Vegan Chicken Salad Curried in A Hurry (And The Umboshi Mystery)

This curried vegan chicken salad hit the spot last night. Several factors make a "chicken" salad really worthy: crunch factor, mayo factor and flavor factor--in this case, we went with some curry-ness.

As I recover from my triumphant accomplishment from last Sunday's half marathon, I've spent nearly every day in the garden. . . or sleeping. Lots of sleeping. I've also been "cleaning house" some when I'm awake. This rite of spring takes place every year about this time. Yesterday was fridge and pantry stock day. I am curious about what I've accumulated. Last month, I wondered how teff flour had found its way into my shelves. Yesterday it was umboshi paste. Now, I know this lovely condiment is often used in Asian dishes. But as most readers know, Asian food stuff is not an every week thing in this household. Nor are things requiring rice paper wrappers. I am sure I had some grand notion once of creating cute little parcels of vegan sushi--surely that was it. But let's be honest, am I really going to try to feed my husband something as delicate as this? No. He'd laugh me right out the door. I believe there are two camps of vegans: those who love the idea of consuming lentils and rice and parcels and combinations thereof, and those who would rather not. I'm in the rather not category here.

I blame it on my Midwestern upbringing with all of its pork steaks and round steaks and steaks, steaks, steaks, period. I also blame this on the fact that I had the metabolism of a hummingbird up until I was like, twenty or so. I could eat anything. So this conversion from "vegetarian" to "vegan" came with some stipulations. Like, I was going to make this transition as much about crossing the divide without missing much in the way of food that I liked to eat once, and less about dramatic discourse into the finer dining qualities of tofu and lentils. Please. I am a big girl. I run. I am active. I love to eat--cruelty free. Grant it, I am a former eating disorder poster child, but who wouldn't be after thinking Twinkies were their own food group.

If you saw my cookbook collection, you'd think I'd be more inclined to create meals of beans and rice. I use these type of cookbooks as bookends. (Or as "stackers" for the bookends.) I don't find myself flipping them open and being inspired to actually use them for meal starters. In truth, I should really spend some time purging several. But I am a book collector, it's hard, very hard for me to part with a book once it's found a home here.

So yesterday, the umboshi paste question plagued me. I wanted desperately to try to use this in my cooking--yesterday may have been the day. It's been summer-like here all week (a little bit too warm, too soon). Temps in the eighties. A rice paper evening perhaps? We even had the air conditioner on which was like passing an act of congress in this house. I finally capitulated when Mr. Thyme came home and said, "It's friggin' eighty degrees in here, do you think a few moments of cool air might be warranted. . . so I can sleep tonight." Alright already. Turn it on!

Meanwhile, I looked up the shelf life of the mystery umboshi paste--seems it can go on forever and there was no expiration date listed on the package. Same for the rice papers--no expiration date. This sort of thing gives me great anxiety. No expiration dates. I won't ever grab the food stuff on the aisle. I always find my hands stuffed deep in the recess of grocery shelves just knowing that those "food stock" people have it out for me and would love nothing more than for me to fall for the foods perched on the edges of shelves whose dates expire in the next few days. It's a conspiracy, I just know it. (Especially those bread shelf people--they are really tricky folks.)

I opted to keep the umboshi on hand. Who knows when I might want little rice paper vegan shushi. In the meantime, I went with an old favorite food from the bygone era of not-vegan eating days. Chicken salad was calling me. I loved chicken salad. Of course, this was never served without those melt-in-your-mouth croissants that are loaded with layer upon layer of butter. (I may have to re-create a vegan croissant someday--when I feel like a whole day devoted to folding dough is called for.)

I call this meal a slap-dash sort of dinner. Meaning, I slap-dashed it together, meaning, so can you! If the idea of "curry" in your chicken salad doesn't work for you, then go ahead and leave this out. (Your loss.)
This curried chicken salad recipe is adapted from the good old cookbook stand-by (which is not a bookend sort): The Joy of Cooking.

Vegan Chicken Salad Curried in A Hurry

1 package tempeh
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 teaspoons Braggs Liquid Amino
juice of one lemon
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
2 green onions chopped
1 roasted bell pepper chopped (from the jar works fine if you don't have red bell pepper on hand)
2 celery stalks chopped
1 cup vegan mayo
1/3 cup golden raisins
2 tablespoons sliced almonds or chopped pecans
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs
1 teaspoon dried parsley
romaine lettuce leaves
chopped fresh chives

Boil the tempeh in water for about 15 minutes. Drain and set aside in a flat container--allow to cool a bit before handling. Next, whisk together the oil, lemon juice, Braggs, curry powder, paprika and cumin. Slice the tempeh into long strips. Pour the mixture over the tempeh. Make sure all the pieces have some of this marinade on them. Next, chop your veggies together while the tempeh marinates. In a medium saute pan, cook the tempeh and its marinade. (Cube the tempeh pieces up now.) Cook the tempeh for about fifteen minutes, until the marinade is evaporated and the tempeh begins to brown a bit. Remove from heat. Place chopped veggies in a bowl, toss in the tempeh and add the remaining ingredients and toss well to coat evenly. Place in fridge for about half an hour if you can. This will allow the curry flavor to really come out. Serve over a bed of lettuce, or in wrap! Enjoy!


  1. Kelly! This sounds so yummy. I just finished my breakfast smoothie and I am already hungry for lunch, LOL. I had tempeh yesterday after a long stint of not having it. This will be my second time having it, but now I have seen your recipe and I HAVE to make this! Yum! Glad you are doing well! Sounds like you had a rewarding time running your marathon.

  2. This looks really good. Thanks!

  3. The umeboshi thing has mystified me for weeks now too! At the behest of Alicia Silverstone's cookbook, I purchased umeboshi paste AND plums (luckily, I found them cheap at the salvage store). But I could not find an expiration date on either of them! It made me nervous. But, like you, I decided to hang on them. I mean, I guess since their pickled they'll last eons? I don't know... It's weird.

  4. This looks great, what a yummy vegan chix salad. I haven't been able to bring myself to by umeboshi ever since one of the contestants spit it out in season 3 of America's Next Top Model. Oh how I love trashiness, but that's another story. CONGRATS on your amazing run in the half marathon - this comment is for your last post too. I am so impressed, really.

  5. Haven't tried umboshi paste. The curry salad sounds great, though. I know what you mean about the Midwest, I'm still very fond of my bread and potatoes (they always hold me back from going to in depth with raw foods).

  6. Hi Noelle! Thank you dahling--I hope you like the dish if you try it--I'm very certain you could do other things with this--but time was limited!

    Hi Bonnie! Thanks a bunch!

    Hi Jennifer! Should we maybe conspire to open our umboshi at the same time and use it? I'd feel better with another witness to the "taste/result" with a partner on this mystery ingredient!

    Hi Trixie! OMG--LOL! Okay... um, the word "spit" on my blog is forbidden, just thought I'd put that out there--but now it's on there twice now! Oh, and THAT's who watches America's Next Top Model, now I know! Thanks!

    Hi Cassie! Mmmm, bread and potatoes! Me, too, on the raw food trend. Not me I mean. If I ever do venture that way, it would have to be really good eats, like with soy ice cream and something chocolate (does chocolate count as raw--well, it would just have to).

  7. Wow!! Nice post. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

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