Tag Archives: Asian

Restaurant Reviews

As a recent traitor to omnivorism and convert to cooking vegan, I feel very lucky to live in an area with as many options as Santa Cruz has. Going out to eat is not difficult, it’s not as easy as it was before, but it’s definitely do-able and delicious. There are a couple restaurants in Santa Cruz that are purely vegetarian/vegan: Saturn Cafe, Malabar/Asian Rose, Charlie Hong Kong (I think, though I’m not 100%), Alfresco, and Dharmas.  There is also Black China Bakery which has a great variety of fine vegan desserts. I have only been once to the actual bakery, but they sell their desserts at some local grocery stores and coffee houses. Many of the restaurants have a large variety of vegetarian items.

This weekend Andrew and I got food from Yan Flower, Zachary’s, the Falafel House, and Sitar. Ugh, that’s a lot of eating out, but we almost always cook. On Friday night we got food at Yan Flower before going to see Robin Hood.  Before this weekend Andrew was convinced that there was no Chinese food restaurant that was better than competent. I told him that Yan Flower was pretty good compared to all others in Santa Cruz and therefore could possibly be considered “good”.  We got hot tea, vegetable potstickers, white steamed rice, salty and chilli pepper tofu, and Andrew got Mongolian Lamb. The potstickers were very good, but a little hot (as in temperature) and I almost burned my mouth. The rice was actually good for steamed rice: fluffy and tender. The salty and chilli pepper tofu was fried tofu, jalapeno peppers, garlic, and onions. It was not as salty or spicy as I remember it, but the tofu texture was great. Andrew described it as “egg like” and he enjoyed it as much as he could enjoy tofu. He said the Mongolian Lamb was very good as well.

After taking the night to recover from the mediocrity that was Robin Hood (or Gladiator 2010: Time Travel to The Dark Ages), Andrew and I got breakfast at Zachary’s. Zachary’s is an insanely popular breakfast venue on the main drag downtown. It usually would be insanely crowded at 9am on a Saturday, but we were lucky due to the craptastic weather that we are experiencing mid-May.

I got coffee with soy milk, tofu scramble with avocado, vegan home fries, and oatmeal molasses bread. They make their breads in house and they are all amazing, but oatmeal molasses is my favorite. I thoroughly enjoyed the bread with the avocado spread on it and the home fries were tasty. Tofu scramble just isn’t my thing and this had a rotting garlic scent to it. Andrew enjoyed his scrambled eggs, sausage, and pancakes with Earl Grey Tea.

Later that day we went to check out the Greek Festival in downtown Santa Cruz. There wasn’t anything to it this year: just a bunch of different food booths. This was mostly desserts with a gyro place and another place where you could get souvlaki. There was no falafel which was what Andrew was looking for. Instead we ended up going to the Falafel House on Walnut Avenue in downtown Santa Cruz. The Falafel House is a Syrian/Middle Eastern restaurant. I got the vegetarian combo platter which consisted of baba ghanoush, pita bread, taboulleh salad, falafel, and hummus. Now, I fucked up. I ate the regular yogurt sauce on the falafel instead of the vegan tahini sauce. I didn’t know that they were going to put the yogurt sauce on the falafel and I didn’t feel like bothering them to change it.

I enjoyed the falafel, hummus, and pita bread. I liked the baba ghanoush as well which surprised me since I don’t like eggplant. I definitely think I make better hummus though. I didn’t like the taboulleh salad too much, but I still tried to eat it and it wasn’t wretched. I think I don’t like taboulleh. Another great thing about the Falafel House is the fact that they are always playing Syrian MTV or some other music video channel. Oh and they’re onion rings are amazing.

Today we went out for lunch/dinner instead of cooking because we were bummed after the Sharks losing the first game of the conference finals. Andrew got pizza at Pizza My Heart (a local San Francisco Bay Area chain that began in Capitola). My favorite slice at PMH is pesto. It was the first thing with pesto that I ever liked and converted me to a pesto lover. Screw you campus dining halls for making me afraid of pesto for so long.

At Sitar, I got Chana Masala (vegan chickpea/garbanzo bean curry), vegan naan, basmat rice, ice berg lettuce crap in a compartment, and raita (which I didn’t eat since it’s made with yogurt). The chana masal had wonderful texture: thick sauce, creamy garbanzo beans, melt in your mouth pieces of onion, but it the curry could have been spicier. The rice was a good texture and the naan was good.

