Chinese Takeout at Home for the Lazy Vegan

Most of the time, especially in this strange year we’ve all found ourselves caught in, your desire to have vegan takeout is prompted more by convenience than by taste. Right?

When I lived in Los Angeles and, to a certain extent Germany, there were more than a few takeout places that just had damn good food. But, more often than not it’s the case that the best selling point of the vegan takeout is that I don’t have to cook it. Which doesn’t say much good about you or the restaurant.

But the absolute best thing about 2020 is the abundance of options when it comes to vegan food choices. You no longer have to make your own vegan eggroll wrappers and hope for the best, now you can just buy frozen vegan eggrolls, vegan potstickers, dim-sum, or whatever your favorite vegan Chinese takeout is, and make it yourself!

And that’s just what we did. Quick and easy vegan fried rice with tofu and vegetable gyoza.

We kept it simple with vegetable fried rice and vegan potstickers, but if you’re in search of more, don’t skip the frozen section of your local market because even here in Romania, they are always adding new vegan options to their shelves.

Quick & Easy Crispy Vegan Biryani

In my household, my partner and I are both self-employed which means that there are nights that roll around when we’re both so absorbed with work that it’s ten or eleven o’clock before one of us realizes that dinnertime has come and gone. We’re not proud of it, but it’s a fact of life and there you have it.

When those nights happen and you live someplace where there are no vegan food options, or very few, you have to be efficient and creative. My go-to quick and easy vegan meal when it’s my night to cook, usually involves some type of vegan noodle dish, because noodles are my jam.

For my partner, it’s usually rice. Or pasta. Or potatoes.

On this night, it was a crispy tofu biryani.

If you’re not familiar with it, biryani is an Indian rice dish made with spices and protein, traditionally animal protein but we don’t do that here, so we’ve used TVP chunks, because they have plenty of protein and are the perfect meat substitute in this Indian rice dish.

This easy vegan tofu biryani has a simple list of ingredients:

Jasmine rice
Peanut oil
Textured vegetable protein (TVP)
Onion
Ginger
Bell pepper
Coconut milk (for cooking)
Veggiegurt
Indian spices

Cook the rice according to instructions, a pinch of turmeric gives it that gorgeous yellow color and smoky flavor.

Rehydrate the TVP and drain, the coat in veggigurt and Indian spices (curry, garam masala, chilies, ginger, garlic, cinnamon & cloves, or whatever spice blend you have handy), then set aside. I have this tandoori masala that I really love, it’s smoky and spicy, but not too spicy if you have someone who can’t handle anything over a 5 on the spice scale.

Use half the oil to sauté the onion, bell pepper and additional spices, and use the other half to pop the TVP in the air fryer to get it nice and crispy. This can also be achieved on the stove but you’ll need to use a lot more oil. If you have the time, consider baking it on high in the oven.

When everything is done, toss it all together and add more seasoning as needed. Serve and enjoy!

Quick & easy vegan tofu biryani

What’s your go-to vegan dish when you need something quick and easy?

Vegan Takeout At Home ~ General Tso’s Soy Strips

I don’t know where you guys are in the world or what you’re options are for takeout but here in Romania, the answer is NONE. As in no options whatsoever and that goes double if you’re vegan. There are a couple of options at a nearby sushi joint and this restaurant that is both Italian and Asian, both of which are just plain mediocre.

Why am I telling you all of this? Not just for sympathy, that’s for sure.

Just kiddin’, you can sympathize if you want but you don’t need to since we just ate some pretty kick ass General Tso’s vegan chicken…or soy strips. Call it what you want but this was a delicious way to enjoy an old childhood favorite without the suffering.

Or the strangers cooking our food right now.

I’m not gonna lie to you here, the ingredients list on this dish is pretty damn extensive, but that doesn’t make it difficult to make. Lots of Asian dishes require a variety of salty-sweet-bitter-tangy-spicy combinations that contribute to the deliciousness that is Asian cuisine.

