Ask For the Vegan Menu at Amazing Thailand

20 02 2012

Soft Springrolls, Sweet Peanut Sauce

I love teaching cooking classes, for many reasons. One of the fun things is that the students often clue me in on restaurants that offer alternative menus. Since I do so much cooking at home, I am usually way behind the curve when it comes to restaurants, so it’s a huge help. This strange phenomenon of the secret special menu is really quite baffling; it’s as if restaurants don’t want the general public to think they are into vegans or something, or that they make weird gluten free food, so they keep it on the need-to-know basis. When I teach gluten-free, I always learn about some new places that are hiding a whole gluten-free menu behind the counter, that my hungry attendees have ferreted out and shared through the grapevine. This happened recently at a vegan class, when I heard a rumor that one of the better-reviewed Thai restaurants in Minneapolis had an actual Vegan Menu.

The restaurant, located in Uptown across from Calhoun Square, is called Amazing Thailand. It’s a nice place, with dark wood booths and interesting Thai wall decor. And a special, printed, laminated vegan menu, available on request. Awesome. And, in fairness, the vegan menu is on the website, if you can get it to open. But you don’t get it at the restaurant unless you ask.

They say that once you see something three times, it’s a trend, so I am calling it a trend. I dined in Bend Oregon in a Thai restaurant that had a vegan menu, and some years before, sampled vegan options on a menu in Eugene. Veganizing Thai food is not hard, really, so it makes sense. Vegans are already into eating tofu, mock duck, and all the peanuts you can sprinkle on top. Leaving out the fish sauce and eggs still leaves you with loads of flavor and texture.

So, just grab a Thai cookbook and take a look. If there is fish sauce, use soy sauce. Sugar? Vegan sugar or agave. Curry or shrimp pastes? Well, there are vegan curry pastes, Thai Kitchen is one that has no secret fishy ingredients. Shrimp pastes are basically used for their umami, and add salt, and often a dose of chiles. Try a dab of really dark miso instead, and adjust the heat. Eggs? Just whisk up some arrowroot and water to bind things like Pad Thai and thicken the sauce. Then, rely on the flavors of lime, chile, tamarind, palm sugar, soy sauce and coconut milk for a mouthful of Thai goodness. And don’t forget the peanuts.

Spicy Noodles, YUM

At Amazing Thailand, I had the vegetable springrolls, which were pretty much the usual thing. Rice noodles, lettuce, carrots, cilantro, in rice wraps with a sweet peanut sauce. I love those. It would be nice if they offered to throw some tofu in, but why quibble. Then I ordered “Spicy Noodles” with mock duck. The description just listed the veggies in it, so it was kind of a mystery. As you can see in the photo above, the noodles, which look like tubular pasta, were a stretchy rice sheet that had been rolled up and sliced in wide pieces, some of which unrolled, most did not. They were deliriously tender and elastic, and coated in a tangy, spicy sauce. Cabbage, spinach, tomatoes, onions and chiles were swimming alongside the mock duck, which seemed to have been coated with a blend of exotic spice, almost like five-spice. I got medium, which was pleasantly sinus-clearing hot.

The Vegan menu also offers a papaya salad, which can be vegan in Thai style, but my companion got Lao style which is only different in that it has fish sauce. Here is a picture of that. All accounts were that it was delicious.

Tangy-Hot Papaya Salad

It’s interesting that with an under-served vegan market out there, hungry for dinner, so few restaurants are interested in selling them food. Take a trip to Either coast, and there will be actual all-vegan restaurants, as well as plentiful vegan options in other, good restaurants. Here in Minneapolis, we have only one totally vegan restaurant, Ecopolitan, which is also a raw restaurant.

It’s fine by me that places cater to both vegan and omnivorous customers. I get it that they are trying to keep everybody in the party happy, and stay in business. Still, vegans are out there. It’s not that hard to figure out how to make some really good vegan food, and print a menu. Praise to the enterprising restaurateurs who are making things just a little differently so that vegans can enjoy their cuisine.

Now if I only had more time to go out to eat, I could find all the secret menus.





Recycling the Leftovers, With a Little Spice

27 11 2011

Spike That Relish with Chipotle!

