I have been making this every Thanksgiving and Christmas for about 20 years. Beancurd sheets (often sold at Chinese vegetarian restaurants as ‘mock’ or ‘imitation’ ‘duck’) have a very poultry-like flavour and consistency.
Beancurd sheets are made by skimming the scum off a pot of blended and stewing fresh-pressed soy milk (I know that doesn’t sound appetizing, but really they are my very favourite food). I once made beancurd sheets from scratch and they were the most delicious things I have ever tasted, seriously. However, mine did not come out as sheets as much as ‘drips’, which made fabulous ‘wings’ with crispy tips. So, basically they are made by: 1) soaking dry soy beans; 2) blending the beans once softened; 3) filtering away the liquid (I use an old pillow case); 4) boiling the soy milk on a stove; 5) skimming the ‘scum’ of the top using a string or chopsticks; and 6) hanging the ‘skin’ to dry on strings (like clothes lines).
As mentioned I only made them once from scratch (with my own home-grown soya beans), and although they were so delicious I could eat them every day, they were not sheet-like and instead drippy and wing-like. They also took about an hour per wing to make; so I don’t suggest you try yourself if you want to make them for your holiday dinner (unless you have lots of time on your hands).
Instead, I suggest you head to the nearest Chinese grocer and purchase some. They are all made in China, but oddly those I seem to find are made with non-GMO Canadian-grown soybeans (ignore the carbon emissions on this one, they are still less than turkey). I have been thinking of developing a plant to make them here in Canada (including different preparation); so, if anyone would like to help fund or otherwise support such a start-up please contact me.
Beancurd sheets often come in dry form (which easily break up into pieces, can be hard to work with, and sometimes have a plastic flavour from the package. If you can only find dry ones, buy the packages that are the least broken up (i.e. those at the back or the bottom). But check the refrigerated section of the Chinese grocer for very large ‘fresh’ or frozen sheets. If bought fresh they can be frozen near indefinitely.
I prefer the fresh/frozen ones, which are larger (the package itself, the dry ones are just as big but more folded and so require unfolding first) and soft, so easier to work with. Even better is if you are in Toronto go to Buddha’s restaurant at 666 Dundas St. (those devils) a place I have frequented since it opened in 1994, and buy two large “imitation duck UNCUT”. They usually cut them into strips, which are delicious on their own dipped in hot sauce, but you want whole sheets for this. You can freeze them in bags or sealed containers for over a year.
I give the instructions below for dry, frozen or prepared beancurd sheets. This year I am using the unprepared fresh/frozen kind. You may be able to get prepared ones from other Chinese restaurants, depending on where you are. However, if they use too much five-spice on them (as some do) even the “un-cut” versions may not be appropriate due to conflicting flavours. I try to pick up four-six packages or orders every time I am in the city and also use them for BBQ chicken (with my home-made and home-grown BBQ sauce), stuffed “Cornish Shens” (coming soon with buckwheat stuffing); and this, my near-famous holiday Shurkey or Roast Beast.
Vegans rejoice, and treat yourself to a traditionally bread-stuffed main course this holiday season that will make your friends and loved ones, eating dried up and half-raw turkey, green with envy. Kids love this too.
DISCLAIMER: All my photos of the finished product are terrible due to low lighting (candle light), etc., and I am waiting a few days before making mine. But trust me, this is seriously delicious and very turkey-like.
2 (or 4 if you want it thicker) packages of beancurd sheets (dried, frozen or prepared — dried are much harder to work with)
If using dry sheets, rinse and drain, then soak in cold water for 10 min, drain again, and follow the remaining instructions.
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 cup of dry white wine
¼ cup of olive oil
¼ cup of fresh water
1 tbs. ground dry sage
1 tbs. nutritional yeast
½ ts. sea salt
1 ts. ground black pepper
Add all ingredients to a food processor or bowl/measuring cup if using a handwand. Blend until garlic is smooth.
In a large glass or ceramic baking pan or casserole dish, add beancurd sheets (you will need to unfold them an then refold them) and marinade—poured between the layers. Let sit for an hour or so to soak up juices.
One loaf of soft whole grain sliced bread left open for a day (or two) to get stale in a large bowl and turned a few times,
1 package of fresh “turkey” herbs (rosemary, sage, parsley and thyme) OR two large sprigs of each rosemary, sage, parsley and thyme OR 2 tbs. of each dried whole leaf rosemary, sage, parsley and thyme—chopped finely if using fresh.
1 tbs. (heaping) dried ground sage (yes, this stuffing should be sagey)
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 large onion finely chopped
1 ts. fine sea salt
1 ts. ground black pepper
1 cup of chopped pealed chestnuts (or chopped pecans, walnuts, etc…)
1 cup almond, soy or other (preferably unsweetened) ‘milk’ alternative
¼ cup olive oil
½ cup of dry white wine
Chop staled bread into cubes equal to the slice thickness and add back to large bowl.
Add all herbs (including ground sage), mix well.
