Vegan Spicy Peanut Dip/Sauce

April 7, 2011
vegan spicy peanut dip or sauce

Vegan Peanut Dip or Sauce

Spicy Peanut Dip/Sauce

This is kind of like Indonesian satay sauce, but without the coconut milk. It’s easier to make than the traditional version, because we are starting with peanut butter instead of raw peanuts. I used creamy, but chunky will work as well.

There is a mixture of sweet, salty, sour and spicy, along with a creamy richness from the peanut butter. You can adjust the spiciness to your taste. The recipe as written is on the mild side.

It works great as a dip for crudite, and I mixed the leftovers with sautéed vegetables and served them with rice. You can sprinkle some sesame seeds on the top for garnish.

Vegan Spicy Peanut Dip/Sauce

1 cup peanut butter
1 cup water
2 TBS shoyu
4 TBS brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
4 TBS apple cider vinegar
3/4 teaspoons salt
1 TBS toasted sesame oil (optional)

Mix together all ingredients. Using hot water helps to soften the peanut butter and makes it easier to mix.

This was served at Ray’s memorial service at the arboretum. The other recipes can be found also, including Black Bean Dip, Broccoli Salad, Pea Salad, and Vegan Tofu-Spinach Dip.

For Ginger Lovers: A Ginger Menu

December 18, 2010

A good friend fell off a cliff, broke his neck in two places, but is fine (thank you, gods!) and recovering. Recently, however, he’s been having some nausea as he tries to wean himself off the narcotic pain pills.

Because I know ginger is good to relieve nausea, plus it helps digestion, I whipped up a dinner for him with ginger in every dish, took it over to him, and had a great meal.

If you love ginger, you might get some ideas from the menu. Everything had ginger in it, but it was never overpowering. It’s one of those ingredients that can be aptly used to give depth of flavor, spiciness, or warmth. It can blend quietly into the background, or sing loudly as a star flavor.

Here’s what we had:
Asian Black Bean Dip, served with tortilla chips and sugar snap peas

Asian Slaw with Ginger-Wasabi Dressing (a very simple salad with won bok, Asian pear and green onions)

Rice (a mix of brown rice, white rice, and barley)

Tofu, Broccoli, and Sweet Potato
seasoned with ginger and soy sauce

Pineapple Sorbet with Mint, Basil, and Ginger

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with pecans and candied ginger
Next time I will serve them without the pumpkin, since you couldn’t really taste it. I’ll use it instead to make Pumpkin Smoothies!

Ginger-Mint-Lemongrass Iced Tea

Ginger Ale the old style, fermented (my first attempt at this)

A crowd-pleasing way to use kimchi

May 19, 2010
vegan kimchi dip and sugar snap peas

Vegan Kimchi Dip and Sugar Snap Peas

I took this to a meeting recently and was surprised with how many compliments it received.  I needed a dip to go with some fresh vegetables, and hummus was just too boring.

So I did a variation of vegan mayonnaise and added kimchi juice.  The full kimchi flavor didn’t come through enough, though, so I also added cayenne, vinegar and lemon juice, garlic and ginger, the same ingredients in kimchi itself.

It ended up being fairly runny, even with the addition of some tofu to thicken it up.  Even so, the flavors were addictive, and the touch of heat at the end won it high praises.

The vegetables we used were just carrots and sugar snap peas, which are in season now (Spring).   I found a big bag at the warehouse store and decided to try them raw.  They were devoured faster than the carrots.

Sweet, crisp, and good for you…how often does THAT happen?!

I’ll have to play with the recipe to get a thicker texture, because it doesn’t stay on the vegetables well.  This is more like a dressing or sauce. But it tastes fabulous, so I recommend you give it a try anyway.

Vegan Kimchi Dip

1 cup tofu
1/2 cup kimchi juice (squeeze the liquid from some kimchi)
4 teaspoons sugar
1-1/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tablespoon ginger, chopped
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
2 Tablespoons vinegar
1/2 cup canola oil

1/4 to 1/2 cup chopped kimchi (optional)

Put all ingredients except kimchi into a blender.  Blend until smooth.  Stir in kimchi if using.  Chill.

The mixture will thicken slightly as it chills, but it’s still quite runny.

