Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Have Batter, Will Travel

I've recently come back from Adelaide, land of a surprising variety of vegan goods. One of the places I discovered is Sushi Train - what it sounds like; a sushi train. But they have vegan options! And plenty of them! (Except the usual vegan mainstays - the vegetarian roll and the inari both contain dashi. But are marked veg on the menu. SIGH.)
But I fell in love with this little bastard, the kakiage nigiri:
It's just a fried mixed veg tempura served over a ball of sushi rice with a little nori. But it's AWESOME. To get them without teriyaki and mayo (not vegan) I had to order them fresh, and the crispy nori against the fritter is delicious. Also, it was so nice to go to a sushi train and be able to eat something other than a) cucumber rolls and b) inari (WHICH I COULDN'T EVEN EAT HERE).
I'm gonna miss that place. So I pulled out the deep fryer and recreated the abomination at home.

DIY kakiage nigiri:
Surprisingly, they came out pretty close! The mixture of veg is grated butternut pumpkin, potato and zucchini with minced onion mixed through. Stirred in some tempura batter until veg was coated, formed into rough quenelle shapes on a spoon and dropped into the deep fryer. Perfecto.

And seeing as we're frying stuff, let's do tempura!
Carrot, butternut pumpkin, new potatoes with the skin left on and zucchini (AMAZING). Blanch in boiling water for a few minutes, dredge in flour, dip into your batter, fry. Super easy, super delicious. And so crispy! These stayed crispy for AGES. Look at this crunch! I am stoked.
Oh and corn was cheap too so what the hell, let's make Japanese corn fritters.
Same jam: batter, fresh corn kernels, nothing else. I like to eat these with squares of nori for the sushi-esque flavour. Yum.
I really, really need a salad now.

Tempura batter:
1 cup plain flour
1 cup ice-cold water
1/2 tsp. salt
(if you want to flavour this, go ahead! it's sturdy stuff. Serious Eats suggests curry paste.)

Sift plain flour into a bowl. Add salt and any other flavourings. Just before using, pour in ice cold water and gently mix together with a whisk until just combined. Lumps are fine! Let them be.

For the kakiage (mixed veg fritters):
makes about 10 kakiage
1/3 medium zucchini, grated
1/2 cup butternut pumpkin, grated
2 small new potatoes, grated
One small onion, minced
tempura batter

Combine in bowl. Mix in spoonfuls of tempura batter until all veggies are covered, but there is no excess batter pooling in the bowl. Heat a deep fryer to 180 degrees (or fry in a pot - whatever works). Form quenelles or long croquettes with two spoons and carefully lower into fryer. Fry for around 3-5 minutes until golden and crisp. Drain on paper towels. If you want to make nigiri, make sushi rice (this recipe is great), form a rice ball and pop your kakiage on top. Cut a strip of nori, wrap it around and dampen the ends to make it stick. Done.

For the corn fritters:
makes around ten medium-large fritters
one fresh ear of corn, shucked
tempura batter

Remove kernels from corn cob. Collect in bowl. Add spoonfuls of batter until kernels are covered, but not to excess, Heat deep fryer to 180 degrees. Drop spoonfuls of batter into fryer and fry for 3-5 minutes until batter is lightly brown and crispy to touch. Drain and serve.

Actual tempura:
fresh veggies of choice
tempura batter
plain flour - maybe 1/3 cup?

Pour plain flour onto a plate or shallow bowl. Slice vegetables of choice into 4mm or less slices. Blanch vegetable slices in boiling water until cooking process has just started, about two minutes. Drain and pat dry. Heat deep fryer to 180. Dredge slices in flour, then in batter. Drop into deep fryer and agitate basket so they don't stick. Fry for around three minutes until batter feels solid to the touch and vegetables are cooked. Remove, drain, repeat as necessary. Easy!

