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Vegan Experiment

7 posts in this topic

Recently I have decided to start my own personal growth of experience by undergoing a month of veganism. I have been creating delicious food that is free of animal products, but also in this experiment I wanted to see what life as a vegan or even vegetarian is like for when they are going out to eat. Just from going out a few times I have noticed that there is hardly if any vegan options on menus unless of course I go to a vegan restaurant.

Has anyone tried vegan or have any personal experience they want to share.

Ps I am 99% vegan, if I am cooking and something needs to be tasted that is not vegan, I will not restrict myself from tasting the product.

Edited by ChefJordan24 (log)

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Then nothing much has changed. DH and I were vegetarians...almost vegans some of the time...for about thirty years. This ended pretty much in 1990s and we have been 'Lessmeatarians" ever since (thanks, Mark Bittman). During that long period I sat on and chaired a number of different kinds of boards...another lifetime apparently...and like most boards, we had lunches and conferences and such like, and the food I got ranged from simply boring to really dreadful and awful.

If you want to be a happy and well-fed vegetarian (or vegan), you have to eat food from just about anywhere else but North America.

Edited by Darienne (log)


learn, learn, learn...

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There was a recent series on Serious Eats where Kenji Lopez-Alt did exactly what you're talking about. The last post of the series is at http://www.seriousea...ime-vegan.html. The whole series is worth taking a little time to read through.



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I was vegan for about 18 years, and follow essentially a vegan diet now, other than eggs from chickens and ducks that are kept locally in people's back yards (I am somewhat relaxed about things like honey, clarifying agents in wine / beer, filtering agents for sugar, etc.)

Depending on where you live, eating out can be a bit of a challenge, and will probably cause more difficulties than cooking at home. One thing to keep in mind is that most good higher end restaurants will make something vegan for you off-menu if you ask. It's better to call in a few days ahead of time to see if they can accommodate you, and to give them a chance to think about it if they don't already have something up your sleeve (I've lived mostly on the costs, first in the NY area, and now in Southern California, so finding places that can accommodate me is rarely a problem, but I have traveled to Arizona, Michigan, and other places recently, and had pretty good luck finding things to eat). There are also some very good lists out there about which foods are vegan at various chain and fast food restaurants.

You can eat very well on a vegan or near-vegan diet, but it can be a bit more prep / labor intensive. I agree that lots of ethnic foods are a good way to go, and east Asian and Indian markets will also have lots of products which will probably work well in other types of cooking as well. Try to avoid relying too much on convenience products (but, things like tempeh bacon, while perfectly possible to make yourself, can be quite convenient). Another way to approach it is to think about the kind of things you would make normally, and then figure out what some kind of vegan equivalent would be (not being too literal, of course).

Eat lots of dark leafy greens (kale, chard, etc.). If you don't like them already, acquire a taste for them.

Edited by Will (log)

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I've decided to go vegan for the month of June! I wonder if any of you have any favorite vegan blogs or websites that have exciting vegan recipes. There are tons of vegan blogs, I know, but too many vegan recipes seem to concentrate on "meat-like" products. I have a mental block against the fake meats and would really prefer to avoid them. I do eat tofu, and don't consider that a fake meat, but I can't bring myself to eat seitan or tempeh.

I'm trying to find recipes that are inherently vegan, if you know what I mean. Not vegan versions of something that originally contains meat, so that there would be no question of comparing the vegan dish to the original and finding it wanting. I did look at Kenji Lopez-Alt's posts on Serious Eats and will be trying some of his recipes.

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Seitan and tempeh have been made for a long time -- I wouldn't completely avoid them the way you might with more processed "fake meat". As best I know, tempeh especially isn't really treated as a "fake meat" in Indonesia, where it's from. I really like this recipe for "Sweet Sticky Spicy Tempeh": http://www.thelittle...cky-tempeh.html

When it's well fried, you won't get quite as much of the taste that might be off-putting to some. It can be hard to digest for some people if not steamed first.

