Guest review: Hodo Soy Beanery tofu! »
If ingesting copious amounts of soy is bad for me, someone call 911 because I am likely to need an ambulance tonight. Milling around the produce section of the Whole Foods in Noe Valley, a tiny juicy bin tucked in between some lettuce and melons caught my eye. A tag sat modestly on top of the bin filled with the best tofu ever made: Hodo Soy Beanery tofu!
Yes, we are lucky enough to have this firm, white block of heaven at our fingertips hidden away for all vegan and vegetarian hogs alike. Hodo Soy Beanery uses 100 percent organic, non-GMO, hand-selected soybeans and painstakingly prepares them early in the a.m. so we can have the finished product within 12 hours of preparation! More than most of us can say, damn!
Many blocks of tofu came home with me destined to be made into crispy golden nuggets. A recipe for Spicy Banh Mi from Vegetarian Times BLEW me away last week. Imagine a crusty sweet roll, slathered with Vegenaise, sweet-and-sour marinated daikon shreds with a hint of cilantro. Then add the best part: fried tofu!
I tried making the sandwich with two different brands of tofu, and I must say the Hodo comes out WAY ahead because it is firm and filling. I challenge you to attempt to leave the fried tofu untouched before assembling the sandwich…good luck!
Alphabet tofu! This is just a student’s design project and not an actual product, but what do you think? Dumb idea, Y/N? Would you buy? Fun for kids? What passive aggressive secret messages would you leave in your significant other’s stir fry? Discuss.
I have to pack a lunch RIGHT NOW and there’s NOTHING TO EAT (a parable) »
Somehow, dear Vegansaurs, I keep finding myself in this position. My day is perfectly planned, I’m about to go, and I suddenly realize I haven’t eaten anything. There’s plenty of food in the fridge, but all of it requires cooking time. And I don’t have time! And I also don’t want my housemates to get mad at me for leaving tons of pots and pans in the sink. I could make peanut butter and jelly, but: vegetables, I LOVE THEM SO.
Now, I live in New York, land of expensive shit. I am not super-rich. I can’t afford the frozen Amy’s dinners. Hell, I can’t afford baked tofu. I eat cheap, but I still eat healthy, and that means lots of un-organic vegetables, discount tofu, and legumes/rice. So, what to do when I need to get my ass out the door? Here are two recipes, born of desperation yet surprisingly tasty.
Tofu Salad Sandwich
Time: Five minutes
Ingredients: bread, raw tofu, random condiments & spices
Dirty dishes: one spoon
Directions: Wash hands. Lay out a strip of Saran Wrap/foil on the counter; put two slices of bread on it. Squeeze out as much water as you can from the tofu with your hands. Put it in a Tupperware container. Add a big spoonful of mustard/Vegenaise/tahini; mash it all up with a spoon. Add other spices/condiments as you wish—curry or dill, salt, pickle relish, etc. Mix. Taste. Spoon it onto bread, add some vegetables if you like, wrap sandwich up. Slap a lid on the Tupperware container and stick it in the fridge for later. Done!
“But I don’t have bread OR tofu,” you say. “I only have leftovers from last night, and I can’t eat curry standing up, and OMG I need to leave NOW.”
Spring Rolls with Leftovers
Time: Five minutes
Ingredients: miscellaneous fridge leftovers, lettuce leaf, spring roll wrappers (ideally you’d buy these in advance, for just such an occasion)
Dirty dishes: one spoon
Directions: Wash hands. Lay a square of Saran Wrap on the counter. Next to it put a dinner plate, one that’s not entirely flat. Take a cup, get hot water from the sink, carefully pour onto plate, put cup back in cupboard. Take two spring roll wrappers out of the package. Jiggle one around in the water until it’s soft—about 10 to 15 seconds. Lay it out on the Saran Wrap, add lettuce leaf, spoon in some leftovers. Roll it up like a burrito, as tight as you can without ripping it (here’s a guide to rolling your own). Repeat with other spring roll wrapper. Bind it all up with Saran Wrap, stick it all in a Tupperware, put everything else in the fridge, rinse off plate and stick it back in cupboard.
