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Lisa Shock

Recommendations Please: Taiwanese Buddhist Vegetarian Cuisine

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Years ago, when I visited Tokyo, I ate in a small but fascinating restaurant called 'It's Vegetable' which is now, unfortunately, closed. The chef was from Taiwan, and he made Buddhist vegetarian and vegan dishes that resembled meat. During my visit, several monks wearing robes stopped in to eat dinner. The dishes were pretty amazing. I understood some of them, like using seitan to mimic chicken in stir fry dishes, others used tofu products like yuba, but, others were complex and obviously difficult. One very notable dish we enjoyed was a large 'fish' fillet designed to serve several people. It had a 'skin' made of carefully layered 'scales' cut from nori and attached to the surface. Inside, the white 'flesh' flaked and tasted much like a mild fish. Anyway, apparently Buddhist fake meat meals are very popular in Taiwan and many places, cheap through to fine dining serve them. Yes, if I worked on it for a while, I could probably refine one or two dishes on my own, but, I am wondering if there's a Modernist Cuisine type cookbook for skillfully making these mock meats from scratch? (I have heard that some items are commercially made and available frozen there, much like soy-based burgers are in the US.) I am willing to try almost any offering, even if it's entirely in Chinese. And, I know how to use remailers to purchase regional items from the various local retailers worldwide who do not ship to the US.

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Posted (edited)

I'm sorry,  I can't point you to any recipes, but here is a menu (PDF) of just such a cuisine which I translated about 10 years ago for a Buddhist restaurant here in town.

 

I don't know that these places are particularly Taiwanese. They are all over mainland China, too.

 

Many of the dishes use wheat gluten (seitan), as you said. Another common ingredient is konjac.

 

I confess I only ate there once and, while the food was interesting and certainly tasteful, I would never have been fooled that it was anything other than pretend meat. It also left my companion and I still hungry despite ordering more dishes than the waiter thought wise. We were almost the only people there and it closed a few months later. Here is what I wrote about it at the time.

After dinner, we went for greasy lamb skewers and grilled seafood at a nearby Chinese Muslim street stall!


Edited by liuzhou (log)
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Thank you! Yes, one common characteristic is that the foods tend to be low in fat.

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44 minutes ago, liuzhou said:

After dinner, we went for greasy lamb skewers and grilled seafood at a nearby Chinese Muslim street stall!

xD

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We have a couple of Buddhist vegetarian places here and I love going there from time to time.  One, San San Tofu, is a grocery/household goods store with a steam table restaurant.  The combo meals are a fantastic bargain and the vegetarian dim sum is great and I've bought some of the frozen mock meats (chicken meatballs, dumplings, etc.)  I'm thinking they may have a book section somewhere in the store that I haven't noticed before.  I'll try to get over there in a few days and see, maybe at least get some titles for you?

 

Another thought - is there a Buddhist temple in Phoenix?  They may have a tea room but more importantly may have a bookstore.  There's one near me but I've yet to go (the menu in the tea room is very small).  They might have some cookbooks in the bookstore or it may only be religious materials.  Would be worth a try, I think.

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8 hours ago, brucesw said:

We have a couple of Buddhist vegetarian places here and I love going there from time to time.  One, San San Tofu, is a grocery/household goods store with a steam table restaurant.  The combo meals are a fantastic bargain and the vegetarian dim sum is great and I've bought some of the frozen mock meats (chicken meatballs, dumplings, etc.)  I'm thinking they may have a book section somewhere in the store that I haven't noticed before.  I'll try to get over there in a few days and see, maybe at least get some titles for you?

 

Another thought - is there a Buddhist temple in Phoenix?  They may have a tea room but more importantly may have a bookstore.  There's one near me but I've yet to go (the menu in the tea room is very small).  They might have some cookbooks in the bookstore or it may only be religious materials.  Would be worth a try, I think.

 

I'd appreciate getting a book or two if they have them. Don't spend more than $30 plus shipping, okay? If they have a lot of books, or they are more expensive, take some photos, so I can budget for them.

 

I had not thought to look for temples. Phoenix has MANY of them and I had no idea. I will start checking them out. Thanks!

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Posted (edited)

Fuchsia Dunlop has just posted on Facebook some pictures of Chinese Buddhist meat substitutes she has found in  London's Chinatown. Maybe they have ventured your way, too. I know you want to prepare them yourself, but thought they might at least be interesting. Judging by the Chinese characters used they are probably from Taiwan or Hong Kong.

