Who moved my wok?

Two best friends, one kitchen, endless possibilities.

Archive for the category “American Standards”

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.  🙂

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!

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!  🙂

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.  🙂

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!

Asian citrus cole slaw.

I love making such colorful dishes!

Now, this isn’t your grandma’s traditional cole slaw.  Those generally have too much vinegar or mayonnaise in them for my taste, which make them too soggy.  This cole slaw is more of a salad with its larger pieces, crispy texture and light and citrus-y taste.  And while it goes nicely with Asian dishes or eaten alone as a snack, I think it would also be delicious sitting next to a yummy boca burger or veggie dog, too.  Plus, it’s super easy to make, can be whipped up in no time and doesn’t require a food processor!

All mixed up and ready to enjoy!

To begin, chop up green and purple cabbage (maybe half of each head) into slightly longer than bite-size chunks and strips.  Set this aside in a mixing bowl.  Next, finely chop cilantro and peanuts and add them to the top of your cabbage mixture.  Then, in another bowl, mix up the dressing.  The dressing consists of  the juice of one whole lime, about 1-2 teaspoons of yellow mustard, one teaspoon of cumin (one of our new favorite spices), a splash of honey and a sprinkling of black pepper.  Stir this up and pour it over your cabbage.   Then, you can stir or cover and shake all of this together until well mixed.

This can now be eaten right away or stored and chilled until ready to devour!  Hope you enjoy!

No-bake pumpkin pie.

I wish this is what Beijing looked like now.

It’s November, so it’s officially time to be in the holiday spirit.  Not to say that I haven’t been incessantly playing Christmas music since September, but it’s now socially acceptable to do so, as well as other wonderfully festive holiday-related activities.  Thus, the birth of our easy, homemade, no-bake pumpkin pie.  It’s no-bake for a reason.  We live in China and have no oven.  Sigh.  But that certainly doesn’t stop us!  So read on to find out how you, too, can create this delicious holiday treat.

Elizabeth bringing down the hammer...sort of.

We’ll start with the crust.  We loosely (and I do mean EXTREMELY loosely) used this recipe for inspiration.  Because we have very limited access to most of the ingredients we would usually prefer to use, we have to get creative.  You can choose which you would like to do.

We started with one roll of ginger snap cookies for the crust, which Elizabeth placed into a ziploc bag and then smashed into oblivion with my giant bottle of all-natural Chinese cough syrup (a.k.a., tar).  We then used regular ol’ pancake syrup to mix the cookie crumbles together and stick to the pan.  We went with the syrup because I really wanted to enjoy this pie, and as a general rule, I don’t eat butter or eggs.  So use your judgment to mix together the right about of pancake syrup and cookie crumbs.  You want it to be moist and stick together without it getting soupy.  Once this is finished, put an even layer on the bottom and sides of your pie pan(s).  Our recipe made two small-sized pans.

Now we begin the filling.  We used one 29 oz. can of Libby’s 100% Pure Pumpkin that we splurged on at the foreign grocery store.  Then we used all the ingredients we had available to us.  A cinnamon and sugar mill, ground nutmeg and low-fat, organic vanilla oat milk.  We began with about one teaspoon each of both the cinnamon/sugar and nutmeg, and about 1/3 cup of oat milk.  Then we taste tested.  NOT ENOUGH PUMPKIN SPICE.  It’s not the holidays without pumpkin spice flavor and China is sorely lacking this.  So then we added cinnamon and sugar until our arms were sore from turning the mill, and about 1/3 cup of pure granulated sugar.  While it’s not Trader Joe’s pumpkin spice, it’s pretty darn close, and it’s delicious.

The last bit of crust before it was devoured sans filling, mmm.

Our pre-freezer pies!

Once this was ready, we spooned half into each pie pan and put it in the freezer.  This morning we took it out of the freezer to thaw, and tonight, we will enjoy it after our delicious chili dinner.  🙂

Mmm, mmm, chilly. I mean, chili.

Our awesome new winter hats!