Recipe: Veggie fries! »
Recipe review spoiler alert: these were a huge hit for dinner last night. Both Jordan,14, and Jon Alex, eight, gave the veggie fries two thumbs up and the okay sign while chewing with their mouths full. (They are presented here as tofu crisps, but no way in hell would they have tried anything called “tofu crisps”) Eight-month-old Ehren, full from his lunch of macaroni and applesauce, did not participate this time.
• 16 ounces extra-firm tofu or super-firm tofu
• 1 Tbsp curry powder
• 1 to 2 tsps coarse sea salt
• 1 tsp dried basil
• 1 Tbsp agave nectar
• 2 Tbsps peanut oil
My grocery store did not carry extra-firm or super-firm tofu, and my travels to Hong Kong Market didn’t begin until after a two-hour search for seaweed for an upcoming Vegansaurus recipe, and by the time I made it to Hong Kong Market, I was looking only for seaweed and lotus root and was totally like fuck the super-firm tofu, it’s cold and rainy, and as soon as I started slicing the hard tofu, I knew I should have looked for the super-firm. You’ll need super-firm tofu for this recipe, even in icy-cold weather.
Slice tofu as you would cut potatoes for French fries. Lightly grease baking sheet with spray oil. Mix marinade ingredients in a small bowl. If you decide to double the marinade amount, double all ingredients but the sea salt.
The marinade got a “smells good” from eight-year-old Jon Alex as I was shielding his view of the tofu with my body. I wasn’t sure if I’d made enough to cover 16 oz, so I made more after covering half the slices on the baking sheet. If I’d had the super firm, I would have dipped each slice into the marinade bowl. The hard tofu was too mushy to handle with my fingers more than once. So it stayed on the baking sheet as I spread the marinade with my fingers.
Dip each slice into marinade, covering both sides. Or, you can try pouring the marinade onto the slices and spreading it with your fingers.
Broil in oven about 15 to 20 minutes, turning over slices about halfway through. This is when you’ll especially appreciate the super firm tofu.
With the raw baby carrots and chilled lotus root slices, this was our dinner. We—one adult, a teenage girl and a growing boy—were all full and even had a few leftover tofu slices. Of course, the veggie fries can always be served with soup or veggie burgers. Once I’m released from the hospital after what I’m sure is double pneumonia, we’ll make these for dinner or afternoon snacks. Great recipe.
This is another guest post from Erica Mullenix from Houston, Texas. While not vegan, she and her family are transitioning to more healthful food choices (like vegan cookies!). Erica blogs at Free Fringes and tweets as @hmx5.
SF Green Festival, meatball awards, the miracle of birth, delicious local tofu, Czech dumplings, urban gardening and more in this week’s link-o-rama!GE »
Win a copy of 500 Vegan Recipes! Hurry up and do it by Tuesday, Nov. 17!
The clever fuckers at the California Milk Advisory Board will be filming their latest “Happy Cows come from California” commercials in New Zealand. Torture the local cows, but don’t let the state benefit from production fees: such lovely people they are.
Local chefs discover that tofu is not an abomination against haute cuisine. Color us shocked. And hungry for samples!
Another poor review of Eating Animals, from another Gawker associate. Shut up, Joshua David Stein, you are much too pleased with yourself and your criticism.
For the strong-stomached, the birth of an elephant. Miracles: kinda gross! This goes for every human who records the births of their own young as well.
And in New Zealand, a shark gave birth to four live sharklets, thanks to the intervention of another shark? Freaky, gross, amazing.
Oh delicious: a recipe for Czech fruit dumplings! Yes PLEASE.
Filling closets with clothes for yourself is acceptable human behavior; filling a closet with matching clothes for your cat is NOT. I recognize we’re all guilty of anthropomorphism to some degree, but this not OK.
Watch out, sickies: you can pass on the swine flu to your companion animals.
King of Jerkoffs A. Bourdain says humans are allowed to eat animals because they are “smaller and stupider” than us. Ari Solomon says, intelligence is as intelligence does, bright boy. (Although we should note, Mr. Solomon, that “stupider” is an inflected comparative and most certainly a word.) (Grammarsaurus!)
More meat and more dairy makes Jack an angrier, more hostile and depressed boy; more carbs and less meat and dairy makes him happier and peaceful.