Monday, 29 June 2015

Smith and Deli


Smith and Deli is possibly the most exciting thing to happen to the Melb vegan scene in, well, ever. This visit actually happened over a week ago, but I've been in Adelaide (plenty of eats, will blog) since so haven't had time. Smith and Deli is just off Brunswick St in a nondescript looking building. The main feature when we went was the piles of people waiting out the door - passersby kept wandering past, stopping and staring at the commotion. Hilarious. The Eat Vegan cross is standing proud over the door:


Inside is adorable, with an old-school deli feel. There's plenty of pics around - and it was far too busy for me to snap any - so here's one quick counter shot. I love the pastel balloons and hand-written menus - it's obvious the whole place is well-thought out and the overall effect is cheery and welcoming. The deli cabinets are full of homemade cheeses and meats, as well as some premade (biocheese and Daiya), as well as an array of baked goods. Away from the counter, there's a wall of Mexican dry goods, one of fresh bread, organic veg and a fridge with more house products - vegan cream cheese and caramel sauce, just to name a few. There's also a wall of coolers with some commercial vegan products (some things I hadn't seen before - well played!), S&D house pizzas (margherita and pepperoni) and premade meals like lasagna, as well as drinks.


Our wait took - oh god, probably 45 minutes at least at 12 pm Saturday (we kind of deserved that). When we got our food, it was sealed with adorable Smith and Deli custom stickers:

 
Finally. Onto the food! My better half went for the Parmageddon ($14), chicken parma, napoli sauce, pesto and housemade mozzarella on a roll: 

 

This was an incredible sandwich. The napoli, pesto and cheese worked perfectly together. The house mozzarella is pretty tasty, up there with the better vegan cheeses - I'd love to see them selling this outright so I could experiment with it myself. This is one of the simpler sarnies on the menu, but it's utterly genius.

After scoffing a LOTF big brekky burger, I wasn't as hungry as I should have been and just got a pie - the pepper steak pie, $7:

It was a good pie. The pastry was flaky and the pie held together well. The filling was quite mild and I wasn't the hugest fan of the mock meat - it tasted like the mutton from Vincent's which I don't love. But that said, better half loved this pie. I did like the mild flavour of it, and had it been filled with something like lentils, I would have been proclaiming my everlasting love.

We couldn't leave without sweets! There were so, so many options. Brownies, popcorn-topped donuts, challah sticky buns.. enough to almost be thankful for the wait time so we could deliberate. Better half chose a vanilla slice ($5), where I went for the apricot danish (didn't catch the price): 

Both were perfect bakery renditions of the non-vegan originals. I'm not really a fan of vanilla slices - probably because I never ate them in childhood. But this one was legit, with the proper custard wobble and sweet icing. But the danish! Holy crap, this was good danish. Sweet and flaky with a lovely thick custard and tart apricot half. Divine. It was enough to make me wonder where vegan danishes have been all this time and why haven't they been in my stomach? It's going to be really hard to try something new next time, but I think I can make that sacrifice.
 
To nobody's great surprise, Smith and Deli are doing amazing things. Their attention to detail is impressive and every single item on the shelves is intriguing. Its popularity is entirely justified, and it's fantastic to be able to pick up a few groceries and an amazing meal at the same time. I know I'm heading back very soon for a shop and another crack at the menu. And another. And another.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Grill'd: Chips Ahoy

Last week, a work lunch took me to Grill'd for the first time in a long, long time. Their menu is getting ever better for veg*ns - there are still the three veggie burgers (the garden patty is excellent), but now there are three chip choices and all vegan friendly! As well as the herb-salted chunky fries, you now have the option of salted sweet potato chips or crumbed hunks of zucchini. They're all great choices. So good, in fact, I hit up my local for a round of chips a few days later.


snack size potato chips, $3.80; 'for one' sweet potato and zucchini chip servings, $4.80 each

All three of these are tasty. Grill'd do some of my favourite potato chips in Melb, the rosemary salt makes them a little more interesting than the standard chip. The zucchini fries are very well executed - not overly greasy, and the crumb coating is paper thin and super crunchy, with the zucchini still fresh and green inside. The only negative is they're pretty bland. Zucchini's pretty plain on its own, so some cajun seasoning or some fresh herbs would make these incredible. Get them with a dipping sauce, they need it.

The sweet potato, though, are by far the best commercial sweet potato fries I've tried. They look charred but they're definitely not - there's a slight crunch and the insides are tender without being mushy or dry, which is hard to do with sweet potato. Eaten out of a paper bag on a park bench watching the sunset, it was perfect. Well done to Grill'd for upping their vegan game - I'm hooked!

