Guest Post! Kylie’s Chicken with Thai Basil and Chilli (with vegan options)

Note from Renae: All the way from New South Wales, Australia, Smucky’s sister has written a guest post! This is a vegan blog and her recipe contains chicken, but as she points out, it is very easy to substitute vegan “chicken” strips. I made this recipe for dinner tonight and at the end of the post, I’ve posted my photos. It was delicious!

I should point out for the vegans that Quorn, which Kylie suggests, contains egg whites (though it is readily available here in the US). However, I totally back her suggestion that you go to England because it is great there! (And very vegan-friendly.) LightLife Chick’n Smart Strips are vegan and available in most grocery stores in my area, and Trader Joe’s Chicken-less Strips are also vegan (and are what I used). You could also make your own chicken-style seitan, or even just use tofu. So don’t be alarmed that Kylie used chicken. This is exactly the type of recipe I’d see somewhere and be excited about; I don’t even read “chicken”, I just read “chicken substitute”. And Kylie’s just the type of person I’m glad this blog attracts: people who may not necessarily be vegan themselves but who are open to eating vegan meals. So with no further ado, here’s Kylie:

Hello! My name is Kylie. I know it seems like we don’t know each other, but in fact we do. Well, sort of. You know my brother – sometimes called Mark, sometimes called Smucky, but more often than not, called ****head.


(I am the one in the glasses).

Chicken with thai basil and chilli

Technically this is not a vegetarian meal, let alone a vegan meal. I mean, it has meat in it. And also some meat products. But don’t be put off by that. I would recommend quorn strips in place of the chicken, but if you’d have to go to England to get it (like I would), it’s probably asking a bit much. Unless you are very ambitious, in which case, go for it! It’s great there! You’ll love it!

You will need:

2 tb peanut oil
600g chicken breast fillet, stir-fry-strip-style * Renae’s note: this would be about 2 or 3 packages of most brands of vegan “chicken” strips
2 cloves garlic, minced
1cm/5g fresh ginger, minced/grated
4 small red chillies, thinly sliced
4 or 5 lime leaves, ‘shredded’ (I just cut it with scissors)
1 medium brown onion, sliced thinly
About 4 mushrooms, quartered
1 carrot, sliced thinly

This is the sauce according to the original recipe. I do 1.5 times the sauce though:
1/4 cup (60ml – so I would do 90ml) oyster sauce (or vegan oyster sauce, which almost definitely exists, but I haven’t checked) * Renae’s note: it does exist and should be available in just about any Asian grocery store
1 tb soy sauce
1 tb fish sauce (or vegan fish sauce) * Renae’s note: or just double the soy sauce
1/3 cup (80ml) chicken stock (or vegetable stock)

About a cup thai basil
A cup bean sprouts (optional: I don’t usually get it because you can only buy huge amounts of bean sprouts here, and I kept ending up throwing 3/4 out. So I just don’t get it anymore).

The first thing you want to do is chop the shit out of everything.
In one bowl, put: the minced garlic, grated ginger, sliced chillies, shredded lime leaves and sliced onion.

In another bowl: the quartered mushrooms and thinly sliced carrot.

In a third bowl: the sauces (oyster, soy, fish, stock). The sauce issue is contentious. On the one hand, some people like it to coat the food, and no more. I think it would taste more caramel-ly if you took this approach and used the recommended quantities. I, however, do not like to eat boiled rice by itself, so I make enough sauce that it will also flavour all the rice, and if there is too much, you can always boil it off at the end. So I up the quantities by half.

You’ve pretty much done all the work now! Well done! Time to chillax a bit! Have yourself a beer. But not this one..

..unless you are not a vegetarian.

Right! Back to work!

Ok, I have actually omitted a step here. If you eat chicken, at this point you heat half the peanut oil in a pan and cook the chicken in batches until cooked through. Set it aside. If you are using some chicken substitute, I imagine you don’t need to ‘cook’ the chicken as such, just heat it, so you can leave that til later.

Moving along. Heat the remaining peanut oil in the pan (about a medium heat) . Throw in the garlic, ginger, chilli, lime leaves and onion. Cook until onion is soft and mixture is ‘fragrant’.

Ooh that looks nice, doesn’t it. You can’t beat frying onion.

