stir-fry starting with the longest cooking vegetables like onion, broccoli and carrot. Cook until desired tenderness, about 5-8 minutes, and then add the rest of the veggies and heat through, about 2-3 minutes.

6. Add back the tofu. Pour the sauce into the pan and stir, letting it boil, bubble and thicken about 1 minute. Remove from heat.

Garnish with scallions, sesame seeds or red pepper flakes. Serve with rice.


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