Becoming A Low Carb Vegetarian

I used to think I’d eat the sand on Survivor Island (okay I’ll show my age – Gilligan’s Island) before I ever ate meat again. But all it took was a couple of months of low carbing on eggs and cheese to turn me into a starving carnivore cave-woman.  The thing is, I don’t really like eating meat. I like the fat on the side of a steak, and crispy fried chicken skin, and my favorite thing about seafood is dipping it in melted butter, repeatedly. It’s the texture of meat, and the amount of time it takes me to digest it, that prevents me from actually enjoying it. I really liked being vegetarian, and I miss the simplicity. But I have benefited so much from being low carb that I’m not willing to give up one for the other.  I want both, even if it means I have to learn how to cook.

When the opportunity to write for a low carb newsletter came along, I just had to jump on it. It seemed like the perfect way to force me to spend time in the kitchen, and to put a little thought into what I’d do in there. One of the main staples of my diet is Chinese take-out, especially anything with tofu. My all-time favorite is Home-style Bean Curd, in fact, I’ve loved it for so long that I forgot how I ever got past the name to try it in the first place. At any rate, I’m ready to learn how to make it at home, and have begun reading up on it and experimenting.

Home-style Bean Curd is simply pieces of tofu, usually deep-fat fried, sometimes accompanied by mushrooms, water chestnuts, and/or other vegetables, and always served with a delicious brown sauce. Figuring out how to make the sauce has been tricky. I don’t have a lot of time to spend chasing down exotic ingredients in specialty grocery stores, which eliminated many of the recipes I saw on the net. Some of the simpler ones called for peanut butter mixed with soy sauce, but I’ve got to warn y’all, don’t even go there.

The secret is Miso. Make sure to get the kind in a plastic tub, not the powdered soup stuff. I get it from the refrigerator section at the natural foods grocery store, and it’s right next to the tofu. The big secret to good tofu is to get the kind that’s pure white, not greenish white. The brand I buy comes in a box that you have to cut open with scissors, and there’s no water in the box. Just white tofu. Those two ingredients are the only ones that might be hard to find. Everything else is just normal low carb kitchen stuff.

All you have to do for the basic sauce is heat up a cup or two of water and stir in a big spoonful of Miso. Red Miso is saltier than white Miso, but it’s also lower in carbs. Fry up some vegetables to add to the sauce if you want, such as onions, mushrooms, peppers, broccoli, a little bit if carrot, etc. Once the sauce is simmering, you can add the tofu. Cut the cake of tofu length-ways, so that you have two small sheets, about 1/2 ” thick. Cut the sheets in triangular pieces, about 1″ long on each side, or use small cookie cutters to cut whatever shapes you want. If you don’t have time to deep-fat fry the tofu, then just gently add it to the sauce and cook it a couple minutes before you gobble it up.

If you want to fry the tofu, it’s best to parboil the cake of tofu first, to stiffen it up.

Another way to firm up tofu is to freeze it overnight, then thaw it out. You can fry tofu plain, but if you’re going to the trouble of frying it up in the first place, you might as well batter-fry it. Just mix up an egg with a small spoonful of soy flour and a little water, and dip each piece of tofu in it. Fry the tofu pieces for a minute or so, preferably in peanut oil, ’til they’re nice and brown, then add them to the sauce and enjoy!