Asia Scenic Goes Vegan: My Day at One of Chiang Mai’s Thai Cooking Schools

IMG_4033

Another fond look back at the hiatus, and my experience at Chiang Mai’s Asia Scenic Cooking Class. Curry appreciation, galore. Continue reading

The night the pea shoots came to dinner

The night the pea shoots came to dinner was a very good night, indeed.

Pea shoots are wonderful. The flavor is just so damn…fresh. I picked up a bunch from my weekly trip the farmers market last weekend, and while my first thought was to serve them fresh with lemon juice on top of beet burgers, I ended up sauteing them, yet again, and the result was lovely.

It was one of those casual, homemade meals, that I swear, can make your evening. It had been some times since I had made pasta – let alone, traditional (and beloved) white pasta – and on top of that, it was a clean-out-the-fridge meal that utilized two farmers market purchases: the sun-dried tomatoes I picked up in Eugene last month, and the aforementioned pea shoots. Inspiration, am I right?

Here’s the gist:

Saute four cloves of minced garlic in olive oil for 2-3 minutes, add 3 ounces of sun-dried (truly dried) tomatoes, a pinch of sea salt and a dash of pepper – I used freshly ground white. Add enough white wine to cover and bring to a boil. Stir in a teaspoon of white miso, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, half a tablespoon of Earth Balance, and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes, or until the sauce has reduced. Had it been two months ahead, I would have thrown in some cherry tomatoes.

Boil water for pasta – I used capellini, which cooks in under 3 minutes. Immediately after you put the pasta in to cook, saute 3 cloves of thinly sliced garlic in a little bit of olive oil in a separate pan, and stir in washed pea shoots. I find the long pieces classier, for whatever reason, and enjoy that delusion, but feel free to cut them.  Add a splash of water or white wine or broth, stir, and cover until wilted. At this point, your pasta is likely done, so drain it, toss it with the sauce as desired, and plate over wilted pea shoots, making sure to include the garlic. I served this dish with nooch on the side, but didn’t find it calling for any.  What I did enjoy was a chilled glass of white, of course.

Let’s do this.

The final plate was garnished with nothing more than fresh, flat-leaf parsley.

organic pea shoots from Portland, organic sun-dried tomatoes from Eugene.

It’s true. Get Sconed! <3 extra virgin olive oil.

Mushroom Miso Ramen

Last night, I realized something. If I’m going to be making ramen stock from scartch, I need to get some sweet ramen bowls. These simply will not do.

Bowls of fresh wheat noodles in mushroom miso broth, seared cremini mushrooms, sliced Korean chili pepper, seared fresh tofu with soy sauce, and a member of the choy family of greens in the back.

I went on a grocery field trip with some friends to H Mart in Tigard yesterday, and for the sake of bowls, spoons, and even more ingredients, a follow up to dear Fubonn, for convenience’s sake, is already in order. It was my first time visiting H Mart, a Korean supermarket that spells it out with a banner for the clueless stating “ASIAN SUPERMARKET” underneath its logo, and I stocked up on the following:

Most importantly: chili powder, mangosteen juice, tapioca starch, fresh tofu and DECENT fresh galangal and lemongrass. A rare find in my life.

Once the fresh* (and vegan, for once!) noodles were in my hand, I decided on ramen for dinner. My girlfriend and I have been digging the ramen in vegan miso broth at Wafu, and I felt like I could tackle something similar at home, using this recipe as a base.The final result was appropriately cloudy with a hint of spice, plenty of flavour and there’s a generous portion of broth remaining for mid-week noodles. Bring it on.