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Noodle Soup Failure

Yesterday after an exciting trip to 99 Ranch Market, Andrew and I made another version of the spicy noodle soup that I made for him last week. Andrew felt that the soup should be heartier so he suggested we add potatoes. Well, I love potatoes so how could I resist? I forgot that potatoes add a lot of extra starch to broth and can change the entire consistency of a dish.

Everything was  going really well. The carrots and potatoes were looking delicious. I added the vegetable broth and seasonings. The broth tasted amazing. It wasn’t as spicy as last time, but had a certain depth of flavor. While the carrots and potatoes were cooking I chopped the brocolli and the baby bok choy. After about twenty minutes the potatoes and carrots were pretty much done cooking. I can’t believe how the potatoes absorbed the flavor. They tasted so good!

Here is where things went wrong. My soup wasn’t quite simmering when I added the brocolli, baby bok choy, and somen noodles. I increased the heat, but something was still off and the noodles weren’t cooking right. I think in the end, I had not accounted for the fact that the potatoes would absorb a lot of the cooking liquid and my liquid was not simmering hard enough to add the noodles. The noodles turned out gummy and clumped together. They had a raw flour taste that turned my stomach and I think in the end is what caused some serious indigestion for me.

The whole soup was off. Andrew ate it but I could tell he didn’t enjoy it that much and he felt the noodles tasted strange too. The potatoes made the broth thick and starchy. It was lacking the clarity of the broth from the other day.

In the end, I majorly messed up on when I added the noodles. Next time if I want something heartier I will skip the potatoes, add tofu or tempeh instead or maybe some cashews. I added cashews to my soup and they tasted very good with the broth.

Spicy Noodle Soup

Now there are dishes that I am poor at cooking and there are dishes that I am very good at. I am great at cooking chicken, baking, and soups. I love a nice spicy soup with lots of vegetables and noodles in it. I like it so spicy that I start to sweat and my nose gets runny.

The other day Andrew wasn’t feeling well and I had the day off so I drove up to Santa Clara to visit him and make soup. He was just planning on making the chicken and rice soup that I had made him before, but I wanted something spicy and spicy things are good for your health (well, at least they feel good to me!). This is my perfect sick people soup: it is hot, spicy, filled with veggies, and filling. I love spicy food when I’m congested: I can actually taste it!

Ingredients

  • somen noodles (angel hair pasta will also work if you can’t somen)
  • one large head of broccoli, chopped
  • one head of baby bok choy, chopped
  • two large carrots, chopped
  • 1 shallot minced
  • one can of vegetable broth + 3 cans of water
  • 3 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup lite soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. hot chili oil
  • 3 tbsp. spicy black bean paste
  • black pepper (to taste)
  • olive oil

1. In a large heavy bottomed soup pot heat oil on medium. Add shallot and garlic. Cook until shallot is clear. Add chopped carrots and stir until carrots are coated with shallot, garlic, and oil mixture. Add black pepper.

2. Add 1 can of vegetable broth (any brand will work, this time I used Swanson’s since this is what they carry at Lucky’s grocery store). Add three cans of water. Bring to a boil and then turn down the heat to let the carrots simmer. Add soy sauce, more black pepper, chili oil and black bean paste. Cook for fifteen minutes or until carrots are cooked.

3. Add baby bok choy, broccoli, and somen noodles. These will be done cooking in a very short amount of time, about two to three minutes.

Andrew said my soup was amazing and he ate it for lunch and dinner that day and the next. The only thing he said that it was missing was meat. 🙂

BBQ, Pasta Salad, and Salsa

Yesterday Andrew and I joined Peter, Susannah, and Matt for a BBQ. The main dish of the night was the BBQ chicken with pineapple, which I did not eat, but I’m sure was delicious. I made a pasta salad with seitan as well as two kinds of salsa. Andrew made tortilla chips baked in the oven. Peter and Susannah provided the chicken, wine, and sourdough bread.

Peanut Pasta Salad

Ingredients for Salad

  • 1 pkg. rainbow rotini rice pasta
  • 1 cup chopped broccoli
  • 2 carrots peeled and chopped
  • seitan sliced and marinated
  • baby salad greens

Ingredients for Peanut Sauce

  • 1/4 cup Better Than Peanut Butter (Trader Joe’s peanut butter made with peanut flour instead of peanuts)
  • soy sauce
  • teriyaki sauce
  • red chili paste
  • lemon juice
  • sunflower oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 tbsp. garlic

1. Boil water for pasta. Add pasta once water is boiling. Cook for 10-12 minutes. Remove from heat, drain, and rinse with cold water immediately. Rinsing is very important for rice pasta since it tends to get gummy and mushy very quickly.

