Best West Village Restaurants: Noodle Bar

The dude and I are were looking for some tasty vegetarian or vegaquarian in the West Village open after 10:00, and this was a great surprise. My Singapore Noodles with tofu had a potent but yummy curry soup, the udon was just right, and the tofu chunks were plump and plentiful. The dude’s Mee Goreng was great, too. Really high quality. Both about $10. Oh, and they have Tiger and some Laotian beers in addition to the usual Asian selections.

We didn’t sit at the bar, which comprises most of the seating, but we still got a good view of the kitchen and the rest of the small space: stylized with a little wear around the edges and super cute. We’ll definitely be visiting here again when we go to Film Forum or IFC.

Best Veggie Chicken Ever: Gardein Zesty Marinara

Wow. I know it’s early in this blog’s history to declare a best, but these “ancient grains” taste super fresh. Gardein’s breaded, crispy chick’n filets with marinara sauce meet all my fake meat needs and can be used in a number of ways. In a hoagie, over pasta, or mixed with veggies, the veggie chicken wonder really pays off on Gardein’s promise of “deliciously meatless foods.”

Now, on to the details…

Form:

Perfectly sized, single chick’n cutlets satisfy. One cutlet per a person is definitely enough.

Feel:

The breading was just right: not too crusty and not at all soggy. It held together while pan frying and complemented the interior, slightly grainy texture just right.

Flavor:

It doesn’t even need the marinara. And if these filets are any indication of the quality of Gardein’s other foods, I’m in for the whole frozen food line.

Rating: 5/5

Veggie Chili Cook-off, Round 1: Vegan Chocolate Stout Chili

I’m making my apartment the site of an ongoing veggie chili cook-off, which I’ll bring you in installments. The first in competition is this vegan chocolate stout chili from the book, Hearty Vegan Meals for Monster Appetites, which is one of my favs.

This chili was made with Brooklyn Brewery’s Dark Chocolate Stout, a Russian Imperial Stout-style beer. It received a 93/100 score on Beer Advocate, and made the chili absolutely sublime. The alcohol content is 10%, and you could taste it.

The only downside to the chili was that it was ridiculously filling. Also, I like a tomato-y chili, so on another attempt, I might add more diced tomatoes. Try it out before the weather gets warm again.

Chocolate Stout Chili

Serves 4-6
Prep time 15 minutes
Cook time 35 minutes
Total time 50 minutes
Hearty Vegan Meals for Monster Appetite's Chocolate Stout Chili is the real deal.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil
  • 1/2 cup onion (chopped)
  • 1 red or green bell pepper (seeded and diced)
  • 2 large cloves of garlic (minced)
  • 1 jalapeno (seeded and minced)
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon cane sugar
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 can Muir Glen fire-roasted diced tomatoes
  • 4oz fire-roasted green chiles
  • 12oz chocolate stout beer (one bottle)
  • 1 package of Upton's Naturals chorizo seitan
  • 2 cans any beans

Note

I adulterated this chili a bit with vegan cheese sauce (forthcoming) and macaroni for cheesy chili mac, so YMMV.

Key ingredient:

Upton's Naturals chorizo-style seitan. Spicy. Crumbly. Fantastic product. Available commonly at Whole Foods and specialty grocers.

Directions

Step 1
Heat oil in large pot.
Step 2
Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic. Cook under slightly tender, about 4 minutes.
Step 3
Add the jalapeno, seasonings, and sugar. Cook for 1 minute.
Step 4
Add the tomato paste, canned tomatoes, chiles, and beer. Bring to a boil and cook uncovered for 15 minutes.
Step 5
Add the seitan and beans. Cook for another 15 minutes, until thickened

Lightlife™ Smart Strip® Chick’n

The Lightlife products, like Smart Dogs and Smart Bacon, are pretty ubiquitous now, but perhaps they’re not as visible as Morningstar.

Lightlife veggie meat is usually located near the produce section of grocery stores, instead of the freezer case. I don’t know why this is, but it makes me think it’s fresher or something. light-life-chickn-strips

The fake meat in question was used in the laksa I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. So, basically, this went into a coconut curry noodle soup with vegetables.

Since this is my first product review, I’m annoucing the three-F structure: form, feel, and flavor, or FFF. I think this can be pronounced, “eff eff eff” or maybe just “phffffffff.”

Form:

I find the smart strips a little too small. Maybe the chick’n tenders would have been a better fit, but these are like fajitas for cats: tiny, pencil-thin strips no longer than a couple of inches. No chicken has ever had this shape.

Feel:

The texture has the same pleasant, slighty fatty and chewy texture of most soy-based fake chicken. It’s a fairly realistic, but not too realistic.

