Vegan Kung Pao Chicken

A classic vegan version of Sichuan-style Kung Pao Chicken (宮保雞丁) made with okara “soy curls.” Knowing that a dish like this can come from a waste product makes it that much more special.

This vegan kung pao chicken recipe features homemade “soy curls” made from okara, or the leftover soybean pulp from processing soy milk / tofu. A homemade textured soy protein (tsp) like product is something I’ve been trying to create for a long time now, and I think I’ve nailed it. Given that industrial processes such as extrusion is needed to make “soy meat” products fibrous, it is basically impossible to replicate at home using only soy ingredients. As such, you have to incorporate gluten to mimic that texture. The result is a light yet meaty ‘soy curl’ that functions just like the original thing (except you won’t need to reconstitute in hot water prior to cooking).


Vegan Kung Pao Chicken

5 from 2 votes
Recipe by George L. Course: LunchCuisine: ChineseDifficulty: Medium
Servings

2

servings
Prep time

1

hour 
Cooking time

20

minutes

A classic vegan version of Sichuan-style Kung Pao Chicken (宮保雞丁) made with okara “soy curls.” Knowing that a dish like this can come from a waste product makes it that much more special.

Ingredients

  • Homemade Soy Curls
  • 1 cup (115 g) okara (soybean pulp)

  • 4 tablespoons (35 g) vital wheat gluten

  • 5 tablespoons water (up to 7 tablespoons, depending on wetness of okara)

  • 1/4 cup (30 g) all-purpose flour

  • 1/8 teaspoon fine salt

  • Kung Pao Stir-Fry
  • 250 grams homemade soy curls (or ~60g store-bought dried ones)

  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce

  • 1 tablespoon black vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon shaoxing wine (or mirin)

  • 1 teaspoon dark soy sauce

  • 1 teaspoon mushroom bouillon

  • 1 tablespoon sugar

  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt

  • 1 teaspoon corn starch

  • 2 tablespoons water

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, for frying

  • 10 dried chilis, deseeded & segmented

  • 15 whole Sichuan peppercorns

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 inch ginger, minced

  • 6 scallions (white parts only), segmented

  • 1/4 cup (30 g) roasted or fried peanuts

Directions

  • Make the Soy Curls. Preheat the oven to 400F (205 C). If using store-bought, simply reconstitute them in hot water for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, wring them very dry and spread them out on a parchment-lined baking tray. Optionally, toss them in ~1 tablespoon of oil. Bake for 15 minutes. For homemade soy curls, start by combining okara (soybean pulp), vital wheat gluten, and water in a large bowl. Mix well; you should get a loosely-packed lump of dough that will stick together when you squeeze tightly. Add all-purpose flour and knead for 5-7 minutes to develop gluten. Portion the dough by pinching chunks out and shaping into desired shapes — in this case, nuggets that are 3-4 cm in length. Spread them out on a parchment-lined baking tray and optionally, toss them in ~1 tablespoon of oil. Bake for 15 minutes, or until their surfaces are adequately dry and firm (but not crispy).
  • Make the Marinade / Sauce. In a bowl, combine light soy sauce, black vinegar, shaoxing wine, dark soy sauce, mushroom bouillon, sugar, fine salt, corn starch, and water. Mix until no lumps remain, and add the soy curls. Let the soy curls marinate for 15 minutes. Once time is up, take out the soy curls and wring them dry of excess marinade.
  • Make the Stir-Fry. In a wok/pan, heat up ~2 tablespoons of vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Note: Don’t skimp on the oil here; you’ll need a good amount since the soy curls have basically no fat. Add dried chiles and Sichuan peppercorns and fry until fragrant, about 5 seconds. Note: Dried chiles and Sichuan peppercorns love to burn here, so be very careful. I usually let the chiles and peppercorns soak for a little bit in cool/warm water to prevent scorching. Add the soy curls and stir-fry to get some good browning, about 1-2 minutes. Follow with garlic and ginger and stir-fry until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Finish with scallion segments, peanuts, and the marinade / sauce. Stir-fry for about 1 minute more to thicken the sauce & infuse all of its flavors. Serve immediately. This goes really well with some freshly-steamed white rice.

Notes

  • About Okara. Okara is the Japanese name of leftover soybean pulp, a byproduct of the soy milk / tofu making process. In Japan, it is something you can buy in stores.
  • Freezer Option. The homemade soy curls can be frozen after the baking step. Just let them cool completely and pack them in a freezer-safe bag or container. They will keep for about 3 months in the freezer.
  • Sichuan Peppercorns. Whole Sichuan peppercorns are traditionally used to prepare this dish. If you only have the pre-ground kind, use 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of it instead (for 2 servings).

Did you make this recipe? I’d love to see your recreations!

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