At this point, add the mushrooms and carrots, and stir fry til carrot is as soft as you like it. Actually, til it is almost as soft as you like it. It is good if it still has a little crunch to it.

Throw the chicken back in with the sauces. If I was using a substitute, I would probably put it in first, stir it through til it was warm, then put in the sauces. Turn the heat up a bit and cook til the sauce thickens to the consistency you like. Now for me, I have a fair bit of sauce at this point, and it generally takes the same amount of time to cook (actually, to boil) the sauce off, as it takes to cook the rice. If you have less sauce, you should start the rice before now. Sorry.

Also, I don’t really think there’s a perfect consistency. You just want to cook it enough that it tastes NOTHING LIKE FISH SAUCE.

While that’s cooking off, cook some rice perfectly:

When the sauce is at the consistency you like, take it off the heat and stir through the thai basil, and bean sprouts if you’re using them.

And that’s it! Very easy, but restaurant-quality. It looks nice to serve it like this:

..but this is how I have it:

In other news, I made Renae’s lentil loaf today. It smelled awesome, and this is how it looked before it went in the oven. Mmmmm. It smells better than it looks.

It’s me, Renae, again. Here’s the line-up of the ingredients I used:

If you’ve been reading for a while, you know that I hate mushrooms, so I left those out. I did use the bean sprouts, though, but forgot to remove them from the refrigerator to have their picture taken.

I won’t give you a commentary of the steps because Kylie already did, but here are some intermediary pics:

There is definitely no need to go running around looking for vegan fish sauce for this dish. I had some on hand so I used it, but it can be hard to find (vegan oyster sauce, however, is not). You hardly use any and as Kylie says, you don’t want the dish to taste like fish sauce anyway. Just use extra soy sauce.

I’d never bought vegan oyster sauce before today, mostly because many times it’s mushroom flavoured. I was going to be brave and get it anyway today but managed to find a non-mushroomy vegan oyster sauce! If you can’t find vegan oyster sauce for some reason, try a smaller amount of dark soy sauce: it was sort of thick and slightly sweet like dark soy sauce (it’s not as sweet though, so dilute it with extra stock). Or try vegetarian “stir-fry sauce”, which is usually about the same consistency.

Kylie suggests using my idea of a bit of aniseed and European basil if you can’t find Thai basil, or just the basil if it’s strong-flavoured. I can almost always find Thai basil in my Asian grocery stores.

Here it is plated …

… and mixed up:

The beer Kylie was drinking, Tooheys, is vegan, so if you can get your hands on it, drink up! No stags were harmed in the making of their beer, nor was isinglass used to refine it. In fact, I believe I drank a few Tooheys at Kylie’s house when I was there earlier this year! I’m not sure it’s available outside Australia, so here’s what I had tonight instead:

Verdict? Well, Mark’s been requesting French onion soup for the last day and a half, but he got this instead. I was slightly worried he’d deduct points from it for not being French onion soup, but when I asked him what he thought he responded, “It was chicken-tastic! I really enjoyed it: it was very tasty; full of flavour and magic!” I agree on all counts: it was extremely flavourful and tasted like a restaurant dish. It was also quick and easy: I think this is another case where the vegan dish is probably easier than the non-vegan dish because the “chicken” doesn’t need to be cooked; just heated through. I’ll definitely be making this again, most likely on a weeknight when I don’t want to spend much time on dinner but want a big return on taste. Thanks, Kylie!

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Drunken Noodles

Tonight when I asked Mark what he wanted for dinner and, gesturing toward the kitchen island covered in produce fresh from the farmer’s market, suggested basil should play a large role considering I had a bunch of it. I was surprised he promptly answered, “drunken noodles”. Surprised because not only is his standard answer “I don’t care,” but because I didn’t know Mark even realized drunken noodles contain basil. Sure, typically it would be Thai basil and I had Genovese, but I have ways around that. Drunken noodles are not a new dish to my repertoire, but I did make them completely differently than I usually do because I didn’t have the wide noodles I usually use, I didn’t have Thai basil, I didn’t have shallots, I didn’t have bean sprouts, and I did have vegetarian fish sauce. Oh, and I don’t usually sneak zucchini into it. It ended up okay, but I prefer my usual version so sooner or later I’ll have to put that one up. In the meantime, here’s what I did tonight, and it was hot enough to work its magic against hangovers (not that I had one) even if it wasn’t as great as usual.

