Monday, September 18, 2006

My Vegan Birthday !

My birthday was long gone but the memories of it are still lingering. I am so very glad to tell you all about it cause it was really a romantic day. Thanks to DLH (dear loving husband) who made my day so beautiful. Just the two of us, we spent the day in LA (if you are a single girl and looking, I highly recommend to get a hubby like him but not him since he is mine :-) ).

I was blessed with a beautiful weather on my birthday on a Sunday. No more unbearable heat and humidity days lately. That day, especially, it was a sunny clear day in the 70's. Yay! DLH doesn't cook (that's one thing he doesn't do but suits me just fine) and I don't want to cook on my birthday (no dishwashing either) so we splurged on eating out for a day and enjoyed someone else's cooking for a change. DH paid for all the meals, drove, and arranged the itinenary since it was my day. I just had to look pretty and enjoyed the day.

Real Food Daily(RFD), West Hollywood (Vegan Organic Restaurant):
We traveled for about 1 hour (with no traffic) to West Hollywood. We noticed that driving to LA area on Sunday mornings is the BEST time. Looks like a lot of LA people are going out late on Saturday nights and wake up late on Sundays. There was NO TRAFFIC! Another YAY!

Hence, when we arrived at RFD about 10:00 am, the restaurant was still closed. We could see people were hustling inside for the preparations to open. At about 10:05 am, the manager opened the doors and we were the first customers. This restaurant opens early on weekends to serve brunch and that's what we were having. We started with organic soy latte before our meal. They were yummy coffee! DH ordered The Weekender (2 french toasts, tofu scramble with soy cheese sauce on top, potato fries, vegan butter, and real maple syrup) Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting and I had the Southwestern Omelet (tofu omelet filled with blackbeans and soy cheese, potato fries, 2 slices of thin rye bread, and vegan butter). Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
There were no eggs, butter, and milk in this brunch. My cousin who lives in Beijing, China was amazed when she read my blog that I could make chocolate mousse out of tofu. Wait till she reads this blog! Yes, vegans can make everything out of tofu. People in China will be amazed.

Lake Shrine Temple, Pacific Palisades (SRF Temple and Ashram Center)

After brunch, we had time to kill before our visit to Lake Shrine Temple(opens to the public at 12:30 pm). We walked to Beverly Center, a shopping center/mall in Beverly Hills about less than 1/4 mile away from RFD. We just did a window shopping and walking our brunch off. It was a beautiful shopping center but full of shops we couldn't afford.

Then, we drove to Pacific Palisades by way of Sunset Blvd. It was an interesting journey since we passed Hollywood, Beverly Hills (passing the stars' homes), Bel Air, and Brentwood. We basically were heading toward the ocean since the temple is very close to the intersection of Sunset Blvd. and Pacific Coast Hwy. We couldn't miss the temple because the building is very distinctive with white domes roof with golden lotuses on top, white walls, and golden lotuses on top of pillars. We heard about this temple from a friend and wanted to visit the 10-acres gardens with a spring-fed lake in the middle.

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It was indeed a serene and tranquil garden in the middle of LA craziness. This lake was built in 1950s so I could not imagine how peaceful this place was at that time. The garden was full of foliage, waterfalls, beautiful flowers, and statues. They also have koi fish, swans, turtles, and ducks. The temple itself is erected high on the hills above the lake overlooking the Santa Monica beach.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting We spent about 3 to 4 hours there walking around the lake, the temple, and visited the museum and book store too. We noticed that some of the visitors/tourists were speaking foreign languages so this temple must be famous in other countries. Funny, that I had never heard of it until recently.

Here are some pictures of the garden, temple, and lake:

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Busaba Thai Vegetarian Kitchen, Los Angeles
After walking for hours (5 p.m. now), I was famished and ready for our next meal. We drove to Los Angeles' famous Melrose Ave. Thai cuisine is my favorite cuisine so my request was to try this restaurant after I read the review from Vegetarian Paradise. We were surprised that this restaurant was located near M Cafe de Chaya, a macrobiotic French Japanese restaurant serving no meat, eggs, and dairy. We love M Cafe too for breakfasts, lunches, and especially for their vegan cakes and pastries. Vegetarian Paradise also did a review of M Cafe.

