Who moved my wok?

Two best friends, one kitchen, endless possibilities.

The best veggie burger you’ve had yet.

I am picky about my veggie burgers.  Growing up as an omnivore, burgers were a family favorite of ours, and we outdid ourselves on burger nights.  They were big, beefy, cheesey and quite often dripping with toppings.  If you wanted a real burger, you came to my house.  That being said, I’m picky about my veggie burgers.  I’m warming up to mushrooms, but I still don’t love them and my least favorite are the big meaty ones used in place of a burger patty.  I do like boca burgers, but they don’t have a ton of flavor and they don’t compare to the traditional hamburger we usually think of.  And most other burgers are too mushy.  They just don’t hold up to my standards.  That is, until now.

This spinach-tofu burger was still a little on the mushy side, but the taste MORE than made up for that.  I can’t even describe it.  I didn’t have high hopes when I heard it was composed of spinach and tofu.  I love spinach as much as the next greens-loving girl, but in a burger instead of on top?  Color me skeptical.  However, Elizabeth and I were excited to try something new because I had been craving a burger for a while but I didn’t like any of the options available in Beijing.  So together, we set out to have a yummy burger night, complete with homemade rosemary-dill fries, a big green salad and all the accoutrements that come with this tasty American classic.

Satisfied is an understatement.  Pleased, pleasantly surprised; all understatements.  These were incredible.  Browning them gave them a nice grilled taste and they packed enough flavor that we didn’t need anything on it aside from the heap of veggies we stuffed between our of sesame buns.  I really can’t say enough about these.  Please, stop reading and go try them.  Now.  I’m about to go for seconds.  Nom nom nom.

Also, we have to give credit where is due, and this recipe is not our own.  It is a Marcus Samuelsson recipe that we found via Joanne at Eats well with others.  Check out both of those sites for the recipe and more photos.  We mostly went by the recipe, but we left out the panko and the sesame oil; we just used plain ole breadcrumbs that were available to us.  We also are currently without the luxury of a food processor, so ours were crafted by hand and fork, which could be why they were a bit on the mushy side.  In any case, go eat these.  You’re welcome in advance.  🙂

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Moroccan chickpea & butternut squash porridge.

The beginning stages...

We have a new foodie crush here at Who moved my wok.  Lately, we can’t get enough of one of our new favorite food blogs, Eats well with others.  We don’t know her, but Joanne seems to be somewhat of a superwoman, crafting impeccable dishes that we love.  This is the first but I’m sure not the last recipe we’ve borrowed from here, so we’ll give credit where credit is due.  And this was tasty.

Here is the recipe that we borrowed from.  We did adhere mostly to it, with just a few exceptions.  In America, we generally would have used quinoa or couscous or something lovely and healthy and exotic-sounding like that.  But, we live in China, where even brown rice is shockingly scarce… so, white rice it was!  It actually did really well with the white rice.  We also went without the honey, harissa, raisins, brown sugar and olives because those weren’t as easily accessible.  We did add in a pinch of paprika and a sprinkle of curry powder though, as well as some chopped peanuts.  We treaded lightly with the spices at first, but after sampling, we wanted something with more of a kick so we added more with a slightly heavier hand.

This was so yummy!  It was warm and creamy and totally comforting for this nasty, nasty weather we’ve been having while also having a kick that pleased our bored palettes.  And the cilantro was a really nice, fresh touch to such a warm, hearty dish.  The best part was how affordable it was to make.  Typically, I would think chickpeas and some of the other ingredients would make this dish a bit pricey, but the entire thing was prepared for less than 20 RMB (approximately $3 USD).  For just 20 RMB we made somewhere between 8-10 servings of a nutritious, filling dish that we can both eat for several days.  Definitely a bargain.  We gave this one two thumbs up, so let us know if you enjoy it, too!

New Orleans in Beijing.

It was dark, but you can still see how cute it is!

While we love to cook here at Who moved my wok, we also thoroughly enjoy a nice meal out every now and then.  Last Thursday, Elizabeth and I tried to go to a Christmas tree lighting at a nearby Westin, but we ended up missing it.  Silly Beijing traffic.  So, instead we decided to try a new restaurant that we had heard very good things about.

NOLA is a little slice of southern goodness right in the middle of Beijing.  Located near the new foreign embassies and the twin towers of this capital city, NOLA is tucked away and shrouded in seldom-seen greenery and quiet.  Just approaching the restaurant feels like you’ve left the city, which can be a nice change of pace every now and then.

The smoked tofu sandwich with heaping green salad. Mmm.

This Thursday evening there were just a few other patrons, so we chose a window seat upstairs.  The friendly waitress told us about the evening’s specials: there were happy hour drink specials, with many wines and beers being buy one, get one and all NOLA bowls were 20% off.  We happily chose a wine and then buried our heads in the menus trying to decide what to eat!