So the big feast is over. Did you knock yourself out, baking for weeks, up before dawn to start cooking? I’ve done that. Or did you sail effortlessly into a family gathering, where all you had to do was bring your wonderful self?  I hope you had a blast, either way. Whether you shared your meals with omnivores or ate with fellow veg-heads, you probably have the universal end result. Leftovers.

So, like millions of other people, you are facing that declining curve of interest in foods that in many cases, you only eat once a year. Stuffing? Mmmm, can’t wait, love it like crazy, but eating it for four days in a row, well, it gets old. I have the added experience of making Thanksgiving dishes for a couple of weeks beforehand for my blog, and preparing them for private clients who love having all the sides ready to re-heat when the big day comes. By the time I get to Thanksgiving, I’m ready to add some spice and interest to the usual flavors.

So, what am I doing about my left-overs? Well, I was lucky and didn’t have many. The one that I really need to repurpose is my cranberry orange relish. You know the one, a pound of cranberries, an orange, zested and pulp removed, and a cup of sugar. You grind that in a blender or food processor and it is a fresh, tart, traditional side.

It’s also something you only need a spoonful or two of on the side of the plate. So what will I do with the remainder?

I decided to go Mexican.

Putting it together

I took my cranberry relish and stirred in some salt and chipotle powder until it was spicy and smoky. I sautéed a couple of onions and a couple of cloves of garlic in some olive oil, then into the sauté pan I tossed a package of chicken style seitan and seasoned that with ground cumin and salt. I shredded some romaine that I bought for Holiday salad, and got out some leftover cashew cheese. Of course, you could use another dairy or non-dairy cheese, whatever is handy.

Voila, a whole wheat tortilla brings the whole thing together into a hearty burrito.

Thankful for another meal, I will dive in and relish the heck out of my relish.

Chewy, Creamy, Tangy, Hot.





Thanksgiving is Almost Here, Bring a Big Salad!

20 11 2011

The Pepitas and Pomegranates Make it Pop!

The big day is almost here. If you have already been testing and planning, you’ve been sampling some festive fare. If you put the whole thing off for the last minute, well, you still have time. We’ve shared (virtually) some Roasted Sweet Potato Fries with Peanut Sauce, Wild Rice, Apple and Walnut Stuffing, and maple-Dijon Glazed Brussels Sprouts.

Today, it’s time to talk Turkey.

Homemade Mock Turkey Roast with Stuffing

For those of you who miss the turkey on holidays, or just want a home-style vegan meal anytime, this is a good way to mock up a bird. It’s really not much trouble, now that we can use gluten flour to make mock turkey with no kneading required—and lots of tasty, chewy goodness. Serve it with Basic Mushroom Gravy and all the traditional trimmings.

It’s great fun to share your vegan food with family and friends, so go for it. The salad will certainly win some converts. Enjoy!

Mock Turkey

2          tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

½         cup/60 g minced onion

2          cloves garlic, minced

2          cups/255 g gluten flour

1          cup/115 g chickpea flour

½         cup nutritional yeast

1          tsp salt

6          oz/170 g reduced-fat or regular firm tofu, drained and pressed

1          cup/240 ml vegetable stock

¼         cup/60 ml tamari

½         tsp ground sage

Stuffing

1          cup/55 g cubed bread

1          tsp extra-virgin olive oil

½         cup/60 g chopped onion

¼         cup/60 ml vegetable stock

½         tsp ground sage

½         tsp dried thyme

½         tsp salt

2          tbsp walnuts, chopped

The Mock Turkey in a Wide Loaf Shape

1. Preheat the oven to 350° F/180° C/gas 4. Oil a 3- to 4-cup/720 to 960-ml metal bowl or a small loaf pan. Put a teapot of water on to simmer for the bain marie later.

2. To make the mock turkey: In a small sauté/frying pan, heat the oil, then sauté the onion and garlic until soft and sweet, 5 to 10 minutes. Mix together the flours, yeast, and salt in a medium bowl. In a blender or food processor, puree the tofu until very smooth. Add the stock, tamari, and sageto the tofu and blend. Add the onions and all the oil from the pan and puree. Stir the contents of the blender into the flour mixture until smooth. Scoop about two thirds of the dough into the oiled bowl.

