Vegan Korean BBQ Ribs

I was in Vancouver last week to visit my mum and do a bit of estate business and had the pleasure of staying with my darling Em in her charming West End apartment. Now, I’ve lived in more neighbourhoods of Vancouver than I can count on two hands, but, for some strange reason, I’ve never lived in the West End (odd, since from the time I was fourteen and would hang out on Denman and Robson street with my best friend, Esther, I longed to live there…it just never happened). Em and I walked and shopped and stopped at wine bars for wine and ate at vegan restaurants and ordered Chinese food (very exciting if you live on Denman Island!). We stayed up late into the night sipping Irish whiskey and watching old Alfred Hitchock movies on Em’s ridiculously enormous TV.

And since I hadn’t seen my sweet girl since July, Em also presented me with some lovely birthday gifts, one of which is a very intriguing vegan cookbook, the focus of which is mock meat!

Jackie Kearney’s Latest Cookbook

I was intrigued since I’ve become a bit obsessed with seitan of late (ever since Chazz and Francie sent me the fabulous Gaz Oakley cookbook), so I’ve been dying to dig in and I did just that on Friday with Kearney’s recipe for Korean Barbecue ‘Ribs’. Now, I’ve been told that if you change at least three things from the original, you can reproduce the recipe (as long as you give credit to the original) and I changed more than three, so I think it’s fine to offer my adaptation here.

The recipe reminded me of the fabulous Susan Voisin’s Jacked-Up Ribs, so I thought I’d follow her advice and add a can of chopped jackfruit to the recipe to create a more rib-like texture. I also doubled the recipe and replaced the gochujang in the original recipe with sambal oelek. Oh, and I reduced the sesame oil and used tapioca flour, rather than corn starch.

The next time I make it, I’m going to try to replace the brown sugar with dates, which are much healthier.

The result is absolutely delicious, but VERY spicy–which surprised me since the author is British–haha! That’s likely very unfair, but I do recall my British relatives not being able to eat the breakfast sausages my mum made them because they were so much spicier than the ones they were used to! In any event, you could probably half the spices in both the sauce and the ribs without compromising the taste too much. We loved the heat though!

This recipe serves about six hungry people.

Vegan Korean BBQ Ribs

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

BBQ Sauce

Throw the following in the Vitamix and blend until smooth:

6 medjool dates OR 1 and 1/4 cups of brown sugar

1 and 1/3 cups soy sauce

2 TBS seasoned rice vinegar

1/4 cup Thai chili paste

1/4 cup sambal oelek

2 tsp white pepper

2 thumb-sized chunks of ginger

6 cloves of garlic

Pour into a saucepan and simmer for half an hour. Mix together:

2 TBS tapioca flour

2 TBS water

Pour slowly into the BBQ sauce mixture, mix well, and simmer for five more minutes. Remove from heat.

BBQ Sauce

Vegan Ribs

Wet mix:

Throw the following into the Vitamix (don’t bother washing it from the sauce!):

1 cup of water (I didn’t double this because I added a can of jackfruit)

1/4 cup tahini

1/4 cup tomato paste

1/4 cup ume plum vinegar

1/4 cup soy sauce

2 tsp liquid smoke

Dry mix:

300 grams vital wheat gluten

1/4 cup chipotle powder

2 TBS onion powder

2 TBS garlic powder

2 TBS red pepper flakes

Mix well and combine with wet mixture in a stand mixer with:

1 can jackfruit, drained and chopped (just pulse a few times in your food processor)

Mix on low for five minutes.

Dry Mix
Dry Mix, Wet Mix, and Chopped Jackfruit

Press into a 9×13 pan very lightly sprayed with oil and bake for about an hour, flip the ribs and bake for another hour. The original recipe calls for 30 – 40 minutes, but I’ve tried it both ways and it’s best cooked for 2 hours.

Ribs Mixture in Stand Mixer

Let cool a bit and then cut the ribs into pieces about the size of a pack of cards (maybe a bit bigger) and score the pieces by cutting strips about halfway through (to make them look more rib-like). Slather generously with the BBQ sauce and place sauce-side down in a hot, oiled grill pan for several minutes. Slather more BBQ sauce on the top, flip, and cook for several more minutes. The ribs should have nice black grill marks on each side.

Full disclosure: the original recipe called for forty minutes in the oven, but (so embarrassing) I forgot and went for a dog walk around Graham Lake. The ribs ended up in the oven for TWO FREAKIN’ HOURS. I was sure that I’d have to pitch the lot, BUT not only did I NOT have to bin the ribs, they were not really affected by the extra time! I subsequently tried the ribs at the original time of 40 minutes and they weren’t nearly as good!

Oh–and the ribs were actually much better on the second day! I will definitely keep these ribs on my roster of meals, BUT I will replace the brown sugar with dates next time and will update you with the results! If you recall, I did this with my Asian Brown Sauce recipe and the result was no different from the original that used brown sugar.

So yummy!
Looks very “Ribby”

I served the ribs with James’ always excellent coleslaw and some air-fried potatoes. An absolutely delicious repast which we ate while we watched The Game Changers. James normally isn’t much interested in watching movies that promote veganism, but was VERY intrigued with this one…as apparently many men have been. You’ll find out why when you watch it!

A movie about veganism that all men should see!!!

And I’ve been listening to Van Morrison’s Hard-Nose the Highway quite a bit lately because it’s the perfect album for fall. And thirty-odd years ago, I remember listening to it compulsively on my little Sony Walkman on the bus to UBC during the fall I’d quit my full-time job to go back to university. It was a difficult time in my life–I was in my late twenties and had quit uni years before to travel. After a few years of travelling and then getting married and working at a job I hated while supporting my then-husband through his education degree, I couldn’t imagine what exactly I wanted to be; I only knew what I didn’t want to be. And I hated that first year back at university, but I plugged on and eventually discovered what I DID want to be while taking a required English lit course completely unrelated to my major (Psychology) with Dr. Bob Attridge. Bob went on to teach at KPU and eventually he and his partner, Susan, became our very good friends. In fact, several of my music recommendations on this blog were suggested to me by Bob.

So I give you Van Morrison’s gorgeous “Autumn Song” that somehow sustained me all those years ago:

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