Friday, May 29, 2009

Stewed Mock Meat

Pin It
VB thinks Chinese food is sauteed garlic with some vegetables. Unfortunately, that's generally true, unless you go to a vegetarian Chinese restaurant. There you'll find lots of "mock meat" items. I like mock meat as long as it is flavorful and tastes somewhat like the real deal. To me, this stewed mock meat dish tastes very similar to the meaty version.
  • 8 slices of vegetarian smoked ham
  • 8 dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 block of firm bean curd, cut into 8 equal slices
  • 2 whole star anise pods
  • 1 dried chili pepper
  • 4 tablespoons of vegetarian oyster sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon of vegetarian shacha sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon of pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon of five spice powder
  • 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar
  • 2 slices of fresh ginger root
  • 1/4 cup of canola oil
  • 1 cup of hot water
  • 2 cups of water
Soak dried shiitake mushrooms in 1 cup of hot water for 15 minutes. Drain. Separate stems from caps. Do not discard stems.

In a large shallow skillet or a wok, pan fry bean curd slices, vegetarian smoked ham slices and mushroom caps until slightly golden. Remove. Stack ham, mushroom and bean curd and secure with cotton string.

In a medium pot, saute ginger root, chili pepper, star anise pods and mushroom stems until fragrant, about 2 to 5 minutes. Add 2 cups of water, vegetarian oyster sauce, vegetarian shacha sauce, soy sauce, five spice powder, pepper and sugar. Cook until the mixture boils. Add previously assembled stacks back into the pot. Reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.

I really like the basic flavors of this dish. The combination of sauces and aromatics can be used on other ingredients like seitan. Next time, I may just use seitan and mushrooms instead of the vegetarian meat and bean curd.

We also had scallion pancakes and ma po tofu for dinner. I'm not very happy with how the scallion pancakes turned out. So no recipe for now. As for the ma po tofu, I can't take any credit for it. The sauce came from a pouch. Normally I'd make everything from scratch, but a little help from the store is nice every now and then.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Select Photos from Turkey

Pin It It's been a long trip away from home. I'm looking forward to a vacation from my vacation. For now, here is a small selection of photos taken in Turkey. Since I exceeded my Flickr storage for the month, additional pictures will be posted next month.

You'll notice that there's no picture of food. I had some really terrible food along the way, especially a meal at Samos Island. I'll never forget that meal - it was absolutely the worst meal that I've ever had. The best dish from that restaurant was some shredded cabbage drizzled with olive oil and nothing else. You can image how bad the rest of the dishes were.

Aside from the terrible food, the trip was as colorful as the pictures I took. You'll find more pictures in my Flickr photostream.

1. Ephesus, Turkey, 2. Ephesus, Turkey, 3. Ephesus, Turkey, 4. Ancient Theater of Ephesus, 5. Pamukkale, Turkey, 6. Ephesus, Turkey, 7. Prayer Wall at the House of Virgin Mary, 8. Wild Flowers in Hierapolis, 9. Hierapolis, Turkey, 10. Flowers near Pamukkale, 11. Pamukkale, Turkey, 12. Hierapolis, Turkey, 13. Dogs Swimming Near Pamukkale, 14. Flowers near Pamukkale, 15. Flowers near Pamukkale, 16. A Stop on the Silk Road, 17. A Carpet Weaver, 18. Cappadocia, Turkey, 19. Cappadocia, Turkey, 20. Hot Air Balloon Landing Site, 21. Hot Air Balloon Ride in Cappadocia, 22. View of Istanbul from Topkapi Palace, 23. View of Istanbul from Topkapi Palace, 24. View of Istanbul from Topkapi Palace, 25. View of Rumelihisar─▒ from Bosporus, 26. Sulten Ahmed Mosque, Istanbul, 27. Hot Air Balloon, 28. Hot Air Balloons, 29. Farmer's Market in Istanbul, 30. Grand Bazaar, Istanbul, 31. Grand Bazaar, Istanbul, 32. View from Bosporus, 33. View from Bosporus, 34. View from Bosporus, 35. Bosporus Bridge, 36. View from Bosporus

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Goodbye to Taipei

Pin It I'm leaving Taipei and off to Turkey and Greece for the next two weeks. But before I go, a few odd pet pictures from Taipei.

VB and I call this cat "Agent Orange." It's the resident cat of a pet hospital in Taipei. It has a proper Chinese name, of course, but "Agent Orange" is an excellent name for a mean big fat orange cat. It looks pissed off because it was shaved and forced to wear a sailor outfit to keep warm. Let Agent Orange be an example to cats everywhere (ahem, Tangerine), stop barfing fur balls or suffer the humiliation of wearing stupid costumes.

That's right. It's a German Shepherd riding a scooter. I've seen a lot of people carry their dogs on scooters, but not like that. You'd think the driver would ride slowly, but that was not the case. In fact, we had to chase after the scooter to get this shot. If it wasn't stopped at the light, I never could have captured this picture to share with everyone.

