Vegan Thai Chicken Rice - Khao Man Gai
I'm going to start off with - "This is an amazing recipe and you should just make it." I had the original chicken rice version over at a Thai friend's house and the dish - well, in particular, the sauce really changed my taste buds for the better.
This whole dish - the rice and the "chicken" are perfumed with cilantro, garlic and ginger. The rice is toasted to give it a richer flavor. The sauce is a mix of savory, sweet, sour and spicy flavors. It is the perfect embodiment of Thai flavors.
Turning this dish vegan was a bit tricky, but I have tips and substitutions for each stage of this recipe.
For the chicken, I used a vegan chicken strips. Since I am not able to make my own chicken broth from using chicken, I turned to using a vegan chicken broth mix.
I let the vegan chicken strips essentially soak in the broth mixture to absorb the flavors. Usually, you would simmer the chicken for about an hour, but I found that the vegan chicken strips would break down at such constant heat. Since vegan chicken strips are also more porous, it lent itself to taking up flavors through soaking.
A big thing about the rice is that it should first be toasted. Not only does this develop the flavor, but it also keeps the rice from absorbing too much liquid and getting too soft. The flavors of garlic, cilantro and ginger are reinforced in the rice again, so that the flavors are perfumed throughout.
This is where the magic happens. I mean, this sauce is good and bad. It's good because like I mentioned earlier, it encapsulates all essential Thai flavors. It has lime juice, sugar, soy sauce, ginger and a salty bean paste among the many ingredients, so it's really a flavor explosion and pairs well with the gently flavored chicken.
The bad part is that it does have a tendency to cover up the more mellow cilantro, ginger and garlic flavors perfumed in the rice and chicken. I would say to try out the dish without the sauce. Then add it in sparingly so that you can experience the different dimensions of the dish.