Saturday, March 31, 2012

Kickin' Jicama and Carrot Salad

Jicama whaaaaat?  Grown in South America and is typically found in Mexican cuisine, Jicama is a root vegetable that looks a bit like a turnip. It has a slightly sweet, crisp taste and can be eaten raw or cooked. We had a burst of summer weather here for a week so I got inspired to make this summery salad. (On a side note, it ended up snowing today.)

1/2 Jicama
2 medium sized carrots
Arugula (optional)
1 tablespoon of black sesame seed
Lime wedges

1 teaspoon of chili flakes (more if you you like it hot and don't have an ulcer)
2 tablespoon sesame oil
2 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon of lime juice
1 teaspoon Braggs
Lime wedges

Peel Jicama and julienne (cut in to matchstick size pieces)
I used a spiralizer for the carrots but if you don't have one just grate carrots.

Lightly toast sesame seeds in a non stick pan (I didn't use oil- i just tossed them in and kept the pan moving)
Toss carrots, jicama and seeds in a large bowl. Add dressing. Toss a few more times. Serve on a bed of arugula with a slice of lime or as is. -B

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


 Dukbokki A.K.A Tteokbokki is a Korean snack food typically sold by street vendors or Pojangmacha. This spicy dish is usually made with meat, fishcakes, rice cakes and Gochujang (fermenetd red pepper paste). It was in a local Korean fast food restaurant in Korea Town that I first tried this. By default it was the only thing on the menu that could be veganized so we ordered it. We substituted the meat with tofu and it came with cabbage, mushrooms, carrots and rice cakes and we added in yams and had them make the sauce without fish. Below is my vegan version of Dukbokki.

2 cups slice rice cakes (you can use the sticks as well. I just prefer the slices)
4 tablespoons of Gochujang (red pepper paste)
1 cup sliced mushroom
1 small carrot (sliced into thin circles)
1/2 med size yam (sliced half moons). These are optional
4 baby bok choy (or 1 cup chopped cabbage or 1 cup zucchini).
2 green onions (chopped)
1 clove garlic (use garlic press or chop very thin)
1 tablespoon braggs
1 tablespoon agave
2 cups water

Bring water to a boil. Add Gochujang. Bring to a boil. Stir. Add agave. Stir and then add green onion, garlic, rice cakes and yams if using. Boil until rice cakes and yams are slightly soft (2-3 minutes).Turn down to a simmer,  add braggs and vegetables. Put lid on pot and let veggies soften - about a 1 minute or so. Serve hot.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Gwei Lo In Paradise - Part Deux

----- More Paradise -----

     Looking over the haul from Grants, we noticed that the really good shiitake-based vegan meat substitutes we dig so much were sold through a local company called Nelakee. Turns out you can buy directly from their showroom, located in the heart of the bustling and always-colorful Scarborough: 

     There were no paparazzi or flash photography allowed inside this hallowed lair - just a desk, a nice lady and a room with some fridges. But we did score some seriously gnarly snacks including, but not limited to: a bag of drumsticks, all kinds of shiitake-based mock chicken and beef stuffs, and some really boss shiitake jerky. They also sell products by Loving Hut, which you may know as a chain of international vegan restaurants, and you may not know is a front for a cult. But a cult with some killer moves in the kitchen, so...crucial times.

     And while we were so close, we took it as an excuse to check in on our favorite monolithic Scarberian Chinese supercenter, Pacific Mall (aka A Specific Mall): 
     If you like cheap groceries, bootleg DVDs, trinkets and what-have-you, and little buddhas with functional penises...'s definitely worth the trip. 
 I think we can all agree, Heatiness is basically THE worst.
Keep it away at all costs. case you ever need to make tea for a giant or a minotaur. 
 There were tons of these veg-specific food and snack spots...
 ...cohabitating with some MAJOR bum-outs: 

     ...sorry, that sounded vegan in the assholish way. I get it. In the end it's just cheap protein, coming from a country with a huge and dense population still only a few decades out of the starvation of the Cultural Revolution, so cheap sustenance is both automatic and amoral and a specialized diet is a luxury. It's a happy coincidence that there is as much variety of vegetable protein as there is animal. Ni hao, Buddhism!

