This kung pao vegan ‘squid’ is made from the mighty konnyaku that has a bouncy texture like seafood!
Have you tried konnyaku before? It’s made from a plant – konjac that has a starchy root called corm. It’s low in calories, high in water content, and packed with lots of fiber. You can read more about the history and its benefits online. I first tasted this ingredient in vegetarian seafood products, such as fish ball, squid ball, and shrimp.
Konnyaku has an amazing bouncy texture that I love. You may have seen them in dishes like oden and miso dengaku. I also like to add them to hot pots or stir-fries like in this recipe.
Before you start, read this…
This section is for you who haven’t tried konnyaku before, so I wanted to set the right expectation on how to handle it. If you are big fan of konnyaku like me, then skip to the ‘How to make’ section right away!
1. Seafood smell – Please note there is a distinct seafood smell when you cut open a bag of konnyaku. This smell will subside once you rinse thoroughly with running water. The konnyaku itself has a very mild seafood taste and has a bouncy texture, which is why it’s one of the ingredients to make vegan seafood products such as vegan fish balls, shrimps, squid, etc.
2. Slippery – Konnyaku is slippery especially if you got the one below. Compared to the round ones, you’ll need to lay this block on a sturdy chopping board when handling it.
3. Season to taste – Konnyaku itself doesn’t have much taste, so you will need to season it. Also, it takes a little longer for it to absorb the flavor.
How to make Kung Pao vegan squid
First, prepare the konnyaku. Slice it into 3mm thick rectangles. Make a slit in the middle with a sharp knife.
To make a bow-tie shape, take one side and push it through the hole and pull it out the opposite way. This shape holds the sauce nicely during cooking.
Second, mix all the sauces and cornstarch in a bowl until well-combined and set it aside.
Now, heat a large wok and sauté ginger slices in oil until fragrant. Then, quickly toss the garlic and dried chile together for another few seconds. Note: Dried chile tends to burn quickly so continuous stirring is needed.
Once the garlic and chile start to release their aroma, add in the onion and green onion (white part only) and stir for another minute or so. Now, add the konnyaku and toss to combine. Allow the konnyaku to sizzle for about 2 minutes.
Add the sauce and toss to combine, then simmer over medium heat for 2-3 minutes while tossing occasionally until the flavors meld. It may take longer to get all the flavors depending on how thick you cut your konnyaku. Taste and season accordingly.
Fold in the cashews and give it a final toss. Serve warm with a bowl of rice.
Kung Pao Vegan Squid FAQs
Please note the flavors of this kung pao sauce are inspired by dishes in Malaysia thus no Sichuan peppercorns are used. If you love the peppercorn, see below on how to temper it.
How to prep – When I go to the store, I always get a few packs of konnyaku. It adds the amazing crunch to a dish plus it’s a cost-saving food (~$1.39/pack). To prep, slice them up ahead of time and submerge them in water, then store in the fridge. Change the water if needed, every 2-3 days.
Other ways to cut konnyaku – If you find that it’s tedious to make it into a bow-tie shape, you can always score the slices with a criss-cross. These cuts will help absorbs and holds the sauce better. Be sure not to slice them too thin or thick as it will not hold the bow tie shape well.
Can I use Sichuan peppercorns – Yes of course, simply temper a teaspoon of peppercorns with 1-2 tablespoons of oil. Then, sieve it out and use the oil for stir-frying. Or you can temper it along with the spices.
Check out other vegan seafood recipes
- Vegan spicy chili ‘crab’ – made from cauliflower
- Vegan black pepper ‘crab’
- Vegan Unagi (Eel) – made from potato and tofu
This Kung Pao vegan squid made from konnyaku is
- High in fiber
- Flavorful (remember to allow the konnyaku to cook to absorb the sauce flavor)
- Perfect for meal prep
- Easily customizable
If you try this recipe, I would love to hear your feedback and see your beautiful re-creation. Leave me a comment, rate it, and tag @woon.heng and #woonheng to your photos on Instagram or Facebook. Happy cooking, friends!
Kung Pao Vegan ‘Squid’
- 2 blocks [9oz each] konnyaku
- 5 slices of ginger
- 3 garlic cloves sliced
- 1 small onion sliced
- 2 stalks green onion/leek – white part only
- 10 dried or fresh Thai chile
- ¼ cup toasted cashews
- 1 tablespoon cooking oil
- Prepare the konnyaku – Remove konnyaku from its package and rinse it thoroughly with water. Place it on a work surface and slice it into 3mm thick rectangles. Make a slit in the middle of each rectangle. Then, take one side and push it through the hole and pull it out from the opposite side to make a bow-tie shape. Alternatively, score both sides of the rectangles with a criss-cross.
- Make the sauce by whisking together soy sauce, dark soy sauce, vinegar, Shaoxing wine, sugar, and toasted sesame oil until well-combined. Then, combine corn starch and ¼ cup of water to make a thin slurry. Add this slurry to the sauce and stir to combine, then set it aside.
- Cook the konnyaku – Heat a large wok over medium heat and add in the oil. Sauté ginger until fragrant continued by garlic and dried chile. Note dried chile burns quickly so keep tossing or lower the heat.
- Once the garlic turns slightly golden, add the onion and green onion. Sauté the ingredients together until the onion releases its aroma.
- Now, add the konnyaku and continue to toss for about 2 minutes. Note: Allow the konnyaku to sizzle to cook it.
- Pour in the sauce and toss everything together until the sauce has thickened. Taste and season accordingly. Fold in the toasted cashews and give it a final toss. Serve warm with a bowl of rice.
- *Omit the wine if you can’t have it.