I have nothing against soy sauce, or tamari, or tofu, or any soy product for that matter. I occasionally feel a mysterious buzz after eating the stuff and get the unscientific sense that I'm a little bit allergic. But my soy-sauce-free approach to these two recipes was accidental and the result was a successful curiosity worth sharing (perhaps especially for those people who actually are allergic). All the ingredients here are approximate--these are use-what-you-have, make-what-you-like instructions. Both of these recipes turn out healthy servings for four, but you could also pile plates high for just two or spread them out with a handful of other dishes for a crowd.
Gochujang Fried Rice:
On the subject of avoiding allergens, I've long since fallen in love with small-batch maker We Rub You's version of the Korean catch-all gochujang sauce. It doesn't have quite that addictive toothsome quality of the K-town versions but it also doesn't have any MSG. It is somehow both syrupy and light, as well as vinegar-y and spicy and sweet. (Full disclosure: a warning on the bottle reads "contains soy," but I scrutinized the ingredients list and didn't find any offending substances even accounting for the hard-to-look-up koji, a yeasty Japanese substance that's probably responsible for the umami flavor). Another thanks to Molly Yeh for a great suggestion about how to use an abundance of spring alliums.
Up to 4 cups chopped up alliums: ramps, scallions, spring onions, regular onions, shallots, leeks, etc. (don't worry--they'll cook way down)
About 4 garlic cloves, minced, or one spring garlic bulb, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon grated ginger (from a nub about 2 inches long)
2-3 tablespoons canola or other neutral oil, plus a drizzle more for frying the eggs
Up to 6 cups leftover cooked rice or similar grains: a combination of white rice, brown rice, and quinoa works well (the grains have to be really dried out--if they're still sticking together, try leaving the grains uncovered in the fridge or placing them in a very low oven for a little while)
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup or more We Rub You Gochujang sauce
Eggs (one per serving)
Using a wok, a cast-iron pan, or anything else big and sturdy enough for this job, stir-fry the alliums over medium heat for a few minutes. You want them to be a little bit brown but still a little bit crisp--you're not going for soft and caramelized here. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for one or two minutes more. Add the rice and mix everything together. Season with salt and pepper. Now here's a secret that it took me a ridiculously long time to learn: leave the mixture untouched over the flame for about five minutes until a nice brown crust has formed at the bottom (this is what adds the crunchy bits to your fried rice). Then mix it up and repeat, forming a new crust at least once or maybe twice. After you've stirred everything back together again, turn off the heat, and stir in the Gochujang. Add more if needed/desired. You want the rice to be coated but not soggy. When you're ready to eat, top each portion with a just-fried egg (I use a nonstick crepe pan to turn out just one or two at a time). You could deploy some snipped chives, sliced scallions, or toasted black sesame seeds as a garnish, but the colors will pop off the plate just the way they are anyway.
Note: To turn this into bacon-kimchi fried rice, start by cutting 4 thick (or 6 thin) bacon strips crosswise into half-inch slices, then cook until the fat is rendered and the meat is crisp, remove the meat and use the fat instead of oil for the rest of the cooking; when you add the gochujang, also stir in the cooked bacon and up to half a cup of kimchi.
Garlicky Bok Choy:
This recipe comes almost exactly from the Lucky Peach book 101 Easy Asian Recipes. The beauty here is the total simplicity--you could add soy sauce and sesame oil here, or goop it up with cornstarch, but you don't need to--and the flavor-texture victory of the gently fried whole garlic (here you are going for a caramel effect). I used vegetable stock when I made this last night since that's what I had but chicken stock really enriches the unexpected creaminess of the cooked bok choy stems.
1 pound baby bok choy
6 garlic cloves
2 or 3 tablespoons canola or other neutral oil
1/4 to 1/2 cup any kind of stock
Wash the whole baby bok choy and then cut off the bottoms of each bulb. Sometimes the outer leaves fall away here leaving a really tiny inner nub. That's great. If most of the bulb is still intact, slice it down the middle lengthwise so that you have two bok choi cross-sections--that will be fine, too. Occasionally, you get lots of small bok choy heads attached to a single stalk--in that case, cut each one off and either use it whole or slice it in half (throw away what's left of the stalk or find another creative use for it). Wash the leaves, nubs, and bok choy halves again--you're sure to get any hidden grit off and the water clinging to the leaves helps during cooking, too. Peel the garlic cloves but leave them whole.
Heat the oil over medium heat in a wok or other large pan. You need less oil for the wok but you'll have to work harder to spread it around the surface area of a flat pan. Dump the garlic cloves into the oil, flipping them once or twice, until they're invitingly browned on all sides but not charred anywhere. (If you're using a flat pan, tilt it so that you get a pool of oil around the garlic.) When the garlic is the right color, add the wet bok choy right away. Mix everything together, adding salt to taste, moving the garlic out of direct contact with the oil and the sides of the pan. You should already have some nice steam here and you'll get more as you drizzle in the stock. Then lower the heat and cover the wok or pan with a lid or tin foil. You'll need only another few minutes for the bok choy to finish cooking. If you're not going to eat it right away, let the stock come to a boil and then turn off the heat right away--the gentle residual steam will finish off the cooking more slowly. The finished product should have wilted but still bright green leaves and crisp but not raw stems. If your bok choy is cooking/wilting beyond that point, uncover the pan immediately or transfer the greens to a serving dish.