Happy Year of the Snake! Recipes #3. Fat-free Vegan Chicken Balls

100_4599So here was the challenge: chicken balls as good as the old deep fried ones I used to eat, but- they had to be vegan and fat-free. I planned to use jackfruit as the chicken, so it seemed an easy task- simply find a good batter. And, of course, a way to fry them with no fat- which was where I got stuck. Until I suddenly thought of … takoyaki! Well, I don’t have a takoyaki pan, but I do have a cake-pop maker. I think either one would work for this recipe.

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I have to admit, I did not really like the first attempt. I used a regular chicken ball batter recipe, and they ended up looking interesting, but tasting a bit like pretzel balls to me- OK, but not the taste I was going for. But at least I knew I was on the right track with the cake pop machine. By then I was out of jackfruit, so I went to plan two, and there I met with success!

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I got a fantastic recipe right off Vegan Dad, and used it with very few changes at all. And it worked well in the pop maker. I flipped them part way through cooking, just as you would with takoyaki, and that helped them to brown a little more evenly. I have to give two thumbs up to Vegan Dad`s recipe- the tofu chicken had a texture and taste that could fool a meat-eater, and it was even better reheated the next day (just like Chinese food should be!). I served both types of chicken balls, along with two sauce recipes on the side, so people could mix and match. I will share the winning recipe here, and the two sauce recipes (I preferred the pineapple one- it has a little bit of a kick).

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Fat-free Vegan Chicken Balls

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp chickpea flour
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup + 1 tbsp plain soy milk
  • 1 tbsp finely ground flax seed
  • 2 tbsp warm water
  • 1 pkg extra firm tofu, pressed for 20 mins
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp poultry spice, or to taste. I had leftover seasoned breadcrumbs, so I threw in a handful of them in, too)
  • 1 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • ground white pepper
  • 1-2 tbsp vital wheat gluten

Directions:

1. Mix together flours, cornstarch,100_4525 baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk flax seed and water together until thick, and then whisk flax mixture into the soy milk. Mix wet into dry ingredients. Add more liquid or flour as needed. The goal is a thick pancake batter consistency–not too thick, but not so thin that it drips right off the balls. Refrigerate until ready to use.
2. Make the tofu balls: mush the tofu 100_4518in your hands until very fine and clumping together. Add spices and hoisin sauce and mix well. Adjust seasonings to taste. Sprinkle the wheat gluten over top and mix in until the gluten starts to give a consistency that will hold together. Form into balls (approx 30 balls, not too big).
3. To cook in a cake pop maker: Turn the maker on, then dip the balls into the batter, rolling gently to cover completely. I used a large 100_4531flat-bottomed bowl for the batter, so I could fit a dozen balls in at once. That`s because the next part is the tricky part- getting the cake pop maker filled quickly. Once all 12 balls are covered, grab them two at a time, drop them into the pop maker, and close the lid. (If you work too slowly, the first balls will rise and overflow their divots before you close the machine. Which is why I didn`t get a picture of that part). I cooked them for about 4-5 minutes, and then opened the machine and turned them over to brown the tops for a minute or so.
4. Serve with cooked vegetables (ie- thick cut peppers and onion) and your sauce of choice.

Pineapple Sweet and Sour Sauce
Ingredients:

  • 1/4 c. agave or other sweetener
  • 1/4 c. white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened pineapple juice, drained from can.
  • cubed pineapple from can (separated from juice)
  • 1 Tbs. tamari or soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1-2 tsp Sriracha hot sauce (or to taste)
  • 2 Tbs. cornstarch, mixed in 1/4 cup cold water

Directions:
1. Combine water, vinegar, tamari, pineapple juice, sriracha and sweetener in small pan. Cook on medium to high heat, until boiling.
2. Add the cornstarch and water mixture and keep stirring, until sauce thickens.
3. Add the cubed pineapple, stir and warm through.
4. Serve.

Orange Sauce for Chicken Balls

Ingredients:
Use 1 can of mandarin orange slices in juice (not syrup), separated into:

  • 1/2 cup juice from can (if there is not enough, add regular orange juice)
  • orange slices, drained
  • 2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • optional sweetener like sugar, honey, agave, etc. to taste
  • 2 Tbs. cornstarch, mixed in 1/4 cup cold water

Directions:
1. Combine juice, tamari, vinegar, garlic, ginger, and sweetener in small pan. Cook on medium to high heat, until boiling.
2. Add the cornstarch and water mixture and keep stirring, until sauce thickens.
3. Add the orange slices, stir and warm through.
4. Serve.

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