For this vegan General Tso’s recipe, I’m just gonna paste the ingredients list straight from Cronometer because I already had to enter there and that was traumatic enough. Okay, it wasn’t all that bad but I’m feeling lazy and I need to get back to writing so bear with me. Please.

The first thing you need to do is “marinate” the soy curls once you’ve rehydrated them, which means you should make the sauce first. That means adding half the garlic & ginger, soy sauce, vinegar, sambal, mirin and starch into a bowl. Whisk it and add the soy curls to it. Set aside.

Rinse, dry & chop whatever vegetables you want for this vegan Asian recipe. I went with basic veggies like carrots, bell pepper, onion, mushrooms and a few florets of unused broccoli but you can add zucchini or squash or whatever veggies your little vegan heart desires.

I went oil free for this recipe but you can use it if you like and if you do, add the oil, ginger and garlic first. Otherwise add everything but the garlic into the skillet and cook until the veggies start to brown. Pick the marinated soy strips from the sauce and toss into the pan. Cook until crispy around the edges, but you can always pop them into the air fryer instead.

Pour the rest of the sauce over the veggies until its nice and thick. Serve over a bed of rice, and no tipping required!

I decided not to put the vegan strips in the air fryer this time because I was curious to see how the marinade worked and let me tell ya, it was incredible! Straight through to the center you could taste the grated ginger & garlic, the soy sauce and even the mirin. This was the first time I’ve had any version of General Tso’s in a good long while and, not to pat myself on the back, but I did a damn good job.

“Two thumbs up!” ~ The Husband

If you want this dish more saucy, just add more water with the soy sauce and if you want it thicker, increase the water-cornstarch ratio. And feel free to substitute whatever you want instead of soy strips. Chickpeas or mushrooms will work well, or any other vegan option you prefer.

Creamy Vegan Indian Butter Cauliflower

This week has been pretty hectic–sorry I skipped Wednesday–but I really wanted to share yet another delicious cauliflower recipe for vegans. Everyone loves to joke about the ‘glow up’ cauliflower has had lately but if you loved cauliflower back when there was just steaming, roasting, sauteeing options, you’ll love this vegan take on butter chicken.

If you’ve ever eaten at an Indian restaurant you’ve probably seen butter chicken on the recipe and thought, “Butter & chicken? No thanks.” And then you tasted it and your world was absolutely rocked.

Am I right?

Well preapare yourself for this super creamy vegan version of Butter Cauliflower.

The ingredient list on this meal is pretty simple:

Cauliflower
Jasmine rice
Tomato paste
Coconut milk (creamy, but feel free to get coconut cream if your waistline can afford it!)
Peanut oil
Onion
Ginger
Cornstarch (or tapioca starch)
Coconut oil
Garlic
Spices: turmeric, smoky paprika, yellow curry powder, garam masala, ginger powder, salt & pepper

The reason there are two types of oil on the ingredient list is because my partner loves our air fryer and decided to give the cauliflower a little crisp before tossing it on the creamy vegan coconut sauce. It takes about 15 minutes on 200C/180F in the air fryer.

Melt the coconut oil over medium heat and add garlic & ginger until it starts to brown and becomes fragrant. This is about when my hunger usually kicks in. Toss in the onion and cook until it starts to soften, about 5 minutes then add the spices (turmeric, garam masala, etc…) and cook for another 1 minute.

Add tomato paste an coconut milk, but if you don’t want this too thick or you want it more soup-like, mix it with water. Otherwise, cook until the sauce starts to thicken and reduce a little, about 15 minutes or so. Then toss in the crispy cauliflower and serve it on a bed of rice, turmeric in your rice is totally optional.

You can serve this with noodles if you want to give it an Asian flare, or just get creative with your grains and use bulgur or couscous. Whatever floats your boat.

As I mentioned earlier, thanks to the creamy coconut milk, this is a fairly decadent vegan dish as far as I’m concerned, but it was crazy delicious. Below I’ve posted the calorie content of this vegan meal for two, courtesy of Cronometer, which I use to track my meals, snacks, booze and anything else I put in my mouth and you really should too!

What’s your favorite Indian dish to veganize?

