Raita is one of my all time favorite foods. As a kid my parents used to take me to an Indian buffet, where I would proceed to only eat raita and naan. It wasn’t that I didn’t like the other dishes, but why eat other things when that would just take up precious raita storage space. As an adult I rarely (but not never) eat raita only meals. But adulthood hasn’t dampened my love of the dish at all. Sadly, eating seasonally means no cucumber raita in the winter. So I was intrigued when I found this recipe for spinach raita in Indian Vegetarian Cooking at Your House.
The recipe is described as a seasoned salad with yogurt and spinach, which is accurate. The veggie to yogurt ratio is much heavier on the veggie side than traditional raita. This recipe has about 3/4 cup of liquid to 1 cup of spinach plus extra veggies. I looked up other Palak Raita recipes and found they usually had a one to one ratio of raita to spinach with no extra veggies.
I really enjoyed the spices and the spinach went well with the yogurt. However, I thought the chopped carrots took away from the blended flavor of the dish. Next time I’d leave them out. I might also add an extra 2-3 tbsp of yogurt. Not as good as cucumber raita, but intriguing, healthy, and easy to make. I might make this again with a few tweaks. I’d like to try a different Palak Raita recipe first though.
One of my neighbors was giving away a bunch of vegetarian cookbooks. In the pile, I noticed Real Vegetarian Thai by Nancie McDermot, which is my mother’s favorite thai cookbook. This recipe from page 164 was the first one I tried. It was described as a quick weeknight alternative to pad thai. If you don’t have si-yu Nancy offers an alternative combo of soy sauce and sugar, which I used. I’d like to try it with the actual si-yu next time. So far I’ve made this twice, once for myself and once for my sister’s family while in Germany. It was a hit both times. Easy, tasty, filling, and indulgent. A very good weeknight dish indeed. The only issue we had with the dish was the ratio of pasta to broccoli. Everyone, including my seven-year-old niece, agreed it needed more broccoli. Although I think I messed up the proportions when I made it for my sister’s family, so it probably was more that than the recipe. Still, I’d do 4 cups of broccoli instead of 3 and probably 7 ounces of pasta instead of 8 and see how that went. The other issue I had both times was volume. Flipping this recipe without a big wok is really hard. Next time I’m going to try making it in my cast iron dutch oven and see how that goes instead.
Recently, one of my neighbors was giving away a bunch of vegetarian cookbooks. In the pile was Real Vegetarian Thai by Nancie McDermott, a cookbook I know my mother owns and likes.
The first recipe I tried was this rice noodle dish from page 164. Nancie describes the dish as easy to prepare and indeed it was. I could see myself making this on a weeknight when I want something comforting and indulgent as an alternative to ordering take out.
The recipe calls for a dark sweet soy sauce called si-yu but offers an alternative combo of regular soy sauce and brown sugar. I used this option since I didn’t have si-yu. But next time I go to the asian market I’ll be looking for si-yu so I can try making this again. The other change I made was reducing the oil. Nancie calls for 3 tbsp. I only used 4 tsp. Next time I think I’d try cutting it to 1 tbsp since the dish was still pretty high calorie.
I followed the timing of the dish carefully and the veggies came out crisp, just like I like them. The flavor of the dish was peppery and savory. And the eggs add a creamy aspect. Very yummy. Nancie calls for offering chili vinegar as a condiment, but I didn’t have any. So instead I used about a teaspoon of rice vinegar on each bowl, which added to the flavor. I’d like to pick up chili vinegar for the next time I make this.
Update: So far I’ve made this twice, once for myself and once for my sister’s family while in Germany. It was a hit both times. Easy, tasty, filling, and indulgent. A very good weeknight dish indeed. The only issue we had with the dish was the ratio of pasta to broccoli. Everyone, including my seven-year-old niece, agreed it needed more broccoli. Although I think I messed up the proportions when I made it for my sister’s family, so it probably was more that than the recipe. Still, I’d do 4 cups of broccoli instead of 3 and probably 7 ounces of pasta instead of 8 and see how that went. The other issue I had both times was volume. Flipping this recipe without a big wok is really hard. Next time I’m going to try making it in my cast iron dutch oven and see how that goes instead.
I made a modified version of this thai green bean salad as a side to tofu larb. I omitted the dried shrimp and used cashews instead of peanuts since I didn’t have peanuts on hand. I enjoyed the salad. It was quick to make and very tasty. The only thing is it really needed to marinate for two days before the flavor fully soaked into the green beans.
I was recently turned on to the miracle of tofu lettuce wraps by a friend. This recipe for a vegetarian twist on Laotian larb intrigued me. The recipe is essentially a Laotian-flavored tofu salad in leaves of lettuce. Since I’ve never eaten traditional larb, I have nothing to compare it to.