At Busaba (this restaurant serves lots of vegan dishes), we ordered Wonton Soup (wonton skins stuffed with shiitake , tofu, veggie shrimp, and spinach) Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting and Seaweed Rolls (seaweed stuffed with tofu, glass noodles, carrots and shiitake, served with sweet and sour dip) Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting as starters. Wow! They were DELICIOUS! We liked them right away. The wonton soup and the rolls were very tasty.

Then, we proceeded with our next item which was Tofu Larb Salad (tofu flavored with lime dressing, ground toasted rice, chili flakes, red onion, served on a bed of salad).

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YUM, YUM, YUM! This was my favorite. It was very SPICY. I meant HOT SPICY so for some of you this could be too FIERY. I loved it though! I was not named Spice Island Vegan for no reason (DLH called me that) The lime dressing gave this salad very sour and refreshing taste and yet it was a bit sweet and spicy. DLH said that it tickled every taste buds in his tongue.

Our next dishes were Busaba Special: Crisp Fish with Green Apple (crispy vegan fish served with fresh green apple, cashew nuts, red onion, chili, cilantro and a chef special dressing),

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Spinach Mushroom Sauce (spinach sauteed roasted garlic and chili with tofu and mushroom sauce, not pictured), and a bowl of brown rice. We loved the veggie fish dish. It was not as spicy as the tofu larb salad but the taste combination (sweet, sour, and spicy) was a winner also. We knew then that we will come back to this restaurant.

By now, we were stuffed but my birthday won't stop here without a sweet ending. No, no, we didn't eat desserts after all that food :-) but we bought vegan pastries to take home from M Cafe across the street. We were so full that we didn't eat our desserts till the next days. Here were my birthday vegan pastries from M Cafe: Chocolate and Banana Napoleon pastry (I can't even say the French name of it) Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting and Chocolate Tart (DLH favorite)Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Thanks so much, DLH, and I love you so much! I truly enjoyed my day and will cherish this memory for more than a day.

P.S. : I want to say thank you to friends and family who sent birthday greetings: Carolina in England, Arie in Jakarta, Indonesia, mother-in-law in Missouri (HI MOM!), aunt Lotte in Netherland (who called me early Sunday morning), my mom who lives near me, aunt Lanny in Toronto, Canada, and Lia in Beijing. Love ya all!

Friday, September 15, 2006


I was tagged by primaryconsumer for a meme that's going around (it started over at The Traveler's Lunchbox- you can see the original post here). You have to pick 5 things you think everyone should eat before they die.

My first thought was tropical fruits. I grew up in a tropical island for 17 years eating a large variety of fruits that I was disappointed with the Western Hemisphere's choices of fruits. The fruits that I grew up with are so unusual to North Americans, I don't even know their English names for some of them. I really miss them and can't get all of them here in the US. I tried to get descriptions of the fruits (with pictures) I grew up with from the Internet as much as I could but some of them couldn't even be found. These are the fruits: salak (snakefruit), rambutan, jambu (wax apple or jawa apple), duku, sawo (sapodilla), sirsat (annonaceae), mangostene, blimbing (star fruit or carambola), durian, lengkeng (longan or dragon eye), mangga (mango), nangka (jackfruit), degan (young coconut) and papaya. Some of them, such as longan, rambutan, young coconut, star fruit, mango, papaya, and durian can be bought in Asian markets in my area. Although, not all varieties of fruits of the same kind are available here. For example, there are different types of mangoes and bananas in Indonesia and I only can get 1 or 2 kinds of mangoes and bananas here. They are imported from South America who doesn't have all of the varieties Indonesia has.

Another thought was Indonesian desserts or dishes flavored with screwpine leaves (pandan) and palm sugar (gula jawa). I missed the smell and flavor of fresh screwpine leaves. What I can find here are the frozen ones and they are not as strong as the fresh leaves. Like vanilla, it is the best smelling essence for desserts made with a mixture of coconut milk and palm sugar.

