Tag Archives: faux meat

Vegan pad thai made easy

Ottawa used to have a wonderful vegetarian Thai restaurant called Sacred Garden. Sacred Garden also happened to be about a 20 minute walk from my house, which made it both equal parts wonderful and dangerous. At Sacred Garden most dishes could be made vegan, and none contained the dreaded fish sauce that permeates Thai cuisine. They even stated right on the menu that they didn’t use it. Every trip to Sacred Garden guaranteed a fabulous mouth party. I usually stuck to the same entrees though: pad thai, panang curry, and pad ki mow. Their spring rolls brought me to tears, and induced fierce and uncontrollable cravings.

One of many visits to Sacred Garden.
I have many fond memories of Sacred Garden. I probably took just about every friend I have there at one time or another- omnivore or not. The little Thai lady who ran it knew me by name, and when I called in a take out order she always remembered, “no egg, no mushrooms” before I even had to say it. But I was out for a run in December of 2009, and when I ran past Sacred Garden I saw the sign that nobody wants to see on their favorite restaurant: CLOSED FOR BUSINESS.

I was pretty depressed for at least a week. But the repercussions have lasted long beyond that. I try not to think about Sacred Garden too often, because when I do I become despondent. We had such a good thing here… to have lost it seems beyond comprehension. Sacred Garden’s closing left a huge void in the Ottawa vegan food scene that has yet to be filled, although thank goodness for some of the fantastic eateries that we do have. I love each and every veg restaurant in this city, but none of them do Thai like Sacred Garden. Consequently, I’ve set about trying to emulate the delicious flavours that once left my mouth roaring with delight. Unfortunately, this effort has been a dismal failure.

However, there have been some good things. For one, I discovered Taste of Thai prepared pad thai sauce, and lo and behold… it’s vegan! Now, normally I prefer to make things from scratch, but I have tried, over and over, to make an adequate from-scratch pad thai and I have yet to make one that is as good as this one. It’s not perfect, it’s certainly not Sacred Garden calibre, but it gets the job done. I even made it for a co-worker and her husband, and she reported back that it was very similar to the “real” thing. Taste of Thai also makes a range of curry pastes and a spicy peanut sauce that I will blog about at a later date. They’re also not difficult to find: I’ve purchased them at Loblaws, Food Basics, and Metro.

So when I want pad thai here’s what I do (serves 3):

– Soak half a package of rice stick noodles in hot water
– In a frying pan, saute (just a bit) your choice of vegetables (lots of those). My stand-bys are red pepper, zucchini, and broccoli. I used julienned carrots and onions as well this time.
– If you’re feeling protein deficient (ha!) toss in some tofu cubes, or some sort of mock meat. I personally love it with Nelakee faux shrimp and President’s Choice meatless chicken breast.
– Add the noodles and the sauce packet. Toss to mix/warm. Serve.

Here’s the final product:

Homemade Pad Thai with faux chicken and shrimp.

Mock meats of Ottawa’s Chinatown, Part 2

From Yves Veggie Cuisine to Tofurky to Gardein to Sol to the offerings in the President’s Choice Blue Menu line, the variety of mock meats in supermarkets has exploded in recent years. Ottawa’s Chinatown is a fantastic resource for lovers of mock meats. This is the second in a series of posts to introduce readers to the treasures they can find in Chinatown and meals that can be made with them.

This time, we return to Phuoc Loi on Somerset to seek out a truly amazing invention, mushroom chicken.

These are two styles of packaging you might encounter. They have identical stuff inside.

[Update and a caution to vegans: Yesterday I noticed a sticker I had never seen before on a package of mushroom chicken: “ovo-vegetarian”. I phoned the distributor, Chialee, and they told me that there are two kinds of mushroom chicken, one containing egg and one not. The eggless ones should be stickered “vegan”.]

What can you do with it? 

You can take it out of the package, shake some salt onto it if you want, and eat it. Warning: it’s addictive! (Don’t thaw it in the microwave though. For some reason, that turns it gross.)

It’s great in stir-fries, of course. And it makes a good chicken salad, chopped up and mixed with celery and red onion and Vegenaise (although I prefer the President’s Choice mock chicken in chicken salad sandwiches).

