Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Vegan Vietnamese Shaking 'Beef' with help of California Earthquake

When I posted this blog this morning, we didn't have the Earthquake. It just happened a few minutes ago while I was eating my lunch in my office at Santa Ana, California. It happened at 11:42 am, a 5.8 earthquake at Diamond Bar and Chino Hills, California. It was PRETTY SHAKY! I am ok, a bit shaken up. We are about 17.5 miles from the epicenter.

The original name of this dish is Thit Bo Luc Lac, a famous Vietnamese dish that literally is translated to English as 'Shaking Beef.' This dish is named this way because the marinated beef is shaken in a very hot wok or cast iron pan, searing and shaking them, until they are evenly cooked. Then, they are served warm on a bed of fresh watercress, tomatoes, cucumbers, and seared onions, with a clear sweet and sour sauce (like salad dressing).

DH and I have been dining in Au Lac Vegetarian Vietnamese restaurant in Fountain Valley, CA for about 10 years now. One of our favorite dishes from their menu is Soy Beef and Watercress. We've been eating this dish for a long long time without knowing that this is the vegan version of Thit Bo Luc Lac. We have never eaten the original non-vegetarian dish at a non-vegetarian Vietnamese restaurant since we were not introduced to Vietnamese dishes until we became vegetarians 12 years ago. Not until recently, when I started to read blogs in the Internet that I found the original recipe and the story behind it. When I perused the ingredients, I realized that what I read was similar to our favorite dish that we frequently eat at Au Lac.

I recreated the veganized dish at home but used more ingredients than the original recipe such as tomatoes, cucumbers, and grilled pineapple. Au Lac uses watercress, tomatoes, and cucumbers but not pineapple. I had some left-over grilled pineapple in the fridge and thought that it would be a nice addition. This dish is flavorful because it tickles your tounge with 5 flavors: sour, sweet, salty, bitter, and umami (savory/deliciousness). The sour taste comes from the rice vinegar, lime juice, tomatoes, and pineapple. The sweet taste comes from the tomatoes, pineapple, seared onions, and agave syrup. The salty taste comes from the soy sauces and salt. The bitter taste comes from the watercress, soy sauce, and cucumber. The umami (5th flavor) comes from the seared 'soy beef', seared onions, freshly ground black pepper, and the soy sauces. The key to the deliciousness of this dish is to have a balance of all 5 flavors. I hope I can do the justice with the recipe below but you are welcome to adjust the flavors according to your taste of balance.

Vietnamese Soy 'Beef' and Watercress
Serve 4-6


1 pkg. dried soy meat, beef style (Thit Chay)(7-8 oz.) or 2 cups dried Soy Curls™ prepared (see instructions below) and marinade with:

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
2 Tablespoons minced garlic
2 Tablespoons light soy sauce or Bragg's Liquid Amino™
2 Tablespoons agave nectar
1 Tablespoon dark mushroom soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon salt
Note: See my blog regarding the dark mushroom soy sauce or light soy sauce or 'fish' sauce that I use in Vietnamese or Thai cooking. Do not use Japanese soy sauce because it won't taste the same.

1 medium onion, slice thinly (1/4-inch thick)

Sweet and Sour Light Sauce(salad dressing):
2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
2 Tablespoons light soy sauce or Bragg's Liquid Amino™
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 -2 Tablespoons agave nectar
1 Tablespoon lime juice
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 bunch organic watercress, cleaned and dried
2 Persian cucumbers or 1 English cucumber, sliced diagonally
1 medium fresh and ripe tomatoes, sliced
1 cup grilled or fresh pineapple

Preparing dried soy 'beef' (Thit Chay):
  1. Simmer dried soy beef in hot water for 20 minutes.
  2. Drain water and squeeze most of the water out.
  3. The soy 'beef' should be soft now. I use this brand since it is very thinly sliced and is soft after they are simmered in boiling water.
  4. Combine all marinade ingredients in a bowl.
  5. Apply marinade to soy 'beef', mix well, and let it sit for at least 30 minutes.
If using Soy Curls™ :
  1. Soak Soy Curls™ in warm water for 10 minutes.
  2. Drain water and squeeze most of the water out.
  3. Combine all marinade ingredients in a bowl.
  4. Apply marinade sauce to Soy Curls™ , mix well, and let it sit for at least 30 minutes.
Preparing vegetables:

  1. Mix sweet and sour light sauce ingredients together and marinade the sliced red onions in this sauce. The fresh onion flavor really makes this dressing flavorful. Let it sit marinating while you are preparing the rest of the vegetables.
  2. Layer watercress on a serving dish, top with sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, and pineapple.
Searing onions:
  1. Heat a cast iron frying pan until it is very hot.
  2. Drain onions from salad dressing/sauce but reserve the sauce in a bowl.
  3. Pour or sprinkle the reserved dressing/sauce onto the prepared vegetables on the serving platter, evenly.
  4. Put 1 teaspoon vegetable oil onto the hot cast iron frying pan. Then, add the drained onions.