Friend-of-Vegansaurus Graciela has a new blog in which she explores urban gardening in L.A. We are so envious of all her lovely greens!
Check it out, another E. coli outbreak in ground beef!
Kind of pretty, kind of disgusting: your internal organs rendered in produce.
Genetically engineered apples that stay crispy without refrigeration!
An interview with our hero Deborah Madison, vegetarian chef and cookbook author extraordinaire!
Publisher’s Weekly selects this year’s best food books; titles include the bizarro Almost Meatless (“almost”? come the hell on), the revolting Lobel’s Meat Bible, and two books Vegansaurus wouldn’t mind unwrapping this holiday season: Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking, and Salt to Taste: The Key to Confident, Delicious Cooking. Neither is vegan, but both seem extremely useful.
Revolting, slightly terrifying tale of a food writer’s giving in to a murderous impulse and shooting a baboon, and the global fallout.
Ours friends at Veg-Table are looking for writers for their city guides. GET ON IT, YOU WRITERLY PERSON.
Review: Basu’s Homestyle Indian Cuisine (IS THE BOMB!) »
Basu’s graciously sent us some of their make-it-yourself Homestyle Indian Cuisine to check out, presumably because every vegan blog south of San Luis Obispo has already had the chance. This is probably because they are an adorable family startup company based in the L.A. area and distributing regionally, but I am still immediately resentful of Southern California having anything desirable or good because I am a cynical, humorless Northern California native. Anyway you can already buy Basu’s at the Whole Foods stores down there. (What is up with Whole Foods in Southern California & Nevada having SUCH BETTER vegan selections than ours??)
As an Indian-food-loving single person (or, a not-single person who lives in a different apartment than her boyfriend and spends three nights a week over there so consequently grocery shops *less* than a single person), I already eat a lot of pre-prepared Indian food, in the form of takeout and vacuum-packs from Tasty Bite and the like. Because I sit down to depressing Trader Joe’s Punjab Choley for one and plain rice on a fairly regular basis, I feel entitled to the sense of totally unmitigated euphoria that comes flying out into the kitchen when you open a packet of Basu’s cheerily-labeled “Vindaloo Sauce with Basil - Vegan.” Warning:this sauce smells amazing. While I was eating it at work the next day, my coworker (a real actual Indian person) was all, “That smells amazing!”
Now, it’s packaged as sauce alone, and you add your own vegetables and proteins (unless you’re just taking a bath in it—ain’t no shame, it smells amazing!) I thought, after an initial botched attempt at adding some Tofurky sausage (don’t do that) that this Vindaloo works best with baby red potatoes and firm tofu cut like paneer cubes (it does—do that instead!) Also, some cauliflower would probably be nice, but my neighborhood market was out of it.
First, I boiled the potatoes until soft, then drained them and cooled them a bit while I cut up the tofu. Then I melted some Earth Balance in a saute pan, and threw in generous amounts of powdered cumin and tarragon. I know tarragon isn’t very Indian, I just really like it. Then I threw in the tofu and (quartered) potatoes to stir fry until brown and crusty with delicious spices. When everything was nicely browned, I threw it in a pot with the Vindaloo sauce to simmer for about 15 minutes on low heat. At this point, my house smelled (you guessed it!) amazing.*
The Vindaloo dish was fast and easy, and makes for a comforting, nutritious and really delicious meal. But, the thing that really ele
vates Basu’s above the other DIY Indian foods is pairing the curry with Basu’s own Saffron Rice and Tamarind Chutney. The rice is unbelievably flavorful, in a way that would be difficult for me to replicate at home. It’s got a delightful buttery taste, offset by some kind of curried carrot (?) that really goes the extra mile in transforming your pathetic Ikea couch-and-coffee-table dining set into a charming neighborhood Indian restaurant. The chutney is dark and syrupy, and drizzled over the curry/rice combo, it’s just the perfect thing.
In sum, that was my totally savory experience with the Basu’s Homestyle Indian Food, a really good company and makers of the best DIY Indian meals. If only I could go to my local Whole Foods and get more. Sad Face.
*I should make it clear as I overemphasize how amazing it SMELLS, that I do not mean to underemphasize how amazing it TASTES, which is AMAZING. Like, the tastiest thing to come out of my kitchen in a long time, vegan or non.