So, then we found the Best shop:

     And speaking of Buddhism, another great unsung T.O. spot is Graceful Vegetarian, a Buddhist veg restaurant on the outskirts of Pacific Mall. It's dim sum style but has a full regular menu too. I was glad to see they were still kicking. Highly recommended spot if you can get yourself out there, and it's a great place to hit up over Christmas, New Years and those holidays when everything else in town is closed. 

Satay "chicken" skewers
"Shrimp"Dumplings and BBQ "Pork" Bun
      Pancake with Curry Sauce

     All in all another great expedition. And what Chinese superstore trip is complete without a random but always-timely Joseph Campbell quote?

  Dude spoke the truth. We need more JC and less JC, amiright?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Gwei Lo In Paradise

     It's funny. With all the Torontomania of the last few years, the endless neurotic crunch of overdevelopment and seemingly intentional relocation of the suburbs into the city, I find myself increasingly bored to shit with the predictability of things downtown and have been driven to exploring in the other direction, actually going into the burbs to see what's still worth finding - who knew? And being rewarded with the discovery of some great thrift, antique and record stores that may not be doing shit-hot but are comparatively unmolested and still kicking a few years since all the ones in the city have either been pushed out by condos and sky-high rents, or become stupidly fetishized and overblown for what they are (seriously, every jackass with two Captain & Tennille LPs to rub together acting like they're sitting on a goldmine? It's getting a little fucking old). Anyway, that's another rant.

     Long story short, we stumbled on the holy grail of cheap vegan groceries, just 15 minutes away. Grants, an EPIC Chinese grocery store on Dixie Road in Mississauga: 

     What the shit this all has to do with Ulysses S Grant, I don't know. He helped abolish slavery and now he is abolishing me from slavery to Whole Foods and new age ripoff health food chains? I think that's it. Honestly, most Chinese grocery stores have a lot of this stuff, but this one beats the hell out of even the ones in Chinatown. 

     It's HUGE! If you're into switching up your veggies, take Korabi (aka Kohlrabi), celery root or Jicama for a spin. There's a way wider variety of greens than you'd usually get too. The catch is, everything here is really, really cheap. Which is how it should be. If meat is historically the commodity, then vegan food by default should be cheap. Needless to say, as of the last few years, it's just become another greenwashed ripoff, a specialty food which then ends up costing more. I mean, as a vegan, I'm glad that mainstream companies have had to cater to it (see: Soymilk made by milk companies or veggie burgers made by meat companies), that's a good sign of where consumer demand is at. When I was growing up, you'd be lucky to find tofu dogs at a grocery store. Now you can get any vegan version of anything, which makes it a lot easier for the average uninitiated person to make the transition or try it out. You just don't need to stay there. I don't go out of my way to eat much soy these days, or glutenous fake meats. But once in a while, like when you stumble on this...

 kinda need to go to town on it!

     Most of the foods here have only a few ingredients, compared to western style fake meats. I spent the summer of 2000 in Hong Kong while studying Chinese in school, and I was quickly dispossessed of the idea that tofu was an exclusively vegetarian thing. It's really just cheap protein, and will often have shredded pork in it or anything else in it. Note to vegan travelers to China - find the Buddhist places. That's the only shit that's 100% on-purpose animal free (and garlic and onion-free too - you know it incites the senses, you dirty dog). I lucked out and found one place down the street from the dorm I was in, and just went there every day all summer. Let me tell you, friend - there were some farts.  

All these vegan goodies, and nary a stick insect-lookin' yuppie chick with a yoga mat in sight! Whaaaaat? Explore your local Chinatown!

Happy Fart Date, Yang Gui Zi

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Minty Eggplant Dip

I was never a big fan of eggplant dips like baba ganoush but I love this minty version. I first tried this dip at a local pub and was surprised at how much I liked the taste. Just a little bit of mint made all the difference.  I thought I would give it a go and made my own at home. Here it is.

Recommended listing while cooking:
Detroit Cobras- Mink, Rat or rabbit
Hot Snakes- Suicide Invoice

2 large eggplants
1 tbls. Tahini
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup fresh mint chopped
1/2 small white onion
2 clove of garlic
1/4 tsp. cumin
Sweet Spanish paprika (for the top when serving)
Salt and pepper to taste

-Preheat oven to 400°. Lightly spray tray with oil or line with parchment paper. Peel skin. Slice into thin circles or half circles and place on baking sheet. Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until brown/caramelized.

