30 July 2012

Vegan Chinese Garlic Sauce

Today is Shana's 30th birthday! Although we didn't intend to do so, I made one of Shana's favorite meals for dinner tonight - the garlic sauce you can get at most Chinese restaurants.

Here's the back story. Shana used to always order broccoli in garlic sauce any time we went to a Chinese restaurant. Then, one day she found out that the garlic sauce often has oyster sauce in it, making it not veg*n. Needless to say, Shana was devastated. So I decided to see if I could replicate a good version of it at home.  There are a ton of recipes for it online and they are quite varied! Some of them I discarded almost immediately after looking at the recipes (e.g., some call for minced onion, but the stuff Shana ordered never had onion chunks in it and I was going for authentic "Americanized Chinese restaurant"). Finally I found one that looked about right and have since tweaked it into something we both really like.

Now, don't panic, but this recipe involves tofu. Maybe you've had bad experiences with tofu.
  1. Maybe you think tofu is tasteless. You're mostly right! Tofu takes on the flavors of whatever else you've got going on in the pan. If that's your issue, the sauce is flavorful enough that you don't need to worry about no flavor. 
  2. Maybe you think tofu has an awful texture. Some people can't deal with the "scrambled egg-ness" of tofu. However, the key to this recipe is that you freeze the tofu. Freezing the tofu changes its texture dramatically. You'll honestly be surprised.

Broccoli & Tofu with Vegan Garlic Sauce
2 bricks (usually 14-16 oz.) frozen and thawed tofu, see below
Yes, that is a colander full of broccoli.
4-6 cups of broccoli florets
2 c. veggie broth (I use Better Than Bullion "No Beef" flavor)
4 cloves minced garlic
1/4 c. light soy sauce
1/2 tsp. powdered ginger
1/4-1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes, or more to taste
scant 1/4 c. sugar
2 1/2 T. cornstarch
1 1/2 c. uncooked brown rice


At least 24 hours before you plan to make this meal, freeze your tofu. Open the tofu bricks (use the water-packed, refrigerated kind, not the shelf-stable stuff), place them between layers of a tea-towel,  and gently press on them to remove the excess water. Alternatively, put a cookie sheet on top of them with a heavy book in it and leave them for 20 minutes or so. Then, wrap them in a layer of foil and toss them in the freezer. If you plan to keep them on hand for a while, put a layer of plastic wrap under the foil. These will keep for months in the freezer.

1. Thaw the tofu in the microwave, then cut it into squares like below (cut on the dotted lines) and lightly fry in a skillet or on an electric griddle (my choice!).

2. Prepare the rice as per package directions.
3. In a medium pot, combine the broth, garlic, soy sauce, ginger, red pepper, and sugar. Bring to a boil.
The start of the sauce
4. Meanwhile, saute the broccoli in a little bit of oil in a large skillet over reasonably high heat. Occasionally add a bit of water to partially steam the broccoli.
5. When the sauce has boiled, mix the cornstarch with a little bit of water (less than 1/4 c.) and add to the sauce while still over the heat, stirring constantly as you pour. Stir occasionally until the sauce thickens.
6. Combine broccoli, tofu, and sauce, stir to combine.
7. Serve over rice.

Serves 4, or 2 for dinner and lunches the next day

Original recipe source: http://cupcakepunk.blogspot.com/2007/12/tofu-broccoli-in-garlic-sauce.

The post "Vegan Chinese Garlic Sauce" originally appeared on Maggie's LesVegan Kitchen.


  1. I tried your recipe this evening (while entertaining a very busy and demanding toddler), and really enjoyed it!!! I accidentally added too much red pepper - the extra kick wasn't too bad, but it overpowered the garlic flavor, IMO. Kevin and I give it a thumbs up! Thanks for sharing :-)

    Oh - and regarding the frozen tofu - I did so. I honestly didn't notice a difference in the texture, though. I cook with tofu here and there - I always buy extra firm (because I don't like the squishy texture, but I also like the higher protein content), and cook the heck out of it! Perhaps if I cooked it less, the texture difference would have shone through?

  2. Glad you liked it! Although I always buy extra firm, I'm not patient enough to cook the heck out of it, which I think is why freezing it is such a big deal for Shana. (I can eat tofu straight out of the package cold, so I don't care at all.)

  3. This was wonderful! We had it Friday night - we had rice noodles on hand, so we ate those instead of rice, but otherwise kept everything as is. I did notice a big difference in the texture of the tofu - It could be that I essentially wrung it out after I defrosted it though - there was hardly any water in that brick when I was done with it. As a side note: we used your parents' broccoli for this, and for lunch I finally finished the wild rice soup! :)

    1. So glad you liked it! Yes, I also essentially wring out the tofu after I thaw it. And how fun that you used my dad's broccoli for this! :D

  4. we had already purchased broccoli for it....so tonight we are making it again! mmmm.

  5. It's been awhile, but made this tonight. So. Good.

  6. I apparently feel compelled to tell you every time I make this! 😉 It’s a special treat for me – Heather has a soy sensitivity which makes tofu a rare occasion in our house. So when she heads out of town this is often on my short list of dishes I want to make