These Korean BBQ Soy Curls were inspired by our move back to New York City after fleeing New Jersey. The apartment building we moved into was on a very busy intersection in Manhattan, and right on corner of the block was a Korean Barbecue restaurant. Korean Barbecue is a very broad term referring to a style of cooking in which marinated pieces of animal flesh are cooked table side either over a gas or charcoal grill. At this particular restaurant, each table had a grilling surface built into its center, so diners could cook their meals fresh. Sadly, there was not one vegan item on the menu, so we never ate there. However, having had Korean Barbecue before, I knew what it tasted like and after smelling it cooking everyday for weeks, I was determined to make a vegan version of Bulgogi, the most popular form of Korean Barbecue which features beef ribs.
Creating the marinade was the easy part as I knew the flavor I wanted to replicate. The marinade needed to have the right mix of salty and sweet, and be able to reduce down to a glaze at the end of cooking. The tricky part was figuring out the right item to marinade. Seitan seemed like the obvious choice, but in it was too dense to really absorb the flavors. As a general rule, I find that store bought seitan does not marinade well. The best way to get a flavor into seitan is to make it from scratch and add the seasoning to the dough. Tempeh, like seitan is very dense. However, by steaming or boiling it for 10 minutes, tempeh softens and takes on marinades much better. Nevertheless, the texture was completely wrong for this dish. Thinly sliced firm tofu worked nicely, but still wasn’t quite right. Then, in a moment right out of a V8 commercial, I realized that soy curls were the perfect thing for this dish.
The longer you let the soy curls marinate, the better. Give them at least one hour on the counter if you are having them soon. The better thing to do is to start them a day early and let them marinate overnight in the refrigerator.
3 cups Butler Soy Curls
4 cups hot vegetable broth
1 vegan beef bouillon cube, or 2 teaspoons vegan beef bouillon paste.
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup soy sauce
½ cup water
¼ cup mirin
1 small onion, peeled and finely grated
1 small apple, peeled and finely grated
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons toasted sesame oil
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1. Put soy curls in a large bowl. Dissolve the bullion in the broth and pour over the soy curls. Set aside for 10 minutes to allow the curls to rehydrate.
2. Drain the soy curls and squeeze out as much liquid as you can. Transfer the curls to a resealable plastic bag. Add the brown sugar and shake the bag to coat the curls.
3 In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Pour over the soy curls, squeeze out any excess air form the bag and seal. Massage the bag a few times ensure all the curls are coated. Marinate the curls for at least 1 hour, but overnight in the refrigerator is better.
4. When ready to cook, heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the soy curls with the marinade. Cover and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the lid and sand let the marinade reduce down to a glaze to coat the soy curls.