Recipe: chinese vegetarian chicken
*Edit*: Oh, I see that I can enter this into Coffee & Vanilla’s Vegetarian Awareness Month Event! October 1st was World Vegetarian Day. Here’s the banner and go join if you can:
I love tofu. Love it raw, love it dried, fried, shredded, diced, pressed, in soups, in sheets, in stir-fries, in braises… Back in the day, when I mentioned tofu to white people, they would make a face and say, “yech!” But as granolas and vegetarians grew in numbers, so did tofu’s popularity. I’m not vegetarian. I love animals and I love to eat them. That doesn’t mean that I don’t like vegetarian food. One of my favorite haunts in Monterey Park was a Buddhist vegetarian restaurant (Happy Family – anyone know where it went? It’s now an empty lot). Asian vegetarian food is really Effingham delicious.
Whenever I visit my Grandma in California, she insists on sending me home with several times the volume of my duffel bag in food. Let’s see, she’ll hand me a few pounds of fruit, several packages of Chinese snacks, lots of dried goods, and a “loaf” of her homemade Chinese vegetarian chicken. I love that stuff. She taught me how to make it a few years ago, but I never tried until yesterday.
Vegetarian chicken?! That’s the translation of su ji. From what I’ve gathered, Buddhist monks were masters of preparing tofu in many delicious ways. They are vegetarian. I don’t think they eat garlic either because it is the root of the plant, thus destroying the plant. Emperors used to dig this style of food and would have the monks prepare meals for them. Well, you don’t just prepare any old slop for the Emperor. They made dishes that mimicked chicken, fish, squid, duck… out of tofu. The monks even went so far as to insert tiny slivers of bamboo to resemble fish bones. I learned about all of this when my parents dragged me to a Buddhist temple in LA for my mom’s college reunion.