Ever since Trader Joe’s moved into town I buy their challah rolls to make into french toast or bread pudding. [Side note: I tried to make my own challah loaf once but I used whole wheat flour, cut down on the sugar, and… it turned out like high-fiber whole wheat sandwich bread.] Anyways, one way to make bread pudding healthier is to sub silken tofu instead of eggs.  I used to use Nasoya’s Silken Creations recipes but I think they must have discontinued the line and so I’ve had to start experimenting on my own. Also, my latest craze is meyer lemons. I bought a 2lb bag and in the past two weeks I’ve made lemon cream cheese bars (graham cracker crust), lemon mascarpone chess pie (gingersnap crust), and this recipe:

3-4 small lemons, preferably meyer
1/2 cup sugar
1 20 oz. tub silken tofu, drained
1/2 cup blueberries
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
2 challah or brioche rolls (7 oz. total)

Zest and juice the lemons straight into a blender jar. Add the tofu and sugar, and blend until everything is uniformly liquid. Cube the rolls into 1 inch pieces and spread them into an 8″x8″ pan. Add the blueberries and white chocolate chips. Spread the tofu batter over the bread pieces, and mix well with a spatula.

Pre-heat the oven to 350, and let the mixture sit for at least 10 minutes to let everything soak and meld. Bake for 40 minutes or until the corners start to brown and the center is set. Serve warm.

Curry Beef Puffs

These were very very experimental in concept and execution. Thankfully, they turned out AMAZING.

1/2 package of puff pastry (3 sections), thawed
1 cup meatless crumbles
1/4 onion
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon curry powder
oil for sauteing

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Dice the onion and mince the garlic, saute until the onion is clear. Add meatless crumbles and curry powder and cook just long enough so that the meat is not frozen. Roll each section of the puff pastry out until it is about 4 inches wide, 1/8-in thick. Divvy up the meat mixture amongst the three puff pastry sheets, but only place the meat on 1/2 of each sheet.

Each sheet is going to be folded in half and then cut into five sections, so try to spoon the meat into 5 lines. Fold the other half of the pastry sheet over the meat, gently press the dough down between each division, and cut it into 5 strips with a pizza cutter (spraying the pizza cutter with oil first will help).

Just for aesthetic purposes, you can spray the tops with oil and sprinkle sesame seeds (or use an egg white wash to make it  brown nicely).  Bake them for 22-25 minutes, or until they are nicely brown and crispy. Separate with a spatula and eat!

I had to go back to Houston for a wedding in March 2009. Here’s a collection of veg-friendly photos I finally managed to get off of my phone. The frozen veggie items are from Golden Foods Supermarket on Bellaire Blvd. If only Houston were this veggie friendly back in the college days…

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Not sure how to transliterate these… tsong? zong? joong? And apparently in Mandarin it’s zongzi or bah tzang. My aunts used to make these and I miss them SO MUCH. Sticky, glutinous rice wrapped around salty protein–they’re awesome for Maine winters even though they are associated with the Dragon Boat Festival in June. I haven’t had these since I went vegetarian EIGHTEEN YEARS AGO, not counting the sweet dessert ones. This recipe makes 12 big dumplings.

What you’ll need:
2.5 lbs of (uncooked) sticky rice (I eyeballed half a 5 lb bag)
6-8 black mushrooms
15 dried chestnuts
15 raw peanuts
1.5 cups of veggie beef jerky
2 green onions
3 tbsp veggie oyster sauce (mushroom sauce)
2 cloves garlic
2 dashes star aniseed
2 tsp sesame oil for saute-ing
36 dried bamboo leaves

While I was at it I also made some dessert dumplings with red beans in the blue ramekin– just add about 1/2 cup of rice and 9 bamboo leaves for 3 additional dumplings.

Several ingredients require soaking, so… get that started. First, rinse the rice and let that soak for 3 hours. Next, rinse the peanuts and chestnuts, soak them in warm water together. Then wash the bamboo leaves thoroughly with a veggie brush. Set them to soak in warm water and trim the woody stems off. Rinse and soak the mushrooms on their own for about 30 minutes.

Once the mushrooms are soft, we can prepare the “meaty” filling while the other ingredients are soaking. Drain the mushrooms (retain the liquid!) and cut them up into large chunks, trimming the stems. Heat the sesame oil in a stir-fry pan, and add the mushrooms. Snip the onions into rings, mince the garlic, and add those to the frying pan. Once the mushrooms begin to brown, add the veggie oyster sauce. Then add the jerky and a few tablespoons of the liquid that the mushroom soaked in, just enough so that the jerky doesn’t get dry. Add the star aniseed, mix, and let that sit until everything else is finished soaking.