Vegan Sushi Night ~ Smoky Tofu Nigiri & Vegan Crab Roll

One of the things I love about our Tokyo Diner Night meals is that inspiration can come from just about anywhere. For example, in my pre-vegan days I had a love-hate relationship with sushi. As a girl I would read about sushi was “all the rage” and the moment there was a sushi restaurant in my small town, I pounced. I loved it and ate it often, thinking myself the height of sophistication.

And then one dark day, I succumbed to food poisoning from a batch of bad–though not discount–sushi, and thus my wariness began. Spending almost a decade in Los Angeles gave me a renewed appreciation for the dish but now, as a vegan I steer clear of it altogether, mostly because I still have an iffy relationship with nori.

But still, I’ve had some pretty decent vegan sushi over the past three years. So when I was binge watching YouTube last week and saw a brief glimpse of an eel roll, it gave me an idea and that idea became my next dinner request.

Before you begin, you’ll need a few tools: Sushi Mat, Plastic wrap, Sharp knife.

If you’re a committed vegan sushi lover, consider a sushi making kit.

My partner and I watched a few vegan sushi videos online to figure these out and if you’ve done the same, you’ll know that a wide variety of rice is used. For both types of vegan sushi, he used sushi rice. It’s nice and sticky and if this is your first time, it’s better to do it right so that later, when you’re comfortable, you can make changes.

Let’s start with the Nigiri because preparation is so simple. Mix the mirin, soy sauce, agave syrup and rice vinegar in a bowl and brush the smoked tofu or simply let it soak and set it aside while you prepare the other roll.

For the vegan crab roll, you only need three simple ingredients: smoked tofu, vegan mayo or veggiegurt and Sriracha. I’d recommend adding some salt, pepper and maybe even garlic granules but those are optional and totally up to you.

Grate the tofu using a box grater and then add Sriracha and mayo or veggiegurt, stir until combined.

Now the hard part, rolling up the sushi. I wish I could give you some pointers but I’ve yet to even perfect my vegan Vietnamese rolls, but I think my Hubs did a pretty good job, don’t you? It’s a vast improvement over the last homemade vegan sushi dish I posted.

You will, of course need proper vegan sushi accoutrements such as pickled ginger, wasabi and soy sauce. All are optional but if you want the whole experience, go all the way with it!

Overall this was one of my favorite sushi meals, even with the nori, because the flavors were unexpected and totally delicious. If you thought your days of eating sushi were over since you adopted a cruelty-free diet, think again my friend.

And stay tuned, more vegan sushi recipes to come!

The vegan sushi set I bought didn’t arrive in time, but next you’ll see these babies on a pretty blue-green set that’ll make you totally jealous!

Vegan Fusion: Falafel Ball Noodle Soup

When it comes to cuisine, I’d love to say that I have no rules. But I do. A lot, in fact. Except when I want something that goes against the rules, in which case I’m the first to proclaim that the evolution of cuisine always starts with someone doing something they aren’t “supposed” to do.

And you know what, I’m totally fine with that because sometimes you just want what you want, and in this day and age when so many of us are spending more time than ever in the house, less time eating out at restaurants and all that jazz, rules must be broken once in a while.

Or longer…whatever you prefer.

Speaking of, let me introduce you to a Pho Style falafel ball rice noodle soup, my own vegan contribution to the vegan fusion movement. (Is it a movement or am I making that up?)

Let’s start with the falafel balls because they went in the oven and they needed time to cook and crisp up.

Falafel Ball Ingredients:

Chickpeas (rinsed & drained & dried)
Scallion
Ginger
Garlic
Smoky & Spicy paprika

Place all the ingredients into a food processor until you get a crumbly mixture. If you’re not sure whether it’s crumbly enough, scoop some into your hands and press it together. If it sticks, it’s good. I recommend you pop it into the fridge for 10 to 15 minutes, but it’s not totally necessary.

Form into uniform balls, whatever size you prefer, and lay out on a baking sheet at 180c/375f for about 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown & crispy.

That’s it. Pretty easy, right?

For the soup, I started with another batch of waste free broth as the broth base.

