The final dish – dish #5 – of our Chinese Tex Mex series is an American Chinese take-out staple: brown garlic sauce. The sauce is thick, deep in savory flavors, dark brown in color, and pungent with fresh garlic & black pepper. We whip our sauce up with seared, grain-free tempeh and shiitake mushrooms to add chewy protein texture to our Chinese Tex Mex extravaganza, albeit, brown garlic sauce is typically served with crunchy steamed broccoli.
Don’t sweat it if you don’t have shiitakes on hand, because any firm mushroom will work here (brown, white button, crimini, portobello, etc.). At first, we experimented with oyster mushrooms, but we found that they didn’t keep their shape when cooked, reduced to a soft, somewhat-slimy consistency, and gave the sauce a gray undertone. After running a trial with shiitakes in their place, we knew we had found the winner.
The base of our vegan, lectin-limited sauce is a combination of mushroom broth, which is rich in umami flavors, and arrowroot starch, which quickly thickens the sauce to a gravy-like consistency. As expected, this dish contains heaps of large chunks of garlic that gives this sauce its recognizable punch.
Other key ingredients include toasted sesame oil, which adds a layer of toasty goodness, and black pepper, which is the perfect spice for this application because it stands up to garlic’s robust presence.
To assemble the ultimate Chinese-fusion tacos, pair this brown garlic sauce with seaweed-infused cassava tortillas, refried black soy beans, orange-cinnamon jasmine rice, and crunchy fennel citrus slaw. Or, simply serve everything family style, with each dish laid out on the table for your fam’s taking.
Brown garlic sauce gives the lighter flavors a solid floor to dance atop of. Beans and rice are the girth of this meal; they take on the role of yin and yang: both contain anise, citrus, and cinnamon, yet each has its own distinct characteristics. Seaweed-Infused Cassava Tortillas aren’t solely used for dipping and stacking; they impart a fishy flavor – usually added via fish sauce – that’s crucial to most Asian cuisines. Crunchy Fennel Citrus Slaw rounds the meal out with a fresh, bright kick, as it highlights the nuanced flavors in the rice and beans.
If making tacos, lay out a tortilla, spread out a layer of refried beans down the middle, top with a little bit of rice, pour on some brown garlic sauce with tempeh, and top with fennel slaw. Voila! The downright tastiest tacos that don’t taste a thing like Texas.
We hope that you’ve enjoyed our series of Chinese Tex Mex recipes, which is a little taste of the themed months we have coming up, starting with Curry Month: a month of curry recipes running through September. But more on that in a couple days.
In the meantime, leave behind a nice rating, share your thoughts with us in the comments, or show us your creations by tagging @noeggsorham on Instagram.
All the best,
Kim & Ryan
Brown Garlic Sauce Tempeh & Mushrooms (Chinese Tex-Mex)
Easy, savory, vegan rendition of the Chinese take-out classic: brown garlic sauce.
- 6-8 oz grain-free tempeh, cut into bite-sized chunks
- 8 medium shiitake mushrooms, cut into large slices
- 5 large or 8 medium cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
- 1 c mushroom broth
- 1/4 c reserved bean liquid from refried soy beans*
- 1 1/2 tbsp arrowroot starch
- 1 tbsp tamari sauce
- 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
- 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
- pinch of salt
- Heat a medium-sized pan over medium high heat. Once hot, add sesame oil, tempeh, garlic, and a ‘lil pinch of salt. Give a quick stir, then let the tempeh sit on one side for 3-5 minutes, or until golden brown.
- Add in mushrooms, toss to combine, and cook for another 4 minutes.
- While tempeh and mushrooms cook, shake or blend together mushroom broth, reserved bean liquid, arrowroot starch, and tamari sauce until no clumps of starch remain (note: should be frothy on top).
- Stirring constantly, pour mushroom broth mixture into the pan and bring to a boil. Drop heat to medium-low and cook for another 3 minutes, or until desired thickness is achieved.
- Serve while fresh or store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days.
*If not making refried soy beans, replace the 1/4 cup of bean liquid with an additional 1/4 cup of mushroom broth.