Getting rid of this cold: Thai “Chicken” Noodle Soup

I’m still trying to kick the cold I mentioned in my last post, but I did have the energy to make some illness-defeating soup last night: Thai “chicken” noodle.

Thai “Chicken” Noodle Soup
Adapted from

12 oz flat rice noodles (wide or thin, your choice)
2 large shallots, thinly sliced
5-6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
8 cups vegan “chicken” broth
1 thumb-length hunk of ginger, grated
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp brown sugar
1 or 2 bay leaves
1 huge carrot, sliced on the diagonal
1-2 stalks celery, sliced on the diagonal
1-2 chilies, sliced on the diagonal (depending on the heat level of the chili and how hot you want your soup)
1 stalk lemongrass, minced
2 bay leaves (use a few kaffir lime leaves instead if you have them)
1/4 cup coconut milk
1 1/2 cups vegan “chicken” strips or “breasts”, pan-fried and chopped (honestly, this is really optional if you aren’t a fan of mock meats)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Put the rice noodles in a large pot and cover with cold water. Soak for 20 minutes (or longer), then bring water to a boil. Once the water is boiling, remove it from the heat and let the noodles sit until they are soft (this will only take a few minutes). Drain and rinse with cold water to stop them from cooking. Set aside.

Heat some oil in a Dutch oven and add the shallots and garlic. Cook until beginning to brown. Add the broth, ginger, lime juice, rice vinegar, and soy sauce. If you have a large tea strainer that closes, put the bay leaves and lemongrass in it and put it in the pot. (If you don’t have a tea strainer, add the lemongrass with the shallots and the bay leaves with the broth, remembering to remove the bay leaves later. I use the tea strainer because lemongrass never seems to get entirely soft for me and I don’t like eating hard bits of it in soup.) Bring everything to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the carrot, celery, and chilies and continue to simmer until the carrots and celery are soft.

Add the coconut milk, chopped “chicken”, and cilantro and simmer gently for another few minutes.

To serve, put a heap of rice noodles in a bowl and ladle broth over them. I sprinkled mine with thinly sliced scallions and had some sriracha and lime wedges nearby.

This was an interesting change of pace and certainly had all the ingredients I look for in a make-me-feel-better meal (garlic, ginger, chilies, broth), although pho is my all-time favorite. I’d have made it tonight if I hadn’t been out of star anise!

Pictures of animals, you say? Here is a great blue heron. I see at least one of them every time I’m out. It’s weird.

Tree swallow.

Not an animal, but named for one: cattails.

And to wrap things up, a raccoon trying to steal cookies, probably successfully.

Comments (1)

Fastest Pad Thai Ever

I made some Faux Pho for dinner last night and made way too many noodles. So today when I was rummaging in the refrigerator for something to make for lunch, it was obvious I should base it around the leftover rice noodles, and maybe it was the peanut butter sriracha cookie I was nibbling while I thought, but the first thing that came to mind was pad thai. Now, pad thai is really not a very time consuming dish to make to begin with, so there is little need to try to speed it up. And traditionally there is no peanut butter in pad thai. But for a nearly-instant lunch, this was really very tasty. If, like me, most of your at-work lunches are leftovers, this is something you can whip together in three minutes before you leave the house and warm gently in the microwave at the office. I’m afraid my measurements – loose at the best of times – are non-existent here. It’s really up to you to balance out the sweet, salty, and sour flavors the way you like it.

Fastest Pad Thai Ever

cooked rice noodles (this is a great way to use up leftovers, which I tossed very lightly with sesame oil before storing)
peanut butter (smooth or crunchy is okay)
tamarind pulp or concentrate
soy sauce
jaggery (my favorite sugar, available in Indian groceries, and Wegmans is now carrying this product) or brown sugar
protein, such as cubed tofu or shredded seitan (optional)
shredded or thinly sliced veggies (optional) – my Quick Pickled Carrots are perfect

Put the peanut butter, tamarind, soy sauce, jaggery or sugar, and sriracha in a blender in proportions that are pleasing to your palate and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust flavors. Thin with water and blend again. Heat for a minute or two in the microwave (or on the stovetop in a small saucepan), and then whisk. If your noodles are cold, warm them in the microwave for a minute or two. Toss everything together.

The pickled carrots are particularly brilliant here because the provide the extra tang that you usually get by squeezing a lime over your noodles, so if you don’t happen to have a lime on hand, you’re covered. For my protein, I used a handful of the shredded seitan chicken from Nature’s Soy, which I get at Super H. Top this with crushed peanuts, cilantro, and/or bean sprouts if you have them on hand, but if you don’t and you’re just going for super fast, this was quite tasty as is.