3. To make the stuffing: Put the bread cubes in a medium bowl. Heat the oil in a small sauté/frying pan over medium heat. Sauté the onions until soft and clear. Add the bread, stock, sage, thyme, and salt and stir until the bread is soft. Stir in the nuts.

4. Press the stuffing into a ball (or if you are using a loaf pan, into an oblong) and press it into the center of the mock turkey dough, then cover it with the remaining dough. Flatten the top, brush it with oil, and cover with foil. Put the bowl in a baking dish and pour in boiling water to make a bain marie. Carefully transfer it to the oven and bake for 2 hours. When the “turkey” is quite firm, take it out of the water bath, then put the bowl on a rack to cool. Run a paring knife around the edge to loosen it, then invert it onto a cutting board or platter. Slice the “turkey” and serve it with gravy and trimmings.

Big Salad with Caramelized Pumpkinseeds, Pears and Pomegranate

From The New Vegetarian (Chronicle Books)

Serves 6
This is a great wintertime salad, with the pomegranates that only appear around the holidays and pears and pumpkinseeds. Vegans can just leave out the cheese and enjoy the crunchy spiced seeds instead. To take seeds out of the pomegranate, cut through the skin from stem to tip, dividing the fruit in quarters. Hold it over a bowl and pull apart the sections, then tear apart the pieces, gently freeing the seeds.

Score the skin in quarters, then break open

1 cup pumpkinseeds, raw
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 large romaine lettuce, washed and dried
2 small shallot, thinly sliced
2 large bosc pears, sliced
1 large garlic clove, peeled
2 tablespoons fresh mint, optional
2 tablespoons pomegranate juice concentrate
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon agave or organic sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup toasted pumpkinseed oil
1 small pomegranate, arils (seeds) removed

the pith around the arils floats in water....

1. Make the pumpkinseed topping up to a week ahead. Heat the oil for a minute in a medium non-stick skillet. Add the pumpkinseeds and toss in the pan over high heat, until the seeds are popping and browning, about 3 minutes. Take off the heat and add the brown sugar and toss constantly until seeds are coated with melted sugar (careful-it will burn easily). Quickly mix in the spices and salt, then spread on a plate to cool. Cool completely and store in an air tight container until ready to use.
2. Make dressing in processor by mincing garlic and mint. Add pomegranate concentrate, lemon, honey and salt and pulse to mix. Gradually drizzle in oil with machine running.
3. Wash and dry romaine, then slice across the leaf in 1/2 inch wide strips. Arrange on plates or in bowl. Top with shallots, pears and cheese. Drizzle over the dressing and top with the pomegranate seeds and pumpkin seeds. Serve right away.





Hello world!

8 05 2009
Tofu Skin Rolls in a Salad

Tofu Skin Rolls in a Salad

How do they get it so beef-like?

How do they get it so beef-like?

Well, hello blogosphere.

This is my first post, so if you have not read my About page, please do.

One of the best mock meats I have ever tried

One of the best mock meats I have ever tried

I am on a journey.

As part of my quest to make vegetarian food as delicious as possible to the omnivores, I had recently become very interested in making mock “meats.” Like any good whole-food advocate, I find the test tube fake burgers and spun-soy sausages more than a little suspect. Then looking at our many plant based proteins, beans, nuts, seeds and even high protein grains are really quite high-pro enough for a healthy life.

But still, folks like the textures and flavors of meat subs, and I wondered how well I could make a few clean ingredients into something resembling meat. It has been interesting.

I am working on various concoctions made from vital wheat gluten, bean flours, tofu and tempeh. And on the way to the ultmate faux, I made a stop at Evergreen Restaurant, on Eat Street in Minneapolis.

Evergreen is a mecca for vegans, and because it is new the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD) in the bo-ho neighborhood of Whittier, it has found a niche catering to local veg-heads. The great thing about it, is that it is a conventional Chinese restaurant first, and a vegetarian place, second. the menu is just like any Chinese menu, with the usual authentic Chinese dishes mixed in with the Americanized ones. Where is differs is that most dishes can be ordered with a mock meat-and they make a chicken, a beef, and seafood versions.

Instead of the same tired mock duck from a can, Evergreen excels in making convincing, chewy textured mocks that you just can’t get anywhere else.

I’m working now on trying to come up with some faux that rival theirs. Wish me luck!








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