Soul Veg, Vegan Soul Food in Chicago

Not so long ago, I went to Chicago for my boyfriend’s sister’s bachelorette party. I was the only vegan in the group but everybody was so nice and they let me break away from the itinerary for a day to meet up with an old friend who lives there. Of course I chose a vegan restaurant to meet up with my friend Joy.  I chose Soul Veg Chicago.

soul veg facade

Soul Veg is an all vegan soul food restaurant in East Chicago that has been around since 1980! I love that it has stayed that long. I could just imagine how tough business might have been for them in the 80s when veganism was not that popular yet.

protein tidbit

As appetizer, we got the protein tidbit with barbecue sauce. The tidbits were made of wheat protein or seitan. They were quite chewy and nicely seasoned.

soul veg tofu

For main entree, I got the Stir Fried Tofu with brown rice. The tofu was something I never had before.  It wasn’t just a regular bean curd, it tasted peppery savory and was very chewy inside and crunchy on the outside. Their tofu was probably the chewiest tofu I’ve ever had.

The rice was also tasty but a bit dry. I guess they were being health conscious by cutting back on the fat and opting for brown instead of white.

soul veg meat loaf

I was super curious about their Stir Fried steak so we got that too. Instead of rice, we got fries as the side. Actually, the platter was more like a meat loaf, a seitan meat loaf to be exact. My friend and I thoroughly enjoyed this dish.

soul veg dessert
Of course I had to order dessert especially after seeing their ice cream sundae on the menu. My friend, who is not vegan and had never tried vegan food prior to eating here, said she was very impressed especially with the dessert.

We got the tropical fruit sundae and the chocolate cake. The chocolate cake was quite dense but very filing and delicious. The sundae tasted like guava fruit, yum!

sould veg ambiance

The ambiance had a nice, casual feel. Nothing too fancy, although they also have a banquet hall in another room.

Aside from table service, Soul Veg also has a snack and salad kiosk. My friend and I were too full to order anything from here so I just snapped some pictures.

soul veg salad bar Looks tasty and hearty to me.

soul veg salad bar cu

My friend said after eating here, she has noticed more vegan and vegetarian restaurants in her neighborhood. Sounds good to me! Perhaps I need to come back to explore more of these places.  Chicago is such a beautiful city anyway. I wouldn’t mind going back.

 
 
Original Soul Vegetarian
Located at 203 E. 75th street
Chicago, IL 60619. View Map
Phone: (773) 451-9796
Website: originalsoulvegetarian.com

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No Bake Lentil Flatbread, Gluten Free and Vegan

lentil flatbread wide shot

I’m a sucker for lentil chips and lentil snacks so I was looking for a way to create something similar at home.

I’ve tried two ways in making the flatbread: with cooked lentils and with uncooked lentils. Both versions resulted to great flavor and texture. The first version, the one with cooked lentils, reminded me more of a naan bread.  The second version, the uncooked lentils, gave a nice crunchy texture.

My most favorite part about these two recipes is that both are super easy to make- just process the lentils, mix the ingredients and fry. Yup, I didn’t bake the bread but rather fried it using a cast iron pan which gave a nice char.

No Bake Lentil Flatbread, Gluten Free and Vegan

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cooked lentils
  • 1 cup rice flour (or few more spoonful depending on how thin or thick your vegetable broth is)
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • pinch of curry powder (optional)
  • a tablespoon of cooking oil or less if you’d like a low fat dish

Directions:

Using cooked lentils:

  1. Using a high speed blender or food processor, blend the lentils until they’re creamy.
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine the lentils, rice flour, vegetable broth, and a sprinkle of salt, pepper, and pinch of curry powder. The mixture should form a loose dough. If the mixture is too runny, add a few more spoonful rice flour and mix well. If the dough is too thick, add more vegetable broth.
  3. Knead and form the dough into disk shapes or your desired shape.
  4. Heat a cast iron pan or regular pan, pour your favorite high heat oil. Once the oil is hot enough for frying, gently add the dough and let it fry until the bottom side has hardened. If you want it to brown, cook for yet another 5-10 minutes.
  5. Using a thin metal spatula or ladle, flip the bread over to the other side and let it cook for another 5-8 minutes. You may also simply check if the bottom part is done.
  6. Repeat the process for the remaining dough.
  7. Serve with your favorite condiment or jam. I enjoyed mine with strawberry jam and spicy mango jam. Yum!

lentil flatbread medium shot

Using uncooked lentils:

You may also use uncooked lentils. Just grind the lentils using a high speed blender or food processor, then transfer to a bowl and mix with the rest of the ingredients. The mixture should be like a creamy pancake mix and not a dough. After heating your pan, gently pour the batter and cook the batter like how you would cook a pancake.