Once the rice is done soaking, drain it and return it to the bowl. Drain the chestnuts and peanuts, chop the chestnuts into quarters, and mix them back in with the peanuts. Okay, so you should have 4 separate stations: the bamboo leaves (still in water), the rice, the chestnuts/peanuts, and the mushroom/jerky mixture.

Wrapping: I watched like 1,000 youtube videos until I found one that was the correct shape and size. “Correct” being the shape that I recall from childhood. I used the method in the video below, but I only used 3 leaves per dumpling instead of 4 and it worked out well. The filling volumes I used are about the same too.

Once you have them all wrapped, boil them for 2 hours, unwrap, and eat! They also freeze very well, just wrap them tightly and individually, and steam them for about 45 mins to reheat.

Rice noodles, broth, baby bok choy, and slices of faux beef… it’s like all the good food groups in one bowl. This makes about 4 servings.

7 cups water
1-1.5 tsps better than bouillon (to taste)
8 oz. rice noodles (1/2 of a package)
4-5 shitake mushrooms, rinsed
~2 cups dry veggie beef slices (see beef stew recipe)
12 baby bok choy
2 green onions, chopped
2 dashes white pepper
2 dashes star anise

You can also use frozen beef strips (like Morningstar Farms) or seitan slices, just add them at the end and decrease the water and bouillon amounts.

Start the water boiling and add the bouillon, spices, mushrooms, and green onion. Once it is boiling, add the noodles. About four minutes after adding the noodles, turn the heat off and add the beef slices. Let that rest another 4 minutes. Once the nooodles are done, add the baby bok choy and serve immediately. If you don’t eat this in one sitting, take the noodles out of the broth or else they will oversoak and turn to mush.

Beef Stew

This isn’t a Chinese dish but it’s winter in Maine so… stew it is.

I bought these at May Wah Healthy Vegetarian store last time I was in NYC:

The guy warned us that they have absolutely no taste on their own, so you have to marinade it or cook it in a broth. It also comes in “chicken,” which I’m pretty sure just means “tan.”

6 cups water
1 tsp Better than Bouillon
2 1/2 cups (dry) beef slices
3/4 of a large onion
1 large clove garlic
4 carrots
4-5 small potatoes
3 stalks of celery (if desired. I hate cooked celery.)
3 tbsp flour
1-2 tbsp oil for sauteing

seasonings: I used a dash of Italian seasoning and 2 tsp of vegan Worcestershire sauce, but you can experiment.

Mince garlic and chop the onion into large chunks. Saute the onion in a large pot until the onion is just beginning to brown at the edges. Add the garlic and saute for another 2-3 minutes. Add all of the water, the bouillon, and seasonings. Chop the potatoes and carrots into large chunks and add to the soup. Let that cook at a simmer for at least 30-45 minutes, until the potatoes are cooked but not falling apart. Add the dry beef slices. Next, ladle out about 1/2 cup of the broth into a cup and whisk in the flour with this broth until no lumps remain. Return the thickened broth to the pot and stir the entire mixture. Stew!

does beef stew ever photograph well?


Steamed Meatballs

Wikipedia has the Cantonese name of these as “saan zuk ngau juk kau” but that last word doesn’t sound familiar to me… Eh, not important.  These are basically a wonderful medium for worcestershire sauce (anchovy alert!).  They are traditionally served on tofu skins but I didn’t want to buy a whole package for this recipe so i used a bed of watercress in my steamer. This recipe is borrowed and modified from Ellen Leong Blonder’s recipe in Dim Sum.

Update 6/2/10:  added TVP to this recipe because I thought the original was way too salty. You’ll get 8-9 meatballs instead, so you may have to steam in batches. Also removed baking soda as an ingredient.

1/3 package of Gimme Lean beef
1/3 package of Gimme Lean sausage
1/3 cup TVP, moistened with 1/4 cup warm water
1/2 tsp cooking wine or rice wine (optional)
1 egg white
1 tsp veg. oyster sauce (sometimes labeled as mushroom sauce)
dash soy sauce (less than 1 tsp)
1/2 tsp sugar
1/8 tsp white pepper
1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tbsp cornstarch
tofu sheets or bed of watercress
green onions for garnish
vegan worcestershire sauce (available at Whole Foods/natural markets)
1-2 dried tangerine peel pieces (optional)

this is a lot of ingredients for meatballs, right?

Soak tangerine peel in hot water for 30 mins to soften. In a large bowl blend both “meats” together with the TVP. Mix in soy sauce, oyster/mushroom sauce, sugar, sesame oil, and corn starch. Once your tangerine peel has softened, mince and add to meat mixture. Form large meatballs- traditionally they are about 2 inches in diameter.

Place in a steam-safe dish on a bed for tofu skin or watercress, making sure you don’t cover too much of the bottom so the steam can rise.

