Spicy Vegan DanDan Noodles

My noodle addiction strikes again! One night while zoning out and binge watching YouTube videos I came across a recipe for Dan Dan noodles and immediately thought to myself, I have to have it. Soon!

Which meant the next time I hit the market, I grabbed everything I would need for this spicy Chinese Sichuan dish, with a few alterations of course, and prepared to work my magic.

I would have loved to find a better noodle than the Bavete pasta I ended up using, but the only supermarket in town that has a wide selection of Asian noodles had…none. Okay well not none, but there was a basic vermicelli noodle and glass noodles, which have their place and time. It just wasn’t this day and with this vegan Dandan dish.

I replaced the ground meat with crumbled tofu and instead of buying the slightly greasier already ground up version, I pressed a brick of firm tofu and then crumbled it with my fingers. I added a bunch of seasoning to the crumbled tofu including salt & pepper, piri piri powder, ginger, lemongrass powder, Worcestershire and Korean chili flakes, many of which I also used in the sauce. To cook the tofu I used a tablespoon of coconut oil, adding it one teaspoon at a time as needed.

Once it started to brown around the edges, it was time to add the sliced onions, garlic (8 or 9 cloves), ginger and the white stems from some bok choy.

Once the tougher vegetables cooked until they started to crisp around the edges, I tossed in the chopped bok choy greens until they began to wilt. And then I added the delicious sauce which I had to make and tweak so if it’s not perfect, oh well.

I used soy sauce, ground ginger, coconut sugar, tomato paste, gochugaru, Sriracha, grated garlic, water and cornstarch for the sauce. I added a bit more water once the sauce was in the pan just to be sure everything was coated once it was all in the pan together.

In between all this, I worked on a quick garnish and slaw.

This is just about 20 grams of peanuts chopped, a half a scallion sliced on a bias and a few drops of rice wine vinegar to go right on top of your DanDan noodles.

And because this is a pretty spicy dish, at least when I make it, I whipped up a quick slaw to help cool things down for my husband. Not only was it incredibly delicious, but he REALLY appreciated the coolant.

I sliced half a small cucumber on a bias and then halved them lengthwise, sliced a Pink Lady apple, the rest of the scallion from the garnish and about 80 grams of green cabbage. Tossed it with vegan yogurt, cumin, lemon juice and mint and that was it.

Eat up the heat and cool it down with the slaw. It made for a very delicious vegan noodle dish that I will definitely make again and probably tweak about a hundred times until I’m completely satisfied.

Pofta Buna!

Vegan Recipes That Didn’t Make The Cut

One of the things I’ve learned while blogging about my cooking adventures as a vegan, is that not all recipes are created equal.

Duh, right? That’s what I thought too.

But it turns out that for a home cook who specializes in taste, not sight, it’s not that simple.

So I thought today it’d be fun to go through some of the recipes that didn’t make the cut, mostly because they didn’t photograph well but sometimes we were too hungry to take photos before diving in and eating. Sometimes they didn’t turn out–photo wise–how I thought they would or wanted them to. So I scrapped them.

Until today.

This was my attempt at a vegan quiche, not to recreate the eggy flavor of quiche, but just the essence of quiche if you will. I used cornmeal and flour, a couple vegan eggs, almond milk and chopped veggies. It was very tasty but it needed to cook a bit longer and I think I need about 30 grams more of cornmeal.

I was a little liberal with the vegan cheese on top but as you can see it wasn’t very good about melting, but don’t worry I’ll spare you my gripes about the state of vegan cheese. This time.

Then I made a delicious and simple spaghetti dish. Fresh Roma tomatoes blended with sun dried tomatoes, garlic, basil, oregano, piri piri and whole wheat spaghetti. It was yummy. Turns out, not so photogenic.

Spaghetti always provides an excellent excuse to indulge in a little vegan parm.

Maybe there’s something about pasta dishes, because my husband made a sort of mac & cheese pie, using these “macheroni” that are long like spaghetti but they’re hollow so when they expand after cooking they are gigantic. He tried to tame them and with the help of cumin, turmeric, smoky paprika, tofu in salty water (called saramura in Romanian) it was pretty tasty.

But not too pretty to look at.

Then there’s my go to dish when I’m lazy and hungry: fresh veggies & Asian noodles.

Tastes good, but when you add the noodles the photos are weird so enjoy this photo of the oyster mushrooms, asparagus, bell pepper and onions before they were tossed onto a bed of noodles.

Simple vegan meals are always great because they take almost no time but taste like they took a long time!

…and sometimes the chili is a tad too water-y.

With avocado for him and without for me. 😀

And then there are the photos that just don’t do a meal justice, like this vegan gnocchi with green sauce.