Yes, that's a pig being walked in the park. Weird? Yes. Cute? Oh, yes.

Taiwanese Desserts

Pin It This is a teeny tiny sample of the desserts that are available in Taiwan. New desserts are cropping up everyday. Of course, old favorites are constantly being reinvented.

This, for example, is an old favorite. It's silken tofu with yam and taro tapioca pearls in a sweet brown sugar broth. The light and tender silken tofu is a perfect contrast to the chewy and tense tapioca pearls.

This is also silken tofu, but with lotus seeds, white cloud ear fungi, Chinese pearl barley (Job's tear) in clear sugar broth.

This is grass jelly with konjac, sweetened Fava beans (?), and tapioca pearls. The new twist on this classic dessert is the addition of cream, which is drizzled over the top. The cream softens the herbal, almost medicinal, flavor of grass jelly and makes it taste more like dessert. The Fava beans are sweet and creamy -- a perfect contrast to the crunchy and light konjac.

This is a cream puff filled with mango sauce and whipped cream.

Doughnuts are all the rage in Taiwan. But doughnuts in Taiwan are not the sugar bombs that we have in the States. They are crunchy on the outside but chewy on the inside, almost like mochi. There's an intense burned sugar aroma, but it's not sweet at all. The only thing this doughnut has in common with the doughnuts that we know is the shape.

Speaking of mochi, this is a kind of mochi that's very different from the ones that I posted about earlier. This is not filled with anything and covered with crushed peanuts and black sesame seeds. This special mochi is toasted so that it's melt-y and gooey on the inside.

Believe it or not, these are also mochi. They are baked and puffed up. The outer layer is crunchy like meringue, but inside is chewy like mochi. Yes, they are as odd as they look.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Baked Jalapeno Poppers and Guacamole (Vegan)

Pin It
Baked Jalapeno Poppers

I borrowed the recipe for the jalapeno poppers from Tofutti, but I added some shredded soy cheddar cheese that I had and baked them instead of frying them. They didn't brown up as nicely as they would have had they been fried, but they're just as crispy.
Remove the top of the jalepenos and slice down one side, removing most of the seeds. Fill the peppers with the cheeses.

Place the soy milk and the flour into two separate bowls. Dip the stuffed jalapenos into the soy milk and then into the flour, making sure that they are well-coated. Allow the coated jalapenos to dry for about 10 minutes in the refrigerator. Dip the jalapenos into the soy milk again and roll them through the breadcrumbs to cover.

Place the breaded jalepenos seam-side-up on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees F for 30-40 minutes.


I served the poppers with chunky guacamole, made by combining the following:

  • 2 ripe avocados, diced
  • 1 plum tomato, de-seeded and chopped
  • 1/4 large sweet onion, chopped
  • 4 serrano peppers, finely chopped
  • cilantro, roughly chopped
  • juice of 1 small lime

Monday, May 4, 2009

Mac and Cheese (Vegan)

Pin It
I basically used this recipe ("Best Vegan Mac and Cheese in the entire world...seriously"
) from VegWeb, but only used about 1/4 of the oil suggested and none of the salt (since there is a significant amount of soy sauce used). I also mixed in about two cups of broccoli florets, and added some halved grape tomatoes, breadcrumbs, and dried parsley on top.

With my adjustments, the recipe is as follows:
  • 1 1/2 cups of plain soy milk
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1/4 cup of canola oil
  • 1/3 cup of soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 cup of nutritional yeast
  • 1 Tbsp. of paprika
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. of Spike Vegit Magic! (instead of 1 Tbsp. of Vege-Sal in the VegWeb recipe)
  • 1/4 of a block of firm tofu
  • 1 dollop of mustard
  • 1 1/2 pounds of whole wheat macaroni, cooked
  • add-ins or toppings as desired
Add everything except for the pasta into a blender and blend until combined and smooth. Place cooked pasta into a 9 x 13" baking dish, covering with the sauce. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 15 minutes. Finish under the broiler if desired. Let rest for a bit to set-up.

I thought this was very good. It would have been creamier with the full cup of oil suggested in the VegWeb recipe, but it's nice and light compared with dairy mac and cheese or some of the other vegan recipes I've tried that use flour in the cheese sauce.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Deep-Dish Pizza (Giordano's-style) (Vegan)

Pin It
Deep-dish pizza sometimes sounds tempting to me, but I think I like the idea of it more than the product (which I find usually ends up to be a greasy *cough*Uno and Malnati's*cough* or bready and corn-mealy *cough*Little Star*cough* mess). Two exceptions: Giordano's in the Chicago area (and apparently Florida) and Leonardo's (surprisingly good frozen--I've never had it in-store).