Add onions, garlic, nuts, salt and pepper and mix.
Let sit for about 30 min.
Add remaining (liquid ingredients) and mix well
Get ready to stuff the shurkey.
1 ts. granulated garlic
¼ ts. sea salt
2 tbs. vegan margarine
(optional) 6 slice of veggie bacon strips, smoked tempeh, or sliced veggie smoked sandwich meats
2 tbs. olive oil (for basting)
One sprig of fresh rosemary
(Optional) 1-2 lbs. whole (mixed variety) baby potatoes or regular potatoes halved or quartered.
Extra oil/margarine for greasing the pan.
Instructions for assembly
Preheat oven to 320°F (160°C)
Heavily grease a large rectangular glass baking pan or casserole dish (the type you use for lasagne) with margarine or olice oil and set aside.
Clean your kitchen countertop (I scrub with baking soda and them rinse with vinegar, followed by water).
Spread beancurd sheets on countertop (some may hang over the edge, but that’s fine).
Carefully fold back most of the sheets by half leaving 2-3 layers and cover those bottom layers with half the margarine (this give a nice fatty layer and ‘crispy skin’). Fold back the top sheets and repeat on the other side so that there is a thin layer of fat on the third or so sheet from bottom.
Take stuffing and mound in a pile in the centre. Using your hands press the stuffing firmly into a log shape.
Fold the sheets over both ends of the ‘log’; they should meet or overlap in the middle.
Then starting from the edge nearest you (the one hanging over the counter) roll the beancurd sheets tightly around the stuffing, keeping the previously folded edges in. It’s much like making spring rolls or sushi, but on a larger scale. You want the roll to be a tight as possible.
Use a fork to put a puncture small holes in the top, allowing steam to escape and basting fluids to enter. This also keeps the top from ‘puffing’ too much.
Place rolled roast in the greased pan, top with garlic powder, salt, and ‘bacon’ if using.
Baste (or drizzle) with olive oil and garnish the top with a sprig of fresh or dry rosemary.
Feel free to fill the pan edges with whole baby potatoes.
Cook for 2.5 hours, basting occasionally with any ‘drippings’ and small amounts of gravy before it is thickened.
When ready the top should be golden (or dark) brown and deliciously crispy.
Serve as slices carved to be about 5 cm thick. I love the ends, but they contain less stuffing. Leftovers will store by covering the whole pan with a tied shopping bag for about 5 days, or in a sealed container for up to a week (if it lasts that long).
150 g of dried mushrooms (morels, chanterelles, pine mushrooms, or a mix including oysters, etc.) finely chopped
300 g of fresh mushrooms (your choice; morels or chanterelles are best, but button mushrooms, shitakes or portabellos will work too), finely chopped
3 cloves of peeled garlic, finely chopped
½ large white or yellow onion (or one small), finely chopped
1 package of “turkey herbs” (rosemary, sage, parsley and thyme) tied in a bundle with twine
1 tbs. nutritional yeast
½ ts. brewer’s yeast (debittered)
½ ts. sea salt (coarse, fine, it doesn’t matter. Himalayan pink crystal salt also adds superb flavour)
½ ts. ground black pepper
3 cups of fresh clean water
2 tbs. vegan margarine (or vegetable oil)
2 tbs. corn starch OR 2 tbs. of all purpose flour OR 2 tbs. tapioca starch (Note: these are used for thickening and corn starch or flour work best. Tapioca works well, but if it is allowed to cook too long it loses its thickening—unlike flour or corn starch. If you want to avoid gluten and GMOs you can buy organic cornstarch or wheat flour. I have also used brown rice flour for this, but it can be a little gritty).
3 tbs. cold water
Heat a small-medium (min 4 cup) saucepan on medium heat (5 min). Add margarine/oil and turn heat to low. Add onions and garlic, and stir well. Add mushrooms and stir regularly for about 5 min.
Add nutritional yeast, salt and pepper and stir. If using fresh mushrooms sauté until almost cooked. If using dried mushrooms, sauté until nearly all the fat is absorbed.
Add water to pot and raise the heat to medium. Add the bundle of herbs and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat and let simmer for at least an hour.
USE THIS TO BASTE THE “SHURKEY” WHILE BAKING
Once herbs have lost consistency and colour (or the Shurkey is ready) remove the herb bundle, mix starch or flour with 3 tbs or cold water in a mug or cup, add to gravy and bring to a boil.
You can turn down the heat and await the rest of the meal, but it is better to thicken towards the end and otherwise allow the herbs to simmer further.
Pour gray into a boat, or drizzle over ‘Shurkey’ slices.
Serve for your holiday feast along with cranberry sauce (a must, I make mine with the juice and zest of one large orange and use organic evaporate cane juice to sweeten), roast squash with garlic and pecans or walnuts, steamed or sautéed brussels sprouts, maple-glazed carrots, yams…. And any of your other favourite holiday dishes. Enjoy, and happy vegan holiday feasting!