16 November 2011


As it is 16 November, Halloween has passed and (Unitedstatesian) Thanksgiving is fast approaching.  The Holidays are a time of gathering of family and friends.  Last year, my neighbors and I had a friend Thanksgiving and I hosted my family and a couple friends at my apartment on Thanksgiving day (my family's first completely cruelty-free Thanksgiving complete with seitan roast, green bean casserole [all from scratch], stuffing and soy crème brulée for dessert).  This year, skip the turkey and leave the Tofurky Roast on the Whole Foods shelf.  This weekend, I'll be posting recipes for a complete cruelty-free Thanksgiving dinner all from scratch.  Following these recipes will lead to a successful vegan holiday where the only suffering will be by the waist of your pants, struggling to make room for all the vegan deliciousness.

Vegan Chicago on the Road! - NYC

Next month, I will be going to New York City to visit a friend who will be coming in from Italy.  If any readers have any suggests for vegan places to eat in NYC, please let me know, I'll be happy to try them out and review them!

Review: 16.11.11 - Urban Vegan

Kids, in the fall of 2011, I discovered a new vegan restaurant about a mile away from my apartment, Urban Vegan. An asian-themed version of the Chicago Diner. The first time I had it, I I used grubhub to have it delivered to me. I had stir-fry vegetables with pepper steak. Then, I continued to order from Urban Vegan wanting to try the different dishes they offered on their menu. So here's what I think of:

1605 W. Montrose Ave.
Chicago, IL 60613

4:30 pm - 9:30 pm
Tuesday - Thursday
11:00 am - 9:30 pm
Friday - Saturday
11:00 am - 10:00 pm
12:00 am - 9:00 pm

As I stated earlier, I grubhub from this restaurant frequently. I've been inside as well. Like most small shop restaurants in the city, Urban Vegan has limited seating but the service is excellent. Water and Miso soup are brought to you once you sit down. The menu offers a broad range of dishes and for someone who is used to non-vegetarian asian restaurants, receiving the menu for the first time can be liberating. Orange Chicken, Pepper Steak chow mein, the list goes on, tens of items that shout, "TRY ME!"

Now, I have no experience with the actual dish Orange Chicken, I have no idea what it's actually supposed to taste like, but this was great, truly an enjoyable eating experience. The Pepper Steak, I believe is Vegetarian Plus's Pepper Steak and you can get it with almost anything. The orange chicken is from the same brand. Despite them not actually making their TVP, it's still delicious and dining is an enjoyable experience. They also have veggie fish and shrimp dishes, but I must admit, those scare me a bit.

Taking into consideration that their TVP is commercial product and not homemade or locally made, Urban Vegan still gets a happy bunny rating for making Thai/asian food vegan and allowing me to try things where I never had their meat counterparts.

The service is excellent and deliveries are prompt. I would recommend Urban Vegan over any other Asian restaurant simply because instead of being limited to just curry, you can try anything on the menu and everything is delicious.

Expect a review from Ben soon!

03 April 2011

Vegan White Pizza

Pizza. The soft spot in every vegan's heart. Vegan pizza has existed in several forms, but they never... looked like pizza. This is a white pizza I made today (and ate half of before I remembered to take a picture for Vegan Chicago). A white pizza is one without tomato sauce, but with olive oil and garlic for a sauce.
You can certainly put whatever you like on the pizza (including the vegan kimchi I gave a recipe for), so for this recipe, I'm just going to give the pizza dough recipe. This will also mark the turning point in my recipes with it being the first to use ingredients by mass (if you don't measure out ingredients by mass, you should switch over, you'll thank me for it)

225 g bread flour
30 ml sugar
7 g active dry yeast
200 ml water
15 ml salt
15 ml Olive Oil

Boil water and place hot water into a liquid measuring cup. Add sugar, stir and dissolve. Drop a cooking thermometer into the sugar water and let the temperature reach about 43°C. Once the desired temperature has been reached, add yeast and let proof until the top gets foamy. Add the flour, olive oil and salt. Form into a ball, place in an oiled bowl covered with a warm wet towel and let rise for 45 minutes. Once the ball has risen a bit, turn out onto a surface and roll out with a rolling pin to desired thickness. Now, for this one, I put it on my cast iron grill first to cook the bread so the crust would be crispy on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Once this has been done, then you can build your pizza. This one was done with Olive Oil, a couple cloves of garlic (minced), basil and Daiya Cheese.
Happy eating!