Though I hope you enjoyed my missteps, I hope this teaches you a valuable lesson in that you don’t have to worry if a dish isn’t pretty. Unless you have kids, then I’m told that sometimes matters.

Make taste and nutrition, not photo-worthiness, a priority.

Spicy Braised Tofu & Rice

One of my favorite things about Asian cuisine and vegan cuisine is just how easy it is to make a dish that is both quick and easy, plus packed with flavor. As much as I love to cook, I have a fairly busy life as a ghostwriter, author, blogger and foodie, not to mention wife, friend and daughter. Cooking a long meal reminiscent of American Thanksgiving isn’t exactly what I’m into when it’s my turn in the kitchen.

That’s why I am obsessed with cooking shows, both on television and YouTube. And trust me, I’m not one of those purists who refuses to watch cooking videos made with animal products, I watch them for ideas on flavors and seasoning, ALWAYS with a mind towards veganizing. So when I came across this braised chicken dish all I could think of was braised tofu.

Braised tofu, y’all.

The first thing I did was season the tofu. You can choose any flavor combo you desire, but since I planned to use my Korean chili flakes, I used an allspice rub with curry, cumin, smoky and spicy paprika, and a pinch of coriander. Add some dark soy sauce or vegan Worcestershire to penetrate the tofu, trust me this will make sure the flavor goes all the way down to the center. Nothing is worse than spending time cooking a piece of tofu only for it to come out bland and tasteless.

Set aside the tofu and chop your onions, garlic, ginger and bok choy, separating the stems from the leaves since they have different cook times.

Once everything is chopped, put on water to boil for your rice. Again, I’m not a rice purist, I buy what I feel like eating because, as a carb-a-holic, I prefer different types of rice for different dishes. For this braised tofu dish I used jasmine rice because it smells good and because I love the way the long thin grains seem to soak up sauces.

Take moment to make the sauce for braising. It’s super simple, all you need is soy sauce, coconut sugar (optional), Korean chili flakes, scallions and lime juice. Whisk it all together in a bowl with 1/2 cup of water, adding more if needed. Set aside for later.

Add a bit of olive or coconut oil to a deep skillet along with tofu, cooking on each side about 4 to 5 minutes, until it gets brown and crispy. Then remove the tofu from the skillet and set aside. Note: You may have to do this in batches unless you have a giant skillet.

Add a bit more oil if needed and then add ginger, onion and bok choy stems (white part) and sliced garlic to saute for a few minutes, about 5 to 7 minutes. Then add the greens and let them start to steam or wilt.

Add the sauce to the pan and stir, letting it simmer until it begins to reduce.

Then add the tofu and make sure everything is coated before turning off the fire.

That’s it…when the rice is done you are ready to eat.

Serve on a bed of rice or noodles and sprinkle with sesame seeds (optional).

And if you’re feeling a little parched…feel free to add something cold to drink!

What’s your favorite way to have tofu? If you like this dish and make it, please share photos & comments below!

Vegan Kimchi: First Attempt

As you’ve probably learned by now, I am a HUGE fan of Asian cuisine. I love it all–Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, Szechuan–and I’m not afraid to change it up, experiment or vegan-ize. One of the dishes I’ve been a little terrified of trying was kimchi, for obvious reasons. The idea of fermenting and all that just seemed really daunting.

But it turns out that I was just watching and reading really, super, incredibly complicated recipes. Then I discovered the funny, adorable and skillful teacher that is Maangchi, and I’ve finally done it…made my own kimchi!

Now I could go on and on and on about the benefits of eating kimchi or other fermented vegetables, starting with good gut bacteria that helps keep you healthy. It also lowers cholesterol, it is packed with antioxidants which can boost your immune system and slow down the aging process. On top of all that it is spicy and crunchy and delicious.

This is a simple kimchi recipe but that doesn’t mean that it’s a simple recipe, so I’ll walk you through each step the same way I went through it!

The first step is to cut and core 1 pound of Napa cabbage. I just bought a really big one and cut it into quarters, using the rest to make slaw for other dishes. In a large bowl combined 1/2 cup of water and 1 tbsp of salt and toss a few times. Set it aside for 30 minutes, mixing it with your hands every 10 minutes.

While you’re waiting the 30 minutes, you can chop vegetables and get the “anchovy” paste going.

I stared with the veggies because I’m pretty quick & handy with a knife. I cut half a large carrot into slices and then matchsticks, and then did the same with the daikon, cucumber and scallions. Set aside in a bowl for later.

Now for the paste. Clearly we won’t be using anchovies so I used a homemade mixture of my own creation to get that salty, bitter taste produced by the tiny fish. You’ll need Worcestershire & soy sauce (3 tbsp. total), capers, glutinous flour and 1/2 cup of water.