The result gave a nice crunch on the outside and chewy texture inside. I’ve enjoyed it with my breakfast dish: tofu scramble and steamed kale.

lentil flat bread with tofu scramble

I’ve submitted this recipe to the Virtual Vegan -Linky- Potluck. Feel free to check out the rest of the dishes in this party! Click the button below.

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My Top 12 Vegan Food Basics

my top 12 vegan food basics

Over the years, I’ve developed my favorite vegan food ingredients that I couldn’t live without. These ingredients dominate my kitchen, my purse, and my travel bag. These products help me cook delicious food as well as keep me full when I’m on the go. 

If you’re vegan then I’m sure you also have your own list. If you’re not but curious as to what does a vegan eat, or at least what does a Vegan Filipina eat, then please do watch the video below.

I’ve teamed up with Rainbow Grocery, an all vegetarian grocery store in San Francisco, to curate and show you my top 12 vegan food basics.

Although I shot at an all veg market, I still made sure that the products I featured are something you would find at a regular grocery store.
 

I hope you found this video informational. If you’re curious about the vegan lifestyle, please feel free to ask if there’s something I haven’t answered yet on my food essentials.

If you are already vegan and have your own list, please do share! I’d love to hear about your list too!

 

Lentil Coconut Hominy

To further learn and further appreciate vegan cooking, I’m taking an online plant-based cooking course on Rouxbe Cooking School and right now I’m on the topic of beans and legumes. One of the assignments was to create a dish based on a legume of our choice and of course I immediately thought lentils.

Lentils has got to be one of the most versatile legumes out there, it could be used for binding, for providing a nutty flavor, for giving rich texture in curries, and so much more.

Instead of choosing a familiar lentil recipe, I decided to incorporate it in one of my favorite childhood snack: Binatog.

Binatog is Filipino snack with white hominy corn, shredded coconut, salt, and sometimes sugar. For the Rouxbe assignment, I “remixed” my Binatog dish by adding lentils and other seasonings. The result gave a rich, sweet, and nutty flavor. I was amazed by how my childhood favorite could be even better by adding a few more simple ingredients.   lentil binatog 2

Lentil Binatog / Lentil Coconut Hominy

Ingredients:

29 oz white hominy corn (I used the ready-to-eat hominy in can)

8 oz lentils 4-5 tbsp shredded coconut (set a pinch aside for garnish)

1/2 tbsp sea salt (or more to taste)

1/2 tbsp natural sugar (aka evaporated cane sugar)

1/2 tbsp maple syrup

Directions:

Even though I got the ready-to-eat hominy, I still wanted to cook and reheat them by putting them in a pot of boiling water and let them cook for about 5-8 minutes. Then I turned off the heat and drained out the water. If you’re using dried white hominy, simply soak overnight then add to a pot of simmering water. Let them cook until the hominy have softened. Turn off the heat and drain (basically just like how you would cook dried beans).

If you’re using dried lentils, put a pot of water to a simmer then add the lentils to the pot. Let the lentils simmer with lid on until the lentils have softened. Turn off the heat and drain out the water. If you’re using canned lentils, you could skip the simmering.

In a mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients. Season to taste.

Transfer to a serving bowl and top with the rest of the shredded coconut. You may also drizzle more maple syrup. lentil binatog This dish is best served warm.

I have to say that this recipe beats my childhood favorite and I couldn’t wait to make Lentil Binatog again!

Vegan Yema Recipe

yema close up 1

Yema is a Filipino custard caramel candy.

Veganizing Yema took the most tests of all the recipes I’ve ever veganized. After all, it’s a sweet custard candy that consists of (and is popular for) two main ingredients: egg yolks and condensed milk. In fact, 95% of the traditional recipe is egg yolks and condensed milk. Heck, the word Yema itself is Spanish for egg yolks! (Philippines was once a colony of Spain and most likely Yema was a Spanish influence).

After many failed attempts in the kitchen, I remained undeterred. I grew more motivated if anything, sort of like gambling when you want to play more when you’re just on the verge of winning. I justhad to get it right.