Vegan Omelette

Okay, so the picture (shown with pancakes, also vegan) isn't the best, but this is a work in progress. Since my unfortunate mishap with Victory's Banner, I've been thinking about working on a vegan omelette that looks like an omelette. Friday night, I had a vegan author/couchsurfer, Shakti, stay with me. Saturday morning, we promptly set out on the task of creating a vegan omelette that looks like a proper omelette.

1 Package of Silken Tofu
1/4 c (rounded) of Whole Wheat Flour
1/3 t Tumeric
1 t olive oil
a pinch of salt & pepper
a splash of soy sauce
dash of garlic powder

In a bowl, break down the cube of tofu and add the egg replacer with a whisk. Once the mixture is broken down, add in the flour, tumeric, salt, pepper, soy sauce and garlic powder. Once this has been well mixed, fold in the Daiya cheese. Once this has been done and the cheese is evenly distributed, heat up a pan with olive oil and once hot, place the mixture in to make omelette. Place in any thing you'd like to put in the omelette (i.e. onions, green pepper, mushrooms, etc.).
For best results, let the mixture sit for couple minutes then move around, like making scrambled eggs. Eventually, you will end up with an omelette form.
This was fairly easy.

02 March 2011



Being of Korean birth, this stuff runs through my blood. I cannot get enough of fermented cabbage.
Back on 10 February, I posted my recipe for "Working man's Kimch'i" or "Kimch'i-kraut" which was a cheater's way of making something similar to Kimch'i. Today, I post my recipe for his big brother, quite possibly one of the best things I make (because of the emotional attachment or birth ties). Now, Kimch'i can be made with a variety of different ingredients, Napa cabbage, Bok Choy, Cucumbers, Zucchini, etc. Most of the time I make my kimch'i with Bok Choy because it's easier to come by at my local grocery store, and that is the what this recipe consists of.
The recipe used this time:
Main part
1 head of Bok Choy (or Napa Cabbage)
2 carrots
1 large daikon raddish (julienned)
Saline bath
about 6-7 c water
4 T kosher salt
Seasoning liquid
about 2 T water
2 walnut-sized pieces of ginger (peeled and minced)
about 4 cloves of garlic (minced)
3-4 T Red pepper flakes
4 T plum sauce
Take the head of Bok Choy and cut into 1.5 to 2 inch slices from top to bottom. Take a vegetable peeler and peel the heck out of the carrots, to nothingness. Finally, julienne the daikon raddish.
Place the salt in a container and add the water. Mix well until completely dissolved.
Take the prepared vegetables, place in a large bowl. Pour the saline solution over the vegetables. Cover with a plate and weigh the plate down to completely submerge the vegetables.
Let sit for 4-5 hours.
While waiting for the time to elapse, prepare the seasoning liquid by putting the water, minced ginger and garlic, spices, etc. into a jar and let sit.

Once the vegetables have been in the brine solution for 4-5 hours, drain the brine and rinse the vegetables under cold water. Mix the seasoning liquid into the vegetables well and put into a container or containers to let ferment.
For best results, let sit at room temperature for at least 72 hours or in the refrigerator for at least a week. If you use an old jar with a pop top lid, you'll know it's ready when the pop top will not let you press in.
And there you have it!
Homemade VEGAN kimch'i. You can serve it as a side, in kimch'i fried rice, kimch'i jjigae, etc.

10 February 2011

Working man's Kimch'i / Kimch'i-kraut?

Now, I make a proper Korean, vegan Kimch'i (Korean fermented cabbage). I've made it a few times and it's really good, especially for someone who grew up with it. I'll share the recipe the next time I make it; but for the Super Bowl, I had part of a head of cabbage left over and thought to make sauerkraut. What I ended up with was what I'd like to call, "working man's kimch'i" or mabybe "kimch'i-kraut"?; if you don't have the time to prepare proper kimch'i, this is the recipe for you. It looks nothing like Kimch'i, it's not fermented like Kimch'i, but it'll hold you over until you can get Kimch'i.

