Vegetarian goose got its name not because it tastes like goose meat, but because its crispy texture resembles the skin of roast goose. It is made completely out of foo pei, or bean curd skin, and is seasoned with a mixture of red fermented bean curd and five spice powder.
It is said to have been invented by Buddhist monks in Hangzhou, China, and is one of the first vegetarian dishes that, although has a meaty moniker, doesn’t really mimic the real thing unlike many mock meats.
It is not often prepared at home because not many people like to deep-fry, so it is usually bought ready-made. However, it is not really difficult to make because it only contains a few ingredients and the oil can be reused for other dishes.
The most important step is to keep your packages neat without the raw edges of the bean curd skin breaking into the oil. This is done by folding the edges of the bean curd skin towards the centre until you get a package that has all the raw edges tucked into a narrow rectangle. Then secure the packages with toothpicks so they do not open up when frying.
Some recipes give instructions to poke holes into the packages before frying to release the air bubbles. I find this method allows too much oil to penetrate into the folds of the packages, making it crispy all the way inside and very greasy. I prefer to puncture the bubbles as they emerge so that it’s less greasy and still soft inside.
Unless you can multitask, I recommend frying the packages one at a time so that the oil temperature doesn’t lower too much and it is easier to handle any erupting bubbles.
The vegetarian goose should be consumed immediately although it can keep crispy for a few hours. If left out for too long, it can be made crispy again in a toaster oven at 150°C for 10 minutes, but it should not be fried again. If desired, you may serve it as an appetiser with a sweet Thai chilli sauce.
- 3 sheets bean curd skin
- 3 cups cooking oil
- Sweet chilli sauce
- 3 cubes red fermented beancurd
- 150 ml cold water
- 1½ teaspoon icing sugar
- ½ tsp light soy sauce
- ½ tsp five spice powder
- In a small bowl, break up bean curd cubes with a little water before adding in the remaining water. Add sugar, soy sauce and five spice powder and whisk together until combined.
- Spread open the bean curd skins and arrange on a countertop. Stack them neatly one on top of the other and cut into quarters with kitchen shears.
- Take one quarter sheet of bean curd skin and brush the marinade seasoning all over the surface. Place another sheet on top and brush lightly with a layer of marinade.
- Fold the long ends of the bean curd sheet to meet in the centre, then fold in the sides making sure that the raw edges are tucked into the inside of the bean curd package.
- Use toothpicks to secure both ends and one in the centre to hold the piece in place.
- Then continue to brush and fold remaining sheets until you get six bean curd packages. The final packages should measure about 7x20 centimetres, each consisting of about 16 layers of bean curd skin.
- Heat oil in a frying pan and deep-fry packages one at a time until golden brown.
- Use a bamboo skewer to puncture the packages as you fry so that the bubbles do not suddenly burst and splatter oil all over the place.
- Remove toothpicks after frying, cut into slices and serve immediately with sweet chilli sauce.