Mix those ingredients together in a pot over medium heat until it is reduced to a thick paste.

Add in 1/3 cup of chili flakes, 1 tsp. coconut sugar to the paste mixture and set aside until it’s cool. Just a note that 1/3 cup of Korean chili flakes produces A LOT of heat. For me the spice level was a 7 or 8 and I LOVE spice. For the Hubs, he added vegan yogurt because it was that spicy.

An amazing purchase from Amazon! These flakes are sweet and flavorful and they pack an incredible punch!

Take 3 garlic cloves, 1 medium onion and 1 tbsp. of ginger and mix in food processor until blended, then stir into chili flake mixture.

Take a moment to rinse & drain your Napa cabbage when the 30 minutes is up and set aside.

Now, grab your gloves and get ready to toss the Napa and veggies with this yummy chili sauce! You’ll have to do it a minute or two, maybe more, to get it all good and coated. Then put it in a serving dish and garnish with sesame seeds (optional but yummy!).

If you need to add more seasoning, I recommend staring with sea salt, lime juice or rice vinegar until you find just the right blend to please your palate.

This kept in the fridge for about 3 days. I’m not sure if it would have lasted more because we ate it. We ate it like it was going out of style because it was just that good.

Got any kimchi hacks or advice? Leave’em in the comments below!

Plant Based Pad Thai

Noodles are one of the greatest culinary treasures around in my humble opinion. They cook fast, are incredibly versatile and if you choose the right one you can actually help your diet, health or weight loss goals.

Of course I won’t pretend that my love of noodles is all about health because it’s mostly about…carbs. And the fact that I am a sucker for an Asian flavored dish with noodles. The town we live in has just one real Asian restaurant and honestly, it’s fast food Asian and only good if you’re in a bind or feeling extra lazy. So if I want some delicious vegan Pad Thai, I have to make it myself.

This is a fairly easy dish to make and if you take care of your prep early (as in prepare it) the time will fly by even quicker.

I did a little something different with this one, adding scrambled tofu to the mix to give it another depth of flavor.

Grab your favorite vegetables to get started. I used:

Napa cabbage
Bell pepper (red & green)
Onions
Scallions
Firm tofu
Garlic
Ginger
Flat whole wheat noodles
Soy Sauce

First you want to take the tofu and crumble it up with your fingers or a fork, usually a combination of both works well together. It will look like scrambled eggs in texture and once you add turmeric, garlic granules, salt & black pepper it’ll look exactly like that. Cook it in a dry skillet that is nonstick or has been seasoned properly. Don’t start moving the tofu around right away, let the sizzle start and then push it around the pan. If it cooks too quickly add a teaspoon or two of almond milk (unsweetened) and keep going until it looks like the above photo and set aside.

Then move on to the Thai peanut sauce!

The base is scallions, chopped peanuts and red pepper flakes. Then I added soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and a pinch of brown sugar because I added about a tablespoon of Sriracha. This is optional but I promise you’ll love it drizzled over the top of your vegan Pad Thai.

Cook the veggies, starting with those that have the longest cook time down to the shortest cook time, which means adding the Napa cabbage last because it only needs a few minutes and you want it to retain that delicious crunch!

Cook the noodles according to the instructions, toss and enjoy!

Sesame Pineapple Cauliflower & Rice

One of the first things any new vegan must learn is the beauty of food substitutions. If you love tacos, which I do, then you have to get on board the bean or tofu train to replace that meat. If you love burgers which, again, I DO, then beans and lentils will become staples in your pantry. The same is true for all kinds of dishes that include animal products.

But thanks to the pervasiveness of Facebook, I’ve found another great substitute in certain meat dishes. Cauliflower.

Now before you scrunch your face up and making gagging puke noises, hear me out. Cauliflower is a sturdy beast. It is super filling for how few calories it has (25 calories per 100 grams or 150 calories for a medium sized head), but it is also an amazing source of vitamins C, K and B6. Oh, and did I mention how it’s mild flavor makes it perfect in all kinds of dishes. In fact, don’t be surprised to see our cauliflower buffalo “wings” or the cauliflower and chickpea curry that’s in constant rotation in our house when the weather turns cold…which it now has.

So I came across a Sticky Pineapple Cauliflower recipe on Chocolate Covered Katie and I wanted to try it out so bad but before I had the chance, the hubs beat me to it! I was (not so secretly) pleased about it because he’s much better at adhering to set recipes than I am, and he’s much better at the whole presentation aspect which makes for better pictures.

Since he followed her recipe to the letter, minus serving it inside the pineapple because she must have wicked knife skills to achieve that, there’s no point rehashing the recipe here. Check out Katie’s link above.