Sunday, June 28, 2009

More Vegan Vietnamese Dishes

I am cooking lots of vegan Vietnamese dishes lately. Above is a picture of Vietname BBQ Noodle/Vermicelli salad. Vegan Vietnamese restaurants serve this cold noodle salad. In my area there are 6 vegetarian Vietnamese restaurants(3 are vegans): Thuyen Vien, Au Lac, Zen Vegetarian, Bodhi Tree, Bo De, and Van Hanh. I visited them often and can get ideas on how to make Vietnamese dishes. My favorite is Thuyen Vien and that's why it is listed first. I seldom go to Bo De and Van Hanh because they are my least favorites. The restaurants usually call this dish BBQ Vermicelli. This dish is a perfect meal for a hot weather since it is served in a room temperature. My recipe was posted on my other inactive blog, click here.

The ingredients that I use this time are (clockwise from top left): jicama, cucumber, carrots, Vietnamese Coriander or rau ram, bean sprouts, fresh mints, and green lettuce. All of them were sliced in thick julienne form.

This time I used buckwheat soba noodle instead of the white rice noodle or vermicelli. It is not traditional but I think soba noodle is more filling and it is more nutritious.

I also modified my salad dressing with coconut juice without added sugar. This one is my favorite brand. To see recipe of the salad dressing please my previous Vietnamese Green Mango Salad blog and scroll down to the recipe.

I have been also drinking a lot of natural coconut juice lately and bought the Amy & Brian brand. It is quite delicious when it is chilled. I have been using coconut juice for cooking lately, a new discovery. This one below is Tofu Stew with Coconut Juice from Vietnamese Fusion Vegetarian Cuisine cookbook by Chat MingKwan.

The ingredients in this stew are probably not familiar to some of you. They are lotus root, jicama, lemon grass, and coconut juice. I substituted the water chestnuts with jicama since I didn't have any water chestnuts. I also added green beans to it since I had some. It is quite delicious served with a bowl of steamed sweet rice.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Vietnamese Green Mango Salad

Recently, I have been craving Vietnamese Vegan dishes. I was inspired by my visit to a local Vietnamese Vegan/Vegetarian restaurant, Thuyen Vien, to prepare this dish. If you are in SoCal area, I really recommend this restaurant. Their dishes are authentic and the owner is very friendly and accommodating. It is a mom and pop, not a fancy vegan restaurant, but the food is out of the world!

After having a super delicious green mango salad in Thuyen Vien, I vowed to replicate it at home. It is not hard to find green mango in my area. I usually pick mangoes that are still firm and green in Asian or Indian markets nearby. If you cannot find green mangoes, you can use green apple such as Granny Smith. I even use 1 green apple in this recipe to add a crunchy texture.

It is also not that hard for me to find the fresh herbs used in Vietnamese cooking. I live near the so called Little Saigon of Orange County, California. The essential ingredient for this salad is a fresh herb called Vietnamese Coriander, the Vietnamese name is rau răm. I went on a special trip to a Vietnamese market just to get it. It is not available in the usual natural food markets I frequently shop at. If this is not available in your area, you can use fresh lemon verbena. Whatever you use for a substitution, choose a fresh herb that has lemony flavor and smell. I took a good picture of it so you can see how it looks like if you are able to find a Vietnamese market near you (you know that language barrier can be a problem shopping in such a market). Probably, you can also ask your local Vietnamese restaurant if they know where to buy it.

The ingredients of the salad are as follows (from left hand corner, clockwise): green mango, firm cucumber (English cucumber), carrots, jicama, green apple, chopped herbs (Vietnamese coriander and fresh mint leaves).

As you can see that the green mango is light yellowish and not white. During my growing up years, I was able to pick green mango from my own tree in the yard before it turned light yellow (a bit too ripe). However, for the purpose for this salad, since the mango was still firm, it was good enough.

The ingredients were all cut in julienne manner or match sticks. This is a chore. I used a food processor but then found out that it was not a good idea since this tool tends to make the ingredients juicy. I will investigate of a good mandolin that can perform julienne cut fruit and vegetable the way I want it. A julienne peeler did not do a good job since it cut too small. Don't worry since all the effort to cut all the vegetable and fruit is well worth it. This salad is so refreshing, spicy, light, healthy, and very low fat.

Another unique ingredient is young coconut juice. It is the water/juice and not milk, ok? If you can find a young coconut and get the juice out of it, that's great (recently we have lots of young coconuts in nearby Asian and natural food markets). Otherwise, I recommend the one in a can without added sugar and no pulp. I am using it in the veganized salad dressing (originally, this salad has fish sauce in its dressing).