A favourite cold-winter-day meal in our house is chicken soup made by following this soup recipe from VegWeb, minus the dumplings, plus mushroom chicken. Cut up the mock chicken, lightly brown it in a frying pan, and add to the soup just before serving.

The recipe I am going to highlight today, however, is one you can serve when you have friends over to watch sports. Yes, get ready for vegan chicken wings.

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag of mushroom chicken
  • Your favourite barbecue sauce

Toss the mushroom chicken with barbecue sauce to coat it. Spread out the pieces on a baking sheet. Bake at 400°F for 12-15 minutes, or until the wings begin to blacken at the edges.

Vegan chicken wings before baking

A plate of vegan chicken wings

On a sad note, since my last post the sign on New 168 Market has changed from “Store Renovations” to “For Lease”. Phuoc Loi and New 168 Market have been my main sources of mock meats since I moved to Ottawa, so it’s a pity to see New 168 go. However, there are other nearby sources of these products. If you visit Montréal, drop by Paradis Végétarien Chi-Ming at 4381 Saint-Denis Street. They carry all these products, and some of them in bulk, so you can bring home extra for your friends. You can also order some of these products online from Viva Vegan. (They ship in insulated cold packs so that the mock meat stays good in the mail.)

Mock meats of Ottawa’s Chinatown, Part 1

From Yves Veggie Cuisine to Tofurky to Gardein to Sol to the offerings in the President’s Choice Blue Menu line, the variety of mock meats in supermarkets has exploded in recent years. Ottawa’s Chinatown is a fantastic resource for lovers of mock meats. This is the first in a series of posts to introduce readers to the treasures they can find in Chinatown and meals that can be made with them.

Our first stop: Phuoc Loi on the northeast corner of Somerset and Booth. If you’re driving, you’ll need to find street parking or use the pay parking lot at the southeast corner of Somerset and Lebreton. Head to the freezer section in the back right corner of the store.

You’re looking for this: 

It may look “grim”, in the words of my big sister, but this is the best mock ham I have tried.  A caution to vegans: I have seen similarly shaped mock ham that includes whey or egg — be sure to read the ingredients.

What can you do with it?  A few ideas…

Slice it thinly, sear each side briefly in a hot frying pan, and put it in sandwiches.

Slice it thickly, glaze it with a mixture of maple syrup and mustard, and bake in the oven.

Cube it and add it to a tofu scramble, as suggested in this previous post.

Or, try this recipe for Ham & Cheese Biscuits.  These biscuits proved very popular at a potluck.  They will also cause any dogs who happen to be nearby to cluster around your legs and stare at you hopefully.

  • Mix 2 cups of flour, 3 tsp. of baking powder, and ¾ tsp. of salt.
  • Cut ¾ of a stick of Earth Balance margarine into small pieces and blend it into the flour mixture with a pastry blender or with your fingers.  (A stick is equivalent to ½ cup.)
  • Mix in ¼ cup of diced mock ham and ¼ cup of Daiya cheddar style shreds.
  • Add a splash of vinegar to ¾ cup of soy milk, and mix with the dry ingredients to form a dough.
  • Knead the dough briefly, folding it over no more than 5 times.  This will give the finished biscuits nice flaky layers inside.
  • Flatten the dough to about ½ inch thick. Use a sharp knife to slice it into squares.
  • Bake at 450°F for 13 minutes.

The photo of the biscuits has one pulled apart to show the flaky texture (and delicious bits of mock ham and cheese) inside.

I have also found the mock ham at New 168 Market on the southwest corner of Somerset and Breezehill (just west of the O-Train tracks).  They’re closed for renovations right now, but when they reopen they might be more convenient for those doing errands by car, as they have a small parking lot just west of the store.

Next instalment: vegan “wings” that are way better than the real thing.

Another Great Green Earth Meetup

By Erin:

For those of you who don’t know, we host a Meetup at Green Earth on the first Sunday of every month. By “we” I actually mean Vaalea (from Ireland). But since Neil and I bring an NCVA sign, the NCVA gets the credit and Neil and I get endless accolades (well, mostly from Greg) for our tireless organizing.