Personally, I find tempeh and seitan enjoyable in their own right, whether or not they're dressed up like meat. There are also lots of interesting tofu and soy products beyond "normal" tofu available at Chinese markets (tofu skin, pressed tofu knots, 5-spice "dry tofu", frozen tofu, thicker tofu sheets, etc.).

I don't have too many specific websites in mind, but a few cookbooks that, while not vegan, have some great vegan ideas which are not based around fake meat. I would bet that if you look through some of your existing cookbooks, you may well find some good ideas too:

Chez Panisse Vegetables (Alice Waters) (Art of Simple Cooking is also good)

Land of Plenty and Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook (Fuchsia Dunlop) -- *but*, her new cookbook has even more vegetarian-friendly recipes (almost 2/3 of the book can be prepared vegetarian), and it focuses on Southern Chinese home cooking, which is really not well represented in cookbooks. The US / Canada version should be out one of these days.

The Essential Cuisines of Mexico (Diana Kennedy)

Some people really like How To Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman.

We cook a lot of beans and grains, for example, the farro and white bean stew pictured here. While there's no exact recipe, it's pretty easy to just fudge it. With the white beans, we like to soak, bring to a boil in a dutch oven (with a lot of whole cloves of garlic and some sage), then finish cooking in the oven.


The spaghetti method pictured there (there's an outline of how to do it in the other post linked from that one) is another good one.

Kinoko & Kaiware Spaghetti


2 medium leeks

1-2 pieces negi (Japanese green onion) if available

mixed mushrooms: 2 or more of: fresh or dried shitake (see below), fresh maitake, fresh bunashimeji, etc.

spaghetti (#8 or #9 is probably good -- we use a Japanese brand which is fantastic)

fresh daikon (for grating)

daikon sprouts (for garnish)

thinly sliced nori (for garnish)

Basically, in a large skillet, sweat some leeks, (and sliced negi, if you can get some -- I'm not sure, but I think you can put both the whites and green part in this), in a lot of olive oil with salt and black pepper. Add two shitakes (soaked stem-down in cold water for at least 4 hours, then stem removed and sliced), and some fresh Japanese mushrooms - maitake are great, and sometimes bunashimeji. Slightly undercook some spaghetti, and toss in the pan with the mushrooms. Add a couple tsp of soy sauce and half as much mirin* as soy sauce, and a ladle-full of pasta water.

* Most supermarket mirin isn't real mirin. Try to find the better quality stuff, which most Japanese markets should have. Try to avoid anything with high-fructose corn syrup as its main ingredient. See also http://www.nytimes.c...real-mirin.html

Find ways to eat lots of leafy greens. If you don't like dark leafy greens already, develop an appreciation for them. Another simple dinner I like is blanched, then sauteed rapini with garlic, served on a sandwich roll with marinara sauce. Or vegan lasagna with kale. I like this method, though sometimes I use regular noodles instead of the polenta strips (which are also good):


Warm lentil salad, with roasted or boiled vegetables has been another recent staple, with a lot of possible variations... try roasted root vegetables, boiled potatoes, etc., tossed with still-warm Du Puy lentils cooked with some carrot, bay leaf, and shallot (removed before serving), and served on a bed of greens (Boston lettuce or arugula work well, but you could use whatever you want).

Edited by Will (log)

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Thanks, Will, for the detailed reply. Your spaghetti recipe sounds great - I'll definitely try it. My Asian market might even have all the ingredients, though I've never seen Japanese green onions. I also like the idea of greens in a sandwich!

I'm not a complete newbie to vegetarian cooking, I grew up vegetarian. But most of my vegetarian repertoire is Indian food and I'd like to branch out from that. Thanks for your suggestions of the books. I'm looking forward to Fuchsia Dunlop's new book. I have Mark Bittman's book, though I didn't have success with most of the recipes I tried from it.

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