Mushroom Miso Ramen…

For the mushroom miso broth, I sautéed one chopped stalk of lemongrass, 5 cloves of roughly minced garlic, half of a diced Korean chili pepper and sliced, fresh galangal (thank you, month in Thailand) in a mixture of peanut and black sesame oils about 3-5 minutes. Next up, I added freshly ground black pepper, a handful of wild dried mushrooms – a mix of 7 or 8 local varieties I picked up from the Peoples Coop farmers market – quickly sautéed until aromatic, added a splash of dry sherry, whisked in 3 tablespoons of Korean soy sauce, 3 tablespoons of miso (half yellow, half white), 1 tablespoon of vegetarian fish sauce, a bit of vegetable bullion paste, 6 cups of water, and brought to a boil. I then lowered the heat, covered, let simmer for 30 minutes, and finally, after straining, it was ready for noodlin’.

Along with the briefly cooked fresh wheat noodles, we had fresh (and I mean glorifyingly fresh) cubes of firm tofu, seared on two sides with a splash of soy sauce, just-as-seared cremini mushrooms, even-more-seared choy, and the other half of the long Korean chili pepper for extra heat. I did not anticipate the heat this green pepper would deliver, and I’m glad I licked my finger before adding it to the stock!

It's really no surprise that I couldn't remember which choy-but-non-bok-choy I picked up.

*granted, they were fresh in a package, so, fresh-ish.

P.S.

H Mart has one of these.

Pasta at Heart

White pasta fans, you’re in luck.

I’ve spent much of the past 2 days on the phone with my sister, who just returned from a 3 week vacation in Italy. She spent her days working on small farms and her evenings sipping red wine. I’m so proud, and my kitchen has been thinking of her as I recall the brief Sicilian wanderings of my early 20s.

Cashew miso alfredo over fusillata casarecci with sauteed morels and fresh parsley.

This isn’t the first nut-based alfredo that’s come my way, and barring any further, emerging allergies, won’t the be the last. And I just can’t put into words how stellar and succulent the Earth Balance sautéed morels were with this. Wait.

Cashew Miso Alfredo

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup soaked raw cashews
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2-3 cloves worth of sliced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin, cold pressed olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • pinch freshly grated nutmeg
  • pinch fresh thyme
  • 1/2 – 1 teaspoon white miso (less can be more – same goes for the garlic)
  • salt & pepper (preferably white), to taste
  • fresh parsley
Directions:
  1. Saute the sliced garlic in the olive oil for 3-4 minutes over medium heat.
  2. Remove from heat, and carefully add to blender, along with the rest of the ingredients, with the exception of the parsley.
  3. Gently reheat in a small saucepan, and whisk in more water if needed.
  4. Serve over pasta or other entrée, and sprinkle with fresh parsley and additional pepper, if desired.
_____________________________________________________________
Next up, a vibrant edition in the never-ending, clean-out-the-fridge series. It’s a take on this recipe, which was inspired by the smokey mac at Bang Bang Cafe in Seattle. I left out the (pointless – I was simply out of oil?!) bit of packaged vegan cheese this time around, and skipping the cashews, incorporated both roasted red peppers and coconut milk into the pureed sauce.

Smokey Roasted Red Pepper and Coconut Mac & Cheeze

_____________________________________________________________

Tomatoes are having a slow start this summer. Sadness. I finally spotted some at the Montavilla Farmers Market  a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve grabbed a pint at every market since then. Fast forward a couple of more weeks, and I’m impatiently expecting true sweetness!

Orrechiete with sautéed red and sungold cherry tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, purple and roasted garlic, olive oil, fresh basil, crushed red pepper and fresh black pepper. Served with balsamic roasted green beans, with a pinch of brown sugar. The pasta dish was inspired by a similar meal from a downtown food cart last week.

Spicy Thai Basil Noodles with Soft Tofu, Peanuts & Garlic Scapes

local garlic scapes have arrived.

