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November 20, 2011

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Veggie Thanksgiving blowout

THERE'S no need for vegetarians to cry foul on Thanksgiving. There are non-fowl feasts to be savored on Turkey Day. Alex Linder checks out possibilities.

Thanksgiving dinner can be a little uncomfortable for vegetarians. They love the delicious side dishes - the mashed potatoes, gravy, corn bread, vegetables and cranberry sauce. They gobble up the pumpkin pie. But the centerpiece and trademark of the holiday, the turkey, they wouldn't go near.

Instead, many vegetarians create their own versions of classics or make something completely different for the main course.

"Veggie cooking lets chefs think outside the box and experiment to come up with different foods," says Alexa Chiang, founder of Shanghai Vegetarian Club.

For Thanksgiving in the United States, Chiang says that in place of turkey she purchased tofu loaves that were wheat-based and stuffed them with squash.

"These kinds of things may not seem too appealing to non-vegetarians, but they can really be quite good and delicious," Chiang says.

While good turkey substitutes are easy to find in the US, Chiang says it can be much more difficult in China and chefs must be more creative to serve a vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner. Few restaurants are willing to try.

"Most places don't want to cater to our specific group, especially on a holiday like Thanksgiving," Chiang says. "They think that they won't be able to get enough business."

Kazu Koikeda, owner of Anna Maya Vegetarian Café, was enthusiastic about hosting a special Thanksgiving meal. Koikeda says she will use fresh ingredients and blend her Japanese temple cooking with the Thanksgiving spirit.

"The concept of the food is to thank the liveliness of ourselves and the universe through the eating experience," Koikeda says. "It is not only about what to eat on the plate, but how to eat and how to interact with the food."

With that in mind, here are a couple of tasty turkey substitutes for a less meaty Thanksgiving.

Traditional Tofurkey

Preparation time: 30min (cooking time 1.5 hours)

Serves at least 6



? Roast: 5 (12-ounce) blocks firm or extra-firm tofu; 1/4 to 1/2 cup of fresh chopped herbs; 1-1/2 tbsp of vegetable stock powder or vegan chicken stock; 2 tsp of vegan poultry seasoning; salt and pepper to taste

? Marinade: 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar; 1/4 to 1/2 cup of red wine; 1/4 cup of chopped fresh herbs; 1 tbsp of vegetable stock powder dissolved in a couple tablespoons of hot water; salt and pepper to taste; 1 tsp of mustard


? Roast: 1. Blend tofu in blender or food processor until smooth. Transfer to a large bowl, stir in herbs, vegetable stock powder, poultry seasoning, salt and pepper.

2. Line a medium, round-bottomed colander with one layer of cheese cloth or a clean dish towel. Put the tofu mixture in colander and fold remaining cheese cloth over the top. Place the colander on a plate and put a heavy weight on top. Put in the fridge and press for 2 to 3 hours, or overnight if possible.

3. After pressing and with the tofu still in the colander, scoop out the center, leaving about an inch of tofu around the edges. Place your stuffing in the cavity. Put the tofu mixture scooped out over the stuffing and press down firmly.

4. Flip the formed turkey on to an oiled cookie sheet. Use the excess tofu to form the turkey legs and wings for an added turkey look.

? Marinade: 1. In a bowl, whisk together all the marinade ingredients. Brush the whole turkey with the marinade.

2. Cook at 175 degrees Celsius for 1.5 hours, brushing with marinade every 15 minutes.

3. Serve warm.

Summer Squash and Portobello Mushroom Lasagna

Preparation time: 30min (cooking time 20min)

Serves at least 8



6 medium crookneck or other summer squash or zucchini, sliced lengthwise, 1/8 inch thick; 6 large portobello mushroom caps, sliced 1/8 inch thick on a bias; extra virgin olive oil for sautéing; 1 lb ricotta; 2 eggs; 1/2 tsp nutmeg; 1 diced onion; 2 cloves garlic, minced; 2 large (28 oz) cans plain tomato sauce; zest from 1 lemon; 1.5 lb no-boil lasagna noodles (or regular lasagna noodles, par-boiled); salt and pepper to taste; 1 lb grated mozzarella; 4 oz grated Parmesan cheese


1. In a large skillet, over high, fry squash and portobello mushrooms in olive oil. Fry each in a single layer. Flip and cook both sides until well browned.

2. Season the ricotta along with nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste. Then, beat in the eggs.

3. Sauté the onion and garlic in a good amount of olive oil, add the tomato sauce and lemon zest, simmer 5min, salt to taste.

4. Oil a large pan. Build up layers of noodles, sauce, squash and mushrooms, ricotta mixture and mozzarella until 4 layers total. Put sauce on every layer, alternating ricotta on one and mozzarella on the next. Finish with a heavy layer of mozzarella and Parmesan, mixed together.

5. Bake at 190 degrees Celsius, covering with tin foil part of the time if needed to avoid over browning. It is done when you can easily pierce the noodles with a fork, and the sauce is bubbling around the sides.

6. Allow to rest at least 15 minutes before serving.


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