And today is a Torticia day. Torticia is a silly little animal. I think she’s getting a little pudgy, and although she and Gomez spend hours racing around the house all day, she’s been a bit lazy when I’m playing with her. Whereas Gomez leaps around like an Olympic gymnast trying to catch dangling toys, Torticia often rolls on her back and waits for the toy to come to her. She’s roly poly.

She’s lazy.

She takes naps to recover from naps.

She’s also an extremely cuddly, affectionate, friendly, tolerant, fuzzy, little ball of wonderfulness. This morning when I woke to her sleeping between my legs, as soon as she realized I awake, she snuggled up on my chest and purred and purred and purred and begged to be petted, and snuggled some more, and was basically so incredibly cute it brought tears to my eyes. She’s so loving and warm, and extremely soft and silky. It’s just a joy to touch her.

And then she goes and does something classy like this:

Although really she’s probably the most beautiful cat in the universe.

Comments (10)

Drunken Noodles, more authentic

The last time I made drunken noodles, I warned that it was not my usual drunken noodles and not remotely authentic. My “usual” drunken noodles are generally me standing around the kitchen throwing things together and making it really spicy. Last night I decided to “get authentic” and actually look at recipes for drunken noodles. I did what I usually do in those cases and read a bunch of recipes, kept it all in the back of my head, then went into the kitchen and worked something out that was a conglomeration of what I’ve read. This recipe probably weighed the most heavily.

One thing I learned is the basil used in real drunken noodles is not Thai basil, as I thought, but holy basil. I wish I’d thought of this before I went to Super H the other night because they have holy basil, but as it was, I had NO basil and was still determined to make the dish. Which right there probably eliminates it from the realm of “authentic”. I did throw in a frozen basil cube, though, for (completely the wrong) basil flavour. (I just typed “flavor” like a normal American and Firefox – which on my laptop thinks I’m British for some unfathomable reason – underlined it as a typo and I went back and “corrected” it. It’s very distracting for Firefox to keep telling me words are misspelled when they aren’t. Curiously, Firefox also insists that “Firefox” is misspelled.) I don’t really recommend the frozen basil thing though, because in addition to probably getting you mocked by serious Thai food connoisseurs, these noodles could really have used some green basil leaves snaking through them for the sake of appearance if nothing else. They weren’t all that pretty. Mark mysteriously announced that in the wok, it looked like Hamburger Helper. Trust me, that’s not what you want to hear when you’re going for an authentic ethnic meal.

The good thing about this recipe is it’s super fast. I prepped everything in about 10 minutes, then just waited for Mark to come home. When he arrived, it was just 10 minutes, if that, to prepare. It looks like a lot of ingredients, but it’s mostly just sauces you’re mixing together at one time. Easy.

Drunken noodles should be very spicy; add as much heat as you can handle!

Drunken Noodles

6-8 oz wide rice noodles (banh pho)
2 Tbsp vegan oyster sauce (readily available in Asian grocery stores)
2 Tbsp light soy sauce
1 Tbsp seasoning sauce (This is usually Golden Mountain seasoning sauce, which is a Thai condiment similar to Maggi seasoning. The second bottle from the left in my photo is a Vietnamese seasoning sauce with ingredients that look identical to Golden Mountain, so I’m assuming it’s pretty much the same flavour-wise. Substitute Maggi seasoning sauce and/or more light soy sauce.)
1 Tbsp dark soy sauce
1 Tbsp vegan fish sauce (substitute more light soy, or omit if your mixture is too salty already)
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp sambel olek
1 tsp sugar (I used brown sugar, white is fine)
6 oz chicken-style seitan or cubed tofu
1 cup holy basil, or Thai basil, or if all else fails, regular basil, or if you’re completely desperate, a frozen basil cube
3 large shallots or 1/2 onion, diced
4 cloved garlic, minced or pressed
1 carrot, chopped
1/2 can baby corn
1 jalapeno (this is what I used because it’s what I had; Thai peppers would be more appropriate if you have them)
2 Tbsp canned jalapenos, chopped (optional; I still had some leftover from the Mexican pizza and nachos)

Because I had the canned jalapenos I wanted to use up, I figured I’d make a cheater’s version of one of the condiments you get in Thai restaurants. I took the canned jalapenos and covered them in rice vinegar (and a splash of the vegan fish sauce for good measure, but that’s just because I have it and feel like I should be using it). If you don’t want to bother with doing this, just add the vinegar to the sauce in the next step instead.

In a small bowl, whisk together the oyster, soy, seasoning, and fish (if using) sauces, sambel olek, and sugar. Set aside.

Prepare the rice noodles according to package instructions. What I do is bring a pot of water to a boil, remove it from the heat, add the noodles and stir, and let them sit for 3 to 5 minutes or until soft. Keep an eye on them; they soak quickly this way. Drain and run under cold water when soft, then toss lightly with a bit of oil to keep from sticking.