3/4 head of cabbage sliced thinly.
1/2 small onion
1/2 c water
3 T Apple Cider vinegar
a pinch of salt
1 to 2 T sugar
1 T Sriracha Hot Sauce
**spices to taste**
Garlic powder
Ground Cumin
Ground Ginger
Dill (weird, I know, but good)

In a medium sized pot, cook the cabbage down a bit, add apple cider vinegar. Mix in the other ingredients gradually and let cook down completely. After about 30 minutes total, remove from heat, let cool and serve.

While I may have a definitive place to put this dish... it's definitely something else you can do with cabbage that doesn't turn out half bad.

Review: 10.02.11 - The Chicago Diner - Ben

Even though this is the second restaurant I've had the chance to review, this is my first blog post. I was invited to Chicago Diner with very high hopes and I must say that it delivered on all fronts.

It would be a good idea to mention now that I'm not vegetarian nor vegan. I generally don't eat meat, but I would not put myself in the same category as a true vegetarian, and I love my cheese and dairy. With this in mind, I'll try to rate things two fold: how the food compares to its meat or dairy-based counterpart and how it compares with other vegan entrees based on my experience. On to the food.

I ordered a Rueben with sweet potato fries, a cup of chamomile citrus tea to drink and a piece of cocoa mousse cake for dessert. Oh, and we started with the mozzarella sticks.

The mozzarella sticks were out of the kitchen before we had ordered our sandwiches. Piping hot, they had excellent flavor, not at all greasy and, I must add, had a wonderful cheese-y ("cheese-y" since it was non-dairy) texture that your average mozzarella stick lacks. As a bar food staple, fried cheese sticks are generally pre-frozen and deep fried to order and therefore are usually bland, greasy, and kind of rubbery on the inside. Until I have a lightly fried home-made fresh mozzarella stick, I will hands down always pick vegan.

Upon first glance at the menu, I noticed that many if not most of the dishes contained more ingredients than their bar-food counterparts, or at least listed more in their descriptions. In seeing this, my impression was that to disguise the taste of seitan or tofu, or perhaps compensate for the lack of meat, extra flavor is added to other parts of the dish. Perhaps that's true, but after tasting the Rueben, it didn't really matter. As a meat eater, and have eaten excellent ruebens in the not-so-distant past, I had no idea that a vegan rueben could be so good. To me, and please if anyone out there who knows more about reubens than I do correct me, it seems that these sandwiches rely on their simplicity. Sometimes this can mean a kind of restaurant cop-out, where it's simplicity justifies a lack of effort on the kitchen's part, but, a truly great reuben contains the best corned beef and swiss around, really good rye bread, excellent sauerkraut and home-made thousand island. With a pickle spear on the side, no less. Compared to its meaty cousin, the Chicago Diner's version soars, and, for the most part, you don't miss the corned-beef. Despite this classic's simplicity, the diner's creativity produced one hell of a sandwich. The seitan was excellent and the dressings around it equally so (never had a reuben with green peppers though...). Had this sandwich contained corned-beef, perhaps the meat would have been crowded out by the complementing flavors bursting at the seams, but this composition worked perfectly. The sweet potato fries were delectable as well.

The cake was quite good and looked beautiful. Compared to other vegan baked goods, it was the best I've had to date. I haven't eaten much vegan cake, however. The frosting tasted a little like flat diet coke, but overall the textures were spot on despite the lack of dairy, and the cake's strong chocolate flavor came through well, but hey, with no dairy, something's got to give.

Overall, I give the Chicago Diner a happy - elated bunny rating. This place is excellent for any kind of eater, I highly recommend it. And, a great beer selection.

Review: 10.02.11 - The Chicago Diner - Joe

Okay, as promised from the very beginning of this blog, the long awaited Chicago Diner review. This will be out of order in regards to reviews with Ben as this is the second one we've done and the first he'll write a review for.

The Chicago Diner

3411 N. Halsted

Chicago IL


Fall/Winter (9/1-4/30):

M-Th 11-10

F 11-10:30

Sa 10-10:30

Su 10-10

Summer (5/1-8/31):

M-Th 11-10:30

F 11-11

Sa 10-11

Su 10-10:30

So this restaurant is Michelin Guide recommended for 2011 and rated highly in the Zagat guide. Aside from that, I think that pretty much every vegetarian from the right to left coast has heard of the Diner. Its reuben is legendary. That having been said, sometimes you need to splurge. As a VEGetariAN you may miss biscuits and gravy, or a sloppy joes, a.k.a comfort food, not very good for the body but amazing for the soul. This is the place; try walking into any other diner and asking for Daiya Cheese sticks.