Vietnamese Green Mango Salad
Serve 4-6

2 cups green mango, julienne cut (about 2 small green mango)
1 cup English cucumber, julienne cut
2 cups carrots, julienne cut
2 cups jicama, julienne cut (1 small jicama)
1 to 2 Granny Smith apple, julienne cut (about 1 to 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup Vietnamese Coriander, measure then chop
1/2 cup fresh mint, measure then chop

2 tablespoons fried shallot, omit for lower fat
3 tablespoons chopped unsalted peanuts, omit for lower fat
Sriracha hot sauce
Rice chips or crackers

Salad Dressing:
1/4 cup light soy sauce or Bragg's Liquid Amino
Note: refer to my blog about soy sauce I use
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 to 1/3 cup young coconut juice or vegetarian broth (room temperature)
1-2 tablespoons agave syrup
1-3 Thai chili or 1/2 jalapeno, chop finely (reduce amount for less spicy)
1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic

  1. Combine all salad ingredients in a salad bowl or a large salad plate.
  2. Combine all the salad dressing ingredients. Adjust the lime juice and agave syrup so this dressing is a sweet, sour, and spicy. Add enough young coconut juice to make it about 1 cup. Make sure the dressing is mixed thoroughly.
  3. Just before ready to serve, pour the dressing over the salad and combine well.
  4. Add garnish on top of salad, serve immediately in a room temperature with rice crackers, papadum, and drizzle with Sriracha hot chili sauce, if desired.
While shopping in Vietnamese markets, I discovered Vietnamese rice crackers that is usually served with this kind of salad. The Vietnamese name is Bánh da .

It is made of rice flour, tapioca starch, salt, water, black sesame seetd, and peanut. In this case, it was covered with black sesame seeds. It is crispy like a large cracker about 12-inches diameter and is broken into pieces when it is served with the salad. A closer look:

I thought that this rice cracker is quite delicious with the salad or even just for snacking by itself. It reminds me of Indian papadums. I guess every culture has chips as snacks and this one is a great Vietnamese snacks. Here is how this salad is served: rice cracker on the bottom, top with salad, and drizzle with Sriracha hot sauce. I made sure that every bite has all 3.

This is our favorite salad. It can be a light meal by itself for a hot summer. I cannot describe how good is the combination of sour green mango and green apple, sweet carrots, crispy jicama and cucumber, spicy sweet and sour dressing, refreshing herbs, and crackling rice chips all together. It was a party in our mouth!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Vegan Coconut and Lilikoi Scones

I haven't blogged for 2 months! I've been very busy with a project at work and at home. To relieve stress we decided to go for a Hawaiian vacation for 2 weeks. That trip inspired my blog and recipe for this blog: Coconut and Lilikoi(Passion Fruit) Scones, an inspiration from our trip to the Big Island and Kauai.

This recipe below is an adaptation of 'Classic Currant Scones' from the by Joy of Vegan Baking by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. I wanted rich and tasty scones resembling what I ate in the Big Island. There is no fresh passion fruit or Lilikoi where I live so I used Passion Fruit Jam that I brought home from Hawaii.

Coconut and Lilikoi(passion fruit) Scones

1 1/2 teaspoons Ener-G Egg replacer
2 tablespoons water
1 1/4 cup unbleached flour
1 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup vegan sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup non-hydrogenated, nondairy butter, cold (like Earth Balance)
1/2 cup shredded dry coconut (not sweetened)
1/2 cup soymilk creamer (or any other non-dairy milk)
Extra soy milk and flour for kneading
2 tablespoons Lilikoi (Passion Fruit) jam
2 tablespoons soy milk for brushing on top
Sucanat or vegan sugar for sprinkling on top

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 F. Lightly oil a cookie baking pan or use a parchment paper to line it.
  2. In a food processor, whip the egg replacer and water together until creamy and white.
  3. Meanwhile, combine the flours, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
  4. Cut the cold vegan butter into small pieces or chunks.
  5. Add the cut butter into the flour mixture and combine lightly.
  6. Add the butter and flour mixture into the egg replacer mixture in the food processor.
  7. Pulse the food processor while adding the soymilk creamer for about 30 seconds to 1 minute until a dough formed and mixed together.
  8. Add the 1/2 cup shredded unsweetened dry coconut and continue to mix for another 30 seconds. The dough will not be smooth like a bread dough but it should not stick to your fingers too much.
  9. Move the dough onto a floured cutting board and form a ball. Then flatten the ball with your hand. Add 1 tablespoon of lilikoi jam and fold over and mix. Then, add another 1 tablespoon jam and repeat. The dough may be soften. If it becomes sticky add extra flour until it is not sticky anymore(you may want to lightly flour your hands, as well). Then, flatten with your hand to form a 8 or 9-inch circle, 1/2 inch thick. Cut into 8 pieces (like cutting pizza) so that you'll have 8 triangle pieces.
  10. Place them 1/2 inch apart on the baking sheet, brush the tops with soymilk creamer or non-dairy milk, and sprinkle with sucanat or vegan sugar.
  11. Bake until the tops are brown, about 15 minutes. Let cool on a rack and serve warm with more lilikoi jam.
This scone is different than the lilikoi scone we ate at the Island Naturals market in Pahoa. We visited this market almost everyday while we were at the Big Island, staying in the Puna District. In Hawaii, they used fresh lilikoi. You can also use crushed pineapple and folded them in the scones, instead. This is a tropical vegan scone that is so delicious.

I am going to talk about our vegan experience in both islands: Kauai and Big Island with some pictures.