We ended up going with the shrimp & grits NOLA bowl and the smoked tofu sandwich.  I know, I know, the shrimp and grits is definitely not vegan, but it didn’t use any sort of pork and the gravy on top was a mushroom gravy, so I felt slightly less guilty about indulging.  The smoked tofu sandwich was indeed vegan and was served with a delicious green salad.  Both were perfect portions to fill us up with out making us miserable.

Shrimp & grits with mushroom gravy, yum.

Personally, I love shrimp & grits.  Growing up  in the South, it was a favorite treat of mine (before I went vegan, of course).  This rendition was pretty tasty.  It was a bit spicier than I imagined and actually more so than I prefer, but I appreciated that it didn’t use so many meat products as they usually do in the States.  It was also the perfect texture and creaminess — these were definitely not instant grits!  The smoked tofu sandwich was a pleasantly surprising menu option, considering I don’t think I’ve ever seen something similar in the South myself.  When I visited New Orleans, it was before I went vegan, and I definitely consumed lots and lots of meat that week.  Anyway, the sandwich was tasty, fresh and satisfying.  The smoked tofu was flavorful and plenty of veggies were stuffed between the slices of hearty bread.  I definitely think I’ll get it again next time.

Since our meals were such perfect portions, we decided to splurge and get dessert, too.  There’s nothing I love more than any sort of fried or caramelized banana, so we chose the bananas foster dessert.  Perfect choice.  They brought the bananas out with a portable grill and fired them in front of us.  Unfortunately, the flames weren’t documented, but they were intense.  It was then served atop a scrumptious pecan shortcake.  Perfection.

This restaurant was definitely a winner in my book.  It offers the quiet elegance of the American South right in the middle of Beijing, and all at very affordable prices compared to restaurants of a similar caliber.  All in all, we loved NOLA and will definitely be back again!

Lemon-ginger deliciousness.

So much yummy greenery!

Ok, not our best name to date, I’ll admit, but this dish was delicious.  While it may look a little plain, trust me, these noodles are anything but boring or bland.  And what’s best is that while they have a distinctly Asian flavor, they aren’t our traditional Asian dish.  We used a minimal amount of soy sauce and really played up the other ingredients to give this dish a new and exciting kick that we needed to get away from our usual Chinese noodle dishes.

We cooked up this dish mainly to use up some bean sprouts we had bought the day before.  We love using bean sprouts but we often buy them and don’t use them before they go bad!  They seem to have a shelf life of only a day or so, so we knew we had to act fast.  To begin, we boiled some thick, flat noodles and set them aside as we prepared the rest of the food.  Then, we sauteed broccoli florets, chopped celery and baby bok choy together with a drop of oil and a splash of soy sauce.  While this cooked, Elizabeth mixed up the sauce for the noodles.

Just added the bean sprouts.

Depending on the amount of food you’re preparing, you may need to double or triple (or quadruple) this recipe, but here are the general ratios: 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of white vinegar and 1 tablespoon of cornstarch.  After your veggies are nearly done, throw the noodles in with them and pour the sauce over top.

Continue to cook these for a few more minutes.  Now for the special ingredients: sprinkle on an ample amount of ground ginger and squeeze one whole fresh lemon over the whole wok.  These two things changed the entire flavor of this dish and made it taste so fresh and yummy!  Once that’s all mixed together, throw in the bean sprouts for a minute or two, then feel free to serve!  We had ours with our favorite garlic green bean stir-fry.  Hope you enjoy!

It tastes way more exciting than it looks, I promise.

 

Creamy potato soup.

First of all, I apologize for being absent for so long!  It’s been a crazy couple of weeks around here, but that just means I have plenty of delicious recipes to catch up on posting, including the delicious Thanksgiving dinner we were able to put together.  🙂  But for now, we’ll start with a creamy potato soup because nothing says cozy and warm in a winter wonderland like yummy, decadent potato soup and…it’s SNOWING in Beijing!  We had our first snow of the winter today with several more days ahead in the forecast, so if you’re like us, go ahead and make this pot of soup, grab a glass of wine and some good movies, and hunker down.

Mmm mmm, good!

Start by chopping fresh garlic cloves into very thin little slices and throw those in your big soup pot with the teeniest dash of oil.  As those cook, you can throw in chopped potatoes, carrots and celery with a little onion.  While those are sauteing, add in soy milk (or plain non-dairy milk of your choosing) and bring it to a boil.  We used about 1000 mL of soy milk along with 2-3 cups of water to fill up our soup pot.  The Chinese ‘soya milk’ that we use to cook with here is pretty thick, so the water didn’t dilute it much.  However, if your milk is a bit thinner, you might want to add more milk and less water depending on how creamy you want your soup to be.

