I hate being typecast. Because I’m Japanese, some people once thought I only cooked Japanese food, especially as I had written a Japanese cookbook. Now that I’m known for Artisan Vegan Cheese, people think I gorge on cheese all the time. But I don’t. I eat mostly fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes. Fresh, simple, everyday stuff, from juices and smoothies to salads and stir-fry. Like a lot of other vegans. Still, when I cook for others, my leanings are Italian and French, and I’ll tinker in the kitchen creating the perfect repast. I’m not your veggie burger and vegan bufflao wings gal. But Super Bowl Sunday is coming up, and my husband likes his grub.
Yesterday, smiling sweetly, he put in his order. To me, not the local diner. Well, I happen to be teaching a vegan cheese class at my house on February 3rd (yes, not everyone is glued to the Super Bowl!), so he’ll be getting to nibble on plenty of cheesy dishes. But Gruyere Fondue is just not up his alley when he’s watching tight end Vernon Davis make a touchdown (and do people know that he is vegetarian or close to it?). My husband would prefer something a bit more American, such as burgers with fat oven fries, really good nachos with black beans and cheddar, maybe some chewy ribs.
Here’s where I concur. Burgers and nachos are great, but even I can sink my teeth into some saucy, chewy, sweet and spicy ribs. In fact, this is a dish that I look forward to on those picnic holidays – the 4th of July, Labor Day, and any hot day in summer. And it’s so easy that even with my class, I’ll be able to put this together in no time flat.
What are they made of? Not seitan. These are made of something called bean curd sticks. They are essentially yuba sticks (you know, the skin that forms on soy milk when it’s heated too long!). Yuba that has been folded and crunched into a long stick forms the base of the chewiest ribs on the planet. Dripping in the best barbeque sauce ever, and of course, the requisite amount of grease. Yes, this is just one of those dishes that taste better with more fat (I use olive oil). You can, of course, make this oil-free, but you won’t have as much fun wiping your chin. And get ready to get addicted.
- 1 lb. Bean Curd Sticks or Yuba Sticks (available only in Asian grocery stores – they are sold dried and look like yellow crumpled paper sticks about a foot long)
- Large rectangular pan or dish deep enough to accommodate the contents of the package
- The BBQ Sauce:
- 2 six-ounce cans tomato paste
- 1/3 cup agave nectar or maple syrup
- 1/3 cup soy sauce
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons molasses
- ½ teaspoon liquid smoke
- 6 cloves garlic (or more!), minced
- 2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (canned), minced
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 to 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 to 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- ¾ cup water
- For baking: 1/3 to 1/2 cup olive oil
- [b]The Day Before[/b]: Place the bean curd sticks in the pan and cover with water. They will initially float but as they soak up the water, will become immersed. Cover with plastic wrap or another cover and allow to sit for 24 hours on your counter. They can soak several hours longer if that is more convenient. They will become soft and white. Before using, cut them into 6″ lengths to make for easier eating.
- [b]The BBQ Sauce[/b]: You can make this anytime. I generally mix it in a large bowl the day I am making the ribs, but you can make ahead and store in the fridge. To make it, simply combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well.
- [b]To Bake the Ribs:[/b] Preheat the oven to 400°.
- Prepare a large baking sheet (or two) by lining with parchment paper. Coat with the olive oil. (Of course, more oil means more calories, but in this case, it also means more flavor.) Drain the water from the yuba sticks. Toss the yuba sticks in the BBQ sauce so that they are well coated. Spread them on the prepared baking pan(s) in a single layer and toss gently to coat them with the oil on the pan. Bake for 20 – 30 minutes until browned and somewhat blackened in parts. If they are still limp, they won’t be as good. They should be good and brown and somewhat firm. If there is any residual barbecue sauce in the bowl, toss the ribs in it.