Drunken Noodles

1/4 package wide rice noodles (I used long, thin-ish, Pad Thai-ish noodles, but I usually use short, wide noodles that are nearly square)
1/2 onion, sliced
1/4 tsp anise seed -> Thai basil has a somewhat anise flavor compared to European basil, so I use anise seed for flavor when I don’t have Thai basil. Add it only if you don’t have Thai basil, and use it sparingly.
1 zucchini, sliced into ribbons/noodles on spiral slicer (optional)
1 yellow (or other color) bell pepper, chopped
1/3 pint orange cherry tomatoes, halved
2-4 small Thai peppers (I used cayenne because that’s what I had on hand), sliced
1 cup basil, Thai if you can get it
3 Tbsp dark soy sauce
2 Tbsp thin (light) soy sauce
2 Tbsp vegan fish sauce (or extra soy sauce)
2 Tbsp sambel olek (or to taste)
1 Tbsp lime juice
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
zest of 1 lime
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, grated
2 drops stevia or 1 tsp sugar


The reason I decided to make zucchini “noodles” is really just that I have a lot of zucchini. I buy it by the ton at the farmer’s market so I can relate to the “way too much zucchini” problem that people who are actually capable of growing things have. Also, I’ve recently converted Mark into a zucchini fan. (Score!) If you don’t have a spiral slicer or you don’t have an abundance of zucchini or you aren’t married to Mark or you just think it’s weird to put zucchini in drunken noodles, well, just omit it. It is weird.

Cook or soak the noodles according to package instructions, then drain.

Chop the bell pepper and tomatoes; slice the onions and hot peppers. Grate/zest the ginger and lime.

In a small bowl, whisk together the “fish” sauce, soy sauces, ginger, lime, sambel olek, stevia or sugar, and sesame oil.

Heat a wok over medium high heat, then add some oil. When the oil is hot, add the onions, and if using, the anise seed.

After a minute or two, add the bell pepper and stir fry for another minute or two.

Add the tomatoes and stir fry for a couple of minutes.

Add the rice noodles …

… and, if using, the zucchini “noodles”.

Then stir in the sauce.

Finally stir in the basil and make sure everything is warmed through.

Drunken noodles are very fast to prepare! I’ve never actually tried them as a hangover cure, but they are tasty even when you are feeling fine!

(They’re even tastier when I’m using my normal recipe, however.)

In other, semi-related news, as someone who makes her own tempeh and tofu, I found this slideshow and article in The Atlantic pretty interesting. I’m slightly disturbed by the fact they used to use their feet to make tempeh – all the more so because the reason is feet are “very dirty” – but that’s apparently illegal now anyway.

In completely non-related news, but I bring it up because I mentioned the book in my last post, yesterday this article popped up in my feed reader and I found it completely bizarre. For one thing, it’s an opera about physics. For another thing, I’m currently reading the book its based upon. And it’s not like the book is new (it was published in 2005); I’ve had it on my shelf for a few years and just randomly started reading it last week. So the timing is weird. Not quite as weird – and a much happier coincidence – as the time David Foster Wallace committed suicide while I was reading Infinite Jest. The opera is moving to Barcelona after Paris, and I’d love to go see it there because I also just finished reading two books that take place in Barcelona, but considering I’ve already been to Australia this year, I think I’m going to have to catch it at the Guggenheim in NYC in January. (By the way, if you are at all interested in string theory, quantum mechanics, particle physics, extra dimensions, and all that fun stuff, in addition to Warped Passages, I highly recommend The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene – who happens to be vegan!) (Hey, look, I managed to make this paragraph somewhat relevant to a vegan blog!)

In cat news, is Brachtune not the utmost adorable thing in the world when she’s sleeping??? She lies with her face flat on the chair:

She’s such a cutie!

She always wakes up when I’m taking her picture though.

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Tamarind Rice Noodles with Mock Chicken

So there’s a new Korean grocery store in town: a new location of Lotte Plaza. I don’t usually shop at Lotte because Super H is closer and better, but I’d heard the new location was super-fab. So you know where I was on Saturday!

