With a mouthful of a name this bulgogi recipe is far from the traditional beef based Korean dish. Nevertheless this vegetarian filling leaves vegetarians and carnivores alike satiated and content. Packed with protein, tofu and quinoa are marinated in a korean style bulgogi sauce and then pan-fried until golden brown. It’s easy to feast, guilt free, on delicious lettuce wraps, with crunchy carrots and cabbage topped with quick pickled cucumbers.
Some days I find myself gravitating towards fresher and lighter meals. This usually means meatless, veggie filled creations that keep you full but won’t weigh you down. I have fun playing around with different combinations of grains (such as lentils, rice and quinoa) and vegetarian proteins (such as tofu and tempeh) to use as meat substitutions. I have often used these combinations for many great taco and cottage pie fillings. These colourful tofu and quinoa lettuce wraps are sure to brighten up a rainy fall day.
These fillings are also amazing in corn tortillas topped with kimchi. Sadly I had no kimchi on hand, but I must admit I adore this fermented delicacy — the korean cousin of the russian sauerkraut, laden with chili. Why deny your gut of the millions of microbes and their symbiotic nourishing potential that Michael Pollan and Sandor Ellix Katz advocate eating more of. If you are feeling adventurous check out Wild Fermentation by Sandor Ellix Katz for a recipe to make your own kimchi.
Getting back to the meal at hand, a batch of oolong iced tea is a perfect accompaniment to this asian inspired meal. Oolong iced tea: Steep 1 rounded tablespoon of loose-leaf (or 3-4 tea bags) oolong or any other favourite tea in 3 cups of hot water for 10 minutes. Strain and stir in 1/4 cup sugar or honey, 1/2 a lemon sliced and 2-4 cups of cold water (add more or less water for a stronger or weaker iced tea). Chill and serve over ice.
Quinoa Tofu Bulgogi Lettuce Wraps
- 1/3 cup soy sauce (use a gluten-free soy sauce or brags if avoiding gluten)
- 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
- 4 tsp. sesame oil (to be used at different steps in the recipe)
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 scallions, thinly sliced
- 1 pkg. extra firm or firm tofu, crumbled
- 3/4 cup quinoa, uncooked
- 1-2 Tbsp. canola oil, for cooking
- 2 large, or 4 small heads lettuce
Cook quinoa, simmer 1 1/4 cup water add quinoa stir and cover for 20 minutes (or cook according to package directions). When finished cooking remove lid and stir in 1 tsp sesame oil. Set aside
Mix together soy sauce, brown sugar, 2 tsp. sesame oil, garlic and scallions. Stir tofu into marinade, mix well and let sit for at least 15 minutes.
Stir cooked quinoa into tofu. Heat oil in pan over medium. Cook the quinoa tofu mixture stirring every few minutes until browned, about 15-20 minutes total. Add more oil if mixture becomes too dry. When finished, remove from heat and stir in remaining tsp. of sesame oil.
- quick pickled cucumber (recipe below)
- cilantro, chopped
- cabbage, thinly sliced
- carrots, julienned
- 2 large or 4 small heads lettuce (buttercrunch or iceberg hold up best but I used green lettuce here, and found it to be a bit weak and floppy)
Quick pickled cucumber:
- 1 cucumber, thinly sliced
- 1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
- 1 Tbsp. sugar
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp sambal oelek
Mix all ingredients together and let sit for at least 30 minutes. Will keep in fridge in a sealed container for 1 week.
To assemble tacos spread open a piece of lettuce, fill with quinoa tofu mixture, top with pickled cucumber, cabbage, carrots and cilantro (and kimchi!) Enjoy and embrace the messiness!