Chop your shallots or onion, carrots, baby corn, and hot pepper. Mince or press the garlic. (Not pictured: prepare your basil.)

Heat some oil in a hot wok, then add the shallots and fry for 2 or 3 minutes.

Add the carrots, baby corn, and hot pepper and fry for another couple of minutes, then add the garlic and fry another minute.

Add the tofu or seitan and fry another minute or two.

Mix in the noodles and basil.

My picture of the next step was too blurry to use, but add the sauce, mix well, and bring it all up to temperature. I added my jalapeno/vinegar condiment here because it was just me and Mark and we like it the same way, but you can also serve it at the table for guests to add to their own liking.

Bonus kitty picture:

It’s snowing here, heavier than they’d predicted. I was supposed to go up to Baltimore to see a friend I haven’t seen in several years, so I’m frustrated. Mark, despite the fact he spends most Saturdays sitting at his computer, is going stir crazy because he is being forced to sit at his computer instead of doing some myriad of unidentified outdoor activities he’d suddenly rather be doing, and keeps coming into my sunroom/library and dancing around like a maniac. Brachtune is the only content one. See above.

Comments (6)

Guest Post! Kylie’s Chicken with Thai Basil and Chilli (with vegan options)

Note from Renae: All the way from New South Wales, Australia, Smucky’s sister has written a guest post! This is a vegan blog and her recipe contains chicken, but as she points out, it is very easy to substitute vegan “chicken” strips. I made this recipe for dinner tonight and at the end of the post, I’ve posted my photos. It was delicious!

I should point out for the vegans that Quorn, which Kylie suggests, contains egg whites (though it is readily available here in the US). However, I totally back her suggestion that you go to England because it is great there! (And very vegan-friendly.) LightLife Chick’n Smart Strips are vegan and available in most grocery stores in my area, and Trader Joe’s Chicken-less Strips are also vegan (and are what I used). You could also make your own chicken-style seitan, or even just use tofu. So don’t be alarmed that Kylie used chicken. This is exactly the type of recipe I’d see somewhere and be excited about; I don’t even read “chicken”, I just read “chicken substitute”. And Kylie’s just the type of person I’m glad this blog attracts: people who may not necessarily be vegan themselves but who are open to eating vegan meals. So with no further ado, here’s Kylie:

Hello! My name is Kylie. I know it seems like we don’t know each other, but in fact we do. Well, sort of. You know my brother – sometimes called Mark, sometimes called Smucky, but more often than not, called ****head.

(I am the one in the glasses).

Chicken with thai basil and chilli

Technically this is not a vegetarian meal, let alone a vegan meal. I mean, it has meat in it. And also some meat products. But don’t be put off by that. I would recommend quorn strips in place of the chicken, but if you’d have to go to England to get it (like I would), it’s probably asking a bit much. Unless you are very ambitious, in which case, go for it! It’s great there! You’ll love it!

You will need:

2 tb peanut oil
600g chicken breast fillet, stir-fry-strip-style * Renae’s note: this would be about 2 or 3 packages of most brands of vegan “chicken” strips
2 cloves garlic, minced
1cm/5g fresh ginger, minced/grated
4 small red chillies, thinly sliced
4 or 5 lime leaves, ‘shredded’ (I just cut it with scissors)
1 medium brown onion, sliced thinly
About 4 mushrooms, quartered
1 carrot, sliced thinly

This is the sauce according to the original recipe. I do 1.5 times the sauce though:
1/4 cup (60ml – so I would do 90ml) oyster sauce (or vegan oyster sauce, which almost definitely exists, but I haven’t checked) * Renae’s note: it does exist and should be available in just about any Asian grocery store
1 tb soy sauce
1 tb fish sauce (or vegan fish sauce) * Renae’s note: or just double the soy sauce
1/3 cup (80ml) chicken stock (or vegetable stock)

About a cup thai basil
A cup bean sprouts (optional: I don’t usually get it because you can only buy huge amounts of bean sprouts here, and I kept ending up throwing 3/4 out. So I just don’t get it anymore).

The first thing you want to do is chop the shit out of everything.
In one bowl, put: the minced garlic, grated ginger, sliced chillies, shredded lime leaves and sliced onion.

In another bowl: the quartered mushrooms and thinly sliced carrot.

In a third bowl: the sauces (oyster, soy, fish, stock). The sauce issue is contentious. On the one hand, some people like it to coat the food, and no more. I think it would taste more caramel-ly if you took this approach and used the recommended quantities. I, however, do not like to eat boiled rice by itself, so I make enough sauce that it will also flavour all the rice, and if there is too much, you can always boil it off at the end. So I up the quantities by half.

You’ve pretty much done all the work now! Well done! Time to chillax a bit! Have yourself a beer. But not this one..