As that simmers, add in salt, black pepper, a sprinkling of paprika and a few pinches of thyme.  We also threw in a little ground garlic powder as well as a can of cooked yellow corn, which I really enjoyed.  Let all of that simmer for a while on the stove as the flavors mix, and when the potatoes get a little soft, dig in!

This soup was really indulgent-feeling and hit the spot for something creamy when there are few creamy vegan substitutes available here in Beijing.  Feel free to garnish with a little dash of basil if you want.  We hope this one treats you well this winter!  Enjoy!  🙂

Kitchen mishaps.

They happen to all of us.  Losing a finger in the bruschetta, sloshing the veggie stock out of the pot, breaking a wine glass in the sink, forgetting the all-important ingredient in a new recipe.  You name it, it’s happened to us and probably most everyone you know.  Despite the fact that we generally only post the tasty-looking success stories that are borne from our kitchen, I thought I’d give you a glimpse into the mishaps we have, too.

Our poor tupperware lid bleeding green.

The night we made the soup posted just below this, Elizabeth went on a cooking rampage and made three or four whole meals and dishes.  No, we didn’t eat them all in one night, though I probably did enough taste-testing to constitute a meal on top of the actual meal we ate that night.  But I digress, this is not a fitness post about overeating.  Anyway, we had a lot going on in the kitchen that night: hot, cold, spicy, mild, pots, pans, woks.  Madness!

As we were putting the finishing touches on the Asian citrus cole slaw, we began to smell something burning, but we knew it couldn’t be the savory soup that was bubbling nicely on the burner.  And it smelled…plastic-y?  Now, to my knowledge, plastic isn’t a meat, but we still don’t generally cook it and eat it.  Upon further investigation, we discovered that the lid to one of our beloved large tupperware containers was indeed melting on the burner.  We had accidentally set it too close to the burner when chopping something else and in the hustle and bustle of the kitchen, it got pushed closer and closer until it finally just couldn’t take the heat anymore.

Taking a bite out of crime...erm, tupperware..?

Now, our tupperware lid (don’t worry Nana, this isn’t REAL tupperware — it’s China) looks like we got too hungry waiting for dinner and took a bite out of it.  It’s ok though; we didn’t abandon it.  It still serves its purpose just fine…as long as we don’t use it to cover liquid or anything that needs shaking.  Oops!

Do you have any fun kitchen mishap stories?

Another winter soup.

That yellow pepper is starting to look a little scary...but don't worry, we used a different one.

Because when the temperatures drop and your body goes into hibernation mode, there’s no such thing as too much soup…at least not in our house.  This soup was inspired by the cold snap as well as the plethora of fresh vegetables in our refrigerator teetering on overripe.  It was also exciting because it was the first adventure with our giant new soup pot from Ikea!  (Ah, simple pleasures…)  As I’ve said before, we hate to waste food, so we decided to make something where we could use everything in our refrigerator.  And I do mean everything.  If it was a vegetable or semi-liquid, it went in.

 

So this dish began like so many others…come on, you know the drill.  Slice up some fresh garlic and throw it in your soup pot.  Let that saute as you chop up whatever other veggies you have in your refrigerator.  We used zucchini, celery, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans and a yellow bell pepper.  As those are being cut into perfect bite-sized pieces, you can throw some water and instant veggie stock mix into your pot while adding your veggies as they’re ready.

 

We then added half a jar of marinara sauce (which is totally optional) that we hadn’t yet used up as well as the rest of our tomato paste.  We didn’t have very much left at the time, and if there is one thing I would change about this soup, it would be adding more tomato paste.  It was tasty just as we made it, but I think extra tomato paste would have given it a little more thickness and a little more flavor.

Look at all those veggies!!

As those boil, add in a can of beans of your choice.  Today, we added white beans in addition to chopped basil, tabasco sauce, salt, pepper and garlic powder.  You can add more or less tabasco sauce depending on how spicy you want your soup, which I think is directly related to the outside temperature.

 

 

 

 

 

Mmmm. And yes, that is indeed a Christmas napkin. Never too early, I say!

Let that all boil together and give it a taste test or two to make sure you have the flavor you’re going for.  Then serve as a first course or a meal and enjoy!  The best part was we were able to eat soup for a week when we didn’t have time or energy to prepare a whole lunch or dinner.  Next time we might even freeze some, but it didn’t last long enough to freeze this time.  I’m pretty sure that’s a good sign.  🙂

Spicy-as-you-want-’em black bean fried noodles.

