Traditional Takeout

As young children across the country feverishly unwrap mounds of tinsel-clad packages, parents tending a huge roast with all the fixings for dinner, an entirely different tradition marks my Christmas day. The classic Jewish Christmas, otherwise known as seeing a movie and getting Chinese food takeout, seems to be growing in popularity. Who knew it was even a thing 5, 10 years ago? Suddenly everyone knows about this once obscure and occasionally controversial plan. In fact, quite a few families that still lovingly string up Christmas trees and sing carols every year also join in on the fun, too. It’s the ultimate secular holiday that everyone can enjoy.

Options may be limited for fellow meatless eaters, but no matter how many times I get plain old broccoli and tofu, it just never gets old. Maybe the MSG makes it particularly addictive, but there are few things quite as satisfying as the instant gratification of savory, salty brown sauce smothering cubes of crispy fried bean curd and tender green florets. Venturing to recreate this endlessly versatile sauce, suddenly the sky is the limit for protein alternatives. As an extra-special treat this year, a rare package of Konjac-based vegan shrimp remained on ice, tucked away in the back of the freezer for just such an opportunity.

Disarmingly similar in coloring and surprisingly bouncy, their chewy texture was disconcertingly similar to actual seafood, according to the omnivores at the table. They imparted relatively little flavor though, for better or for worse, so while novel, I think I’d still prefer my tofu standby. Next time, I’ll gladly fire up the oil and toss in a few cubes instead, although you can’t go too far wrong with a solid brown sauce.

“Shrimp” and Broccoli

1/2 Pound (1 Package) Frozen Vegan Shrimp, or 1 Pound Fried Tofu
1 Pound Fresh Broccoli, Cut into Florets

Brown Sauce:

1 Tablespoon Sesame Oil
3 Cloves Garlic, Finely Minced
1 Tablespoon Fresh Ginger, Grated
1/3 Cup Soy Sauce
1 Cup Vegetable Stock
1/3 Cup Mirin
1/4 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
2 Tablespoons Cornstarch

Sesame Seeds, to Garnish (Optional)
Cooked White Rice, to Serve

Thaw out the frozen shrimp if using, or prepare your tofu. Place the broccoli florets in a microwave-safe dish with a splash of water, and steam for 2 – 4 minutes, until fork-tender. Drain and blanch in ice water to stop the cooking and keep the broccoli bright green. Set aside.

To prepare the brown sauce, begin by heating the sesame oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add in the garlic and ginger, and cook briefly, until aromatic. Meanwhile, whisk together all of the remaining ingredient in a separate bowl, being sure to beat out any clumps of starch so that the mixture is completely smooth. Carefully pour the liquids into the hot pan, standing away from the stove in case of any splashback. Whisk gently as the sauce comes up to temperature, until it reaches a full boil and has visible thickened. Turn off the heat and let the sauce cool for a minute or two.

Place the broccoli and shrimp (or tofu) in a large bowl, and toss with a sizable dollop of brown sauce. There will likely be extra sauce, so apply it sparingly. Continue drizzling in sauce until the goodies are coated to your liking. Transfer to a serving bowl and top with a light sprinkling of sesame seeds. Enjoy with a mound of hot rice, and have a very Happy Holiday!

Serves 3 – 4

Printable Recipe

19 thoughts on “Traditional Takeout

  1. Lol…I have to tell you about a short conversation that my son and I had on Christmas Day…he phoned up to wish us “Merry Christmas” and was saying that he and his Texan sweetie were about to wander the empty streets of the city that he lives in here in Australia because they had never seen it so empty but he was despairing of not being able to find a coffee shop open to stop at on the way…I mentioned the Chinese Takeaway option for Jewish people as it was just another day to you guys and he said “Jewish shops might be open?” and I could hear him excitedly telling Kelsey in the background and when he got back he said “You just made our day! The best pastry shop/cafe in the city is run by a Jewish man!”…they figured that he might be open and hey…if he isn’t…at least the Chinese takaway around the corner might be! ;) Cheers for entertaining, feeding and educating us all this year Hannah and I look forwards to your wonderful offbeat wacky take on life and vegan food this year, can’t wait to see what you get up to and what degustatory magic you create for us all :)

  2. We always get Chinese food on Christmas Eve. This recipe looks really good and healthy, a definite keeper for the new year when i am going to try and eat way healthier :P

  3. I never cared for seafood as an omni, so I stay away from seafood analogs as a vegan. I love that you and I are on the same page as far as this being a great recipe for tofu, as well! It’s nice to see a savory recipe pop up for XMas with the rampant sweets going around. xoxo

  4. I am good with a movie and Chinese takeout most days of the year! Love your recipe! I saw some vegan shrimp in a store a couple of days ago and I didn’t get it because I wasn’t sure what you would do with it. Now I know!

  5. We already went to the movies and are waiting to do the takeout in a few hours after the popcorn wears off.
    I got vegan popcorn shrimp at a restaurant in NYC a few weeks ago. Partially because I remember it fondly from childhood takeout, but largely because it was a vessel for vegan tartar sauce!

  6. We actually ended up having sushi for dinner last night thanks to some car troubles. :) But this stir fry would have been awesome as well!

  7. Yup, the tofu/broccoli combo really doesn’t ever get old. We just ate vegan seafood for the first time too, and yup, pretty bland – pretty much what I remember seafood being like, ha ha. :) But mixed in with things it’s really good!

  8. We’ve done Chinese food for Christmas Eve a few times. This year I made tacos with soy curls. My bf had the vegan breaded shrimp in his tacos and he loooves them. He thinks they taste a lot like real shrimp. He’s never tried the unbreaded ones though. Maybe the breading helps to impart more flavor?

  9. People are always surprised to learn I’ve never taken part in the Jewish tradition of Chinese food & movies on Christmas. One side of my family does celebrate so we always spend the day with them! But I think even if I didn’t, I would welcome the opportunity for a relaxing day off with family and the chance to cook a good meal like you did :)

  10. I’ve never heard of vegan shrimps! :)) It’s amazing. I’m just starting my adventure with this kind of lifestyle and seems still there is a lot of to learn :)

    Greetings from Poland! Visit me sometimes :)

  11. I’m not usually a big fan of pseudo-meat, and I’m so glad I’m not the only one! Of course, I actually like tofu… I like the brown sauce here, it looks very satisfying.

  12. I agree with you and all those who’ve commented that mock seafood is not my favorite by any means. This sauce looks great, though! Mirin is one of those ingredients I had to come around to and now include in all Asian-inspired dishes. Yum!

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