Tag Archives: Thai

Going back to Houston town

Even though people pour into Austin in ever growing numbers, to me, it still feels like a small town. Whenever I go to Houston it feels like such a thriving metropolis. It’s just a couple of hours away but everything is different. It’s flat and sprawling with more tropical trees and you can’t even find breakfast tacos on every corner. My mission was to see a bunch of old friends, snuggle with my favorite cat, eat a ton of Asian food, and kick it old school (aka watch Star Trek with my bff).

Our first stop after the Menli Collection art museum (which had everything from Andy Warhol soup cans to Congo Jesus sculptures and is free!) was for eating at Nidda Thai where I tried the deep fried eggplant in yellow curry.

It was delicious but hot as a soldering iron plunged onto your tongue  I really liked the rice flour crust on the eggplant although when I asked if there was egg in it the waiter looked at me like I was crazy, maybe he thought I didn’t know what eggplants were? We later went to a bar called the Hay Merchant to meet up with an old friend and we also got stuck at a table with the most annoying people I’ve maybe ever met at a bar. Here’s a Lazy Smurf Tip™ if some girl starts telling you that she is running for governor of Texas and then meowing get the hell out of there stat.

The next day, after stopping at Dirk’s for coffee, we went to the planetarium to watch “Cosmic Collisions” and then got a free pass to the butterfly conservatory from checking in on foursquare! Finally one of my 1276 check-ins paid off! The exhibit starts with a lot of terrifying cockroaches and scorpions but then you get to walk into, what seemed like a giant jungle terrarium, to see thousands of butterfly’s

.

It was the best thing ever to do on a cold and rainy winter day. After that we headed over to Quan Yin for lunch but it was temporarily closed for Lunar New Years.

We enjoyed the show and I got a mung bean pastry in a little Chinese bakery that had tons of vegan options.

At Quan Yin I was overwhelmed with choices since everything was vegan and decided I want to have a birthday party there so we can try everything. They have those fun tables with the lazy susan at the center like on My Three Sons and I wished that I had a bunch of people to use it with. We started with fried dumplings.

Amanda got the vermicelli bowl and it looked so good.

I panicked and got the orange peel chicken which was was good but I didn’t like the celery and carrots in the dish, I would have preferred broccoli.

After watching a ton of videos about pygmy goats and sloths we went out with my other friend at the Grand Prize bar and then came home to cuddle with the world’s most adorable cats.

The next morning I tried to hunt down vegan kolaches at Inversion coffeehouse but they only had cookies from Sinful Bakery. It sounds like you can only get them at the farmer’s market and maybe at central market. Next time I go I imagine they will be everywhere. Because that’s how I like to imagine Houston of the future, a vegan paradise. Amanda and I generally spend a lot of time oooing and ahhing over plants and this trip was no different. She took me to Another Place in Time where I bought some ferns and a succulent and saw a ton of neat plants.

We intended to overeat and go out in a blaze of glory by checking out the Pepper Tree Vegetarian Buffet that Vegan Houston always raves about but alas it was closed on Monday! We settled for Cafe TH where I was super stoked to see this sign.

But the pho was just good rather than grrreat. I don’t think I can ever truly enjoy any pho that isn’t made in the long process of Terry Hope Romero’s Vegan Eats World. It has spoiled me forever!

We went home and I pretended like I was going to feed the cats so they would say good-bye to me which kind of turned into a nightmare because then they were desperate for food. Sorry cats! I love you!

It was a great weekend! I can’t wait to go back.

Tom Kha Soup at South First’s Little Thai Food

Ever since it turned to autumn I have wanted three things, a movie to watch, a beagle to cuddle with, and a wonderful bowl of soup to eat. The first two are easy but finding delicious vegan soup in Austin can be a challenge. Maybe it’s because it’s so hot most of the year people never honed in on their soup making skills. Maybe the problem is a certain group of dieters trying to remove salt and oil from all things vegan. Maybe people can’t imagine a creamy soup without the dairy crutch. Whatever the reason it means that a lazy smurf like myself has to suffer SUFFER through either poor soup or, of course, just making my own delicious soup. My suffering has come to an end thanks to a little trailer right next to my beloved Wasota on South First called Little Thai Food.