An entirely vegetarian restaurant and most things are vegan; moreover, they have regular menu changes. Did I also mention they have a fair selection of local beer? Now, I've had their breakfast bowl with a black cherry mimosa, their reuben with fries, etc. (all excellent, by the way). But today I tried the vegan mozzerella sticks, Sloppy Joes with vegan cheese and mashed potatoes and gravy; Ben and I took three cookies and two pieces of cake back home with us. (The desserts were the suggestion of Batter and Beat author / my co-worker.) To begin with, the mozzerella sticks were excellent. I know the Daiya products, I've made vegan stuffed crust pizza with it and it's amazing. The marinara was not as chunky or thick as I like, but delicious nonetheless. The Sloppy Joe was great. Now, this isn't the manwich you grew up with; you know, the sugary crap your mom poured out of the Hunt's can? This was tangy and spicy with a hint of sweetness. The bun was whole wheat and oat-topped and quite fulfilling. The kitchen scrambled my order a bit and I was brought sweet potato fries by accident. I mentioned this to our waitress and she promptly brought me mashed potatoes and gravy as originally ordered.

Now, I hate sweet potato. It's my least favorite thing to eat followed by banana, cilantro and pumpkin; but these fries were great and I wish all sweet potatoes were not sweet like those fries. Their mashed potatoes were pretty good, I normally prefer them with garlic, but these still had the skins in them and they were not bad. I would have put the potatoes through a ricer; it would give a more consistent, creamy texture. The gravy was great (and I'd actually prefer that gravy in my breakfast bowl when I go for brunch, they put it over the biscuit). Finally, the cake, cookies and cream cake (vegan, moist, amazing) was excellent for a vegan cake complete with cookie on top, soy whipped cream icing and a great cake base, not too sweet, and with chocolate chips in the cake itself. A great success. I really enjoyed this visit, more importantly; I enjoyed that Ben liked it so much. When I mentioned the absence of mashed potatoes the waitress, she brought me mashed potatoes right away, service was excellent and food was exceptional.

All that being from the viewpoint of it being a diner. From a whole-food vegan perspective, it's junk food and definitely not how real vegans eat every day, but when you're missing Mac & Cheese, or a "milk"shake, reuben or sloppy joe, this is the place. All vegetarian items with most being vegan.

In all, I give this place a Happy Bunny rating. It's not perfect for vegans, but perfect when you need it to be. It’s a small place, but I’d suggest you go in the summer when the patio is open in the back. Non-vegetarians, you will not be at a loss here. I took my meat-eating parents there and they enjoyed it. I highly suggest it, if at least for one trip.

I ask you to try their Reuben or sloppy Joes when they’re on the menu. For breakfast: the Breakfast bowl is a must. Ben's review to come.

Stay Tuned!

Hello everyone!
Please Stay Tuned
I'll be posting a review of The Chicago Diner tonight and hopefully, I can get Ben's input as well!

30 January 2011

Review: 30.01.11 - Victory's Banner

Victory's Banner

2100 W Roscoe
Chicago, IL 60618
(At the corner of Hoyne and Roscoe in Roscoe Village)

Hours: 8-3 Wednesday to Monday
Closed Tuesdays

This restaurant was a visit based on Ben's suggestion. I went there with him this morning. Their website boasts being a top breakfast spot in Chicago. Chicago Reader claims it's "one of the best breakfast houses in Chicago, period." WTTW's Check Please! has recommended it for it's zen-like atmosphere. And it's received many other accolades from various sources.

This is a vegetarian restaurant and as such, I expected a lot from a restaurant of kindred spirits. The options for vegans at breakfast were considerably limited and while you can order any omelette with tofu in place of eggs, and there is a tofu scrambler, I found these to be one in the same. It was incredibly discouraging that the tofu scrambler was just a plate of tofu, potatoes and bread and if you wanted vegetables with it, you had to order each separately (I had mine with onions, sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, broccoli, zucchini, spinach, garlic {though undetectable}, and soy sausage). Ben ordered the veggie delight omelette with tofu in place of the egg. The presentation of both the tofu scrambler and the veggie omelette was the same. A great disappointment. When we saw "tofu omelette", Ben and I assumed "like omelette with tofu instead of egg" or a frittata using tofu, NOT tofu scramble. In fact, you can save money by going for a veggie delight omelette and adding vegetables as opposed to adding vegetables to the tofu scrambler.