Anyway, I thought I'd give it a try at home. I've been mostly disappointed by homemade pizza in the past, as it usually ends up soggy for me, even with the help of a preheated stone. With that it mind, I was fanatical about keeping excess moisture out of the sauce and toppings, and I think it helped a lot as the final product was wonderfully crispy--crispy enough to not need a fork!


I googled a bit and found a message board, which includes a recipe (some errors in measuring units corrected in subsequent posts) that a few people swear by for a 10" version of Giordano's-style deep-dish pizza. I was a little taken aback by the amount of oil in the recipes that I found (even for the less-greasy, Giordano's-style pies), so I tweaked it a bit as follows:
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 3/4 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 3/4 tsp. brown sugar
  • 5 tsp. canola oil
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 6 Tbs. warm water
Proof the yeast in the warm water and mix all ingredients just enough to incorporate. Knead only for a minute or two (so as not to end up with bread--apparently the short knead is key to getting the crust right).

Let the dough rise for 4-8 hours (because of the short kneading time, it won't rise much).

When ready, roll the dough out thin and then fold the dough in quarters, letting it rest a bit before rolling it out again (it should be around 14" in diameter).

Once it's rolled thin, immediately put it into a lightly oiled 10" deep dish pan, pressing to make the edges rise to nearly the top of the pan. Immediately fill with cheese, toppings, and sauce and get it into the oven--don't let it rise again in the pan.

Upon the suggestion on the message board, I let the oven preheat at 500 for 15 minutes. Then I put the pizza in, turned the oven to 450, and let it cook for 30 to 35 minutes.

(Note: I used an 8 x 11" glass baking pan since I don't have a 10" deep-dish pizza pan or cake pan, so I rolled the dough to approximately 12 x 15" and it worked fine. Also, I know that this recipe doesn't include the top layer of dough--between the toppings and sauce--of Giordano's, but I never really noticed that layer when I had it before, anyway.)


Most of the sauce recipes I saw suggested using 6 IN 1 Ground Tomatoes, but the store where I was shopping doesn't carry them. Instead, I used regular crushed tomatoes in heavy puree.
  • 1 28-oz. can, crushed tomatoes (thoroughly drained)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 tsp. brown sugar
  • red pepper flakes (to taste)
I drained the tomatoes through a wire strainer and then let them sit on paper towels to get more moisture out. Then I simply mixed the ingredients.


I stayed traditional and used the following:
  • 8 oz. of cremini mushrooms, sliced and roasted for about 10 minutes to remove moisture
  • 10 oz. of frozen spinach (defrosted and thoroughly drained and squeezed)
  • 1 green pepper, sliced into rings
  • 5.75 oz. can black olives, sliced
For cheese, I used 8 oz. of shredded soy mozzarella.

Wine: 2005 Clot de l'Oum C├┤tes du Roussillon Villages Caramany La Compagnie des Papillon

This wine is a screaming value at <$20. The blend is dominated by old-vine Carignan and Grenache (45% each), with a splash of Syrah. Deep purple with hints of red. Red fruits, pencil shavings, raw beef, floral elements and some minerality on the nose. The palate is consistent with the nose, with the addition of black fruits. Intense minerality suggests the Northern Rhone (Hermitage?). Incredibly refined and elegant for the price. Low alcohol. Really opens up with time. Very food-friendly and approachable now with decanting. This was my third bottle, and I would buy more if I could find it. Tremendous wine!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Pierogi (Vegan)

Pin It
The picture looks like it's from a 70's cookbook, but the pierogi were good.

I wanted to use the leftover mashed potatoes from last night, so I dressed them up a bit with some more chives, shredded soy cheddar cheese, and red pepper flakes and made the following simple pierogi dough:
Combine ingredients and knead until smooth. Let rest for 30 minutes. Divide into halves and roll to a thickness of about 1/8" on a well-floured surface. Cut portions with a biscuit-cutter or floured glass. Roll each piece to a circle of approximately 4-5" in diameter and fill with mashed potato filling, pinching to seal. (Side note: This would have been 10x easier with the KitchenAid pasta roller attachment.)

Boil pierogi in water until they float (3-4 minutes for mine), remove with strainer, and place into lightly oiled skillet over medium heat, turning once to brown both sides. Drain on paper towels before serving.

These were crispy and great on their own, but could be served with sauerkraut, applesauce, Sour Supreme, crispy fried onions, or sauteed mushrooms.

Meatloaf Sandwich

Pin It

There's nothing I "miss" from my omnivorous years, but there are things that I remember fondly. One of these items is the Meat Loaf Monster Extreme Carver from Boston Market. (But don't all run out at once: Unfortunately the current sandwich menu doesn't include Extreme Carvers.)

Today I made a sandwich using the following:
I put the above under the broiler for a couple of minutes, open-faced, and then topped with the below:
  • barbecue sauce
  • sliced avocado (not part of the Extreme Carver inspiration)
It was a great way to eat the leftover meatloaf, and is how I'll be finishing the rest.