We were disappointed that Blossoming Lotus Cafe in Kauai closed down. We stayed in Kapa'a, Kauai and was hoping to visit this vegan restaurant. Alas, there were a few vegan establishments in Kauai. One market that we visited was the Papaya's Natural Foods in Kapa'a. They provide all kinds of vegan sandwiches and warm deli dishes. We loaded our cooler with vegan sandwiches and goodies before we headed for the beaches.

This is the view from the condo we stayed at. Every morning we had a vegan breakfast on our lanai(balcony) consisted of a bowl of tropical Hawaiian granola, soy milk, kona coffee, and tropical fruits, facing the beach. The sound of waves, birds, monk seals, and rooster were the background noise of our breakfast. Life is good!

We also went to farmers market in Lihue, Kauai and bought lots of fruits. The scene of their farmers market is different than home. They have lots of tropical flowers and fruits. We bought Hawaiian papaya, Mountain Apples, Apple and Baby Banana, and Longans.

I was so happy there since the weather and tropical fruits remind me of Indonesia. The landscape is so beautiful and green. The air is so clean and fresh and the sound of waves could be heard all night long from our bedroom. Unfortunately, we didn't find any Indian or Vietnamese restaurants. Their popular ethnic restaurants are Thai. There were several Thai restaurants that we visited. They provide vegan and vegetarian dishes with tofu. After 2 or 3 visits to the Thai restaurants; however, we were ready to try other ethnic restaurant that provides vegetarian food but there was none.

During our visit in Kauai, we did try Jojo's Shave Ice which according to our guide book: "The Ultimate Kauai Guidebook" by Andrew Doughty (the best guide book for Hawaiian islands, btw. We bought one for the Big Island, too.) it is the BEST shave ice in the island. We didn't try other shave ice joint and trusted this book. I can say that it was the BEST because the ice was shaved very finely. You can get 60 different flavors from this place. I notice that coconut and lilikoi combination flavor is very popular in Hawaii. Their coconut pudding or jello called Haupia is a popular dessert. Haupia is made of coconut cream and sometimes it is mixed with coconut meat and/or other tropical fruit like mango or passion fruit. You can get a recipe of a Tropical Haupia in Everyday Dish TV from a Hawaiian Chef: Brian Igarta, the Maui Vegetarian. I had a vegan haupia and lilikoi dessert from Island Naturals while I was there and it was yummy. This combination inspired my recipe for the scone above.

I chose Haupia Cream flavor shaved ice: coconut cream with coconut meat and DH chose the Coconut and Lilikoi combination shaved ice (the lilikoi syrup was the yellow one).

A trip to the beach was our schedule almost everyday. We managed to find a beach for snorkeling and swimming with calm waves and clean/clear water such as this one: the Ke'e Beach (the best beach in Kauai), thanks to the wonderful guidebook.

The highlight of Kauai was our visit to this beach and watching the Sunset:

Then, it was followed by a nice vegan dinner at a gourmet restaurant with vegan options: Postcards Cafe, at the town of Hanalei. It is a fancy restaurant where we celebrated our 20th anniversary with a nice vegan dinner. The Postcards Cafe has a postcard to take home:

What I enjoyed the most at that restaurant was their Hisbiscus cooler and their vegan Hanalei Taro Fritters with pineapple chutney(pictured).

It is not over yet, folks! We moved to the Big Island and stayed at the Puna District area. Our highlight of this trip was to see the active lava going into the ocean with an ocean adventure tour: Lavakai. We woke up at 3 am to catch a boat tour at 4 am. Are we crazy? No, we are not! Lava is best to be seen during the dark since it competes with the sun. I really recommend this tour. It is a safe adventure and it is once in a lifetime experience (the lava may stop at anytime). We visited this area 10 years ago and wanted to see the lava going into the ocean, booked the trip, but the lava stopped just before our tour day. So imagine our disappointment at that time. After waiting for another chance (another 10 years), we got our wish. It was well worth it to wake up at 3 am for this:

This is a lava explosion we saw from the boat at 4:30 am. Steam covered my lense so many times that I had to wipe it often. The boat was also rocking and rolling. It was very hard to get good pictures in such situation. Bonine or other motion sickness pill is a must for this trip.

Active lava represents Madame Pele (goddess of fire in Hawaii). She was nice to us this time and revealed herself with no disappointment anymore. We were awarded by this view and the sunrise view over a steamy ocean water at 5:45 am:

The selection of vegan meals in the Big Island was similar to Kauai (many Thai restaurants). We were lucky to find this natural market: Island Naturals (has a sister market in Hilo) which serves lots of vegan pastries, breakfast burrito, warm deli (chana masala, thai tofu, tofu and spinach curry, brown rice, etc.), cold sandwiches, vegan vegetable/tofu sushi, and tofu pad thai. They also have lots of vegan desserts such as haupia and lilikoi, carrot cakes, chocolate cake, chocolate chip cookies, etc. They have great organic coffee with organic soy creamer, too. The one in Pahoa opens at 7 am with warm, yummy vegan morsels and organic coffee. We visited this store several times during our visit and I really recommend this store to vegan tourists. Aloha!