The potatoes were well-done, and well-seasoned without salt allowing the customer to add salt if so moved or ketchup. The bread was very nice, whole grain with a good crust and the coffee was very nice. However, he main part of the meal was lacking in many ways. A let down considering "The best thing I ever ate" was at a non-vegetarian restaurant. The tofu scrambler here was nothing special and something I could have made at home for a lot cheaper. Overall, it's a nice place to go for breakfast with a friend, but nothing to out of your way for. Moreover, the prices lead me to believe that it's a front for people who are on the latest organic kick if it's free-range/organic, it must be worth paying more. For two people who got 1 coffee, 1 tea and two breakfasts: $31.63. No thank you. It should be noted that the review could be different from a non-vegan point of view.

For the food, presentation and environment, I give it a sad bunny.
Ben's review to come.

25 January 2011

Coming up!

I am pleased to announce that my neighbor and friend, Ben, has offered to help me with restaurant reviews. In the coming week or so, I'll be reviewing The Chicago Diner and (on his request) Victory's Banner.

Con el orgullo puertorriqueño!!

This is in homage to my officemate Lorianne from grad school, who put up with two Koreans' joking about plátano being potato. (If it were a potato, it'd be a delicious potato.)

Now, that having been said. I lately cannot get enough of these starchy bananas. They have a plátano press to homogenize the shapes of the plátano slices, but I was unable to get my hands on one before this post.

For this, you'll need:
2 plátanos verdes
1/2 c vegetable oil
A mixture of salt, garlic powder, oregano, black pepper and turmeric (like Adobo AP seasoning).

Heat oil in a saucepan. Cut the plátanos in about 1 inch slices. (Smash with plátano press.)
Place in the oil and fry until golden brown on both sides (don't forget to flip 'em!).

Once they're out of the oil, let drain a bit onto paper towels and lightly dust with seasoning. For this plating, I served with red beans and rice.

Happy Eating!

Vegan Crème brûlée

Here, I was supposed to post this at Thanksgiving time. I had had my parents and sister over for Thanksgiving along with my friends Niko and Karishma.

I thought that since it was Thanksgiving and I was going all out with a great vegan spread, I'd make a fantastic vegan dessert. I got a little help from my friend over at Batter and Beat (who so wonderfully lent me her chef's torch).

Voilà! Soy Crème brûlée!
2 packages of soft silken tofu
The innards of 1 vanilla bean
1/4 c vegan white sugar
1 c soy milk

Pure vanilla extract
Turbinado Sugar

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees F.

Mix all ingredients except for vanilla extract and turbinado sugar together until smooth. Add vanilla drop by drop until soy smell is gone. Once smooth and creamy, pour into individual ramekins
and bake for 30-45 minutes or until mix has set enough. Once done, place in the refridgerator for a few hours to chill. About 15 minutes before serving, take out of the refridgerator, sprinkle generously with turbinado sugar and torch.

Check out Batter and Beat's Vegan recipes, they're excellent!

Happy eating!


Okay, these are quite possibly the best pretzels ever! Mall pretzel places can't hold a flame to these babies.

I didn't do proper pretzels, it was for my Oktoberfest Party in September. Instead, I made pretzel bites.

1 1/2 c warm (about 100 degrees F) water

1 T sugar

2 t kosher salt

1 package active dry yeast

4.5 c all-purpose flour

4 T olive oil

Vegetable oil, for pan

10 c water

2/3 c baking soda

Kosher salt

Combine the water and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. Add the flour, salt, butter and, using the dough hook, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.

Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan.

At this point, you can form proper pretzels, however, since I was hosting a party, I made pretzel bites. Roll into a rope and cut dough into 2 inch pieces.

Here, I put the pretzels in the lye water for 30 seconds using a mesh strainer. Return to the half sheet pan. While still moist, sprinkle with kosher salt to tqste. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Guten Appetit!

Playing Ketchup... or Catsup...

Hello everyone,
It's been a VERY long time since I've updated Vegan Chicago. Tonight I will do recipes from September to today. German snack, French dessert and Puerto Rican dish. Please stay tuned.