..unless you are not a vegetarian.

Right! Back to work!

Ok, I have actually omitted a step here. If you eat chicken, at this point you heat half the peanut oil in a pan and cook the chicken in batches until cooked through. Set it aside. If you are using some chicken substitute, I imagine you don’t need to ‘cook’ the chicken as such, just heat it, so you can leave that til later.

Moving along. Heat the remaining peanut oil in the pan (about a medium heat) . Throw in the garlic, ginger, chilli, lime leaves and onion. Cook until onion is soft and mixture is ‘fragrant’.

Ooh that looks nice, doesn’t it. You can’t beat frying onion.

At this point, add the mushrooms and carrots, and stir fry til carrot is as soft as you like it. Actually, til it is almost as soft as you like it. It is good if it still has a little crunch to it.

Throw the chicken back in with the sauces. If I was using a substitute, I would probably put it in first, stir it through til it was warm, then put in the sauces. Turn the heat up a bit and cook til the sauce thickens to the consistency you like. Now for me, I have a fair bit of sauce at this point, and it generally takes the same amount of time to cook (actually, to boil) the sauce off, as it takes to cook the rice. If you have less sauce, you should start the rice before now. Sorry.

Also, I don’t really think there’s a perfect consistency. You just want to cook it enough that it tastes NOTHING LIKE FISH SAUCE.

While that’s cooking off, cook some rice perfectly:

When the sauce is at the consistency you like, take it off the heat and stir through the thai basil, and bean sprouts if you’re using them.

And that’s it! Very easy, but restaurant-quality. It looks nice to serve it like this:

..but this is how I have it:

In other news, I made Renae’s lentil loaf today. It smelled awesome, and this is how it looked before it went in the oven. Mmmmm. It smells better than it looks.

It’s me, Renae, again. Here’s the line-up of the ingredients I used:

If you’ve been reading for a while, you know that I hate mushrooms, so I left those out. I did use the bean sprouts, though, but forgot to remove them from the refrigerator to have their picture taken.

I won’t give you a commentary of the steps because Kylie already did, but here are some intermediary pics:

There is definitely no need to go running around looking for vegan fish sauce for this dish. I had some on hand so I used it, but it can be hard to find (vegan oyster sauce, however, is not). You hardly use any and as Kylie says, you don’t want the dish to taste like fish sauce anyway. Just use extra soy sauce.

I’d never bought vegan oyster sauce before today, mostly because many times it’s mushroom flavoured. I was going to be brave and get it anyway today but managed to find a non-mushroomy vegan oyster sauce! If you can’t find vegan oyster sauce for some reason, try a smaller amount of dark soy sauce: it was sort of thick and slightly sweet like dark soy sauce (it’s not as sweet though, so dilute it with extra stock). Or try vegetarian “stir-fry sauce”, which is usually about the same consistency.

Kylie suggests using my idea of a bit of aniseed and European basil if you can’t find Thai basil, or just the basil if it’s strong-flavoured. I can almost always find Thai basil in my Asian grocery stores.

Here it is plated …

… and mixed up:

The beer Kylie was drinking, Tooheys, is vegan, so if you can get your hands on it, drink up! No stags were harmed in the making of their beer, nor was isinglass used to refine it. In fact, I believe I drank a few Tooheys at Kylie’s house when I was there earlier this year! I’m not sure it’s available outside Australia, so here’s what I had tonight instead:

Verdict? Well, Mark’s been requesting French onion soup for the last day and a half, but he got this instead. I was slightly worried he’d deduct points from it for not being French onion soup, but when I asked him what he thought he responded, “It was chicken-tastic! I really enjoyed it: it was very tasty; full of flavour and magic!” I agree on all counts: it was extremely flavourful and tasted like a restaurant dish. It was also quick and easy: I think this is another case where the vegan dish is probably easier than the non-vegan dish because the “chicken” doesn’t need to be cooked; just heated through. I’ll definitely be making this again, most likely on a weeknight when I don’t want to spend much time on dinner but want a big return on taste. Thanks, Kylie!

Comments (8)

Drunken Noodles

Tonight when I asked Mark what he wanted for dinner and, gesturing toward the kitchen island covered in produce fresh from the farmer’s market, suggested basil should play a large role considering I had a bunch of it. I was surprised he promptly answered, “drunken noodles”. Surprised because not only is his standard answer “I don’t care,” but because I didn’t know Mark even realized drunken noodles contain basil. Sure, typically it would be Thai basil and I had Genovese, but I have ways around that. Drunken noodles are not a new dish to my repertoire, but I did make them completely differently than I usually do because I didn’t have the wide noodles I usually use, I didn’t have Thai basil, I didn’t have shallots, I didn’t have bean sprouts, and I did have vegetarian fish sauce. Oh, and I don’t usually sneak zucchini into it. It ended up okay, but I prefer my usual version so sooner or later I’ll have to put that one up. In the meantime, here’s what I did tonight, and it was hot enough to work its magic against hangovers (not that I had one) even if it wasn’t as great as usual.