Flavor:

A solid “sure, it tastes kind of like chicken” flavor. You’re not going to fool meat eaters. These strips are a little saltier than others I’ve had. The sodium level on the nutritional facts (15% of your daily value) confirmed this. It’s not like I’m going to have a stroke, though, so this is minor. Your mileage may vary.

Rating: 3/5

I Kinda Lost My Mind in Kalustyan’s

Kalustyan’s looks no bigger than a bodega on the outside, but the inside is practically bursting with all matter of Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, and South Asian foods. There are racks on racks of spices, stacks on stacks of tea and dried goodies. Cases and jars of sweets and fruits. And a staggering number of freezers.

Now, it’s not exactly a fake meat paradise. I think I saw TVP on a lamb pizza and that was it. But that’s not really the point.

The point is that I can’t imagine you not finding something rare and exciting at this Gramercy Park grocery. Or maybe it’s Murray Hill. I don’t know my Manhattan neighborhoods that well.

My little silver basket quickly filled with curries and pickled things, a bright variety of lentils, chai tea powder, and egg replacer (every vegan baker’s friend). I was also really impressed with their honey section. And good lord, if you’re into Turkish Delight, they have Turkish Delight like most stores have soup. There are rows of the stuff, in both fresh and boxed forms.

Where Kalustyan’s really excels is in spices, though. I’ve talked about my love of paprika before, and there were at least half a dozen kinds of paprika. The spice section extends along the side of the store and overflows onto a second floor, where they keep enough tea to fill an Ikea Expedit shelving unit. You know, the one you keep your records in.

After about an hour my eyes started glazing over, and I got tired of scooching past the 100 other food zombies. I took my basket up and ordered some fresh baklava, which would end up taking me two sittings to finish.

I plan to go back to Kalustyan’s again. I ended up buying some laksa mix (for Malaysian-style coconut noodle soup), but it has shrimp paste in it. I have to try and replicate laksa, veggie style, for you guys, maybe using my vegan fish sauce recipe (coming soon!).

Italian Wedding Soup

Ah. Mairwiage. Mairwiage between the meatball and the spinach—that is the essence of Italian wedding soup. Make it with Nate’s zesty Italian meatballs, and you have a ridiculously easy, one-pot soup that’s perfect this time of year.

Nate's meatless meatballsNow, this soup comes out of little differently each time I make it; it’s very dependent on the type of broth you use. You can be more ambitious than me and make your own broth, or you can do what I do and use Better than Boullion vegetable base. It makes a great, meaty broth that needs no extra salt.

The soup is even better the next day, as the pasta releases its starches and creates an extra hearty meal.

Italian Wedding Soup

Serves 3-4
Prep time 15 minutes
Cook time 15 minutes
Total time 30 minutes
Meal type Soup
Region Italian
Classic italian wedding soup with spinach and meatballs.

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon butter or margarine
  • 1 yellow onion (diced)
  • 3 cloves' garlic (minced)
  • 1 bunch spinach (washed and peeled from stems)
  • 5 cups veggie broth
  • 1 cup orzo or any small pasta (I used alphabet pasta this time around because I’m actually six years old.)
  • 1 bag Nate's zesty Italian meatless meatballs
  • 1 tablespoon vegan Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast (This gives the soup some heft and adds a nutty, cheesy flavor.)
  • fresh ground pepper (to taste)
  • 1 cup Daiya vegan mozzarella cheese

Note

No need to veganize this time. We’re doing it with margarine and Daiya vegan cheese.

Key ingredient

Nate’s meatless meatballs. Available at Whole Foods and many natural food stores. They’re by far the best of the faux meatballs, with an oddly convincing, slightly fatty texture and a fair bit of spice. Don’t mess with Morningstar on this one.

Directions

Step 1
In a large pot, sauté your onion over medium-high heat in butter or margarine until slightly translucent (about 3-4 minutes).
Step 2
Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more.
Step 3
Add spinach, broth, pasta, meatballs, Worcestershire sauce, and nutritional yeast. Bring to a boil.
Step 4
Lower heat to medium and cook uncovered for 8-10 minutes, or until the pasta is tender. Stir occasionally.
Step 5
Ladle into bowls and add pepper and a sprinkling of cheese.

Red Bamboo: Southern Fried Chicken

David and I had friends in town last weekend, and after an evening at the Comedy Cellar (Aziz Ansari showed up!), we needed to find a place to eat around Greenwich Village. We’d normally go to this Singapore-style noodle bar named, appropriately, Noodle Bar. They have several dishes with veggies and delicately fried tofu, but I had already gorged on coconut curry with udon noodles the Friday before. The choices were Blue Ribbon Brasserie —which is mainly seafood with a few vegetarian options—and Red Bamboo.

I’m pescarian or vegequarian of whatever you want to call my fish-eating ways, but David’s not. So being that we could all eat anything on the menu at Red Bamboo, we and our two conscientious omnivore friends headed there.