Product Review: Quong Hop tofu »
Please welcome guest writer and frequent Vegansaurus photograph-provider Joel!
“In 1906, Sing Hau Lee established Quong Hop, the first tofu shop in America.” This was in San Francisco proper; the company now manufactures its soy products in South San Francisco. “He brought with him his family’s tofu-making secrets that had been a tradition for generations.”
Man! That is old! And old things are quality, unless they’re people! I mean really, what else do you need to know? I obviously consider that to be a rhetorical question cause I am about to tell you the rest of what you need to know.
I’ve been eating tofu for many years, friends, and I am pleased to say that Quong Hop tofu is the best I’ve had the pleasure of stuffing in my face. The irregular edges give it a welcome personality that is entirely missing from your average House-brand tofu bricks. And the flavor and texture are head and shoulders above the rest. Delicate flavor; firm, chewy texture. Great for marinating (it will not fall apart!), great for stir-frying (it still will not fall apart!). The texture becomes a thing of transcendent beauty should you venture to freeze the tofu.
While I’m at it, a quick lesson for those who don’t know. Freezing tofu gives it a meat-like texture, more porosity, and less water content. This means that frozen tofu will work better in almost any application. Why does this happen? A block of tofu contains many tiny droplets of water, totaling a good portion of the weight. When frozen, water expands. That means that these tiny droplets (a) create holes (“pores”) bigger than normal, and (b) compress the interstitial tofu-matter correspondingly. When the tofu thaws, the network of newly enlarged pores allows the water to drain out.
To freeze tofu, simply pop it in the freezer in its original packaging. Once it has frozen solid, move it back to the fridge to thaw. After it’s thawed, drain and use as normal. If you’re in a rush, thaw it in the microwave. If you’re feeling dedicated, leave it out to thaw and put some weight on it so that it newly melted water is immediately drained—this will yield the best texture but is probably not worth the work unless you’re showing off. The simplest thing to do is thaw in the fridge and then squeeze the water out with your bare hands, over the sink. The freezing will have toughened the tofu so it won’t crumble, and the porosity will be such that your hands can easily get most of the water out. This is cool because you can feel like some sort of macho he-man*, able to dry a block of tofu with nothing but a spasm of your mighty delts.
No matter what, you do want to drain some water, but this is where things get tricky. Depending on the application, you might want to treat it differently. For dishes where you’ll be cooking the tofu in a sauce—curries or soups, for instance—you want to drain all the water you can, lest it dilute the cooking liquid. If your recipe cooks the tofu over a fairly low heat, or for a fairly short time—pan-frying with vegetables, maybe—you’ll want to squeeze out most but not all of the water. And if you’ll be cooking over high heat, or for a long time, you’ll want to squeeze out only a little of the water. My example for this is stir-fries. I want my tofu to get nice and crispy, so I cook it over very high heat for about five minutes. If I had squeezed out all the water, it would end up hard and dry through and through. Instead, most of the water I left in steams out the top while the bottom crisps, and is then replaced by the stock or sauce added in the last portion of the stir-fry. Magic!
If this was too in-depth an exploration of cooking nerdery for you, just squeeze out about half the water. Everything will be ok.
Now! My minions! Take your new knowledge and show the tofu-doubters in your life what’s what! Although, for practical reasons, you might want to try it out once or twice by yourself. Get the technique down, and get all the he-man grunting out of the way in private.
*or, uh, a mucha she-woman?**
**obviously I know that the female counterpart to He-Man is She-Ra but that’s not exactly germane to a blog about veganism, is it? Why don’t you write your own blog post about it over at NerdsFightingAboutHe-Man.com and we can talk about it there.