Recently we have received a few inquiries (ahem, complaints) from friends and readers (cough cough, tonight’s dinner guest) as to why our blog title implies Asian food when we’ve been predominately preparing dishes that are not Chinese.  So, to please our readers and quiet the critics, Elizabeth concocted tonight’s special recipe.  No it’s not part of the Iron Chef competition, but it still has a secret ingredient: black bean sauce!  And while recipes for black bean sauce abound on the the Interwebs, we happened to get ours already prepared from the grocery store, so don’t feel bad if you cut out a few steps and do the same.

Start by boiling some noodles; ours were not quite as wide as fettucini, though pretty much any noodles will work.  Once those are cooked, drain and put aside, but make sure they don’t stick together because they’ll be used again in a minute.  While those are boiling though, begin chopping up some veggies.  Tonight, our noodles are a bit of a green monster because we only used green vegetables.  First, we minced some garlic and threw that in the pan, because goodness knows we can’t make a meal without it.  Then, we thinly sliced zucchini, celery and green pepper and added them into the wok with a splash of oil to saute.

Nom nom nom.

As those cook, add in a dusting of ground ginger, a sprinkle of paprika and a few shakes of soy sauce to taste, along with the pasta noodles after the veggies are more done.  Then, we added in the secret ingredient.  We began with just one or two spoonfuls of the black bean sauce, but by the time it was all said and done, I’d say at least four spoonfuls or more went in.

WARNING: black bean sauce has the potential to be very spicy; I know from accidental experience.  So make sure you do plenty of taste testing as you go along to get your preferred level of spice.  We also added in some pre-cooked “beef” tofu to ours, which gave us some extra protein and texture in the dish.  Continue adding other spices and soy sauce, along with some salt, pepper and garlic powder until you just can’t wait to eat it anymore.

Langston showing off his juggling techniques...right before the apple fell.

Then, serve up next to your favorite side dish or alone.  We paired ours this night with the garlic stir-fried green beans, which were delicious.  And I think we satisfied our dinner guest and his request for Chinese food on the blog.  He even decided to show off the skills he learned in circus camp as a kid.  Yes, our friends are that cool.

Garlic stir-fried green beans.

Look Mom! I'm a big girl now!

Despite that fact that for much of my youth I refused to come near anything green, I now call most green vegetables some of my favorite foods.  Somewhere around the end of my high school career, I had a transformation and it has only continued since becoming vegan.  Luckily, vegetables are affordable and accessible here in China, so Elizabeth and I decided to re-create one of our favorite Chinese dishes that we usually devour when dining out.  And I have to say, we came pretty darn close.

These aren’t like southern green beans all mushed to pieces and they’re more flavorful than just regular steamed ones, too.  Just don’t make these for a first date…they are full of flavor and they’ll make sure your breath knows it, too.  🙂

This was the only photo I managed to snap before they were gone!

Start by chopping a yellow onion into tiny pieces and throwing it into the wok with a smidgen of oil and a few minced garlic cloves (see what I’m saying about the breath thing?).  While those begin to saute, cut fresh, whole green beans into 1-1.5 inch long pieces and add them into the wok with a few splashes of soy sauce.  You can also sprinkle some ground garlic powder and black pepper on for good measure.  We then took our soup pot lid and covered the pan with it to make the green beans cook faster and to brown them a bit for extra flavor — we try to be resourceful with what we have!

After a couple of minutes, remove the lid, stir and add in more soy sauce and pepper to taste.  Don’t be afraid to add liberally.  These green beans should be bursting with lots of delicious flavor.  Continue this pattern until onions and green beans are cooked and a little brown around the edges.  This dish would be delicious on its own or next to some hearty rice or whatever other dish you choose.  Just make sure you make plenty because it will go fast!

Carrot & lentil tacos.

Stirring things up!

I know we’ve said it before, but we really do love Mexican food.  However, we were getting bored making the same veggie fajitas over and over again, so Elizabeth concocted this tasty new recipe to spice up our repertoire of Mexican dishes.  It’s just as easy to make, but it packs in a little extra protein and a lot more flavor than our usual dish.

We started by mincing a few whole garlic cloves and letting them saute in the wok with finely chopped onion and carrots that had also been chopped into small pieces.  We sprinkled these with some cumin and a splash of oil to let cook.  After a few minutes when those were close to being finished, we added in a can of cooked lentils and pre-cooked tofu.  Sprinkle on a little more cumin and any other spice you want (salt and pepper to taste or tabasco sauce if you want it a little spicy) and let cook for a couple minutes until warm all the way through while letting the flavors mix.

Yum yum yum!

Then, spoon out onto a warm flour tortilla.  We also put vegetarian refried black beans and our favorite salsa into our tortilla and served it with our Asian citrus cole slaw for a festive and flavorful meal.  And don’t forget the chips!  🙂

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