You know what I mean!  Ok, it’s cold here.  Not nearly as bad as it’s going to be in a month or so, but it’s cold.  And what’s worse is it’s colder inside than out sometimes.  Our apartment is like a freezer and we still have 12 more days to go before the government turns the heat back on.  Gotta love China.  Our solution to keeping warm?  Buying wine in bulk.  (Seriously, the wine store folks know us now.  I think we’d be embarrassed if we weren’t so proud.)  Oh yeah, and making delicious, hearty, slightly spicy, vegan chili.  Hey, I’d say it’s worth a try even if you’re not searching for warmth.

To start, we used some of our favorite “ground beef” tofu (you can use protein crumbles if you’re in America — I like Smart Ground veggie protein crumbles) with chopped onions, fresh garlic, chopped red pepper (ours were a little hot) and ground black pepper.  Throw these things in the bottom of your soup pot with a tiny splash of oil to begin to saute.  Once these are cooking, add some water to the mix; we filled our pot about 1/3 full with water.  Be careful not to use too much water though, or you’ll be having soup instead of chili.

Then, add in the rest of your veggies.  We used one can of whole kernel corn, one can of red kidney beans, one can of stewed tomatoes, one whole carrot (chopped), three whole, medium-sized potatoes (chopped), about half a large zucchini, and one whole chopped tomato.  After that, pour in your hot sauce.  We used about 1/4 of our bottle, which gave a mild spice to our chili.  However, if you are sensitive to spice you can leave it out or add less, and of course if you are a hot sauce champion, feel free to add until smoke comes out of your ears.

Mmm, mmm, chili.

Let all of this come to a nice boil on the stove and cover with your soup pot lid.  If you feel like you have too much water in yours still, you can let your chili boil uncovered to cook down some of the water.

After this has simmered a while, feel free to dig in!  We had ours with a couple of slices of our favorite baguette and it was exactly what we needed to satisfy our hunger and keep us warm.  🙂

Sidenote: I apologize for the lack of photos on this one; all of the ‘during’ photos refused to upload. I’ll try again later, but at least you have the finished product!

Asian “beef” and potatoes.

Hot and ready to eat, mmm. (Forgive the glare)

While we love our Asian food over here, we still miss our old American standards, and nothing says classic home-cookin’ like beef and potatoes.  Don’t worry, folks, we didn’t use actual beef here; I’m still vegan.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that while China lacks vegetarian meat substitutes like we have in America (i.e., soy nuggets, boca burgers, etc.), they have so many varieties of tofu!  And I’m not talking about your average, white block of tofu here, either.  Some of it looks more like chicken with a lighter taste and texture, some looks like ground beef (great for chili and “bolognese” sauce) and some of it looks and tastes like a sort of beef brisket.  This, my friends, is what gave us the inspiration for our Asian beef and potatoes.  Well, that and the cloves of fresh garlic and the bright, crunchy green beans begging to be devoured.

If you’re using this recipe in America, feel free to use whatever meat substitute you have available there.  In addition to this, you’ll need whole potatoes, green beans and other fresh veggies (we also used zucchini), a couple of whole garlic cloves, black pepper and soy sauce.  Start by chunking your potatoes into bite-sized pieces and throw them into the wok with water almost reaching the top of them.  Let the potatoes come to a boil and cook until they’re just a little soft.  Because they take longer to cook, they need a head start, but they will be sauteed more with the other veggies, so you don’t want them overdone.

Fresh garlic!

After your potatoes are ready, drain the water and add in a little oil, along with your chopped green beans and other vegetables.  Also add in your finely chopped garlic.  As Elizabeth showed me, you can remove the garlic shell by smashing it with the flat side of your knife before chopping it up.  You could also use a garlic press if you have one handy.  We used 2-3 cloves in our recipe, but we really love the flavor of garlic.  You can use however much you like.

 

 

All of our ingredients simmering.

After you have all of this, splash in some soy sauce to taste.  Not to give away our secret, but this, along with the black pepper, is what helps to give this dish the Asian twist.  When your vegetables are mostly cooked, add in the tofu.  If your tofu or meat-substitute is not pre-cooked, you should add it in earlier with the veggies, but ours is pre-cooked, so it only needs to warm and mix with the other flavors.

Our favorite dinner companion.

Let this simmer until all warm (maybe 2-4 minutes) and then remove from heat.  Serve with rice or alone, and with your favorite beverage (we’re very into red wine here 🙂 ) and enjoy the unique blend of American tradition with Asian flavor!

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