You will also need: onion, bell pepper, garlic, mung bean sprouts, tomato paste, soybean paste coconut milk, soy sauce and Pad Thai rice noodles.

Start with a big pot and give the vegetables a light saute for a few minutes and then add soybean and tomato paste, stirring until everything looks kind of messy. Then it’s time to add the broth! Stir well until everything breaks apart and starts to resemble a soup. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer until the flavors are what you want.

Cook the noodles according to the package and drop them in your bowl first. Top with broth & veggie mixture and then falafel balls and you are–technically–ready to put it in your belly.

But you can also add garnishes such as jalapeno peppers, basil leaves, lime juice, Sriracha & soy sauce.

And there you have it, my own little twist on vegan fusion food and Asian fusion although I guess it should be vegan Asian-Middle Eastern fusion? That’s a mouthful but not as much as this delicious soup, which I will totally add to the rotation, using all kinds of vegan ball varieties.

Easy Vegan Char-fu (Vegan Char Siu)

I know, I know, you’re shocked to see yet another noodle dish from me.

Cue: your shocked face!

Seriously though, with everything going on in the world sometimes you just want a dish that brings you comfort and for me that is usually Asian noodles. They are versatile so you can get super fancy with it or do it up as simple as you like. This particular dish is a play on char siu, but obviously we’re not going to be using adorable pigs in our vegan meal, so we relied on good ol’ TVP to get the job done.

This vegan dish is all about the seasoning (and the noodles) but mostly the seasoning.

I don’t know about where you guys are–feel free to tell me where you are while reading this in the comments–but even if we were eating out these days, the suburbs of Bucharest aren’t exactly a haven for vegan cuisine, which means I can get all the Asian food I want right here in the comfort of my kitchen.

Now, you can too!

What you’ll need:

Onion
Bok Choy
Garlic
Chow Mein noodles
TVP
Peanut oil
Napa cabbage
Soy Sauce
Scallions
Hot sauce

Cook the TVP as indicated, same with the noodles.

Drain the TVP and season it, then pop it into the air fryer, oven or just fry it in a skillet, the choice is yours.

Add peanut oil to a pan or skillet and cook onion, bok choy, ginger and garlic until done, about 5 to 10 minutes, depending on how you like it. Add soy sauce and hot sauce, then toss with crispy soya.

Serve on a bed of your favorite noodles and garnish with fresh, thin sliced scallions.

This quick and easy vegan meal should take you 30 minutes or less in the kitchen, but if you’re feeling like going there, feel free to share your fancier version of vegan Char-fu!

My Attempt at Vegan Okonomiyaki

I’m ba-aack! Did you miss me?

Work had gotten a little out of control and I needed to focus so I decided to take a few days away from posting but now I’m back and ready to share with you my version of a healthy-ish vegan okonomiyaki, which is a Japanese vegetable pancake.

I will tell you right off the bat that this recipe seems a lot more daunting than it actually is. Don’t let the long, but not complicated, ingredients list scare you away. To veganize his recipe takes just as much time as the original version, which means the prep work is where most of your time will be taken up, so if you’re willing to put in the effort, let’s do this!

I’ll tell you right up front that presentation is (still) not my strong suit but this vegan pancake did come out delicious and cooked properly, even if she isn’t the prettiest girl on the dance floor.

Let’s start with the ingredients. I’m feeling a little lazy so I just copy and pasted the ingredients list I posted in Cronometer, which works out well because now you’ll have exact measurements too.

This ingredients list includes EVERYTHING you see in the first image, so it includes the Asian slaw and the Korean style tofu, because I like to mix and match my food, my clothes, my languages and my fashion. Oh, and my music!

The first step is grating potatoes, cabbage and scallions for the batter and put them in a bowl. Add flour and water, just enough water to make it smushy, which I know is super vague but I realized as I was writing this hat I didn’t include water in the ingredients. The batter is going to seem wrong, like it’s not nearly enough to produce a pancake, which was exactly what I thought. But I listened to those who know better than I do, if you don’t include all the substitutions, that is. Mix it well and refrigerate it for 10 to 30 minutes. I think this step helped everything come together, so please don’t skip it.