Plate the meatballs, placing the tofu skins or watercress underneath.  Spoon worcestershire sauce on top (I used to stab a hole in the top of my meatballs with a chopstick for maximum sauce capacity).  Garnish with green onions and serve.

steamed meatballs!

BTW I just want to show a close-up of the tangerine peel:

It's Your Buddy!

Cantonese: pai gwut

Another classic dim sum dish I really miss.  They do a really great version at Buddha Bodai in Manhattan’s Chinatown.  I basically followed the recipe in Ellen Leong Blonder’s wonderful book Dim Sum, substituting seitan for the spare ribs.


1 8oz. package cubed seitan
1/2 tbsp cornstarch
1 tsp fermented black beans
1/4 to 1/2 tsp chili paste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp rice wine (I subbed cooking wine)
1/4 tsp sugar
3 slices fresh ginger

Cut corner of seitan pouch and drain, squeezing out at much water as you can without damaging the seitan. Empty seitan into a large bowl and mix with corstarch. Mix remaining ingredients in separate bowl. Pour sauce onto seitan, mix well, and let it sit for 30 minutes to an hour, turning at least once (otherwise it will taste like spareribs on the outside, seitan on the inside).  Pour the entire mixture into a steam-safe bowl or dish, making sure the edges do not touch the sides of your steamer.  Steam for 15-20 minutes until hot. Discard ginger slices and serve.

black bean spareribs

I had to look up what “moo shu” (actually “muk sui” in Cantonese) meant in Chinese since it doesn’t translate in any way that makes sense… like “hot dog.” According to the wikipedia entry on the etymology, it doesn’t make literal sense and there’s some dispute over how the name came about. Anyways I don’t think we ever made these at home but I have fond memories of eating them in restaurants. There’s just something about going out to a restaurant only to make your own food…

You can play with the ingredients according to what you have in your fridge and what you like.  Each moo shu burrito will take about 3/4 – 1 cup of filling.

Basic ingredients:
moo shu pancakes (store bought or make your own)
white pepper
soy sauce and/or shaoxing cooking wine
sesame oil for stir-frying
lots of hoisin sauce

And for the filling, you can use any combination of:
tofu, drained and cut into slices
veggie chicken cutlets, shredded
green onions, greens cut into 1-inch pieces, whites into rings
chinese chives
regular onion, sliced
carrots, julienned
shitake mushrooms, soaked and sliced
dried tiger lily bulbs, soaked and cut into 1-inch pieces
canned bamboo shoots
scrambled eggs (pre-scrambled)
bean sprouts
cabbage, shredded thin
baby corn, sliced

I got about 6 moo shus worth of filling with 1 carrot, 1 can seitan (chai pow yu), 1/5 head cabbage, 2 cloves garlic, 3 big mushrooms, 2 green onions, 3/4 cup dried tiger lily bulbs, and 1/3 of an onion.
moo shu veggies

Store-bought moo shu pancakes:
moo shu pancakes

Tiger lily buds, which are the closed buds of the bright orange tiger lily plant and readily available at any Asian grocer (very common in hot & sour soup):
tiger lily buds
Preheat your pan to med-high with 1-2 tbsp oil and add the ingredients in the order they need to fry– tofu, carrots, onions (both kinds), cabbage, then garlic. You can time each addition about 2 minutes apart, and then add the rest of the ingredients that don’t need to be cooked– mushrooms, tiger lily bulbs, seitan, bamboo shoots, etc. But NOT the bean sprouts or they will turn to mush.  Add 2 tbsp shaoxing wine, 2 tbsp soy sauce, and a generous dash of white pepper.  These aren’t key, since most of the flavor will come from your veggies and the hoisin sauce anyways.  Once everything is cooked but not soggy, turn off the heat and make sure everything is mixed.  Add bean sprouts at this point.
stir-frying the moo shu filling

Take a pancake, smear generously with hoisin sauce, fill with veggies, and wrap it like a burrito but with one end open. Keep the pancakes moist and only fill/wrap moo shus as you eat them or the liquid from the veggies will soak through the pancakes and they’ll turn to mush. Also, when you scoop the filling from your pan, try to avoid as much liquid as you can. Enjoy!

moo shu veggies

I went to the Maine Vegetarian Food Festival last year and picked up a list of commonly-used Hidden Animal Ingredients.  I was reminded of it today because we bought a bottle of Sobe Lifewater, “yumberry pomegranate” flavor:

Sobe Lifewater

Apparently it’s supposed to “purify” me with these ingredients:


“Cochineal extract” is made from crushed scale insects that look like this:

Just goes to show– you can’t even trust the most innocuous-looking fluids not to have animal ingredients.