Banh Mi, Banh You

Back when Mr. Lunch and I were little wee sprouts living in the big city of Toronto as students in the early 2000s, we discovered the joys of Banh Mi subs.  Toronto’s primary Chinatown district has its share of hole-in-the-wall, non-descript-from-the-outside little sandwich shops slingin’ these Vietnamese bad boys for, at the time, about $1.50 a pop.  For a couple of dreadfully poor kids on a very, very tight budget, getting a big French loaf stuffed with tofu, cilantro, chilis, pickled veggies and cucumber was just the ticket.  For the authentic experience, you must rip the bag open the moment you leave the shop and eat it while sauntering down a smelly Chinatown alleyway.  But I digress.

Our love of Banh Mi has followed us throughout the years, and dare I say, we’ve gotten pretty good at making them at home.

Vegan Banh Mi

The one thing missing from the at-home experience is being shouted at by a small, sweet Vietnamese lady from across the counter, “little spicy?” to which you say “yes!”…only to discover what she really meant is she is going to hide a large, fully intact Thai bird’s eye chili somewhere inside your sandwich for you to find later.  At which point it will feel like your eyes are going to bleed.

What You’ll Need:

  • a couple good, crusty French sandwich loaves
  • daikon radish and carrot
  • cucumber
  • cilantro
  • vegan mayo
  • fresh chilis or sriracha
  • a block of tofu

Get your tofu going.  Create a quick marinade with chopped lemongrass, chopped fresh garlic, soy sauce, chili flakes, turmeric, a drizzle of oil, and thinned with a bit of vegetable stock.  Cut your tofu into slabs and dredge your pieces in said mixture in a pan and let marinate for as long as you can, or for as little as 10 minutes.  Reserving your marinade, take your tofu and drop it in a hot oiled pan and fry until golden brown.  Throw your reserved marinade on and let bubble away until reduced.  Boom.  Done.

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Make a quick pickle out of julienned daikon and carrot.  I love this recipe from The Superfun Times Vegan Holiday Cookbook.

Cut your sandwich loaf in half lengthwise, slather with mayo, chuck in your tofu, generously pile on your pickled veggies and cucumber, top with cilantro (and peanuts if you’re feeling fancy), add your chilis or sriracha, and enjoy.

Peruvian Grilled Tofu

Trevor has become quite the grillmaster this summer! While barbecuing veggies is wonderful and gives them that unmistakable, smoky richness you can only get from the grill, cookin’ up slabs of tofu on the grill is a wholly satisfying experience as well.  He made this crazy-good Peruvian-style tofu the other day that was so unbelievably juicy, and just…amazing. Please definitely make this and make sure you use FROZEN TOFU! I used to be big on freezing and thawing my tofu as it creates this entirely new texture in the tofu…it’s so meaty and chewy.  I forgot about that for a while, but I’m back to always keeping a couple blocks in my freezer for impromptu chewy-tofu needs.

Vegan Peruvian Grilled Tofu

Peruvian Style Grilled Tofu

  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 tbsp ketchup or tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 block of frozen extra firm tofu, defrosted (it’s important that it’s been frozen!  It gives it a really meaty, chewy texture)

Combine everything but the tofu in a shallow dish, mix and set aside.  Cut your tofu up into 8 slabs (cut the whole block in half width-wise, then each half in half again, then  each quarter in half), pat dry with a papertowel (squish it a bit to remove as much water as you can) then soak in the marinade for at least an hour but up to overnight.  Reserve leftover marinade.

Clean and oil your grill, get it up to a nice heat and then slap those tofu babies on there.  Minimize how much you flip it, baste it along the way, and get a nice grill on both sides.  Serve with leftover marinade on top for some extra juiciness + rice + greens (Our garden was overflowing with Swiss chard so we sauteed some up with raisins — raisins in savoury things is typical of the region and this worked well!).

 

Bowl Fever

I’m still obsessing over my food from Aux Vivres. My project over the last couple weeks has been trying to replicate some of their bowls! Oh boy, their bowls are awesome and make you feel like Popeye after you’ve eaten one.

Here’s my Dragon Bol dupe!