Here is my list of 5 foods people should try before they die

  1. The King of Fruits: Durian. I don't know why it is called the king of fruits. I think because it is the smelliest fruit in the world that it is banned from airlines, hotel, and all kinds of public places in Asian countries. People describe this fruit as 'smell like hell but taste like heaven' which is a perfect description for it. If you don't grow up with it you will need to acquire the taste, get used to the smell, and learn how to love this fruit. But once you love it, you will be missing it. You can search the Internet for 'durian' and find all kinds of stories how people describe their first encounter experiences with this fruit. Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
  2. The Queen of Fruits: Mangostene. I can't find this fruit in the US, haven't had it for 26 years, and missed it. It is considered to be a medicinal fruit and has a delicious unique flavor. The mangostene juice is sold in the Internet for its healthy qualities. I didn't even know about the healthy characteristics until I read about it in the Internet. I just know that it tastes so good.
  3. Fresh Young Coconut. Hhmmm.... the taste of coconut juice(not coconut milk) and young coconut meat is so good. It is now available in my area and is sold in Asian markets. The raw foodists have made this fruit popular recently. Here is an interesting picture and movie how to open a young coconut(skills acquired to open this fruit): how to open a young coconut. Lately, I found out that Whole Foods in my area carry it. I don't know about WF in other locations though. The Indonesians usually add shaved ice and rose flavored syrup on top of a mixture of young coconut meat and juice. I usually eat them straight from the fruit.
  4. Desserts or dishes flavored by screwpine leaves (pandan). Indonesian desserts usually are flavored with pandan instead of vanilla extract. Indonesians use coconut milk and palm sugar (gula jawa) to make the desserts rich, tasty, and decadent. The original recipes of the desserts usually do not contain eggs and butter; mostly, they are vegan. But due to Western influences, new recipes with eggs and butter came out in the last decades. Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Pictured is an Indonesian Pandan and Coffee Flavored Jello/Agar-agar Mold dessert. Fresh pandan leaves are great for flavoring rice and curries too.
  5. Tempeh. Just like tofu, tempeh has become popular lately in vegan and vegetarian world. This is one that either you love it or you hate it. I grew up with tempeh so of course I love it. The key to try tempeh for the first time is to eat a fresh tempeh. If you try tempeh that has been frozen for months, you more than likely will hate it. Frozen tempeh can be bitter and dry. The fresh tempeh is absolutely wonderful.

I am adding a site that has pictures of
Javanese Fruits (this is the url: ). This is quite an interesting site. Not only fruits were displayed in this site but also Javanese vegetables and snacks. I just kept clicking Next, page after page. These are the fruits, vegetables, and snacks I grew up with. There are clear pictures of exotic fruits in this site. Hhmmm...seeing them made me missed them more and I only can see the pictures. :-(

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Success! Veganized Indian Grain/Squaw Bread

For those of you who are experts in baking bread, this may not be much to be proud of. But for me who grew up with rice and noodles, baking bread is a mystery. My experience has been hit and miss. I don't know how many times I threw away a flat ball of dough because it didn't rise. After such an experience, I usually shy away from trying for a while. Then, I bought an automatic bread machine so I wouldn't fail. But it turns out that I don't like breads baked in a machine. So far, I have used my machine to make the dough and let it rise only ('dough' cycle). It works pretty well and I have never failed in baking bread since.

However, this time, the recipe for this bread is too big for my bread machine and I didn't want to cut it in half. I wanted to bake 2 loaves and freeze one. To tell you the truth, I was challenged to do it the traditional way like a real baker. Of course, I cheated and had help from my Kitchen Aid mixer to knead the dough. I was not so industrious to knead the dough with my own hands. Are you kidding? Look what I did! I pat myself on the back for successfully baking such really nice looking loaves. Naturally I have to blog it and show off!