I didn’t mind these, but didn’t love them either. The tofu mixture just wasn’t quite flavorful enough to keep my attention for more than one meal. Plus, every time I saw the mixture in the fridge, it just made me crave my favorite spiced tofu salad recipe. I did enjoy the interesting texture created by the toasted rice powder and fried onions. An interesting recipe to try, but I don’t think I’ll make it for a main course again. Though it might make a nice appetizer for a Thai/Laotian dinner. One commenter recommended adding vegan fish paste. I might try that for more flavor.
Update: Weirdly, even though I didn’t love these the first time I made them, I’ve found myself craving them since then. I finally made them again, this time adding 1/2 tbsp vegan fish sauce and using crushed peanuts instead of crispy onion since I’m eating low fodmap. The fish sauce did the trick and this was oh so tasty. I’m adjusting the score to reflect the fact that I really like these now!
We’ve gotten back to back winter storms in Durham this week, so I was craving something soothing. I thought this hot pot recipe from Post Punk Kitchen might be just the thing.
I liked but didn’t love the recipe. The broth was pretty good, but not quite as flavorful as I’d expected. I didn’t put star anise in the broth since I didn’t have any. There weren’t nearly enough mushrooms in my opinion. Maybe it would have been more flavorful if I had added them. I used broccoli, tofu, and rice noodles as my optional add-ins. But they didn’t really seem to go that well with the broth. Maybe rice would have been better?
Overall not bad. But I’m not sure it was good enough to make again.
I fell in love with pho while living in D.C. A restaurant called Pho 14 in Columbia Heights serves a delicious vegetarian pho made with a broth made from fuji apples. After I moved to North Carolina I found myself craving that pho and unable to find anything like it. Most pho restaurants that attempt a vegetarian pho broth use something that tastes like mock chicken broth to me. Not at all what I was missing. I decided to try to make it myself. I started by googling “fuji apple pho recipe”. This took me to this blog https://southofparadise.wordpress.com/2014/11/03/vegetarian-pho-with-homemade-fuji-apple-broth/. The person writing it was in the same position as me. Trying to recreate a beloved restaurant meal without any recipe. Using this recipe as a starting place, I’ve been tinkering with the recipe for the last five years, adding in some elements from this recipe when it was published a few years ago https://food52.com/blog/19080-how-pho-genius-andrea-nguyen-makes-a-richer-vegan-broth.
Here is the result.
7 Fuji Apples (cut in half)
3 celery stocks
1 tsp coriander seeds
3 cinnamon sticks
1 star anise
Put all the ingredients into an instant pot or a 6 quart slow cooker.
Fill it up with water, leaving 1-2 inches of space at the top
Cook on high (if your slow cooker has settings) for 10 hours
The idea behind this broth recipe is to make a concentrated broth so that it can be stores easily or combined with boiling water for a hot bowl of pho without having to microwave the broth. I put the broth in jars in the freezer and enjoy pho all season without having to constantly make more broth. I find that the right combination of water to broth is 1/3 broth 2/3 water.
Once you have the broth made, there’s only one more thing you need to make ahead of time before you’re ready for an almost instant delicious weeknight dinner: the tofu. I played around with various options for recreating the delicious deep fried tofu found in pho restaurants. I’ve actually decided that the best no deep-fry option is to bake the tofu. The tofu comes out crispy and tough. It’s not the same as restaurant tofu but it gives me the same textural satisfaction in the bowl. Here’s how I do it:
Preheat the oven to 425 Fahrenheit
Cut a block of medium tofu into 2/3 inch squares
Put 1 tsp of canola oil on a cookie sheet and spread it around.
Put the tofu on the cookie sheet and spread it around flipping it on all sides to make sure all sides get coated in oil
Cook the tofu, flipping it halfway through, until all sides are golden.
Now you’re ready for almost instant weeknight pho. Here’s how I do it. The proportions are for 1 large bowl of pho.
2/3 cup of pho broth, left out to room temperature
1 cup Broccoli, in bite size pieces
1/2 Carrot, cut into 1/4 inch slices
4 Dried mushroom, in bite size pieces
1/2 cup Vermicelli rice noodles
1/5 block cooked tofu
Lime or lemon juice
Boil 3 cups of water (I do this in a kettle)
Put rice noodles into a heat-proof large bowl or pot, breaking them up so that each piece is 2 inches long
Add the veggies to the bowl
Add 2 tsp of soy sauce to the bowl
Once the water is boiling, pour it into the bowl with the noodles and veggies
Let sit for 5-10 minutes, until everything is soft
While ingredients are soaking, boil another 1 1/3 cup water
Put the soft veggies and noodles, along with the tofu, into the bowl with the broth
Pour in the boiling water
Add lemon juice, hoison, siracha, basil, and bean sprouts as desired