Anyway, we had another one today. It was the usual fare. Brown and white rice (which I don’t touch), a couple of salads (which I hear are good but which I also don’t bother with), and about eighty pounds of fake meat at varying levels of fried-ness. This stuff and those heavenly little squares of cheesecake are where I focus my attention.

It was a complete madhouse in there today – Very few empty tables and at least one other large group. A bit loud, but I was so pleased to see Green Earth doing such cracking business despite its unfortunate eschewal of alcohol. Plus the proprietors kept the food coming fast and furious so we certainly didn’t suffer from the business.

There were many familiar faces, including local celebrities Joe Vegan and Alex the Carrot. Several lovely first-timers as well, who I hope to see at our next potluck.

Anyway, just a note to thank those who came out and to encourage those who didn’t to try to make the next one…East Africa Restaurant on Sunday December 19th at noon. The fake waterfalls alone are worth the trip!

The Goods on Green Earth

By Erin

I suspect that a lot of Ottawa vegans have already tried Green Earth. I’ve decided to review it anyway, however, each time I try a new item. I figure this might be helpful since their menu is so large that it’s certain there are things on it that even frequent visitors haven’t tried.

A few general comments. First, I’ve just got to say that the food is damn good. I haven’t had a bad or even mediocre meal there yet. Second, all-you-can-eat-buffet Green Earth and order-off-the-menu Green Earth are almost like two different restaurants. The latter is dominated by an almost obscene profusion of fake meat that will have you floating home like a buoyant ball of wheat protein on a sea of sodium. Deserving of a shouted “Nom!” followed by a week of only raw kale.

The regular menu is quite a different story. Once I, a veteran of the glutton’s utopia that is the buffet, got over the shock and disappointment of the sensible portion sizes, I was very impressed by its diversity. It not only combines east Asian and Indian, but offers a number of Italian and several Mexican dishes as well.

Last Thursday, my partner and I got the “Harmonic Veggie Delite,” which is your standard combo of fake meat and veggies in an east Asian-type sauce. It was very good though the portion was, as I mentioned, of an annoyingly sensible size. We also got “Conchiglie Ripiene,” which is large pasta shells stuffed with a ricotta-type mixture and served with marinara sauce. Green Earth often serves a very delicious lasagna at their buffet, so I had pretty high hopes for the stuffed shells. Upon reflection, I suppose it might strike me as disappointing that I didn’t actually try anything new, since the shells really turned out to be the lasagna, differently shaped. But then the bloody things were just so good, how can one really complain? The faux ricotta had no tofu-y aftertaste and their marinara is rich and flavourful (and plentiful! God loves those who are not cheap with sauce).

We also had an order of “Paradise Sushi” to start. I’m incensed by the obscene markup on sushi and since the stuff we make at home has it all over most restaurants, I rarely have it when I go out. On the rare occasions when I do have restaurant sushi, I tend to critique it pretty harshly. I will grudgingly admit that Green Earth’s sushi is good…and since it’s a small, inexpensive appetizer, my anti-markup madness doesn’t get too out of hand. If I want to be picky, I’ll note that the pieces are a bit too large for a single mouthful…that’s a problem for sushi since it’s pretty much impossible to bite a piece in half without spilling the innards all over yourself.

We ended our meal with the chocolate cheesecake. Now I must say, I have had many a gross vegan chocolate cheesecake in my time. Grainy, beany, soupy, I have tried them all. But I honestly defy even the most seasoned cheesecake connoisseur to distinguish Green Earth’s chocolate cheesecake from a regular dairy cheesecake. It is dense and chocolately, with that amazing tang for which cheesecake is known. As good as it was, though, I’ll try the almond chocolate cake next time. Two our our supper-mates got it and it looked amazing. All chocolate layers and fluffy mocha frosting – mocha looking anyway, as I gazed longingly at it from afar.

So another marvelous meal at Green Earth – and all for $28, I should add. Needless to say, if you haven’t been, go. Until next time (when I think I’ll try one of the Mexican dishes), happy vegan eating.