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Fo Guang Yuan Gallery/Tea House, CBD

I can't believe I had never been to FGY before today! I'd set out to once or twice, but never made it in time and hadn't worried about it too much - online reviews say the food is delicious but takes ages to arrive, which put me off (especially when Divine Realm is around the corner). I visited today at 12 on the dot and had my food within ten minutes. Both dishes, and so did the table next to us. Everything is vegetarian, and vegan-friendly dishes are now marked with a V on the menu!

We grabbed a quick appetiser- the san choy bau, $8 (all appetisers are $8):
This was a bed of bean sprouts for crunch, topped with minced mock meat - I think the menu said chicken - sweet teriyaki-ish sauce, julienned veg and sesame seeds. The flavours in this were delicious, but I'd prefer it a little less sweet. But be warned: the sauce is a watery consistency and when I bit into it, it went everywhere - there was a lot of mopping up required. They were tasty, but I wouldn't order again because they were embarrassingly messy.

This was the noodle soup with pork mince and veg dumplings, $10.50:
I didn't order this, but I snuck a dumpling and a taste of the broth. This is a light clear veggie broth that feels very wholesome and light, but is totally addiciting. Toppings are Asian greens, big ol' sllices of fried tofu, beansprouts, five-spice scented pork 'mince' and the dumplings. The dumplings are a standard vegetable affair - filled with mostly greens and a nice compliment. My partner said "there was nothing about this dish I didn't like", which is a decent review!

I got the tossed udon with mock ham and spicy pork mince - also $10.50:


On first glance my dish looked dry, but underneath was a layer of broth to sauce the noodles. I got mock ham and pickly veg (mustard leaves?) instead of dumplings, and to me it was the perfect mix. My broth had a subtle chilli hit and was warm and comforting. The noodles themselves were perfectly cooked and my bowl was served with a cup of miso soup alongside, which was simple and tasty. This was a brilliant dish, but next time I'll get the soupy version so I get more of that broth.

FGY's art gallery is also worth a look: the pieces we saw today were beautiful. Overall, FGY makes for a great visit: eat some clean, tasty food, then take a peek at the art gallery. And the prices are fantastic with a bowl of ramen setting you back $10.50, and the bentos of the day hovering around $12. This is one of the best cheap city eats, with a calming atmosphere to boot. I can't wait to try some of the other noodles and soups.

Fo Guang Yuan Art Gallery
141 Queen Street, Melbourne 3000
open for lunch 12-2:30, Monday to Friday
Fo Guang Yuan Art Gallery on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Night Noodle Markets 2014

When I first heard about the night markets, I was pretty excited (largely because Overdosa was vending) but didn't expect to have many other options. I'm so glad I went: amongst all the meat on sticks and other bits it's quite the vegan heaven - there's a few really fun options. I've been twice and have been lucky enough to sample lots of amazing food.

Chilli-passionfruit sorbet from Serendipity, a Sydney company:

I wandered past Serendipity not expecting anything plant-based but I was very wrong. They had so many options - lemon, mango, chocolate sorbet, raspberry along the normal lines - and passionfruit/chili and coconut/kaffir lime, both of which I tried. This flavour was SO GOOD. Intense passionfruit flecked with red chili pieces, but not an unpleasant heat- it hit you gently in the back of the mouth/throat and lips. It worked beautifully and was really satisfying to eat.

I didn't love the coconut/kaffir lime, but if you love lime and coconut you may well. It was pretty standard coconut milk with lime, but with an almost herbal finish - interesting, but not really my thing. Also, I found these melted faster than I like - on the short walk from the Serendipity stall up to the hill to sit and eat, the top of my tub was already melty.

These beautiful vegetarian dumplings from New Shanghai:

These were mostly filling, steamed and soft with a typical mix of veggies, a little tofu and rice noodles. But they were lovely and fresh and exactly the kind of dumpling I like.

After some questioning I discovered this spiralized potato fritter at a nearby stall was indeed vegan:

Definitely fair-esque food. It was tasty but what elevated it from the realm of Regular Deep Fried Things was the spice mix sprinkled over post-frying. The sign called it "garlic spice" and it made it far more interesting and well worth $6.

