Last week, we finally got some much needed rain here in Northern California – perfect weather for making a stew. Something that’s hearty and full of flavor, something warm and comforting, something with star anise, perhaps?
I love the very distinct licorice taste and aroma of star anise, it’s one of the very few spices used in Chinese cooking. You may recognize the taste as it’s the primary flavoring in Chinese 5-spice powder.
Normally used in slow cooked meat dishes, I decided to try star anise with seitan and root vegetables in a kind of red-cooked dish. Red cooking or Chinese stewing is a Chinese cooking technique that turns ingredients a deep red-brown color by braising in a dark soy sauce flavored broth.
With no meat, it cooks fairly quickly, basically it’s done when the veggies are soft. Makes for a quick, satisfying weekday meal and like most stews, it’s even better the next day when the flavors combine even more.
Asian-Styled Seitan and Vegetable Stew
2-3 pieces whole star anise
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon water
Salt and pepper to taste
Dash of cinnamon
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2″ piece of fresh ginger, minced
8 ounces seitan chunks
3 medium red potatoes
1 medium carrot
1/2 medium daikon
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 green onion stalk, chopped
Combine the first 6 ingredients in a bowl, mix well and set aside. Peel and slice the carrot at a diagonal, peel and cut the potatoes and daikon into 1″ chunks, add to the sauce bowl along with the seitan. Mix, making sure everything is well covered in the sauce.
Heat a wok until it’s hot, add the oil, swirl to coat the wok. Add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry for a few seconds. Add the bowl ingredients, give it a few quick tosses and add water to just barely covering. Cover and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the water is absorbed and the vegetables are done, about 20 – 25 minutes. To serve, discard the star anise pieces and garnish with the chopped green onions.