It’s time for my warm weather motto: I may hate the heat, but I heart farmers markets. I also heart venturing into other neighborhoods and secretly pretending that I live in them. The day will come that I move out of my dear Division St. apartment. That day could bring me further-out southeast into a neighborhood I have strong feelings for – Lents. I’m a frequent visitor to the farmers market, particularly come late July, because the hot pepper prices are unreal. I took my first trip of the season to the market opener on Sunday, and while I was ‘out there’, I stopped by J.C. Rice Noodle for a couple pounds of their fresh namesake, fresh tofu, and continued onto Fubonn for randomness. Once home, I quickly threw together something of a Pad Kee Mow with saucey, soft tofu and roasted peanuts taking the place of the scrambled eggs.

There is nothing quite like the combination of fresh rice noodles you pull apart with your hands, salty soy sauce, hot chiles and fresh yet sweet Thai basil. What a freaking thrill to semi-confidently create things like this (without the worries of fishy sauces) at home. WHAT A FREAKING THRILL.

holy.basil.

Spicy Thai Basil Noodles with Soft Tofu and Peanuts

Serves 3-4

Note: This sauce is based on my own taste buds of the moment. If you like things sweeter/saltier/spicier, do it. I’ll be listing the bolded ingredients in rounds, as I started mixing and cooking like so…

Round 1 of Ingredients:

  • 1/2 package soft, water packed tofu, drained
  • 2 tablespoons vegetarian stir fry/mushroom sauce, like this 
  • 2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons vegetarian fish sauce, like this
  • 1 small handful roasted peanuts
  • 1 teaspoon ketchup
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon chili garlic paste, like so
  • dash of black sesame oil
  • pinch turmeric
  • pinch black salt
  • fresh lime juice, to taste

Mash together the tofu and above ingredients with a fork in a medium or large bowl. Leave some chunks of tofu. Set aside.

Round 2 

  • 1.5 cups chopped vegetables: I went with swiss chard, daikon, carrots, asparagus and zucchini
  • 1-2 cups of vegan protein of choice: tempeh cubes, tofu strips, seitan, or tofu sheet knots
  • Cooking oil of choice

Tofu Sheet Knots: because sometimes you need to buy things out of the freezer at Fubonn with your eyes closed

If using a frozen protein, make sure to defrost. Pan fry your protein in 1/2 tablespoon oil on medium heat for 5 minutes, turning over to reach a golden brown. Remove from oil and set aside.

Heat the same pan and add more oil if needed (I didn’t). Add your vegetables and stir fry for an additional 5 minutes over medium heat. Add a tiny splash of vegetable broth or white wine if vegetables begin to stick. You want to keep your vegetables vibrant – do not over cook. Remove from pan and set aside.

In the same pan you keep on using, sauté the following:

  • 1 clove minced garlic
  • 2 garlic scapes, chopped (whatever, use the top!)
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • 1-3 minced Thai chiles – stick to 1 if you’re unsure and grab the Sriracha later!
  • 1/2 tablespoon cooking oil

Tightly sealed Thai chiles, clearly not from the farmers market

Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently. Pour in the tofu mixture and bring to a boil.

It'll look like this mess.

Once boiling, lower heat and cook until some sauce is absorbed, about 2-4 minutes. Quickly add cooked noodles (Note: if using fresh noodles, rinse or immerse in cool water first) for 2-4 servings, vegetables, vegan protein, and a handful of fresh Thai holy basil.
Serve quickly, garnished with fresh bean sprouts, more Thai basil, roasted peanuts & lime wedges.

If you're awesome, you'll garnish it with a curled scape.

behold, the casual Lents International Farmers Market

Anatomy of a Grocery Trip, from Fubonn: Thai holy basil,ginger,bean sprouts,limes,Thai chilis,Tacoma soft tofu,coconut milk,young coconut juice,lychee juice,mango nectar,Ota soy nectar,fried seitan,frozen tofu knots,tamari,vermicelli noodles,coconut cookies,roasted seaweed snacks,roasted green tea,vegetarian mushroom stir fry sauce

Smokey Baked Mac & Cheese and inspiration from Bang Bang Cafe in Seattle, WA

Smokey Mac & Cheese, inspired by Bang Bang Cafe

This recipe marked the first time I’d turned to VegWeb for guidance in years. The veg recipe directory and LiveJournal’s vegan cooking communities were my learn-as-you-go and read-the-comments because you can only-sorta-trust-the-internet tip toes into the vegan culinary world back in the early 2000s. It’s like I can recall mildly freaking out when the number of nutritional yeast sauce recipes rose above 10. After our time apart, I admit that I really enjoyed seeing that most of the recipes I perused were still called “The Best Ever” “The Very Best Ever” “Mom’s Best” “The Best in the World!!!!”, etc. I like vegan enthusiasm.