Serve with vegetables such as carrot, celery, tomatoes, sugar snap peas, mushrooms, cucumber, zucchini, broccoli, sweet peppers.

Vegetarian Thai Cooking Class

December 6, 2009

The first thing I did upon arrival in Chiang Mai, Thailand, was head to May Kaidee’s Vegetarian Restaurant. It’s on Ratchapakinai Road, next to the Sumit Hotel, about 4 doors up from the Thai Red Cross office, which is easy to spot.

Look for the plants in front of the tiny shop.

I had a bowl full of something luscious, with coconut milk curry and vegetables, and I was immediately happy.

Last time I was in Chiang Mai, I took a cooking class from The Farm, an organic farm about 20 minutes out of the city. It was a well-organized class, the food was delicious, and it was a nice break to get out of the city and spend a relaxing day making mouth-watering food. I highly recommend it.

This time I wanted to take a class that was specifically vegetarian, not just a cooking class that substituted vegetarian ingredients. Since May Kaidee’s had a cooking class available, I had to taste the food before signing up.

No use taking a cooking class from somewhere with tasteless, or worse, awful food.

So I was relieved that the food was delicious and that it was close enough to my guesthouse, which meant I would be coming back often to eat. (I did–I went every day except when I was out of commission due to food poisoning…grr.)

Class started at 9 am with a bowl of fruit and yogurt for breakfast. Then the other three students and I, plus Duan, May’s sister, who runs the Chiang Mai restaurant with her husband, daughter, and brother, set off for the local market.

There Duan pointed out and explained several ingredients crucial to Thai cuisine. She showed us sticky rice, kaffir limes, ginger, galangal, lemongrass, holy and Thai basils.

Choy sum swarming with bees

Most of the produce was already familiar to me, including long beans, choy sum (Chinese greens with yellow flowers that the bees were swarming around), gailaan (sometimes called Chinese broccoli, and what Duan called kale), round and long eggplant, pumpkin (large, flat, and brown, like a more rowdy cousin of the Japanese kabocha).

The Thai papayas are enormous, at least eight inches long, orange and shaped like a cylinder. The papayas in Hawaii are much smaller, shaped like yellow pears on steroids.

We also saw the rice noodles that people ordered by width and watched the vendor chop them with her cleaver before putting them into a tiny plastic bag secured with a rubber band. The thin version, like fetuccini, are what is used to make Pad Thai, the popular fried noodle dish. The uncut sheets are the wrappers for uncooked spring rolls.

After filling our baskets, we walked back to the shop, past a rotund yellow dog that took up half the road. Cars, people and motorcycles inched around it to pass. We couldn’t decide if she was pregnant or just obese.

The Somphet Market Dog--fat or pregnant?

Back at the shop, we chopped some baby corn, greens, and cauliflower before heading upstairs with bottles of drinking water, to get to work.

Each of us had a station with a wok and shared areas with dark and light soy sauce, chili paste and already-chopped garlic and chilies.

For each recipe, Duan walked us through the steps. “Put one spoonful of oil in your wok. Now add chilies, half spoon, and garlic, half spoon.” Spoons were the Asian soup spoons, the long ones with handles bent upwards, that come with bowls of gau gee min and ramen, Asian noodle soups.

“Now, quickly…KHON!

That meant “Stir!” in Thai. We spent many hours that day khon-ing.

“Next put tofu and vegetables….khon faster!”

And so it went. After the first three dishes, I lost track of how much of what went into what. Fortunately, all the recipes had been printed out for us, so we stopped after a few to make notes about substitutions and anything else not already written for us.

Duan prepares rice wrappers to make uncooked spring rolls.

Each of us had a tasting spoon, which we kept in a pocket in the front of our aprons, for sampling the dishes as we finished. This was an interesting part of the course, because we learned how much of a difference in flavor small substitutions could make.

For example, clear Tom Yum, coconut Tom Yum, and Tom Kha soups were identical, save for the amounts of coconut milk we added, but the flavors were more different than you’d imagine.

Four hours later, we had a spread large enough to feed us all for lunch and dinner. Fried noodles, soups, several kinds of curries, and the famous Kao Soi, a northern Thai curried noodle specialty.

The finished uncooked spring rolls: light, fresh, chewy, crunchy, spicy, and refreshing, all at once.