  5. Shake and turn onions until cooked (translucent) and a bit charred. Pour onions on top of the prepared vegetables.
Shaking Soy 'Beef' or Soy Curls™ :
    1. Heat a cast iron frying pan until very hot.
    2. Add 1-2 teaspoons vegetable oil. Then, add the marinated soy meat.
    3. Shake and turn soy meat until a bit charred. Place warm soy meat on top of seared onions and prepared vegetables.

Before serving, mix the soy meat, onions and vegetables together and serve this dish with brown rice or white steamed sticky rice.

      Happy shake, shake, and shake!

Monday, July 21, 2008


DH and I attended Veggie Meetup of OC at Corona Del Mar State Beach Park. It's a very nice beach neighboring millions of dollars homes. We met nice people who are vegetarians and vegans (or vegan raw). This was a potluck event so each one of us brought a dish or two.

Picture taken by Ami

It's summer in Southern California. We are enjoying hot summer days at the beach, right? Wrong! True as far as enjoying the beach but it was not hot and sunny. We had an overcast and cold day, last Saturday. No need for sunscreen! Do I look cold or what? Bring a jacket or a wrap!

Talking about a wrap, I made Veggie Roll-Up or Wrap and Quinoa Taboulleh for the potluck.

We all really were enjoying to eat all the food on the table without worrying about non-vegan items. Someone brought chocolate mousse with peaches in it. Someone else brought 4 kinds of desserts from 4 different vegan cookbooks (recipes were shared, too). Yummy! Then, someone else brought fresh young coconuts, fruit salad, watermelon, etc. etc. We came late so we didn't see what else was available before we came.

Everyone enjoyed my dishes. I am going to display how this roll up was made. I made it just an hour before we took off for the beach potluck. It's an easy potluck dish for a summer event or a nice lunch dish to bring to work.

Veggie Roll-Up

Serve 6 for a meal or a bunch for potluck


2 cans (8 oz. each) organic black beans (cuban style is ok, too)
6 vegan garden burgers (your favorite brand), prepared according to package
3 avocadoes, cut up
2 raw carrots, shredded coarsely
2 cups baby spinach leaves (raw)
1 cup organic corn (frozen, thawed)
cilantro sprigs
your favorite salad dressing (can be vegan thousand island or vegan chipotle ranch or veganaise)

6 whole wheat lavash bread (10 by 14-inches)

  1. First, rinse and drain black beans completely. If there are some moisture, it's ok. Smash only some of the beans with a fork or hand-held blender to make it sticky.

  2. Take a piece of lavash, lay it flat on a cutting board. Spread 1/6 of the black beans on lavash, then, top it with corn.

  3. Break up 1 prepared and cooled vegan burger and put it in the middle, lengthwise, and then top with 1/2 of an avocado, cut up.

  4. Top with a few baby spinach leaves all the way (lengthwise). Then, top with your vegan dressing (I used vegan chipotle ranch). Sprinkle some coarsly chopped carrots.

  5. Add a few of the cilantro sprigs on the side and brush the rest of the lavash with water, lightly. This is to prevent it to break while it is rolled up (an important step).

  6. Then, roll up everything like making a burrito. Squeeze all ingredients tightly while preventing the filling to spill over on both sides. This takes a practice but it 's not that hard. :-) You'll end up with a log or a roll-up sandwich or a wrap. Whoopie, I didn't break it!

  7. You can eat the wrap just like it is or cut it up (a good idea for a potluck, don't you think?). To cut it up, with a very sharp knife, cut the wrap into halves, in the middle of the roll, then cut each half into 3 or 4 pieces. Clean the knife by wiping it with a moist paper towel for each cut (unlike what I did below, shame on me!)

  8. Repeat Step 2-7 for the rest of the lavash. Enjoy this veggie roll-up with your favorite salad.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Vegan BBQ on July 4th and Vegan Peach Melba

It's the time for a BBQ at So Cal (Southern California). It's July 4th, the weather was hot, and the BBQ grill was out. The menu for our July 4th's BBQ consisted of: BBQed Field Roast Smoked Apple Sage sausage topped with grilled onions, peppers, and sauerkraut; grilled vegetables; and a Peach Melba for dessert.

The recipe for grilled Field Roast Smoked Apple Sage on a bun is really easy. If you have not tried this product, I highly recommend it. I love the smoky and sweetness of this vegan sausage. To balance the flavor, I topped it with grilled red onions, red and yellow bell peppers, and organic sauerkraut, sauteed with a little EVOO.