To get to the point, I just decided to chance it on the internet, test my tastebuds and emulate the memorable vegan mac & cheese my friend Chelsea ordered at Bang Bang Cafe at Seattle this past weekend. I stole a couple of bites, and I was a little jealous that I hadn’t ordered their smokey vegan mac for breakfast, too!  I thought it was so good that it must contain vegan cheese, and was surprised to learn that it was tofu and nutritional yeast based! Swell.

Back to Bang Bang, where I fed my bourbon-induced mild hangover a more wholesome bean and roasted veggie filled burrito. When I returned, however, I had a potluck meeting to attend to the next day and after browsing my limited ingredients and finding a box of whole wheat shells, knew it was time to eye my 2 jars of Spanish smoked sweet paprika, Hungarian hot paprika, Hungarian half sweet paprika, Alder smoked salt and my good buddy, the giganto container of nutritional yeast flakes. The finished result didn’t seem to fit everyone’s tastes – which is how vegan mac & cheese always seems to work – but more than a couple folks seemed obsessed and another friend had me write down the recipe, so here we go. Dare I say I had fun making a mac & cheese recipe where you simply had to puree the cheesy sauce ingredients..because, I did.

Smokey Baked Mac & Cheese, adapted from Best Vegan Mac and Cheese in the entire world…seriously, as posted on VegWeb.com. I halved the recipe and made a few changes based on what I was aiming for and had on hand.Go, go smokey, creamy mac!

Ingredients:

  •    3/4 lb whole wheat pasta or rice pasta, preferably with ridges

Cheesy sauce

  •     1/2 cup unsweetened nondairy milk (I used a combination of So Delicious coconut milk beverage and soy milk)
  •     3/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
  •     1-2 tablespoons of olive oil or non-hydrogenated margarine
  •     1/2 cup water
  •     2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
  •     1/2 cup soaked and drained raw cashews
  •     1 clove of garlic
  •     1/2 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • pinch cayenne
  • pinch hot paprika
  •     generous pinch of salt (add more to taste after blending sauce)
  •     1 tablespoon mustard (I used TJ’s spicy sweet mustard)
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Additional: 
  • OPTIONAL: 1/4 cup vegan cheese (I used Teese cheddar sauce)
  • breadcrumbs
  • pinch of additional paprika and cayenne
  • olive oil mister/spray
  • smoked salt

Directions:

1. Preheat your oven to 350F. Lightly grease a small casserole dish. Boil the water and cook pasta 1 minute less than instructed. Drain and add to your casserole dish. You’ll want at least a couple inches of room to be able to add the cheesy sauce.

2. Puree the cheesy sauce ingredients  in a blender until smooth and adjust the seasonings to taste. Carefully stir into the cheesy sauce and vegan cheese, if using.

3. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs evenly on top, followed by the smoked salt and additional paprika and cayenne, if using. Lightly spray with oil. Bake until the breadcrumbs looks golden, 15-20 minutes. Broil an additional 5 minutes, if desired.

Serve with steamed greens, unless you’re nuts.

Bang Bang's Vegan Mac & Cheese

The aforementioned vegan breakfast burrito with red chile sauce

Alicia's Bang Bang burrito with red & green chile sauces

Melissa went with a classic Mighty-O Donut

spicy yellow curry noodle soup & inspiration from chau in vancouver, b.c.