Once I’ve finally achieved the taste, it was the texture that proved to be more challenging. The Yema wouldn’t stick up, it was too soft. I told this problem to my mom who then said, “Try constantly stirring until almost all of the liquid has evaporated”. Lo and behold, my vegan Yema has become a reality! My mom was correct (duh). I should have asked her sooner.

wrapped yema close up

SWEET, CUSTARDY, VEGAN YEMA

Ingredients:

  • 2 oz cashews, soaked in water for at least four hours
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 tbsp. corn starch or arrow root powder mixed in one 1/4 cup water
  • 3 pinches of black salt (and 3 more later)
  • 1 tbsp. chickpea flour
  • 5 tbsp. coco palm sugar
  • 3 tbsp. natural sugar
  • 1/4 cup lightly salted and roasted peanuts, grounded using a food processor

Notes:

It’s important to get the consistency of the Yema the thickest you can by constantly stirring the mixture over low heat for at least ten minutes. You’ll know you’re done when the Yema has fully solidified and looks like a big lump of dough.

yema wide

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Using a high speed blender, puree the soaked cashews with 1/4 cup of water. Set aside.
  2. Heat a small sauce pan over low heat and add the cashew cream, corn starch or arrowroot mixture, chickpea flour, coco palm sugar, natural sugar, and black salt.
  3. Stir constantly using a wooden spoon or spatula until the texture has become thick like a chewy candy. It’s important to reduce as much liquid as you could so the yema will form a hard texture.
  4. Add the ground peanuts and another 3 pinches of black salt. Mix thoroughly.
  5. Turn off the heat and let it cool before forming a mold.
  6. Once it’s cooled down, using your hands, grab a chunk of yema and form it into a ball or a pyramid shape. I grew up eating yema triangles so triangle would be my choice of shape but forming a ball proved to be much easier by simply rolling the chunk with the palm of your hands.
  7. Have a small bowl of water close by so you could dab your hands and fingers when the Yema gets too sticky.
  8. To wrap the Yema triangles or balls, cut out a cellophane or saran plastic into triangle shapes and wrap the Yema. The measurement of the cutout depends on how big the Yema is -but rule of thumb is to always make the wrap a bit bigger so there’s extra wrap sticking out on top when you’re done.
  9. Put the wrapped yema in the freezer and freeze for at least four hours. Serve and enjoy!

Btw, don’t forget the HodoSoy giveaway is still going on, where you get to win 5 HodoSoy products of your choice. Details here: HODO SOY GIVEAWAY.

I hope you win the giveaway. Kain na, let’s eat!

Vegan Sisig Recipe

SISIG EPISODE ig CARD hodo new logo1I’ve been on hiatus for awhile so it’s a nice comeback to post a video recipe on one of the most popular (and trendiest) Filipino dishes out there, Sisig.

Sisig is a traditional “pulutan” or a dish that goes well with an alcoholic drink. It has become so popular and trendy that today it’s no longer just a bar food but also as main dish for lunch or dinner. Some restaurants even now offer Sisig burritos, Sisig pizzas, and Sisig nachos.

On this video, I’m going to show you how to veganize this savory, fatty (the good, vegan fatty), and tasty dish. The traditional version would take three hours to cook! This vegan version only takes 30 minutes -or less if you’re going to use high quality, extra firm tofu.

Speaking of which, I teamed up with Hodo Soy to do a giveaway where you could win five Hodo Soy products of your choice out of their eight products:

=====THIS GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED=====

All you have to do is leave a comment on my YouTube video naming your favorite tofu dish and why. Bonus points if you could describe your favorite characteristic of the tofu.

The winner will be announced next Sunday, October 12. This giveaway is open to all 50 US States and Puerto Rico. Good luck!

=====THIS GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED=====

And oh, if you find the video helpful, please feel free to hit the thumbs up button. Thanks and, kain na, let’s eat!

Part 3: Vegan Finds in LA: Shojin Vegan Japanese

shojin-yellow-magic-orchestra

Rewinding back to the day my friends, Jen and Rosie, and I drove all the way to LA from San Francisco Bay Area, memories of eating at Shojin Restaurant and meeting @veganfoodshare and @yvonne_deliciously_vegan come to my mind.

These moments make me smile-and hungry.

SHOJIN

333 S. Alameda St. Suite 310 Los Angeles
(Little Tokyo Shopping Center 3F)

Aside from the amazing vegan Japanese cuisine, Shojin also excelled in ambiance and service. The overall experience was one I would never forget.

Shojin has two locations but my friends and I went to the one in downtown LA (in Little Tokyo). I thought it was odd for a fine dining restaurant to be inside a mall but it actually added a bit of character to the place.

I was expecting to see all kinds of shoppers and commercial stands surrounding me as I dine but as soon as I entered Shojin, I was transcended to a whole new place: a dimly lit, solemn restaurant. It felt like a time warp.

From the pictures below, it looked like we ordered the whole left side of the menu, but actually, we also ordered the whole right side of the menu- just kidding! We did order alot for the six of us there, but when you’re at Shojin, over-ordering tends to happen.

I remember it took us what must have been at least 15 minutes of deciding, going back and forth, with what to order. The menu was quite extensive with tons delicious sounding sushi. In the end, we let @veganfoodshare order for us with everybody’s suggestions in mind.