Drunken Noodles

1/4 package wide rice noodles (I used long, thin-ish, Pad Thai-ish noodles, but I usually use short, wide noodles that are nearly square)
1/2 onion, sliced
1/4 tsp anise seed -> Thai basil has a somewhat anise flavor compared to European basil, so I use anise seed for flavor when I don’t have Thai basil. Add it only if you don’t have Thai basil, and use it sparingly.
1 zucchini, sliced into ribbons/noodles on spiral slicer (optional)
1 yellow (or other color) bell pepper, chopped
1/3 pint orange cherry tomatoes, halved
2-4 small Thai peppers (I used cayenne because that’s what I had on hand), sliced
1 cup basil, Thai if you can get it
3 Tbsp dark soy sauce
2 Tbsp thin (light) soy sauce
2 Tbsp vegan fish sauce (or extra soy sauce)
2 Tbsp sambel olek (or to taste)
1 Tbsp lime juice
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
zest of 1 lime
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, grated
2 drops stevia or 1 tsp sugar

The reason I decided to make zucchini “noodles” is really just that I have a lot of zucchini. I buy it by the ton at the farmer’s market so I can relate to the “way too much zucchini” problem that people who are actually capable of growing things have. Also, I’ve recently converted Mark into a zucchini fan. (Score!) If you don’t have a spiral slicer or you don’t have an abundance of zucchini or you aren’t married to Mark or you just think it’s weird to put zucchini in drunken noodles, well, just omit it. It is weird.

Cook or soak the noodles according to package instructions, then drain.

Chop the bell pepper and tomatoes; slice the onions and hot peppers. Grate/zest the ginger and lime.

In a small bowl, whisk together the “fish” sauce, soy sauces, ginger, lime, sambel olek, stevia or sugar, and sesame oil.

Heat a wok over medium high heat, then add some oil. When the oil is hot, add the onions, and if using, the anise seed.

After a minute or two, add the bell pepper and stir fry for another minute or two.

Add the tomatoes and stir fry for a couple of minutes.

Add the rice noodles …

… and, if using, the zucchini “noodles”.

Then stir in the sauce.

Finally stir in the basil and make sure everything is warmed through.

Drunken noodles are very fast to prepare! I’ve never actually tried them as a hangover cure, but they are tasty even when you are feeling fine!

(They’re even tastier when I’m using my normal recipe, however.)

In other, semi-related news, as someone who makes her own tempeh and tofu, I found this slideshow and article in The Atlantic pretty interesting. I’m slightly disturbed by the fact they used to use their feet to make tempeh – all the more so because the reason is feet are “very dirty” – but that’s apparently illegal now anyway.

In completely non-related news, but I bring it up because I mentioned the book in my last post, yesterday this article popped up in my feed reader and I found it completely bizarre. For one thing, it’s an opera about physics. For another thing, I’m currently reading the book its based upon. And it’s not like the book is new (it was published in 2005); I’ve had it on my shelf for a few years and just randomly started reading it last week. So the timing is weird. Not quite as weird – and a much happier coincidence – as the time David Foster Wallace committed suicide while I was reading Infinite Jest. The opera is moving to Barcelona after Paris, and I’d love to go see it there because I also just finished reading two books that take place in Barcelona, but considering I’ve already been to Australia this year, I think I’m going to have to catch it at the Guggenheim in NYC in January. (By the way, if you are at all interested in string theory, quantum mechanics, particle physics, extra dimensions, and all that fun stuff, in addition to Warped Passages, I highly recommend The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene – who happens to be vegan!) (Hey, look, I managed to make this paragraph somewhat relevant to a vegan blog!)

In cat news, is Brachtune not the utmost adorable thing in the world when she’s sleeping??? She lies with her face flat on the chair:

She’s such a cutie!

She always wakes up when I’m taking her picture though.

Comments (21)

Tamarind Rice Noodles with Mock Chicken

So there’s a new Korean grocery store in town: a new location of Lotte Plaza. I don’t usually shop at Lotte because Super H is closer and better, but I’d heard the new location was super-fab. So you know where I was on Saturday!

The new Lotte Plaza IS much better than the other location I’m familiar with, however, it’s no Super H-killer in my opinion, and as Super H is closer to my house, Super H still reigns supreme for me. (Lotte DID have a lot more Indian ingredients than Super H has, I must admit, however, I have an Indian grocery store nearby that I like.) However, I bought a TON of stuff for little money and I did score some cool things. One thing that I got at Lotte that I have never found at Super H is vegetarian fish sauce. Now that is not to say there is no vegetarian fish sauce at Super H. I’d be surprised if there isn’t. I’m always claiming Super H has “everything but ___________”, where the blank is some esoteric ingredient I’m looking for for months, then finally resort to buying online, and then find at Super H before my package even arrives. But Super H can be a little overwhelming and I guess I miss things.