The new Lotte Plaza IS much better than the other location I’m familiar with, however, it’s no Super H-killer in my opinion, and as Super H is closer to my house, Super H still reigns supreme for me. (Lotte DID have a lot more Indian ingredients than Super H has, I must admit, however, I have an Indian grocery store nearby that I like.) However, I bought a TON of stuff for little money and I did score some cool things. One thing that I got at Lotte that I have never found at Super H is vegetarian fish sauce. Now that is not to say there is no vegetarian fish sauce at Super H. I’d be surprised if there isn’t. I’m always claiming Super H has “everything but ___________”, where the blank is some esoteric ingredient I’m looking for for months, then finally resort to buying online, and then find at Super H before my package even arrives. But Super H can be a little overwhelming and I guess I miss things.

Anyway, I was very excited about the vegetarian fish sauce because I’m always thinking, “man, I need vegetarian fish sauce!” I’ve made a few different versions, but I generally get annoyed with the extra step and just sub soy sauce. However, once I procured the stuff, it quickly became one of those, “what the heck do I DO with THIS?!” ingredients. I suddenly had NO idea why I would possibly need fish sauce in my life. This also happens to me when I order from May Wah. I get a huge batch of pretty realistic meat analogs and realized I have NO IDEA what to do with “meat”. It’s like I don’t even consider it something one would want to eat. I know I sometimes make or use mock meats, but it’s usually more as a garnish (kind of how the vegetable-loving Thomas Jefferson advised eating meat). I always end up completely baffled by the fake meat and it takes up space in the freezer for months. (Except the fish filets: Mark and I love fish sandwiches.)

So anyway, the point is I guess I’m far enough along in this vegan journey that I don’t need and really don’t even know what to do with fish sauce. Nonetheless, I bought it and it was exciting and I was determined to use it, so I made up the following recipe, which is kind of pad thai without peanuts, I guess.

I am slightly annoyed when I come across vegan recipes that call for things like vegetarian fish sauce that are really hard to find, so I don’t really like posting stuff like this. So I went looking for ideas for better homemade vegetarian fish sauce and I plan on working on that over the next couple of weeks, so that if I DO come up with more recipes that use my store-bought stuff, I can give you a good alternative to make at home. Which is a little dumb when you think about: I can’t think of what to do with the huge bottle of I have of the stuff, so I’m going to…make more? In the meantime, just use soy sauce in this recipe if you don’t have vegetarian fish sauce.

Tamarind Rice Noodles with Mock Chicken

4 oz wide rice noodles (banh pho)
2 large shallots
4 cloves garlic
3 Tbsp vegan “fish” sauce or soy sauce
2 tsp tamarind concentrate
1/4 cup water
2 drops stevia or 1 tsp brown sugar
2 carrots
1 medium onion
1 hot chili pepper
1/2 small Napa or savoy cabbage
8 oz vegan “chicken”, shredded
2 cups bean sprouts
4 green onions, chopped
cilantro
1 lime, quartered

I see I managed to block the package of “chicken” with the onion in the ingredients photo. Nice job, Renae. I got it in the tofu section of the Asian grocery store and it’s just chicken-style seitan, though this brand is very soft, so use something more tender than chewy or firm.

Soak the noodles in warm water for half an hour or until soft. I usually get impatient and start heating the water, though I don’t bring it to a boil. If you do heat the water, watch the noodles – they’ll get soft quickly.

Drain them when they are al dente.

To make the sauce, place shallots, garlic, water, tamarind concentrate, stevia or sugar, sriracha, and “fish” sauce or soy sauce in a small food processor.

Process until smooth.

Stack leaves of cabbage together …

… roll them up …

… and slice. This will shred or chiffonade it.

Do all the prep work: slice the hot pepper, chop the onion in a medium dice, chop the carrot and green onions, and remove and “fluff” the “chicken”.

Heat a wok over high heat, add some peanut oil and heat for 30 seconds. Add the onions and stir fry for 1 to 2 minutes.

Add the carrot and hot pepper; fry for two minutes.

Add the “chicken” and stir.

Add the cabbage and fry for two minutes.

Turn down the heat and mix in the noodles.

Add the sauce and stir thoroughly.

Add the bean sprouts and half the green onions; mix.

Top each plateful with more green onions and cilantro to taste. Serve with lime wedge.

In other news, Mark got a friend for Atticus Fish this weekend. Meet Aughra!

He’s named after this fella!

Aughra supports the use of vegetarian fish sauce!

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