This week is National Vegetarian Week and it’s the perfect excuse to get some variety in your meals by going veggie. We’ve posted some amazing vegetarian recipes before, but this week we’re looking at how you can make amazing vegetarian Cantonese dishes as this is a cuisine that lends itself so well to going meat-free.
We got the chefs at Royal China to reveal their tops tips for how to create delicious vegetarian Cantonese dishes. The Royal China is a group of 6 prestigious Chinese restaurants in London, so we reckon they know what they’re doing.
How to make amazing vegetarian Cantonese dishes
Fresh is best
Using fresh ingredients means that half the work is done for you. Asian vegetables such as pak choi, Chinese broccoli, shiitake mushrooms, beansprouts and lotus root have a unique, clean flavour. Cooking with new ingredients that are out of your comfort zone can really take a dish to a whole new level, and making vegetables the star of the show means a serious reduction in calories.
Tofu is a great substitute for meat as it is full of protein, meaning you stay fuller for longer. Marinate some tofu in soy sauce, chilli flakes, honey, lemon zest and oil for 2 hours. Cook in a pan over a medium heat until the tofu is golden brown. Then top with the remaining marinade which will act as a sticky glaze.
Tofu on its own is pretty flavourless, so it’s all about what you add to it. It soaks up flavours incredibly well, so you can get creative. Get a pack of the firm kind (we like Cauldron), press and marinate before cooking and you’ll wonder why you need meat in a stir fry when tofu is so much quicker to cook and just as nice.
We recently made this peanut tofu ‘buddha bowl’ and it’s become a (pardon the pun) firm favourite.
Some like it hot
Vegetarian dishes don’t have to lack flavour if you add the right herbs and spices. Enjoy the fresh heat of garlic, ginger and chilli by adding them to a stir-fry. Alternatively, the aromatic hum of Chinese five-spice can add extra seasoning to tofu and vegetables.
Adding herbs and spices is also a good way of adding flavour without adding unnecessary calories – skip the oil and sauces and stick to different spice combinations and you can’t go wrong.
Chinese broths are the perfect opportunity to pack your dinner full of vegetables. Vegetable stock, mushrooms, spring onion and red chilli are all things that will add an extra dimension to your soup. It’s a perfect low-cal yet hearty lunch or light dinner.
One of our favourite things to make when we’re feeling under the weather is pho, a hearty noodle soup. Fresh vegetables like pak choi (and they have to be fresh, remember?) are the perfect accompaniment, and the addition of peanuts gives a welcome crunch. We like this recipe from It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken, which is also vegan.
If you find veg-heavy dishes daunting, then perhaps something sweet would be more up your street. A tropical fruit platter, full of fresh fruits like mango, pineapple, melon and kiwi, is a really simple dessert.
A nice fruit salad is perfect for the warmer months. And it’ll be much lower in calories than a cake or chocolate. You can literally just chop fruit up and put them on a plate, but if you’re feeling fancy and you’ve got the calories to spare, how about adding a blast of flavour with a lemongrass, lime and mint dressing?
Have you gone meat-free for National Vegetarian Week? If you’re stuck for meal inspiration, give vegetarian Cantonese recipes a go and let us know how you get on over on the forum.