Anyway, I was very excited about the vegetarian fish sauce because I’m always thinking, “man, I need vegetarian fish sauce!” I’ve made a few different versions, but I generally get annoyed with the extra step and just sub soy sauce. However, once I procured the stuff, it quickly became one of those, “what the heck do I DO with THIS?!” ingredients. I suddenly had NO idea why I would possibly need fish sauce in my life. This also happens to me when I order from May Wah. I get a huge batch of pretty realistic meat analogs and realized I have NO IDEA what to do with “meat”. It’s like I don’t even consider it something one would want to eat. I know I sometimes make or use mock meats, but it’s usually more as a garnish (kind of how the vegetable-loving Thomas Jefferson advised eating meat). I always end up completely baffled by the fake meat and it takes up space in the freezer for months. (Except the fish filets: Mark and I love fish sandwiches.)

So anyway, the point is I guess I’m far enough along in this vegan journey that I don’t need and really don’t even know what to do with fish sauce. Nonetheless, I bought it and it was exciting and I was determined to use it, so I made up the following recipe, which is kind of pad thai without peanuts, I guess.

I am slightly annoyed when I come across vegan recipes that call for things like vegetarian fish sauce that are really hard to find, so I don’t really like posting stuff like this. So I went looking for ideas for better homemade vegetarian fish sauce and I plan on working on that over the next couple of weeks, so that if I DO come up with more recipes that use my store-bought stuff, I can give you a good alternative to make at home. Which is a little dumb when you think about: I can’t think of what to do with the huge bottle of I have of the stuff, so I’m going to…make more? In the meantime, just use soy sauce in this recipe if you don’t have vegetarian fish sauce.

Tamarind Rice Noodles with Mock Chicken

4 oz wide rice noodles (banh pho)
2 large shallots
4 cloves garlic
3 Tbsp vegan “fish” sauce or soy sauce
2 tsp tamarind concentrate
1/4 cup water
2 drops stevia or 1 tsp brown sugar
2 carrots
1 medium onion
1 hot chili pepper
1/2 small Napa or savoy cabbage
8 oz vegan “chicken”, shredded
2 cups bean sprouts
4 green onions, chopped
1 lime, quartered

I see I managed to block the package of “chicken” with the onion in the ingredients photo. Nice job, Renae. I got it in the tofu section of the Asian grocery store and it’s just chicken-style seitan, though this brand is very soft, so use something more tender than chewy or firm.

Soak the noodles in warm water for half an hour or until soft. I usually get impatient and start heating the water, though I don’t bring it to a boil. If you do heat the water, watch the noodles – they’ll get soft quickly.

Drain them when they are al dente.

To make the sauce, place shallots, garlic, water, tamarind concentrate, stevia or sugar, sriracha, and “fish” sauce or soy sauce in a small food processor.

Process until smooth.

Stack leaves of cabbage together …

… roll them up …

… and slice. This will shred or chiffonade it.

Do all the prep work: slice the hot pepper, chop the onion in a medium dice, chop the carrot and green onions, and remove and “fluff” the “chicken”.

Heat a wok over high heat, add some peanut oil and heat for 30 seconds. Add the onions and stir fry for 1 to 2 minutes.

Add the carrot and hot pepper; fry for two minutes.

Add the “chicken” and stir.

Add the cabbage and fry for two minutes.

Turn down the heat and mix in the noodles.

Add the sauce and stir thoroughly.

Add the bean sprouts and half the green onions; mix.

Top each plateful with more green onions and cilantro to taste. Serve with lime wedge.

In other news, Mark got a friend for Atticus Fish this weekend. Meet Aughra!

He’s named after this fella!

Aughra supports the use of vegetarian fish sauce!

Comments (1)

Thai Sticky Rice and Sauces

Thai sticky rice is a fun food you can eat with your hands and flavor with a variety of different sauces. You want to buy rice labeled “sweet rice” or “glutinous rice”. Shown is a store brand I currently have on hand, but I usually buy a Thai brand from the Thai grocery store. This is a short grain, glutinous rice, but it is not the same as sushi rice, so if you are unsure about what you are buying, you may want to ask a clerk. I have found the clerks in Asian grocery stores to be extremely helpful, despite the fact that I’m ordinarily very shy, so don’t be afraid to ask. In fact, everything I am about to show you about making Thai sticky rice, I learned from the very helpful lady at the Thai grocery store.