For appetizers, we ordered the Shojin’s Stuffed Shiitake Mushrooms, Seitan Strips, and Pumpkin Croquette.  My favorite out of the three was the Pumpkin Croquette because of the texture and nice flavor; it was something I never had before.

shojin-stuffed-shiitake-mushrooms

Shojin’s Stuffed Shiitake Mushrooms

shojin-bbq-seitan

Shojin’s BBQ seitan

Shojin's Pumpkin Croquette

Shojin’s Pumpkin Croquette

On to the main course, sushi!

The sushi rolls already had some sort of sauce or cream in them so we didn’t need any soy sauce at all.

My favorite was the Yellow Magic Orchestra because it had all kinds of texture that complement each other, it was three entrees rolled into one- literally. Yellow Magic Orchestra was gluten free, onion-garlic free, and sesame free. It had “Pumpkin tempura and curry spiced tempeh on a vegetable roll with sweet soy and mustard sauce”.

shojin-yellow-magic-orchestra

Shojin Yellow Magic Orchestra

shojin-sushi-rolls

Unlike the Yellow Magic Orchestra, the Shojin Rocky Mountain was chewier and less crunchy, good on its own right. It was also gluten free and onion and garlic free and had “Tempura shiitake mushrooms on a green vegetable roll with sweet soy and wasabi-mayo”.

shojin-rocky-mountain

Shojin Rocky Mountain

The Shojin Dynamite Roll was so good we had to order another one. It was gluten free and had “Spicy tofu and avocado roll, with slightly torched spicy mayo served with spicy dynamite sauce”.

Shojin Dynamite Roll

Shojin Dynamite Roll

I like that Shojin also uses seitan or wheat protein in their sushi rolls including in the Crunchy Tiger Hidden Dragon roll. It had “BBQ seitan, tempura asparagus, avocado, crunchy tempura batter, wasabi-mayo, sweet soy sauce”. Obviously, this one was not gluten-free because it had seitan.

Shojin Crunchy Tiger Hidden Dragon

Shojin Crunchy Tiger Hidden Dragon

Instead of serving sushi ginger on the side to cleanse your palate, Shojin put it on top of the sushi and featured the ginger as the highlight of its Gingeronimo roll.

Gingeronimo had :” ginger, vegetable “sole” filet, shiso, and plum vinegar sauce”. The result tasted savory, slightly sweet, and refreshing yet spicy.

Shojin Gingeronimo

Shojin Gingeronimo

shojin-love-moreshojinShojin’s waiting staff was polite, prompt, and very attentive. When it came to ordering the Baked “Scallop” Roll, one of the lovely servers came out with a small torch and torched the rolls on our table. This part provided such a nice show that enhanced our dining experience even further. Of course, all of our cell phones were out to document the torching.

shojin-scallop-roll-torched
The Baked “Scallop” Roll was wonderfully spicy and chewy. It was gluten free and had “Mushrooms and onions on a spicy tofu roll with spicy mayo and dynamite sauce”.

Shojin Baked "Scallop" Roll

Shojin Baked “Scallop” Roll

If there’s one thing that tasted just “okay” to me, I’d have to go with the Shojin 2.0. I would have probably enjoyed Shojin 2.0 if it didn’t have sauce and if I dipped the rolls in soy sauce because after wowing our palates with all kinds of interesting flavors from the other rolls, Shojini 2.0 felt a bit flat.

shojin-2point0

Shojin 2.0

Believe it or not, we still had room for dessert. Granted we ordered only two desserts for everyone to share.

We got the Shojin Cheesecake and the Raspberry Chocolate Cake. Shojin played its desserts on the safe side and stuck to simple presentation and simple flavors that brought us delight. Without the pizzaz of the specialty sushi rolls, I still found the dessert a nice, sweet note to end the meal.

shojin-cheesecake

Shojin “cheesecake”

shojin-raspberry-chocolate-cake

Shojin Raspberry Chocolate Cake

You could just imagine the server’s face when he saw a horse head as he clicked the camera. Why the horse head?

My friends and I were trying to convince @veganfoodshare to reveal his face to the public, but @veganfoodshare stood on his ground and stuck to the mask. Why? He said he didn’t want to disclose his identity because his IG account is not about him but about the vegan food he curates and it’ll be better to keep the account anonymous. Makes sense.

And oh, that’s the lovely Ms. Yvonne from @Yvonne_deliciously_vegan at the left end table with her long hair down and arm leaning on the table.

shojin-with-friends

Overall it was a memorable dining experience with great company of dear friends. Now if only, Shojin also has a location in San Francisco. Sigh, a girl could dream.

Also check out:

Part 2: Vegan Finds in LA: Real Food Daily, Seed Kitchen, Viva La Vegan Grocery

Part 1: Vegan Finds in LA: Donut Friend and Crossroads