2. Once the pasta has cooled mix together pasta, brocolli, baby salad greens, and carrots.

3. Whisk together ingredients for peanut sauce. Slice seitan into very small pieces. Put half the sauce in one bowl and add seitan. Let marinate for about five minutes. Heat a small frying pan with some sunflower oil. Add seitan and cook until heated through.

4. Add seitan to pasta and vegetable mixture. Add the remaining sauce and stir until coated. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to eat.

Fresh Tomato Salsa

Ingredients

  • three small tomatoes chopped roughly
  • 1/2 yellow onion roughly chopped
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, chopped with seeds
  • 1 tbsp. chopped garlic
  • salt
  • pepper

1. Add ingredients to food processor. Pulse until desirable size. I like mine very small so I let it go for a while.

Fresh Tomato Salsa with Pineapple

Ingredients

  • 3 small tomatoes chopped roughly
  • 1/2 yellow onion chopped roughly
  • 1 poblano pepper chopped roughly with seeds
  • 1 tbsp. garlic
  • pineapple chunks
  • salt
  • pepper

1. Add ingredients to food processor. Pulse until desired size.

Spicy Red Chili Shrimp and Noodles with Green Lettuce Salad

Last night my friend Melissa came over for dinner. Thankfully, she doesn’t have any dietary restrictions so I was able to make shrimp and noodles. When I was at whole foods I bought five pounds of frozen shrimp in the shells, a noodle kit, clover sprouts, honey mustard yogurt dressing, and avocados. I defrosted a few handfuls of shrimp in the sink. I put them in a collander and ran cold water over the shrimp for about five minutes. I put water on to boil for the noodles. I sauteed the shrimp in a little bit of olive oil. Once one side of the shrimp turned pink I flipped them over. I put the dried noodles in a bowl and then poured the boiling water over it. I left the noodles in the hot water for five minutes. I added the sauce packet to the shrimp and stirred in a couple tablespoons of water. It turned out spicy and tasty. Melissa and I both agreed that there could have been more sauce since it turned out a little dry with th noodles. I also made a green leaf salad by placing green lettuce leaves around a bowl the piled clover sprouts, chopped mint, and half of an avocado in the middle.

Chicken Stir-Fry with Soba Noodles

Andrew and I made chicken stir-fry for dinner yesterday. We bought one pound of boneless, skinless chicken breasts from Whole Foods. I sliced these into about one-half inch thick pieces and trimmed the fat. I made a sauce with “cock sauce” (its an Asian red pepper sauce), salt, pepper, rice wine vinegar, teriyaki, minced garlic, brown sugar, and soy sauce. I put the chicken in the sauce. Then I put water onto boil for the soba noodles. I added oil to a non-stick skillet and poured the chicken with sauce into that pan on about medium-low heat. In another pan, I added minced garlic, one small head of savoy cabbage (sliced into small pieces), brocolli, carrots, and pineapple. I added water, salt, and pepper to the vegetables. Once the water was boiling, I added the soba noodles. It took about fifteen minutes for the chicken to poach in the sauce. The noodles are very quick cooking and make sure not to overcook them since they will go gummy if you let them cook too long. If you’re not familiar with soba, they are a Japanese buckwheat noodle that are a little thicker than angel hair, but not as thick as spaghetti.

I mixed all three components together. It turned out nice, if a little saucy. I added a lot more “cock sauce” to mine. It made for yummy leftovers today.

Mahi Mahi with Pineapple

Andrew and I had a stalemate over what to cook for dinner the other night. We both get incredibly irritable when we’re hungry. We sat in silence for a good ten minutes after he shut down my pierogi dinner idea before we realized that we were being stupid and that we should go to the grocery to decide what to cook for dinner. We went to Whole Foods and ended up with two Mahi Mahi filets (fish is on sale because of Lent), pineapple, and red potatoes.

I added salt, pepper, and chopped garlic to the non-skin side of each filet. I heated a medium sized skillet to medium, sprayed with cooking oil, and added each filet skin side down. Then I glazed mine in hoisin sauce (Andrew took one whiff of it and wanted to vomit). After about seven minutes I added the pineapple and put a lid over the fish to cook the tops. Before cooking the fish I washed and diced the potatoes, put them in a baking dish with salt, pepper, garlic, and olive oil spray and cooked them for about twenty-five minutes at 375°.

The fish was flakey, moist, and tasted great. The pineapple really added a wonderful touch. I would definitely cook something like this again.