I cook most of my rice in an electric rice cooker after moving into a home with an electric stove (from one with a gas stove) and finding myself no longer capable of cooking rice properly, however, this type of rice can not be made in a rice cooker (although sushi rice, which is also sticky, can be). Instead, you will need a special steaming basket, which is available in Thai grocery stores and looks like this:

They are inexpensive and you can order them online, from sites such as this one, although you can probably just use a regular steamer if you don’t want to buy one.

First you need to soak the rice. Most of the instructions I have found online have given soaking times between 4 and 6 hours, however, the very nice lady at the Thai grocery promised me two hours was sufficient, and I’ve never had a problem soaking for as little as two hours. If I think of it earlier, I soak for longer, but two hours is fine. Figure on about 1/2 a cup dry rice per serving.

Here is my soaked rice:

Drain the rice. Get a piece of cheesecloth or muslin about 12″ by 12″ and mound the rice into the center of it. In the photo, I thought I would be clever by lining my sieve with the muslin and pouring the soaked rice into it, thinking the water would drain quickly through the fabric and save me a step, however it didn’t really work: the water didn’t drain quickly enough for me and I ended up pouring it out.

After mounding the rice in the center of the cheesecloth or muslin, fold it up into a neat little package:

Place the rice package into the steaming basket:

Put a few inches of water into the pot and place the basket on the pot (make sure the water doesn’t touch the basket). Place a snugly-fitting lid over the rice package:

Steam over medium heat. How long the rice takes to steam will depend on how long it was soaked and how much you are making. I have found it usually takes about 45 minutes, although I start checking it after half an hour. To check for doneness, remove the rice package from the basket, unfold, and try to grab a bit with chopsticks. If the rice is still hard and not sticking together, you still have a while to go. If it is clumping together, test a small amount in your hand and see if it feels soft and sticky. It’s never done the first time I check, but the bottom of the package is usually stickier than the top, so I’ll usually return the package to the basket upside down so it uniformly steams.

When the rice is done, remove from the basket and use a wooden rice paddle to remove from the cheesecloth or muslin.

Traditionally, the rice would be moved to a lidded serving basket, but I for some reason seem to not yet have acquired one of those. Sounds like a trip to the Thai grocery store is in order…

To eat, take a small amount of rice in your hands and dip it in a sauce. Here are a couple of sauce recipes:

Sweet and Sour Dipping Sauce

I got this recipe off the internet somewhere a long time ago: it is not my recipe. For my husband and I, I usually halve these amounts.

1/2 cup white or rice vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
2 cloves garlic
1 1/2 tsp red chili pepper flakes
1/2 tsp salt

Heat the vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Meanwhile, crush the garlic with the pepper flakes and salt with a mortar and pestle.

Stir this paste into the vinegar and sugar solution. Bring to room temperature and serve.

Peanut Sauce

This is my very simple and easy peanut sauce recipe that I use for everything from sticky rice to noodles. The bottle on the right in the photo is my homemade chili oil, which looks strange because there is gunk that marinates in it and I actually ran out of the oil and only had some gunk left. Looks like I’ll be making chili oil tomorrow. I managed to get 1 tsp out of it and made up for the remainder of the heat by using sriracha.

1/4 cup peanut butter
1 clove garlic, pressed
2 Tbsp of seasoned rice vinegar
2 tsp of chili oil
1/2 cup water

Process all ingredients in a mini-chopper, blender, food processor, immersion blender…or just whisk them all together.

Here’s everything I made for dinner tonight (peanut sauce not shown):

The spicy tofu + sticky rice meal is popular around here. My best friend considers this his favorite, and it’s one of my favorites too.

Comments (21)

Pad Thai

You wouldn’t know it from the posts so far – you probably think I only eat pizza – but my favorite food is Asian. I can’t narrow it down any more than that because I love all types of Asian food, which is good new for me because many Asian recipes are naturally vegan or very easy to veganize. I made Pad Thai for lunch today. Good news for you: Pad Thai is very quick and easy to make! The only thing that takes any time is soaking the noodles. But you can even cheat at that and cook them, in which case preparing the entire meal takes maybe 20 minutes.

When making a veggie Pad Thai, you can throw whatever veggies you want in. Unlike pizza, which I like simple, I like to put a lot of veggies in my noodles, which makes them more interesting and nutritious.

Pad Thai

This recipe makes about 4 servings.

1/2 package ban pho (rice noodles; available at any Asian grocer)

Sauce ingredients

These amounts are all approximations; mix to your own taste.

1/3 cup soy sauce or vegan “fish” sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp tamarind concentrate
1/4 – 1 tsp red pepper flakes

Other ingredients

Other than the shallots, all of the veggies are optional and/or can be substituted with other veggies of your liking.

