I am not a big fan of spicy food, one because my taste buds get numb at the barely hint of spiciness not letting me feel any taste whatsoever, which makes pointless the entire act of eating, and second because of the side effects, if you get what I mean ( not going to get into the deeper meaning of this).
Nonetheless since I left Wagamama I always wanted to try my own vegetarian version of Firecracker, not with tofu, but with chickpeas, even though it would probably work great with kidney beans as well now that I think about it.
I started working for Wagamama Trinity Leeds as my first job here in England. I was lucky enough to have picked the right time to move into the city, because the Trinity shopping centre was opening and lots of restaurants were looking for chefs. I answered the job offer and there I was, in Radisson Hotel, building bridges with chopsticks and helping other to create their own flower origami. The guy who interviewed me was the head chef in Park Row Wagamama, a blondish quiet guy that I barely saw stepping his feet into the kitchen during my four weeks of training. I bet he doesn’t like to cook that much.
I actually liked working for that company, I liked their philosophy, their attitude, the strict rules that they have to ensure health and safety and I like the food. Too bad that they got rid of my favourite dish on the menù, cha han. It just happens that sometimes you don’t get along with those you are working with and for your own happiness you have to leave a working place that otherwise you like. The other thing is that creativeness is not a thing in a company like that, everything is standardized, you don’t even need to taste what you are cooking, which is good for the customers, and frustrating from a chef point of view.
And that is why I left for an Italian restaurant where I am still working, three years after.
I do have the original recipe for Wagamama’s Firecracker, but it is not this one. I find the original to be too oily and way too spicy for me, so I tried to reduce the source of the heat (the sriracha sauce and the chilli oil), to a minimum, so it is still hot, but edible, at least for those delicate souls as me. And I wanted a vegetarian version, fish sauce and oyster sauce free.
So, well, I started with the original version and changed it 70% of it, so it does taste similar, but not completely.
If you are not bothered with eating a vegetarian version just substitute the Lee Kum Kee Vegetarian Stir Fry Sauce with oyster sauce, soy sauce with fish sauce and chickpeas with chicken and you are good to go.
P.S. I didn’t have mangetout at home when I decided to make this, but they are suppose to be included, so use them if you have them in your fridge, they add another flavour and lots of crunchiness.
- 2 tbsp Lee Kum Kee Vegetarian Stir Fry Sauce
- 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
- 1 tbsp chilli oil
- 1 tbsp sriracha
- 5 tbsp ketchup
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp ginger powder
- 1 red bell pepper chopped into big chunks
- 1 green bell pepper chopped into big chunks
- 100 g mangetout
- half white onion chopped into big chunks
- 1 can chickpeas, drained
- 2 tbsp veg oil
- black and white sesame seeds
- 2 spring onions finely chopped
- Mix all the ingredients for the sauce into a small bowl and set aside
- In a wok (or a skillet if you don't have a wok) warm up the oil then add the veggies and stir fry them for about 5 minutes, until crisp-tender.
- Add the chickpeas and toss them for other few minutes, just to warm them up.
- Add the sauce and cook for other 2 minutes.
- Serve with some rice on the side and a sprinkle of sesame seeds, shichimi and spring onions.
- If you want to make a non vegetarian version of this recipe substitute soy sauce with fish sauce, Lee Kum Kee Vegetarian Stir Fry Sauce with oyster sauce and the chickpeas with chicken.