I am on a mission to ‘veganise’ all your meaty favourites. Here, I’ve made Chinese vegan bao buns with katsu ‘chicken’!
Have you ever tried vegan bao buns? Mate, they are bloody GORGEOUS! They’re fluffy white buns often filled with marinated meat and adorned with crisp veg, crushed peanuts, spring onions and fresh herbs. Nowadays, there are so many accessible plant-based proteins that we can enjoy this Asian delicacy to our vegan heart’s content.
Where did I get the inspiration for these vegan bao buns?
Short answer – my DELICIOUS vegan katsu curry!
Katsu curry is known as one of Japan’s most popular dishes, and now it seems one of the U.K’s favourites. The sauce is rich in flavour, mildly spiced with a hint of sweetness – always an easy pleaser.
Since my vegan katsu curry recipe is one of my most popular, I wanted to create another way for using this flavoursome sauce and thought bao buns would be perfect considering their Asian origin.
How to make vegan katsu?
In traditional katsu curry, animal products include egg, honey, chicken stock and chicken. The egg is usually used as part of the breadcrumb mix to coat the chicken, but I’ve used Quorn’s vegan tex-mex nuggets in this recipe as an easy short-cut which scraps the egg and meat altogether. Then instead of chicken stock, I’ve used vegetable stock and agave nectar instead of honey.
Like most sauce recipes, the key for great results lies in layering the flavour at various stages of the cooking. You’ll start by frying off finely chopped onion, garlic and ginger. Simply by allowing these to cook for a few minutes, you’ll release their aromas and enhance the overall flavour of the dish. Then comes the spice mix and finally, the remaining ingredients step by step.
The final additions of tahini and peanut butter bring all the flavours together, and your eyes will be popping at the taste of it! This sauce is one of my favourites to cook (cue drool), and is best eaten immediately once served (obviously!)
Buying ingredients for this vegan bao bun recipe?
There are some simple recipes for homemade bao buns, but I found frozen ones in my local Asian supermarket and was very happy with the results.
If you can, I would highly recommend you find your local Asian supermarket. If you live in a city, you’re likely to have one nearby. They’re a brilliant source for more exotic ingredients, and you’re able to get far more amounts of spice for your money.
If you’re out of town, then you may not have one nearby. If that’s the case, you can order bao buns online (a.k.a Hirata buns).
How can you make these vegan bao buns healthier?
I’ve used Quorn’s vegan chicken tex-nuggets as a quick and easy short-cut which makes this meal a breeze to cook, especially if you’re just in from work. I do love Quorn as there are so many benefits of cooking with it.
However, if you’re looking for a healthier alternative, I would use tofu. Soybean is incredibly high in protein, low in saturated fats and free of added sugars and salts. You could marinate some tofu in a simple seasoning and bake it in place of the nuggets.
It’s essential to use firm tofu for this type of thing, as soft tofu will break apart. If you’re in the U.K, I often use Tofoo’s extra firm tofu which is organic.
I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments once you’ve given my vegan bao buns with katsu chicken a try. I’m sure you will adore the taste and be delighted by how yummy a Life Without Meat can be.
- 1 teaspoon of rapeseed/coconut oil
- 1 small white onion (60g), finely diced
- 1 heaped teaspoon of garlic puree OR 2 medium cloves crushed
- 1 knob (20g) of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
- 2 teaspoons of curry powder
- ⅛ teaspoon of turmeric
- ¼ teaspoon of garam masala
- 2 ½ teaspoons agave nectar (or maple syrup)
- 1 tablespoon tamari sauce (or soy sauce)
- 2 heaped teaspoons tomato puree
- 1/2 vegetable stock
- 250ml hot water
- 3 tablespoons tahini
- 1 tablespoon meridian crunchy peanut butter
- 70ml water
- 200g Quorn Vegan Crunchy Tex Mex Nuggets OR 200g extra firm tofu, cut into bitesize pieces
- 6 frozen bao buns
- Fresh spinach
- Fresh coriander
- 2 red chilli, finely chopped
- 2 spring onions, sliced
- ½ lime, juiced
- Pickled red cabbage
- Pre-heat your oven to 180C and fill the kettle half-way and boil. You can also pre-prepare your vegetable stock by dissolving it in 250ml boiling water.
- Following packet instructions, put your nuggets in the oven to cook, and set your timer for 15 minutes. If you’re using tofu instead, simply chop your tofu into 12 slim pieces and season with salt, pepper, garlic powder and a little bit of oil. Place the tofu on a baking tray lined with baking paper and cook for 15 minutes.
- To steam-cook your bao buns, place 6 in a large colander over a pot of boiling water. Bring the pot of water to the boil and allow to simmer for 15 minutes. Make sure the bao buns are covered with a lid so they steam through.
- While all of that cooks, you can make your sauce. Take a few minutes to prepare your onion and fresh ginger.
- Next, heat the oil in a large frying pan on medium heat. Then add your onion, ginger and garlic. Stir and let cook for a few minutes.
- Slowly add half of the vegetable stock to the pan, stirring in between. This helps the onion soften.
Let this cook for a few minutes then add the curry powder, garam masala and turmeric. Stir and cook for a further few minutes whilst stirring in the remaining stock. At this point, you can transfer the pan ingredients to a blender and blitz until smooth before returning it to the pan. Feel free to do the same or leave it as it if for extra texture.
- Stir in the agave nectar, tamari sauce and tomato puree. Then add the tahini and peanut butter. You'll notice the sauce becomes a lovely creamy orange colour. Stir and leave to simmer on a low heat for 8-10 minutes. The sauce will thicken a little so stir in an additional 70ml of water to thin it out.
Whilst the sauce simmers, prepare a mix of freshly chopped coriander, sliced spring onion and fresh chilli. Drizzle over the juice of half a lime.
- To serve, fill each bun with a layer of spinach, 2 pieces of protein (nuggets/tofu) and two generous spoonful’s of katsu sauce. Then top with a sprinkling of fresh coriander, spring onion and chilli! Plus, some pickled red cabbage and crushed peanuts if you fancy…. BAO-utiful!
Allergens: Soy, Wheat, Gluten, Celery
Sauce recipe adapted from Cupful of Kale.
If you don't have agave nectar, you can use maple syrup or golden syrup.
If you don't have tamari sauce, you can use soy sauce.
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