Several months ago I shared the recipe for a Vegan Chicken Tikka Masala that used jackfruit instead of the chicken and came together in a slow cooker. I still think that that’s a great, flavorful and aromatic dish and if you are looking for new ways of making and enjoying jackfruit it is definitely something you should try. Having said that, someone did ask about what the source of protein was in a dish like that, and although jackfruit, as well as all the other fruits and vegetables on the planet, has some protein it is not a protein-rich food.
So, I went looking for ways to increase the protein content in the plant-based Tikka Masala and found soya chunks. Soya chunks are not something that’s easy to find in US grocery stores. I was able to find them in Serbia easily enough and I have now also found them on Amazon and in my local Indian grocery store. If you have an Indian grocery store relatively nearby, it’s absolutely worth the trip. I find that the prices in the Indian grocery store I go to are on average three to four times cheaper than online, and things like rice, soy and chickpea flour, and spices are a fraction of the price when compared to my regular grocery store or health food store. Most Indian stores have a freshly made food section as well, so although not many items on the traditional Indian menu are vegan, I’m sure you will find a couple worth trying out.
Back to soya chunks now. Soya chunks are made from fat-free soy meal, a by-product of soybean oil extraction. The meal is molded into different shapes and textures (soya chunks of different shape and size) and dried out to create a shelf-stable, long lasting products. I use several different size of soya chunks, depending on what I am making. For example, the size of soya chunks I chose for a dish like chicken-less tikka masala matches the size of chicken chunks, which are usually about 1 inch (2.5 cm) cubes. An essential step for almost all soya chunk dishes involves boiling soya chunks in water for five minutes or so to rehydrate them. If you are using very fine soya chunks, like TVP (textured vegetable protein), boiling is usually not required but some soaking will be needed. The only TVP application where I advise against soaking is when making burgers, and you can find out why and how come in my recipe.
For this Chicken-less Tikka Masala to work, you will have to marinade soya chunks in a spice-and-yogurt sauce. Basically, you are following all the same steps as you would if you were making the chicken version of this dish, and by the time you are finished all the marinating and simmering nobody will be able to tell that what they are eating is not the real thing. I recommend marinating soya chunks overnight, but if you are in the hurry starting the marinate in the morning and finishing the dish later the same day will work.
The Chicken-less Tikka Masala is best served with some Basamati Rice, and topped with fresh cilantro. For a full restaurant experience you can add some Naan bread and Cucumber Raita, which you can make easily with some finely sliced cucumber, some yogurt, and a squeeze of lemon juice!
Chicken-less Tikka Masala
What you’ll need:
7 oz (200 g) medium soya chunks
2 tablespoon coriander powder
1 tablespoon paprika
1 tablespoon cayenne
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon garam masala
1/2 tablespoon cardamom powder
1 cup cashew yogurt
1 large onion, diced
6 oz (170 g) tomato paste
1 14.5 oz (411 g) can petite diced tomatoes
2 tablespoon vegetable oil (divided)
What you’ll do:
- In a large pot cover soya chunks with water, bring to boil, and let cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand for 30 minutes. Transfer soya chunks into a large strainer, rinse with cold water and gently press any access water out. You want your soya chunks to be soft and moist but not dripping with water.
- Place one tablespoon of vegetable oil in a pan and heat until the oil is hot. Reduce the heat to medium and add the spices (coriander, paprika, cayenne, cumin, garam masala, and cardamom). Toast the spices for 1-2 minutes, until fragrant. Place the toasted spices into a large mixing bowl and let cool for few minutes.
- Once spices have cooled just a bit, add the yogurt and mix well. Next, add the soya chunks, make sure they are well covered with the marinade, and refrigerate for at least 12 hours. If you are in a rush you can cut down the marinating time to couple of hours – in that case leave everything on the kitchen counter.
- In a large and heavy pot, like a Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over the medium high heat. When oil is heated, add the diced onion and let it brown for 5 to 7 minutes.
- Once the onion is browned, add the tomato paste, mix well and let the tomato paste brown slightly. This will take 3 to 4 minutes.
- Next, add the marinated soy chunks together with all the yogurt marinade. Mix well, and let the soy chunks brown just slightly. You will need to give it an occasional stir, but the idea is to let the soy chunks get a chance to caramelize on the edges just slightly. This will take about 10 minutes.
- Add diced tomatoes, mix well, decrease the heat to medium low, and let the Chicken-less Tikka Masala simmer for 15 minutes or so. This simmering will allow all the flavors to come together more completely, and the sauce to thicken slightly. If you discover that your sauce is not as thick as you like it, keep simmering until you reach the consistency you like.
- Serve over Saffron Brown Basmati Rice and sprinkle with some fresh cilantro!
Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2017