Not sure how interesting vegetarian intestines might be, though.

5ad19620d90c6_budveg.jpg.504108c4355a9c68c6f680acc0e7066e.jpg


Edited by liuzhou (log)
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Thanks! The best pan-Asian market in Phoenix is a long ways from my house, so, I tend to only visit a couple times a year. I will keep an eye out. None of the markets here are as good as they were before the economic crisis.

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@heidih, I have owned that book for years, plus a lot of other vegetarian books. (been vegetarian since 1979) I'm not looking for substitutes exactly, I am looking for this specific type of cuisine where the mock meat is painstakingly structured to look exactly like the real thing. -Like 'ribs' with 'bones' sticking out, whole roasted 'quail', whole roasted 'chicken', 'turkey' legs, a massive intact fish 'fillet', large marbled slices of 'pork' belly, etc. where someone would swear in looks just like meat. Not just random unknown chunks (of seitan strips or tempeh maybe) in a stir-fry.

 

The closest I have ever come is making tofu 'egg' salad, where carefully cut and mixed medium-soft tofu takes the place of chopped egg whites.

 

I am looking to possibly making a fake dish for a competition where I am supposed to produce a 'fish course' which, here in AZ, a landlocked state, IMO is ridiculous.

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Posted (edited)

I can't help you with recipes or specific techniques, but Arizona does have fishing and fish. You don't need an ocean to find fish, as I'm sure you know! :)

 

I know that there are trout and even rainbow trout to be found in AZ. I think making a 'fake' rainbow trout could be a lot of fun. Getting something to give you that colouring and speckling. I bet there are folks here who could help with some of the decorative ideas - there are so many decorative techniques for food and the modernists have several tricks up their sleeves. 

 

I'd love to see such how such a project would develop! 

 

Images of rainbow trout:

https://www.google.ca/search?q=rainbow+trout&rlz=1C1CHBF_enUS768US768&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiwh4_siLvaAhXP5J8KHdCKAacQiR4I3AE&biw=1093&bih=642

 

 


Edited by FauxPas to add link to images (log)

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I was told that people who follow kosher diet can enjoy fake shrimps, fake lobsters, and fake pork.

 

dcarch

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One book I have read that may meet your needs is Shojin Cooking: the Buddhist Vegetarian Cook Book by Keizo Kobayashi.  I haven't looked at it lately but I'm wondering if there aren't some recipes in one of the Tassajara books that might suit your needs.

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Sorry I've forgotten to post about my findings.  San San has changed hands it seems and more of the store has been given over to a slightly nicer restaurant dining area.  The food, alas, seems to have gone downhill.  There was no book section.

 

I took another look at the temple near me.  When I first discovered this place the tea room had only 4 food items on the menu and 6 teas; then they dropped one of the food items.  Looks like they've got someone a little more accomplished in the kitchen now

 

The 'Intro' page on the website mentions a gift shop, library and classrooms, specifically mentioning vegetarian cooking classes.  I bet Phoenix has a temple at least as large and with similar offerings.  Perhaps you could just borrow books or browse extensively at the library without having to plop any money down.

 

I'll let you know if I get over to try the tea room.  I'm with the others here hoping you'll post back on your quest and what you make.

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8 hours ago, suzilightning said:

One book I have read that may meet your needs is Shojin Cooking: the Buddhist Vegetarian Cook Book by Keizo Kobayashi.  I haven't looked at it lately but I'm wondering if there aren't some recipes in one of the Tassajara books that might suit your needs.

 

I checked it on Amazon, it's rare enough that copies are going for $475! That said the cover doesn't show anything that looks like bone-in chicken, whole quail, whole fish with fins, ribs on the bone, etc.

 

I used the Tassajara books in my 20's I have no recollection of any dishes where you place dozens of yuba strips in patterns on top of a structure made of dried tofu to replicate a slab of pork belly, or a whole roast duck.

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1 hour ago, Lisa Shock said:

 

I checked it on Amazon, it's rare enough that copies are going for $475! That said the cover doesn't show anything that looks like bone-in chicken, whole quail, whole fish with fins, ribs on the bone, etc.

 

 

Inter library loan?

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