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I have always loved dark colored breads with molasses such as squaw or pumpernickel. It is hard to find them in bakeries and I don't know why. Maybe because they are a bit sweet and people just don't buy them. I like my bread a little bit sweet and this must be an Asian thing. I searched the Internet for a recipe and found one but it is not vegan since it uses honey, milk powder and butter. It was easy to veganize it; though, I love the result without missing the butter, honey, or milk powder. I used half maple syrup and half molasses to replace the honey. Next time, I want to use all molasses since I like it a bit darker. I also thought that it was too sweet and will reduce the brown sugar.

For brushing the top, I used a cornstarch glaze which was Bryanna's idea, posted a while back in her newsletter. Instead of using egg whites, I used water and cornstarch, cooked until thickened and cooled. Then, I brushed the top of the unbaked loaves with this mixture to give the top a 'shine' and to allow the toppings (like rolled oats) to stick to the bread while it is baking. I baked one with rolled oats topping and one without.

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We have eaten this bread as is, warmed in the oven, and topped with Earth Balance. We have also used it as a sandwich bread and pictured below is 'Turkey' Avocado Cranberry sandwich I prepared. I used Tofurky Deli Slices Hickory Smoked 'Turkey' (my favorite), Organic Reed Avocado slices, Organic No-Sugar Cranberry Sauce (store bought), Vegenaise, fresh tomato slices from our garden, and lettuce leaves. I love the combination of cranberry sauce, seitan turkey, vegan mayonnaise, home grown tomato slices, and squaw bread.

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Servings: 32
Yield: 2 loaves
Preparation time: 25 minutes
Cooking time: 35 minutes

Adapted from a recipe I got from the Internet, I veganized this bread and turned out to be really good. Instead of honey, I use maple syrup or molasses. The brown sugar, raisins, and maple syrup gives sweetness to rye-whole-wheat grain bread. This bread is yummy for a sandwich or just with a dab of Earth Balance. This bread is a bit sweet and you can reduce the brown sugar if you like to reduce the sweetness.

Printable Recipe

2 cups water
1/3 cup vegetable or canola or safflower oil
1/4 cup organic maple syrup or organic molasses
1/4 cup organic raisins
5 tbsp organic brown sugar
2 pkgs active dry yeast (1/4 oz. per pkg.)
1/4 cup warm water (110 F degrees)
2 1/2 cups organic unbleached flour
3 cups organic whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups rye flour
1/2 cup soy milk powder
2 1/2 tsp salt

For toppings:

1 tbsp melted Earth Balance
1/2 cup water
1 tsp cornstarch
rolled oats

  1. Combine water, oil, molasses or maple syrup, raisins, and 4 tablespoons brown sugar in a blender. Liquify.
  2. Soften yeast in warm water with remaining 1 tablespoon brown sugar. Let the yeast dissolved in warm water for 5 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl sift together all the flours. salt, and soy milk powder. Place molasses or maple syrup mixture and yeast mixture in a mixer bowl. Add half of the flour mixture. Beat with dough hook of your mixer. Gradually stir in the remaining flours to make soft dough that pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Let it knead for about 10 minutes. See tip.
  4. Place dough in lightly greased bowl and turn to grease surface. Cover and let rise until double (about 1 1/2 hours).
  5. Punch down and let it rest 10 minutes. Divide into 2 loaves and place into 2 lightly greased 9" by 5" bread loaf pans OR divide into 4 round loaves and placed on greased cookie sheets sprinkled with cornmeal. Cover and let it rise in warm place until doubled (about 1 hour).
  6. Prepare topping: heat 1/2 cup water with cornstarch, mix well, and let it simmer till thickened. Let this mixture cool. Just before baking, brush both loaves with the cornstarch mixture and sprinkled with rolled oats on top.
  7. Bake in a preheated 375 F oven for 30-35 minutes. Brush with melted Earth Balance and cool on racks.

    Nutrition Facts
    Nutrition (per serving): 142.0 calories; 18% calories from fat; 2.9g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 155.8mg sodium; 109.5mg potassium; 25.8g carbohydrates; 1.5g fiber; 4.5g sugar; 24.3g net carbs; 3.0g protein; 2.8 points.