Review: Eiji! »
Eiji is a super-tiny sushi place on Sanchez at 16th Streets. It would be easily missed if it weren’t for the gigantic sign-flag out front that screams, “TOFU!!!!!” How is a vegan supposed to resist? You can’t fly a flag the size of a sperm (hee) whale that says only “TOFU!!!!!!” and not expect to be descended on by my people. And we vegans would be oh-so-right in doing so because the homemade tofu is phenomenal and unlike anything you can buy in the stores (even hippie stores like Rainbow!). There are several kinds, most of which can be served vegan. I know you’re like, “SOME? it’s TOFU, bitch.” and I’m like, “A) you gotta relax with calling me names and B) Yes BUT this is Japanese food made by Japanese people and these fools be lovin’ to put fish flakes on everything, you know?!” So sometimes they can all be made vegan (depending on if you get the nice waiter or the mean waiter) and sometimes only some of them can be made vegan. The hot tofu dish is by far the best and is naturally vegan, kinda like a vegan chawan-mushi (hot savory custard, DUH). UGH SO GOOD. Hot and sweet and it just melts in your mouth and send you straight to heaven. It’s the whole package. It’s the massage and it’s the happy ending.
Apart from the homemade tofu and bizarrely inconsistent service, you must go for the mochi. The mochi is so in demand that you must actually eat in the restaurant to get it. And you can’t just order mochi, you must eat a meal. And even with these crazytown rules, they still sell out of mochi pretty early so put your order in when you arrive to ensure that there will be mochi waiting for you at the end of the meal. Oh man, that pisses the other tables around you off SO MUCH. They are like, “WAH WE FINISHED FIRST, I THOUGHT YOU WERE OUT OF MOCHI, HOW DID THOSE PEOPLE GET SOME WAH” and I’m like, “It’s because we’re better-looking than you.” And that is both a truth and a lie. You see? Anyway, the mochi is house-made with huge fresh strawberries and adzuki bean paste. It’s the best in town and worth the trip. From Mars, even.
Other than that, the veggie sushi options are pretty pedestrian, although high in quality and freshness: cucumber, avocado, squash, etc. They are expertly rolled too and it’s nice to see sushi that is packed tight like an 18-year-old’s ass. What? I’m so sorry.
Oh and make a reservation. And be on time. If you’re not on time, your table will be given away and you will be scolded. It’s no fun.
Review: Rudy’s Can’t Fail Cafe! »
Fuck the waitress at Rudy’s Can’t Fail Cafe here for the following conversation:
My mother: Oh this is fun music, is it a Halloween tape?
Hooker Whore Waitress (ROLLS HER M’EFFIN’ EYES AND SAYS): Um, NO, this is The Cramps.
My MOTHER (MOTHER, PEOPLE! AS IN, THIS WOMAN BIRTHED ME, HAVE SOME FUCKING R-E-S-P-E-C-T, RESPECT!): Oh, well, it’s very Halloweeny!
Hooker Whore Waitress: Yeah, well, it’s The Cramps, NOT Halloween music.
Laura: LADY, I WILL MURDER YOU!!!
It’s like, my mother is clearly in her 200s and doesn’t know The Cramps from The Shins from the Elvis, SO FUCKING BE A LITTLE NICE. These ladies need to be sent to charm school or clown college or somewhere where they are fucking taught some g-d manners. In fact, bring me in to school these bitches, they’ll be delivering waffles on a cloud of pirouettes and curtsying after giving you coffee made of dreams and shit like that. I’m all class, people.
Other than that, decent vegan breakfast selections and any of the egg dishes can me made with tofu. They also offer Soyrizo and Morningstar vegetarian (fuck you, Morningstar) sausages. For lunch, you’ll have your normal choices of a few salads and the unexceptional Portobello Mushroom burger. Oh yeah, Boca burgers too. Woo. One exciting thing about the dinner menu is Buffalo Tofu but there isn’t a vegan ranch or anything so you’ll probably be left to dip it in oil & vinegar. Woo.
Rudy’s Can’t Fail Cafe, for all of its hipness, still isn’t totally down with the vegans. I never really look forward to eating here; nothing on the menu seems especially made to lure in the veggies. I don’t like that. For its location, atmosphere and its supposed anti-establishment ways, there should be more of an effort made to hook a vegan girl up! One final note: there is one nice chef who will make substitutions in orders and one mean chef who will fucking make no exceptions even if you will die of an allergic reaction due to a certain ingredient in a menu item. He’s all, live with it. Even if you don’t. What an ass.
One extra point for when they let me put flyers of my foster dog named Rudy up all over the place. He’s this really cute blind pit bull and they wallpapered the restaurant with him. It was capital-A Awesome.
[photos via Rudy’s Can’t Fail Cafe]