We also made lip-smacking peanut sauce, and May Kaidee’s famous and possibly the most popular dish on the menu: Pumpkin Hummus. Various seeds, spices, chilies, and cooked pumpkin were pounded with a mortar and pestle. The end result was creamy, complex pumpkin magic.

Duan said it was their mother’s special recipe. She used to make it for them growing up, and they ate it with everything, from balls of sticky rice, to spread on bread as sandwiches, or as a dip with vegetables. It was easy to see why this was such a popular dish.

The only non-vegan things were the yogurt in the morning, plus the egg noodles in the Kao Soi. But that was a variation on a curry dish, so you could leave them out.

I gave my leftovers to my Thai massage friends, since I did not have a fridge in the guesthouse and did not want to tempt fate with even more food poisoning.

Thank you, Duan, An, Nain, and Opal, for delicious food every day, and for your help! Khob kun mahk kha!

If you are interested in taking the cooking class, visit the restaurant and talk to one of them. I highly recommend it.

May Kaidee Vegetarian Restaurant, Chiang Mai, Thailand

Thai Thanksgiving Feast

November 27, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving to you all back home in the U.S.!

It’s a day ahead here in Thailand, so my Thanksgiving was celebrated one day before the U.S.

I went to visit my two Thai massage friends at their shop and took some Pad Thai, Penang Curry, and rice from my favorite vegetarian Restaurant here in Chiang Mai, May Kaidee’s.

They had raw cucumbers, blanched cabbage and oyster mushrooms, sticky rice, nam phrik, (hot chile paste, made by pounding chiles, garlic, salt and sugar and frying it for a short while), and egg omelette.

My kind of Thanksgiving spread--vegetarian, mostly organic, and international

We shared food. The nam phrik on the omelette was really spicy, and they laughed at me as I coughed.

They hadn’t really heard of Thanksgiving. I tried to explain it’s a holiday when people eat turkey and just eat too much.

But I had decided to come to Chiang Mai instead and visit the Elephant Nature Park, to remind me to be thankful, which is in line with the true spirit of the holiday.

(I’ll post the sad and happy details of my visit to the elephant park in a separate post.)

I tried to say, “You are my Thai massage family.” That resulted in a lot of confusion and laughter, and they eventually understood me.

My friend June has a northern accent, so her pronunciation is a little different than so-called standard Thai at times. But her animated personality and boundless energy make for a lively time, whether we are discussing politics, massage techniques, animal cruelty and the complete lack of regulation and protection for animals here, or how to eat sticky rice.

She insisted I eat it the traditional way, balling it in my hand, then dipping it into the curry or nam phrik. When she was a child, she used to roll the rice between two palms to create a dense ball that was then too chewy and hard to eat easily.

Kids will be kids the world over.

It took two of them, plus pantomime, to explain how they used to squeeze the essential oils out of a piece of orange peel onto a ruler. Then they touched the ruler to the palm of their hand and pulled it away repeatedly. Eventually the oils created spider-web-like strands. The mandarin oranges we had for dessert (along with apple bananas) didn’t have enough essential oil in the peel to make it happen, so I had to take their word for it.

I laughed so much, I was getting a headache from my cheek muscles contracting. That, plus a sore face from smiling, crying, and trying not to sob at the elephant park, were not helping.

They gave me a kaffir lime (ma kroot) to sniff the peel, which is supposed to help with headaches.

Kaffir Limes, Ma Kroot in Thai

It did, until my friend said she wanted some of my extra weight, because she is too skinny and runs out of energy. I told her to take all she wants, and that the reason she is so skinny is because all her movements are vibrant, full of energy, and overexcited.

I imitated her, and we both laughed until our stomachs hurt. She told me she never guessed I’d be a mirror to her behavior.

Then I had a headache again.

They fed the stray dogs outside, named Ding Dong, Long, and Kencham, then put out a hot water bottle so Ding Dong can sleep on it.

Ding Dong, an old street dog with mange and aching joints

He is old and gets stiff after sleeping when it’s cold like this. When he gets up, he shrieks in pain for a few minutes, until his joints warm up and stop hurting.

Sometimes they massage him, to relieve the pain.

“Khon jai dee,” I tell them often. Good, kind people.