Vegan (labeled as such on the sign!) black bean dumplings from Zagyoza:

I was incredibly excited for these: anything that says 'vegan' on the sign and sounds a little more interesting than the usual offerings has me sold. But they were a bit of a disappointment - the soy-black bean sauce over the top was lovely, but the innards were just mashed black beans, somewhat like red bean paste. A vegetable mix would have been a lot better with the sauce.

Spring rolls from Let's Do Yum Cha, exactly how I like them - fresh veg-only rolls with five-spice. Not overly unique, but tasty.

I couldn't go past a Bombay Burger! Pre-squish, they look quite terrifying - but it was incredibly delicious. Overdosa didn't offer their avocado at the markets, but it will be back in future and I can't wait!

And their elephant is amazing:

The Noodle Markets are crowded, but they made for a couple of great nights out. The food is diverse and offers plenty for vegos and omnis alike - I even saw dairy-free sago puddings, so dessert is covered. It ends tomorrow and I will be sad to see it go - but there's always next year!

Monday, 17 November 2014

Shandong MaMa 2

I've been back to Shandong Mama many times over the past year since I blogged it, but I finally remembered to document a visit! They've expanded the menu and now opened up a second location (with booze!), Shandong Mama Mini, and it's great to see they're having so much success. Still only the one vegan dumpling option but now you have the option of having them fried too - and the scallion pancakes are now marked with a V! We always order the same, one order of boiled zucchini dumplings, one fried, and some scallion pancakes:
The dumplings are still the best ones I've had. They're lovely and fresh with amazingly thin tender skins, bursting with zucchini, tofu and coriander. These dumplings are fat - popping one into your mouth whole would be a challenge. But they're perfectly proportioned, and with vinegar, chili and soy sauce on every table, you can mix up your perfect dipping sauce and hoe in. The scallion pancakes, though, are an awesome side - crunchy outsides and doughy insides, although with very little scallion flavour (and almost no visible green). I was curious about how they make these until I glanced at the receipt - they're baked, which explains the thick crunch and the non-greasy outsides. For a quick, easy and delicious CBD lunch, you really can't beat Shandong Mama. The service is fast and friendly, the food is incredible and more innovative than the other dumpling places around Bourke St. I can't wait for my next excuse to go there!
Shandong MaMa
Shop 7, 200 Bourke St, Melbourne
open 11:00-9:00 Monday-Saturday, closed Sundays
Shandong Mama on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Tofu Misozuke

This post has been two months in the making! I've been fascinated by the idea of tofu misozuke (miso cured tofu) for a while: miso is one of my favourite flavours in just about anything, so I sat down during the late winter and knocked it together. After smearing my tofu with the miso mix and curing for two months approx, this is what came out: 

I really enjoy this stuff. It has a definite miso hit and the tang of a cheesy, fermented product, but is quite smooth and mild. Google suggests it's best enjoyed in the style of a nice cheese, and that's the way I've been having it - gently smeared on a water cracker or toasts. I suspect it has other uses too  -maybe smeared on a banh mi as the pate, or seared like a block of foie gras? With a block of Vegusto or A Vegan Smiles cheese, some fruit and some crackers, you'd have a perfect vegan cheese plate. The flavours can be tweaked by using different miso pastes so the idea has plenty of room for experimentation - I know I'll be making more with darker misos, as well as playing with extending the curing time.
Tofu Misozuke (very slight adaptation from Rau Om's open source recipe)

300g block tofu. Anywhere from soft to hard can work - firmer tofus will take longer but have a more interesting flavour. I chose this Momen Tofu from Woolworths and found it worked well - I wouldn't go a very spongy, dry tofu, but other than that, whatever you have.
Cure it with:
1 cup miso (I used white)
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp mirin (I didn't have sake)

Mix marinade together in a bowl until well combined.

Press your block of tofu gently for a couple of hours to remove excess moisture. Wrap it in one layer of muslin, then smear your marinade on thickly until it is completely covering the fabric. I found that I needed to pat it on rather than smear. For ease of handling, if you like, wrap another light layer of muslin around the outside, Line a Tupperware container with paper towels and pop in your tofu block. Cover it with more paper towels, seal and let sit in the fridge for 2 months, changing the paper towels when they become wet. To read more of the science about it, head to Rau Om's blog.