    Cooking TipsI could not use my bread machine to knead the dough since this recipe is too big for it. You can cut the recipe in half to knead it in your bread machine. I kneaded the dough in my Kitchen-Aid Heavy Duty mixer. This mixer almost could not do the job to knead dough for 2 loaves of bread. I was afraid that it would start to smoke but fortunately it didn't. I wish I have a Bosch mixer. Oh well!

Monday, September 04, 2006

Buddha's 'Mock Peking Duck' or Mu Shu Tofu?


Buddha's 'Mock Peking Duck' or Mu Shu Tofu? Vote for one and tell me why! I voted for the 'Mock Peking Duck'. I love the crispyness of the yuba. DH likes both but voted for the Mock Peking Duck too. It is like the bad versus the good or the devil versus the angel, the Mock Peking Duck has more fat and is addicting but the Mu Shu Tofu is low fat and good for you. I suppose to eat the Mu Shu Tofu only since I am in Weight Watcher and counting points! :-) Oh well, I am bad!

The idea of making the 'Mock Peking Duck' dish came from reading Bryanna's blog: Buddha's "Roast Duck" with Yuba. I followed her recipe and served it 'Peking' style ( pictured on the left, above) on a fresh thin pancake or crepe( spring roll wrapper that I bought from the Chinese market), topped with thinly sliced scallions, and drizzled with 'Duck Sauce'. Here is how mine came out after it was fried crispy, before it was cut:

I followed Bryanna's duck sauce recipe also but added 2 tsp. cornstarch mixed with 2 tsp. water to thicken it. This sauce was very good.
I found this fresh Spring Rolls wrapper or Mandarin thin crepe in a Chinese market. This was how I started thinking about making the Mu Shu Tofu. Then, the 'mock duck' idea came later on. For those of you who have ordered Mu Shu anything in a Chinese restaurant should know what this crepe looks like. I know some of you may not be able to get it in the areas where you live, especially, if you don't live in a city. However, if your nearby Chinese restaurant serves Mu Shu, you can ask them where to buy it. Most restaurants don't make the thin crepe themselves.
I adapted the Mu Shu Tofu recipe from Bryanna's 'Authentic Chinese Cuisine for the Contemporary Kitchen' cookbook (Mock Peking Duck recipe is in this book too). Bryanna's is not Chinese but her recipes are pretty authentic. I am very impressed and using this cookbook all the time in my kitchen. Mu Shu Tofu recipe is printed on page 126. You can also make Mandarin Pancakes yourself and follow her recipe on page 88 but I haven't tried this myself. I thought I'll save it for later if I ever live in the 'boonies' and can't get the fresh crepes from a nearby Chinese market.
Here is how I made it ( I didn't use the scrambled tofu as listed in the recipe but I used my smoked baked tofu):
Mu Shu Tofu
Adapted from Bryanna's Authentic Chinese Cuisine cookbook
6-8 servings

Printable Recipe

5 dried Chinese black mushrooms or shiitake mushrooms
1/2 small cabbage, shredded(about 4 to 5 cups)
1 large or 2 medium carrots, peeled, shredded
2 cups slivered smoked baked tofu, recipe in previous post
3 green onions, thinly sliced
2 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp brown or yellow bean sauce
1 tbsp dry sherry (I used Aji-Mirin)
1 tbsp mushroom soaking broth
1 tsp unbleached sugar
24 Mandarin Pancakes
Hoisin Sauce (store bought)
In a separate bowls, soak the dried mushrooms in a boiling water for 20 minutes. When they are soft, drain them, reserve some of the soaking water for the sauce above. Discard the stems, cut into sliver.
Heat a large wok or heavy skillet over high heat until it's very hot. Add the sesame oil. When the oil is hot, add the tofu slivers and stir-fry until they are brown. Add slivered mushrooms, cabbage, and carrots. Stir-fry for a few more minutes. Add the sauce ingredients and toss well. Add green onions and mix.
Serve with Mandarin Pancakes. Each diner places a bit of hoisin sauce on the pancake, add the mu shu mixture, rolls it up, and eats it with their hands.