Long sleeps hidden in the plants fronting the shop, two feet away from the mopeds, cars, and traffic.

My Thanksgiving dinner was an international celebration, and I was happy to spend it with my Thai “massage family” of therapists here in Chiang Mai.

And although my time at the Elephant Nature Park earlier in the day was emotional, it reminded me of many things I am grateful for.

This Thanksgiving was probably the nicest one I’ve ever had. Ironically, there was no turkey, no stuffing, no overeating, no blood-related family, and I wasn’t even in the U.S.

I hope yours is as full of warmth, love, and good eats as mine was. Happy Thanksgiving, and please remember to give thanks.

Soy Yogurt, Take Two

September 17, 2009
This second batch of soy yogurt (served with the end-of-season mangoes) was slightly thicker than the first time but still not as thick as I'd like.

This second batch of soy yogurt (served with the end-of-season mangoes) was slightly thicker than the first time but still not as thick as I'd like.

My first attempts at making soy yogurt were a success, but I wanted this time to see if I could get it a bit thicker. I don’t want to have to strain it, so I’m tweaking the recipe in the hopes of getting something I like.

After watching Alton Brown on the tv show Good Eats, I thought adding a small amount of soy flour to my soymilk might help. The finished product was noticeably thicker, at least on the bottom of the container, although there still is some wateriness, which you can see in the photo above.

However, I also wrapped a towel around the inner container before stuffing it into the insulated cooler, and I put a towel underneath the whole thing, to maintain the warm temperature for a longer period of time. The ideal range is about 115-120 degrees F. The bacteria will continue to make yogurt as it cools, but not as vigorously.

Since it was thicker at the bottom, this may be due to the towel and not the soy flour. It didn’t occur to me to put a towel on top. So I need to isolate the effects. Next time I’ll try towels but no soy flour and see what happens.

One thing is for sure: the yogurt from the first batch, which has been in my fridge, is getting more sour over time. The lovely tang and creaminess make it addictive, and I find myself dipping in for a spoonful every now and then. I guess it’s healthier than dipping into something like caramel sauce!

The live bacteria are good for my digestive system, which helps my immune system. And I could be paying a lot of money for commercial yogurt instead, which often has gums, thickeners and gelatin, which I don’t want to eat. Mine has just soymilk, a small amount of the first batch of soy yogurt, and some soy flour.

Gee, on second thought, maybe the soy yogurt as starter this time made a difference. Last time I used commercial dairy yogurt as a starter.

Well, I guess that means only one thing: back to the lab!

Homemade Soy Yogurt

September 6, 2009

My latest mad-scientist food experiment is to try my hand at making soy yogurt. I’ve done other fermented foods: sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, lacto-fermented vegetables, but this was the first yogurt expedition.

I mixed in a small amount of regular yogurt (with starter cultures) into some soymilk that I heated and cooled to the proper temperature. The mixture has to remain at the correct temperature in order for the bacteria to grow and cause the thickening and sourness.

My low-tech solution was a plastic container which fit perfectly into an old insulated foam cooler I had lying around…house full of junk=lots of opportunity!

The mixture is placed in a container inside a cooler to maintain an even temperature.

The mixture is placed in a container inside a cooler to maintain an even temperature.

Then it was set in the corner to work its magic, literally! I let it incubate for eight hours.

The concoction is put to bed.

The concoction is put to bed.

I opened the box and lid with crossed fingers to find…

After eight hours, the transformation has begun...

After eight hours, the transformation has begun...

Voila! The bacteria have infiltrated the soymilk, leaving the telltale fermentation calling card behind: bubbles.

I took a scoop to sample. It still tastes very much like soymilk, with slight souring, and the creaminess and thick consistency of a watery sour cream. I will let it be until I wake up tomorrow and see what I end up with.

So much excitement. How will I ever sleep tonight?

If only chemistry in high school had been this much fun…

UPDATE: The next day…
Today the yogurt was tangier than when I tasted it last night, although the flavor still wasn’t very strong. I was afraid to leave it out longer to see if it would continue to sour.

As far as thickness goes, it was fairly runny. I suppose I could strain it to get it thicker. More experimenting is in order, but it’s very exciting to be able to completely transform soymilk into yogurt.

From now on I should be able to use that as my starter culture and just add some from the most recent batch to make more yogurt.