Oil a skillet and pour enough for one large pancake, use a wooden spoon to create a nice little pancake shape and cook 4 to 5 minutes on each side. This type of pancake should be very vegetable-y, so don’t be discouraged that this isn’t anything like your fluffy breakfast pancakes…it’s not supposed to be!

Looking at that one little vegan Japanese pancake seems sad, right? Yeah, I thought so too which is why I rounded out the meal with two little side dishes. One was a cabbage, carrot & scallion slaw mixed with veggiegurt, Sriracha and plenty of herbs & spices. The other was a small bit of TVP mixed with some Asian pastes & sauces to create a full on vegan meal…Asian style.

The sauce you see on top of the vegan okonomiyaki, is the leftover veggiegurt mixture because, who doesn’t love a little sauce with dinner?

This is a great vegan meal for when you want to impress someone, but like someone who already likes you a lot and will feel really special that you went through all this trouble for them. On top of that, it was very tasty and worth the time and effort because now I can say, “Yeah I totally know how to cook vegan okonomiyaki.”

So concludes another Midnight Tokyo Diner meal in our household. If you try this, please oh please send photos here to the blog or on Facebook or Instagram if you’re feeling frisky!

Thanks for stopping by and enjoying another vegan meal with me!

Takeout Friday – Vegan Kung Pao Cauliflower

I know we just did a cauliflower recipe last week but sometimes you just have to make do with what the market provides, and sometimes the market provides…cauliflower.

That’s one of the amazing things about being vegan and doing our Midnight Tokyo Diner meals, as long as you have food, you have a fun recipe that can be whipped up into something fantastic. So, that’s what I told the Hubs, “baby make me Kung Pao Cauliflower.”

And he did.

Under normal circumstances this wold seem like a really complicated dish to veganize, but ignore the long ingredient list and focus on taking it one step at a time.

What you’ll need:

Cauliflower
Wild basmati rice
Ginger
Cashews
Peanut oil
Garlic
Soy sauce
Onion
Red bell pepper
Breadcrumbs
Cornstarch

To get your cauliflower crispy enough that it doesn’t get soggy when the sauce is added, mix the cornstarch with the breadcrumbs and bake it or add it to your air fryer. If you don’t care about oil, you can fry it up in a skillet.

Cook up the onions, ginger and garlic, adding soy sauce and water once you’re ready to make the sauce. If you need to thicken it, add a teaspoon each of cornstarch and water. Serve on top of rice on along side it. Sprinkle chopped cashews on top and you’re good to go.

This vegan Kung Pao recipe is fairly easy and quick, but it has multiple components so it can be intimidating. Don’t let this vegan dish pass you by!

What’s your favorite Asian takeout dish to vegan-ize?

Easy Vegan Broccoli Stir-Fry

What do you do when you:

A. Work from home

B. Are on lockdown

C. Work well past the dinner hour but NEED some good #vegan food to keep you going?

Easy…a quick vegan stir-fry is where it’s at.

ALWAYS.

The ingredient list is simple: firm tofu, broccoli, scallions, garlic and rice. You can make whatever you want just keep in mind that a good stir-fry is protein, vegetables and a grain.

And sauce, of course. For this one we used soy sauce, Korean chili paste, ginger powder, water and corn starch.

If you want a very crispy tofu, season it and pop in the air fryer if you have one. I LOVE this thing because it gives someone like me–trying to get to a healthy weight–a chance to eat something fried without going crazy on the oil since I’ve talked a lot about my foray into oil-free or minimal oil cooking. It cooks things quicker and gets them super crispy, which I loved in this dish because the tofu doesn’t get soggy, something every vegan tofu eater has had to contend with.

Oh, and the Hubs added the broccoli for a few minutes just to get some crisp on the tips and…it totally worked!

Garnish with the green tops of the scallions if you choose, sliced as big or as small as you like.

There’s not a lot to say about this meal because although it was delicious with a capital ‘D’, it was so late and fairly rushed that I can’t really remember the details…other than enjoying it.