Spicy Yellow Curry Noodle Soup with fried tofu, baked Masala tofu from AFR, snow peas, kale raab, baby bok choi, jalapeño, basil, garlic, ginger, v. chicken broth, etc.

Between us, sometimes I think like a blogger and frame posts in my head. They often never come to fruition for various reasons – my camera died, crap lighting, reserve/manners, annoyance, reality, etc. One thing I’ve enjoyed doing over the years is recreating memorable dishes from restaurants (and carts), but I rarely seem to talk about it on the internets. Weird shocker. Maybe too boring.

If you like to cook, you likely find yourself pondering the following: How can I put my own spin on this? How do I learn how to make this? I just don’t want to say goodbye – when do I get to eat this again? Could I make this for cheaper? Could I make this healthier? When do I get to wow guests with this? I could make this even better! etc.

Some time ago, it almost happened with a roasted butternut squash sauce and tart apple topped pizza at Hot Lips. I slowly gathered the ingredients, roasted the squash, picked up a couple of Pink Lady apples, stopped by a solid pizzeria for the dough (it’s legit!), stocked up on garlic, but forgot the fresh sage and rosemary, lost the dream, had curried squash puree for dinner and apples with my lunch the remainder of the week. You know how it goes.

A couple of weeks ago on my grand vacation in British Columbia, I enjoyed a warming bowl of veganized Vietnamese Beef Curry Pho [minus the beef and vegetarian ham, plus tofu] at the lovely Chau Kitchen & Bar in Vancouver. Once I threw in the Sriracha, there was no turning back. I practically wanted it to start raining outside (which it totally did the next day) so I could slurp noodles with my friends all afternoon.

This past weekend, before another quick trip out-of-town – this time, to table with my Vegan Iron Chef folks at Seattle’s sensational Vegan Chili Cook-Off, I spent my Saturday running errands, starting by getting my farmar on. After that, I stopped by my local tofu shop and after an internet search for ‘curry pho’ proved annoying, joined my current obsessions of Spectrum Coconut Oil spray and Southeast Asian cuisine in the Thai-style soup pictured above. My take was based on this recipe, with the additions of both fried and Masala baked tofu, green jalapeño pepper, light coconut milk, heaps of fresh, local basil and vegan subs, of course, such as dark soy sauce and nuoc man chay from Fubonn, aka vegetarian fish sauce. I wanted to keep it somewhat brothy to give the noodles something to live for, and left out the sweet potato.

Yellow Curry Pho from Chau

Uwaijimaya, Veggie Buns & PPK Udon

Boring story short, I was out on the suburban west side yesterday for an appointment, and the redeeming factor follows:

Northwest baked Veggie Buns!

The brand is based in Seattle, WA and these buns are refrigerated, alleviating the mysterious and often gross frozen food factor.

I have been on the search for more-than-decent (and non-frozen) steamed buns for years in this city! Thank you, Uwajimaya – please come downtown, soon.

These seem near identical, if not a little smaller, than the faux pork buns served at Van Hanh, and formerly, Nhut Quang, RIP. Annual visits to Vegetarian Dim Sum in New York are always wonderful, but it’s nice to know I can have a little store-bought steamed bun action at home, too.  The filling is nothing remarkable, or very discernible, but they’re indeed, more-than-decent (and convenient!) with an accompaniment.

Paired with the super quick & flavorful PPK Broccoli Curry Udon, and served with a soy/chili garlic dipping sauce. This curry includes broccolini, kale, spinach, jalapeño and sliced, baked tofu.


The mini haul: Coconut Nectar juice (which I  picked up because it didn’t have added sugar – sadly, it’s still gross), udon noodles, Sencha green tea – which I’m on my 4th or 5th cup of the day of, the Veggie Buns, non-GMO Mellow White Miso, and the indulgent purchase of Taiwanese Peanut Mochi.

Please don’t suck.

Needless to say, I have acquired a new camera, and I am fairly content so far (despite these photos being taken in a half dark kitchen).