Despite the definitely Asian décor, Red Bamboo has a huge menu filled with a variety of food: burgers, sandwiches, comfort grub, and Chinese- and Japanese-inspired dishes.

We had a bit of wait, but we settled in our warm booth by the door pretty quickly.

It continues to surprise me how few vegan comfort/soul food restaurants there are in New York. After the closures of Curly’s and Kate’s Joint this past year, our options are kind of sad. But I was happy with our availability of choices at Red Bamboo. David had sweet and sour chicken, Sean had the tonkatsu chops, Jung had the szechuan beef, and I had the southern fried chicken.

The only dish that resembled its name, however, was the sweet and sour chicken. I focused on my herbed half soy chicken with drumsticks, which had been described accurately in the menu but didn’t resemble the chicken-fried chicken I was expecting and craved. It’s one of the southern dishes I miss and hope to duplicate soon from Celine Steen’s and Joni Marie Newman’s Hearty Vegan Meals for Monster Appetites.

Southern Fried Chicken The soy-based chicken was pleasant enough, although the drumsticks were unnecessary and dry. The chicken overall had a nice mouth-feel, saltiness, and chew to it without totally falling apart.

I have to say, though, that the sides were the best part. The collard greens with veggie ham were a little crispy, possibly flash fried. And the crinkle-cut sweet potato fries were satisfying. A Blue Point Toasted Lager, which happens to be vegan, finished everything off.

Although the out-of-town omnivores seemed happy, and the faux meat options were numerous, I don’t think David and I will be running back to Red Bamboo anytime soon. And I’m not sure it’s deserves a reputation as one of the best vegan restaurants in New York. But it’s a good choice if you’re in the area for comedy or a movie at Film Forum or IFC.

Rating: 3 stars

“Chicken” Paprika with Pierogies

I wanted to start this blog with a grand statement about my vegetarian philosophy, but screw that. We just had our first real snow of winter, and I need a hot dish.

No, not you, Marky Mark. marky-mark

I’m talking about veggie chicken paprika. With pierogies. And a side of sour cream and maybe some sauerkraut.

Before I begin, I’m asking everyone my forgiveness because: 1) this is an Eastern European Frankenstein dish, and 2) I totally jacked this recipe from Rachael Ray (and vegetized it).

So here we go…

“Chicken” Paprika with Pierogies

Serves 4
Prep time 15 minutes
Cook time 45 minutes
Total time 1 hour
Meal type Main Dish
Region European
Super-easy vegetarian paprika stew for cold days.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 link Field Roast Smoked Apple Sage sausage (crumbled)
  • 1 bag Quorn Chick'n Tenders
  • salt and pepper (to taste)
  • 1 yellow onion (diced)
  • 2 large carrots (diced)
  • 3 cloves' garlic (smashed and chopped)
  • 1 heaped tablespoon sweet smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tablespoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon white flour
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 1/4 cups veggie broth (Better than Bouillon vegetable base is superior to all.)
  • 1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes (Use the Muir Glen fire-roasted tomatoes if you can get them.)
  • 1 pat margarine or butter
  • 1 bag frozen pierogies
  • (optional) fresh dill, lemon zest, chives, sour cream, sauerkraut

Note

The fake meats: Quorn Chick'n Tenders, Field Roast Smoked Apple Sage sausage

Key ingredient: Sweet, smoked paprika. (Why would you mess with any other paprika? Smoked paprika gives dishes that deep, earthy, umami flavor that's so hard to duplicate in vegetarian foods.)

Variations

Vegan: Ditch the Quorn Chick'n Tenders for Gardein Chick'n Scallopini or plain ol' tofu, and substitute Tofutti Sour Supreme or soy yoghurt for the sour cream.

Directions

Step 1
Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat in large pot or dutch oven.
Step 2
Add veggie sausage and cook until browned, about 3-4 minutes.
Step 3
Add chick'n tenders, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
Step 4
Add the onion, carrot, and garlic, as well as all the herbs and spices, and cook until the carrots are slightly tender.
Step 5
Make a well in the middle of the pan and add the other tbsp of olive oil.
Step 6
Add the flour to the olive oil and mix into a paste.
Step 7
Throw in the white wine, making sure to scrape the brown bits off the side of the pot. (This is called "deglazing." Fancy.)
Step 8
Add the veggie stock and canned tomatoes (juices, too).
Step 9
Simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the stew starts to thicken. (You may need to add more flour.)
Step 10
While the stew is cooking, prepare the pierogies according to the packaging. (After boiling and draining, you can introduce a little butter or margarine to keep the pierogies from sticking together.)
Step 11
When ready to serve, ladle into bowls; add fresh dill, lemon zest, chives, sour cream, or sauerkraut. Place the pierogies on top.