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vegetarian substitute for beef in stir fry ... but not tofu?

Hi all,

I keep trying to go veg, but it never sticks. I have some favorite dishes, one of which is Szechuan dry fried beef with carrots and celery. It is fabulous.

I've tried making it with just the carrots and celery, but it felt like something was missing and didn't feel filling. I can't stand the consistency of tofu so that's out. I once bought trader joe's fake meat strips - don't know what they're made of, but the smell was something out of my nightmares. Had to toss it all.

I feel like there must be a vegetable out there that I can stir fry that seems...substantial, for lack of a better word. I've also toyed with the idea of stir frying nuts in this recipe.

Can you think of anything that is a good meat stir fry substitute? I wonder if I should try and make seitan and slice it in thin strips.


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      1. I use portobello mushrooms in place of beef if I'm not in a beefy mood. I don't care for faux meats and I eat limited soy but have found portobellos really do the trick for me.

        1. King oyster mushrooms
          Coral mushrooms

          You may want to take a look at some of the fried varieties of tofu available in many east or southeast Asian markets, they are nothing like the "standard" forms you usually see in mainstream groceries.

          1. I believe the classic Chinese meat alternatives, besides tofu, are:

            - bean curd skin
            - mushrooms, especially dried shitakes, though king trumpets are newer variety that is quite 'meaty'
            - gluten (derived from wheat), made into a variety of 'mock meat' products. I've only tried small cans of this, which include varieties like 'mock duck meat'.

            Chinese Buddhist monks have been quite inventive in this area. Look at recipes with 'Buddha' in the name, e.g. Buddha's Feast, or Delight.

            1 Reply
            1. re: paulj

              Wheat gluten, in the form of mock duck meat etc., is available in Asian grocery stores. Sometimes in cans and sometimes in jars. It's basically "seitan" which is another name for wheat gluten - look in health food stores for that. This stuff has the most meatlike consistency of any meat sub I've ever tried and the flavour is good. The Asian types will often be formed to look like poultry skin, and is often marinated.

            2. Like the other posters I'll recommend mushrooms. But I also wanted to share a recent discovery (at least to me): roasted tofu. Just cube firm tofu, put on sheet pan on parchment, toss with a bit of oil and salt, and roast at 450F for 30 min, turning once. Completely different texture!

              1 Reply
              1. re: firecooked

                freezing tofu also provides a much "beefier " texture.

              2. As others have said seitan is a good substitute. And I do suggest making your own, since you mentionned it. I'm a meat eater but my mom went on a seitan-making binge and I was surprised how much I liked it. She said it was easy to make. It is chewier than tofu and I think it would work well in this dish. You could add mushrooms as well.

                1. Morningstar Farms also makes frozen beef strips, but they may be too similar to the TJ's type for your liking. I suggest picking up a box of your favorite non-mushy veggie burger (boca or morningstar grillers/prime are my faves), then chopping them up and throwing them in.

                  Or you can do the same with veggie chicken nuggets or pieces (Quorn has a few varieties) if you aren't set on "beef".

                  Lastly, TJ's carries baked tofu that you may like. It's much more firm and flavorful than standard tofu.