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Shredded carrots, beets, red cabbage, rice, greens, grilled tofu, and “dragon” sauce.  For the sauce, I used this recipe, which is tasty but didn’t quite hit the mark on authenticity.  Still, absolutely worth making.  Here’s the translation, as the recipe in the link is en Français:

1/4 cup nutritional yeast
3 tbsp tablespoons olive oil
2 tbsp tablespoons maple syrup
2 tbsp tablespoons soy sauce (or tamari)
2 tbsp water
2 cloves garlic, crushed

And here’s Trevor’s dupe of the Bouddha Bol…

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Steamed broccoli, lots o’ greens, rice, shredded carrots, grilled tofu, sesame seeds, and absent pumpkin seeds and sauce.  For the sauce, we used the ninja carrot ginger dressing from Vegan Eats World, which the author has kindly posted on her blog.

We ate these for DAYS.  The good thing about bowls is you basically just do prep for them and then assemble as needed.  So yum.  And an easy way to pack a ton of veg into your life!

We’ve been enjoying barbecuing tofu lately, too, and Trevor did some up in the ginger beer tofu marinade from the new cookbook Salad Samurai.  Man, Terry Hope Romero is killin’ it with this one.  It’s so full of deliciousness, and everything we’ve made so far has come together really quickly, which is great for week nights.  Served with some Caribbean-inspired red beans and rice, this was mighty filling and protein-rich.

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Also, cake happened this week!

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I had an itch for cake soooo badly.  Work has been crazy stressful and I just wanted some damn cake so badly at 8:30 at night on a Tuesday.  But no dang flour in the house!  Then I remember I read about this flourless chocolate cake recipe and it sounded pretty good.  I’m usually pretty skeptical of gluten-free stuff, but this was so good and fudgy.  A tiny piece is all you need.

I got the recipe from here, and topped it with a simple chocolate glaze (icing sugar, a bit of cocoa powder, soy milk) and of course sprinkles because I just love them.

Lox and Cream Cheese

Végélox, bottom left

When we were in Montreal in June, we ate at Aux Vivres as it had been recommended to me several times.  Even though I was advised that I HAD to get something with the smoked coconut bacon, when I saw they had something called végélox on the menu, I had to have it; I really liked smoked salmon in my pregan days.

It was amazing.  I made “mmmmpfffhh!” sounds and with my mouth full, said, “ommhhhhyygoood” several times.  When we made the trek home a few days later, I felt bad that I may not have that sandwich for another another long while until we get back there.

When I got home, one of the first things I did was google: “vegelox recipe” and this popped up!  It seemed like a weird recipe but I thought I’d give it a go.  Turns out, it is the real thing, just like the one in the restaurant.

At the restaurant, they stuff a chapati bread full of tofu cream, végélox, capers, mayo and lettuce.  I think the tofu cream is pretty necessary to the taste and texture of the sandwich, so I made my own dupe, trying to remember what it tasted like.  I’d say it was a complete success.

Aux Vivre’s Végélox (vegan smoked salmon)

1 cup organic carrot pulp
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
2 tbsp dulse flakes (You can find dulse, a seaweed, at your health food store. In order to make dulse flakes, dry it in a warm oven and grind into a powder.) [Crystal’s note:  I used crumbled nori and it worked great]
1/2 tsp salt
3-4 dashes of liquid smoke
Mix everything together and adjust seasoning to taste.
Tofu Cream
1 block extra firm tofu, crumbled into food processor
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp olive oil
1.5 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp agave nectar
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 tsp salt
black pepper
In a food processor, add tofu with liquid ingredients first and blend, scraping down the sides periodically, until it is a smooth texture.  Add nutritional yeast, salt and pepper and pulse to incorporate.  Taste for salt and adjust seasonings accordingly.
Sandwich/wrap assembly:
Spread a generous amount of tofu cream, a good amount of lox spread, top with vegan mayo, capers and lettuce.  For a real Aux Vivres experience, get a nice, soft chapati.  Really great in a sprouted-grain wrap, cut into cute pinwheels, or on a sandwich.  Or just as a canapé – a smear of tofu cream, topped with lox and a couple capers.  
So, while it doesn’t recreate the experience of being in Montreal at this lovely place, it at least will tide me over until I can return.  Now I just need to recreate one of the drinks I had there, le creamsicle.  Coconut milk, orange juice, carrot juice, vanilla…mmm.
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Furthermore, it’s almost time for the Toronto Veg Fair again!  Each year, we have have a great time and I look forward to it a whole bunch.  This year, Isa freakin’ Moskowitz is going to be demoing, as well as the lovely Terry Hope Romero from NYC, and Taymer Mason is coming all the way from Barbados.  We’ve made a lot of stuff by those 3 ladies and I’m honestly so excited to see them all and meet the ones I haven’t before.  Also, there’s going to be a meetup of some people I know from the PPK, so that should be really fun.