Grilled Field Roast Apple Sage Sausage with Onions, Peppers, and Sauerkraut
Serve 4

1 pkg. Field Roast Apple Sage Sausage
4 vegan hot dog buns, your favorite brand

1 small red onions, sliced
1/2 large red bell pepper, sliced
1/2 large yellow bell pepper, sliced
1 cup organic sauerkraut (I used Eden brand)
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

mustard (your choice)

  1. Heat a cast iron pan on medium high flame(I used a portable stove to cook outside when the weather is hot).
  2. Add olive oil. Then, add onions. Pan fried for 1 minute. Add bell peppers. Sauteed for another minute.
  3. Add organic sauerkraut and ground black pepper. Sautee until all vegetables are browned and heated through.
  4. While toppings were being pan fried, put Field Roast Smoked Apple Sage sausages on the grill along with the buns. Carefully, watch the hot dog buns. Flip sausages after 2 minutes.

  5. Assemble the hot dog buns and sausages together, Then,add toppings and mustard.
  6. Serve immediately.
Grilled Vegetables
Serve 4

2 Tbsp. minced garlic
3 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive oil
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp. tamari
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1 medium organic sweet potato or yam ( microwaved for 2 minutes)
2 large organic zucchini
2 large organic crooked neck yellow squash
1 lb. organic asparagus

  1. Cut(lengthwise) yam, zucchini, and yellow squash into 1/4-inch thin slices.
  2. Mix marinade in a small bowl with a wire whisk
  3. Marinade all vegetable for about 1 hour
  4. Grill on hot coals for about 4 minutes each side
Now, the fun part is the dessert: Vegan Peach Melba, vanilla ice cream served with a poached peach and raspberry sauce. This dessert was inspired by Curtis Stone, the Aussie celebrity chef from Take Home Chef. I love to watch cooking shows whether it is vegan or non-vegan(I always think that recipes can be veganized). Curtis reminded me of Peach Melba, a dessert that I savored in my childhood. This dessert is well-known in Australia where he came from. Americans probably never heard of this dessert. However, growing up in Indonesia which is near Australia, my late dad always took us to have Peach Melba as a treat in our hometown's ice cream shop. I totally forgot about this dessert until Curtis made this dessert in one of his shows. Yeah, I remember this delicious ice cream dessert so I determined to make it and to re-live my childhood.

I invited my mom and siblings to try it and we went back to our memory lane, our childhood era, talking about fun events we had together as a family in our hometown's ice cream shop, having Peach Melba. Mom and siblings had the non-vegan store-bought vanilla ice cream in it. I had it with Turtle Mountain Purely Decadent with Coconut Milk,Vanilla Bean, soy ice cream. This product has been blogged in many different vegan blogs. It finally reached the shelf of the ice cream section of Whole Foods market in my area. This vanilla soy ice cream was really decadent and creamy.

Vegan Peach Melba
Adapted from Curtis Stone's recipe
Serve 4


For the Poached Peaches:
4 cups water
1 cup sugar
1/2 lemon, thinly sliced
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
Note: I used vanilla beans and scraped the dark bean specks. You are welcome to substitute with vanilla extract (1 -2 teaspoons) but using vanilla beans is much better.
4 peaches, peeled but leave whole

For the Raspberry Sauce:
12 oz. fresh organic raspberries
2/3 cup powdered sugar

Soy Vanilla Ice Cream (try Turtle Mountain new product: Purely Decadent with Coconut Milk)

  1. Combine water, sugar, and lemon slices in a heavy large saucepan. Scrape in the seeds from the vanilla bean then add them to the liquid mixture. Bring the liquid to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
  2. Add the peaches and simmer gently over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes or until the peaches are almost tender. The cooking time will vary depending on the ripeness of the peaches.
  3. Allow the peaches to cool in the poaching liquid. Add vanilla extract this time (if you don't use vanilla beans). The peaches will continue to cook in the liquid as it cools, so be sure not to over-cook them initially.
  4. While the peaches are cooling off, puree the raspberries and powdered sugar in a blender until smooth.
  5. Strain the raspberry sauce through a fine sieve and into a bowl. Discard the seeds.
  6. Place peaches and raspberry sauce in the fridge until time to serve.
  7. To serve: Place 3 tablespoons of raspberry sauce in the center of each 4 plates and stir to create 4 large circles of raspberry sauce. In the center of each plate, place 1 peach and serve with vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!
Alternate serving method is just to put ice cream in the middle, put sliced peaches around it, and drizzle with raspberry sauce (see picture below).

Boy, this ice cream dessert topped it all, a fun filled weekend with a family. I know it is not red, white, and blue (more like red, white, and yellow) as the 4th of July dessert should be but it is absolutely divine and brought a family together in a hot summer day.