Want something crunchy to eat? How about crispy chicken?
Oh I get it! You’re a vegan and can’t eat meat.
Don’t you worry, I have the perfect crispy vegan chicken recipe.
Initially, because the process seemed so laborious, I was hesitant to make this dish. But I was mistaken, it’s actually super simple — if you follow the steps that is.
Before I give you the recipe, let me tell any unfamiliar readers a little about the philosophy and history of veganism. The goal of vegans is to protect animals, birds and insects, and save them from any form of cruelty or exploitation. This means they do not eat any of these living beings or consume products made from them, such as honey.
The term ‘vegan’, according to food historians, was first coined in 1944 by Donald Watson. He was a British woodworker, who meant for this diet to be non-dairy. But a few years later, honey and eggs were added to the list by the people who began to follow this diet.
In the last 20 years or so, veganism has commanded a strong presence in the US. Many people here have started to eat healthier and be true to their belief of protecting animals. The upside to this diet is that a) animals are protected, and b) it is a very healthy one. The downside is that it is an expensive and exclusive one.
In the US, not being able to afford healthier meal options ties in closely with race, class and environmental issues. According to the Move For Hunger (an NGO), 40 million people go hungry every day in the US, so they may never be able to access a vegan diet. Having said that, I think we need to challenge where the good food goes, keep up the good fight, and make sure food gets distributed evenly among all people.
Because of its popularity, as mentioned above, veganism may seem like a recent phenomenon. Interestingly, archeologists maintain that our pre-historic ancestors followed a plant-based diet. That would make sense as there were no tools to kill animals then.
This crispy, mouthwatering vegan ‘chicken’ could fool you into thinking it’s the real deal
Culturally, Buddhists, Hindus and the Greeks have, at some time or the other, promoted a plant-based diet as well, and many still do. The people from the Jain religion, practised in many parts of India, eat only a vegan diet. In fact, they don’t eat anything that gives life, such as seeds or vegetables obtained by killing a plant. They also do not use clothing made from animal products either. Not everyone, though, from this religion follows the tenets strictly and some may consume dairy products, mainly from wild animals.
When I was growing up, my mother cooked our meals mostly with fresh ingredients — all our vegetables and herbs were fresh. We did not follow a vegan diet, as I do now for half the year, but I remember many vegan dishes such as daal, rotis, aloo gobi, palak etc, that were cooked at my home. All these dishes were, and are, very affordable. Cooking at home is a good way to counter the high prices of the vegan market and eat healthy at the same time.
Also the crispy vegan chicken that I make would cost a lot if I were to buy this from a supermarket. It definitely saves dollars/rupees. And it’s super delicious as well, as you would know after following my recipe. So here it goes!
For the ‘chicken’
1 extra firm Tofu
Freeze tofu overnight, defrost and freeze again overnight. After the second defrost, place the tofu between two cutting boards and squeeze out the water, as much as you can. Pat dry tofu with a paper towel and break into irregular shapes resembling nuggets. Keep aside.
For the marinade
4 teaspoons of nutritional yeast
1/2 cup soy milk
2 tablespoons of soy
2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar or white vinegar
3 teaspoons of hot sauce (or less if it’s too spicy for you)
Salt to taste
Tiny amounts of any of your favourite spices
Mix all the ingredients thoroughly and pour over the broken tofu pieces. Keep marinated overnight and, every once in a while, stir gently (to avoid breaking the tofu further).
Batter to dip ‘chicken’ in before frying
5 tablespoons of chickpea flour
5 tablespoons of rice flour
Salt to taste
A quarter teaspoon each of powdered garlic, black pepper and red chilli powder
1/2 cup of soy milk or water
Mix all the ingredients in a medium-sized bowl until smooth. It should not be too thick. You must be able to dip marinated tofu pieces easily in this batter. Keep batter aside for now.
Dry batter to roll ‘chicken’ in before frying
1/2 cup wheat flour
1/2 cup crushed cornflakes
Salt to taste
Tiny amounts of oregano and/or any other dried herb
Tiny amounts of your favourite spices
Place all the ingredients in a plastic container and shake well. Place around three teaspoons of this mixture onto a flat plate, and keep aside.
Frying the ‘chicken’
1 small to medium sized deep pot
2 or 3 cups of any frying oil or any amount that fills one quarter of the pot
Heat oil in the pot on medium flame. Take at least three pieces of marinated tofu and dip into the chickpea and rice flour batter until they are fully coated. Now roll these pieces, one after the other, into the flour and cornflake mixture that you kept on a plate, until they are fully coated. Place coated tofu pieces into the pot, and fry until brown from all sides and crisp. Repeat process and keep refilling the plate with the dry mixture as needed. Enjoy with any sauce of your choice!
Originally published in Dawn, EOS, February 28th, 2021