All in all, it makes me feel warm and squishy to be surrounded by so many people who are so passionate about veganism, animal welfare, activism, environmental issues, etc.  It serves as a real reminder of why I am vegan and how it’s impacted my life in a profound and wonderful way.

– Crystal

BBQ Tofu, Smoky Mac and Cheese and Collard Greens

The closest I’ve been to anything remotely Southern US-like is driving through Tennessee and Georgia on our way to Florida when I was 8 years old.  So it’s a pretty far stretch to say I know anything about culture in those parts.  What I do know is that I love adapting the flavours of what I think a good old Southern meal should have and making it vegan.  This was a quick, weeknight version of a comforting Southern-style meal.  Another great thing is, while you may think of Southern food as being high on the heart-attack-as-soon-as-you-finish-your-meal scale; this one wasn’t.  Totally cholesterol free (like all vegan food), and low in fat.  
The smoky mac and cheese is whole wheat macaroni, smothered in the Easy Breezy Cheezy Sauce from Appetite for Reduction (with an added 1/2 tsp liquid smoke stirred in when the sauce is finished cooking).  So good!  So quick!   
Since our little barbecue is covered in a foot of snow right now, the tofu was cut into triangles and then dry-fried in a pan until it was golden with some nice charred bits.  Then it was doused in a generous bath of some locally made BBQ sauce we found at the farmer’s market – smoky, sweet and hot.  Yum.  It was left to bubble and thicken on the tofu for a while before serving.

The collards were made using a recipe from Appetite for Reduction, the Ye’abesha Gomen (Ethiopian Collards) recipe. Regardless of it being called Ethiopian Collards, the recipe produces tender, soft collards that complement the heartiness of the rest of the meal.

Also, last Sunday we went to try out The Early Bird, a new diner/greasy spoon place that just opened up and is run by one of Trevor’s oldest and dearest friends.  They have a vegan soup option each day, and a couple of sandwiches on the menu which can easily be made vegan by removing the dairy element and replacing it with some nice, grainy mustard.  I had the Ginger Beer Battered Tofu Sandwich with a bowl of Ginger Carrot Soup.  Good stuff!  It’s always great having new places to go and get something to eat.

Show posters everywhere at The Early Bird 

– Crystal

Baked Chimichangas

Praise quick weeknight meals like this one, the Baked Chimichangas from 500 Vegan Recipes.  Crumbled tofu and black beans smothered in a really easy and delicious cheesy salsa “queso”, popped in the oven and baked for a little bit, then served topped with some more salsa (or vegan sour cream if you’ve got it).

There’s lots of additional things you could throw into this to change it up.  Diced zucchini, spinach, chopped peppers, chiles, caramelized onions.

– Crystal

Gigantic Salads

When you think salads, you might think summer food; cool, crisp and doesn’t require much cooking.  I love salads in the summer but I love salads in winter, too; they provide a nice break from the heavy foods we all tend to eat this time of year.  This one was livened up and made a bit more filling with the addition of sautéed vegetables and baked tofu.

From the bottom up, we’ve got mixed, crunchy salad greens, a layer of a baby spinach, sautéed zucchini, carrot, onion and yellow peppers, croutons, baked tofu (using my method from here), a sprinkling of sunflower seeds and the Sanctuary Dressing from Appetite for Reduction, which is a ranch dressing.  Yum!
– Crystal