-While eggplant is baking, sautée onions and garlic in a pan until brown. Set aside when done.
-Finely chop mint and set aside
-Let eggplant, onion and garlic cool. Once cool toss in large bowl. Add garlic, cumin, salt, pepper, lemon juice, mint and tahini. Give it a good mix and then toss in a food processor, blender or bullet and blend until smooth.
- Sprinkle sweet spanish paprika on top. Serve with pita chips, pita bread, flat bread or veggies.

You can also cube eggplant for a chunkier dip and enjoy it in a lettuce wrap, or tortilla wrap with tomato and lettuce.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Czech Republic


      If you're going to Europe and NOT going to Prague, first off, you're a jerk. OK, that was harsh. Sorry I called you a jerk. But really, get there. Prague is the best place in all of Europe and I count myself lucky to have spent so much time there and with such good people. You can see Kafka's grave, Der Golem, medieval torture museums, great art galleries, castles, two separate Mucha museums, and see baffled tourists and locals alike look totally lost on every corner.
     The architecture has an old and almost sinister vibe, and unlike any city I've ever known built on a boring-ass grid, Prague is a disorienting series of spirals that you can only give in to and get lost in. And there's an overarching vibe of something creepy and sinister that you can't ever put your finger on, like the city itself is alive and watching you wind your way through its maze. In a word too often misused, it's truly Kafkaesque.

The New Jewish Cemetery in Žižkov 

 Old Town, Staré Město, Praha 1

View of Mala Strana

Old Jewish Cemetery

Dancing Building

But I digest. More Czech travel tips later. Now about that vegan food...

     The old Prague favorite, lifesaver and winner by a long shot is Country Life. CL started out as a real underdog in 1991, as the sole health food wholesaler in the entire Czech Republic. Today, it is the best-known veg restaurant around and still a health food store too (and a supplier to other places that have since started getting in on the action).
     The restaurant is buffet style and by weight (if you know Le Commensal in Toronto or Montreal, it's something close to that) and they always have a great spread of salads, proteins, fresh juices and great desserts. Last time we were there, we spotted Wife's real boyfriend Krispin Glover dressed all in black, with a briefcase, taking in the Country Life. Anyone know how to say "Biff, you get your damn hands off of her!" in Czech?

 (Pilfered from the Internet. Thanks Internet!)

     Also, be sure to check out Lehka Hlava A.K.A. Clear Head (LINK). This vegetarian restaurant with a one of a kind design and atmosphere can be found in a fairytale-esque building built in 1410 located in Old Town, Borsov 2/280, Prague 1. Their menu is also as eclectic as the decor. Be sure to ask about their daily specials.
A very satisfied customer
Hangin' outside Clear Head


Now, some other good stuff to add to your Czech List.
See what I did there?


      Check out Rekomando, our friends' lovingly stocked lefty book and record store in their new location in Prague 2. They have great editions of books, and the widest selection of used and new records punk & hc records to be found in Prague.

 Site (CZ) / More Info


     For the love of Pete, man - get yourself to Český Krumlov in the South Bohemian Region. It takes a few trains and a few hours but you'll see one of the oldest untouched cities in Europe (13th Century) which survived time, war and destruction throughout all these centuries by its unassuming position in the mountain ranges and features Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture all in the same place and still intact. And if you're a badass, get some friends and jump in the Vltava River. But be forewarned, boys - as illustrated below, your nards will shrink (Mladek not included).

Quick dip in the river

 A little nap after a long day of good times.

 Train ride home
     When in Czesky Krumlov stop in at Laibon (LINK), a vegetarian restaurant located in a stone house that dates back to the 1500's. Head out to the back and enjoy your meal overlooking the river and the city. Unfortunately I cannot find my photos. I actually shot them on film when I went, so you will just have to check out the website. Photos, Menu

 One more stop before heading home.....

Kutná Hora
Located in the central Bohemia region and built around 1142, this beautiful town boasts one of the most interesting Ossuaries in the world - Sedlac Ossuary, also know as the Church of Bones. Located beneath the Cemetery Church of All Saints in Sedlec, a suburb of Kutna Hora, it is artistically decorated with more than 40,000 human bones. Rumor has it that the task of stacking the bones was given to a half blind monk. Around 1870, woodcarver František Rint was hired to organize the bones and here are the results.  This has nothing to do with veganism but is a definite must-see. -B