2 shallots, chopped
1 carrot, julienned
1/4 cup cubed tofu (you can use fresh extra-firm tofu, pre-fried tofu, or the kind that comes pressed)
1/2 red pepper, chopped
2 Tbsp garlic chives (I used regular chives today because that’s what I had)
1 cup bean sprouts


crushed peanuts
quartered limes (I didn’t have any today and used a lemon instead)
chopped cilantro
additional red pepper flakes

First, soak your rice noodles in some water; the warmer the water, the faster they will soften. You want them to soften to just barely al dente, which will probably take 30-45 minutes. I got tired of waiting after half an hour (I was starving) and turned the burner on for about 5 minutes. The water never made it to a boil, but the noodles softened quickly. Do NOT overcook them. Drain them when they are ready.

This is what they look like as they are soaking:

While the noodles are soaking, prepare the sauce. I put some soy sauce in the photograph (Vietnamese soy sauce is all I had; I guess Thai soy sauce would have been better), but I actually used some mock fish sauce I made from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, because I had it leftover from an earlier experiment. Bittman’s recipe isn’t bad, but I’ve always just used soy sauce in the past, so don’t feel like you need to go out of your way to make fake fish sauce. Soy sauce is the normal vegetarian sub. Whisk all of the sauce ingredients together. I’m heavy-handed with the red pepper flakes because my husband and I both like everything super spicy, but since you can garnish with extra later, it’s much better to use too little in the sauce.

Next prep all your veggies. You may have noticed the humongous carrot I have in the photo. I buy these huge carrots at the Asian grocery store because they are excellent for using on my mandolin, but if you don’t have a mandolin and/or don’t have bizzarely huge carrots, just chop it up into matchsticks with a knife.

Here are all of my veggies, prepped and ready to go. It is essential that you completely prep everything before you start cooking because the cooking goes extremely quickly.

Prepare your garnishes before you do the cooking as well. Crush or chop the peanuts. I just stick them in a mortar and pestle (I’m using a molcajete here because they don’t jump out of it.)

As previously discussed, I kill cilantro plants and didn’t have any fresh on hand. If you do, chop it up now. I used the frozen cilantro I got at Trader Joe’s, which I actually threw in the wok. But usually you would just toss the fresh leaves with the noodles.

Heat your wok up pretty hot. Now, I try to be conscious of the fact that not everyone has as many kitchen toys as I do and suggest alternatives where I can, but I’m not sure you can substitute anything for a wok when making Pad Thai. An ordinary frying pan is probably just not large enough. If it’s all you have, you may have to make one serving at a time. Even if you have a wok, you are only supposed to make two servings of Pad Thai at a time, although I got away with doing all four servings at once. The good news is woks are one of the few things that you don’t have to spend a lot of money on to get a higher quality. I authorize you to buy the cheapest wok you can find. Do NOT buy a non-stick wok. I don’t even know why such a thing exists. Not only are well-seasoned woks naturally non-stick, but woks are made for very fast cooking at very high temperatures – much higher than you can safely heat any non-stick coating. Non-stick woks are completely useless and in fact, dangerous. Non-stick woks sort of make me angry.

OK, enough lecturing. When your wok is hot, add some peanut oil. Pad Thai is generally fairly greasy, but I use only enough oil to get by. Add the shallots and stir-fry for a minute or two.

Add the remaining veggies (except the bean sprouts), one by one, beginning with those that take the longest to cook and finishing with the ones that take the least time, stir-frying for 30 seconds to a minute between additions. The reason for staggering the addition of veggies to a wok is not just because some take longer than others, but because every time you add something to the wok, it brings the temperature of the wok down, and you want the wok to remain very hot. So you are just adding a little bit at a time to allow the wok to recover temperature-wise. Don’t be tempted to dump a bunch of stuff in at once. I ordered my veggies like this: carrots, tofu, peppers, chives.

Since I was using frozen cilantro, I threw it in with the last of the veggies. After the last addition of veggies, dump the noodles in. As I said before, you shouldn’t put more than two servings of noodles in the wok at a time, so ideally you would only have been putting half the veggies in, and now adding half the noodles. Don’t crowd the wok. Mix everything up.

Now add the sauce and mix well. Finally add the bean sprouts and toss.

To serve, place a serving of noodles on a plate with a lime (or lemon if you must) wedge. Top with cilantro leaves and crushed peanuts. Pass additional chili flakes and peanuts around the table so others can spice to their tastes.

Enjoy! Pad Thai is actually a very quick meal once you know how to do it; it’s all prep time. If you buy pre-prepped veggies, or if you chopped extra veggies for a meal earlier in the week, and if you cook instead of soaking the noodles, you could have this ready in ten minutes!

By the way, Chez Pim has a very thorough tutorial on making Pad Thai, which I definitely recommend for further reading.

Comments (1)