I first tried it on a dark and chilly night after a stop at Vulcan Video. I ordered both the Curry Fried Rice and the Tom Kha soup because soup is not a meal. The ladies working there were super nice and answered all my vegan questions seeming to know exactly what I was talking about. When I got my takeout order I thought I might have gotten someone else’s order because the portions were humongous, it looked like I had enough to feed a family. The Tom Kha comes in one of those large plastic containers that would be, like, 46 dollars at Whole Foods and there is also a carton of rice that comes with the soup. My fried rice on the side was definitely overkill for that one meal. Delicious, fabulous overkill. Since then I’ve been back quite a bit. They know me there. I always get the same thing: that glorious Tom Kha soup. It has enough lime juice and lemongrass that you couldn’t possibly add any more, and I always add more. It also has, what I would consider, a gentle spice from the chiles. There is plenty of tofu, mushrooms, varied appropriate vegetables, and cilantro. Enough to easily spread to two servings (pictured above is half). And then there is the broth coconut and galangal. That’s all you need man. It hits all the Thai flavorings just perfectly it’s hot, sour, salty, and sweet. Basically it’s bursting with flavor and totally forking delicious.

 

Coat and Thai on the South Side

It seems like suddenly there are a lot of Thai trailers around. Maybe I just finally noticed them? Over the last few weeks I have tried a couple in South Austin and I have to say Coat and Thai on South Congress is my favorite.

The first thing to like about them is that they have a flashing “vegan friendly” gif on the very front page of their site, also they have a site with such wonderful features as showing when they are open, what the menu is, and even has their phone number, which seems increasingly rare for trailers. So far they have even been open when they said they’d be open so I am pretty excited about that. The menu has all the regular Thai dishes like pad see-ew and green curry but I am excited that they also have some dishes that are a little more rare like Pad Ka-Pao (below) and even Pad Peanut sauce. So far they have been able to veganize everything I have asked for too.The tofu is seasoned nicely, toothsome, and delicious and the vegetables were fresh and crisp which is pretty important in my opinion. I enjoyed the peanut sauce dish a lot, I was so hungry that I even neglected to take a photo, it was very curry tasting and not too fatty and probably the dish I will get most often. I also tried a couple of the noodle dishes that seemed standard but certainly good enough. I really want to get the pineapple fried rice or the green curry fried rice next. My only complaint is the Styrofoam containers, I don’t know why that is the standard for Asian takeout in Austin but it drives me nuts. They should be banned. It seems strange that Coat and Thai has a big “we recycle” button on their site but still uses these containers. Next time, I will try and remember to bring my own. But, there will be a next time.

Portland: Mee Sen Thai

One thing I love about Portland is that everything is really cute. In the places I have lived my favorite Thai restaurants are usually hole-in-the-wall shacky-type places with sometimes questionable service. In Portland they certainly have that style of restaurant but then they also have super adorable Thai places like Mee Sen which is, what, shabby chic? Do people even say that anymore? There must be a better descriptor! The point is, I couldn’t get over how cute everything was.  I loved the reused whisky bottle with tin cups they brought for water .Really, the whole reason we picked this place was because they have delightful tamarind sours and after a girly day of hanging out at the community spa it seemed like the perfect finish. We decided to order several courses to share because Portland is all about communal experiences. We started with the fried tofu, which was just like your favorite hippy: crunchy on the outside and a little soft in the middle.

Before we knew what was happening our Tofu Larb came out just as our dry soup was put on the table. It was an onslaught of tofu!The Tom Yum (dry) was my favorite part of the meal since I am a sucker for peanuts, noodles, and fried things in general. We also got the Pad See Eww, which is always a favorite of mine and was perfectly acceptable here. I love a wide noodle. Actually I learned Mee Sen means “Have Noodle” but it also means “have a connection/good friends” so we were happy to mee sen at Mee Sen, a delightful meal shared with two of my favorite ladies.

 

 

 

Thai Fresh- Look Who’s In the Freezer

I think ice cream is one of my most favorite things about life. Certainly it makes the top 10. I am probably not alone in this. My mom loves ice cream too, one of her favorite things in the world is to ride around in a car on a hot day with the windows open and enjoying her favorite cone. She says ice cream is better when it is hot. I don’t know if that is true but I have certainly been craving ice cream since it started being >90 degrees. Sometimes I wish I still had access to a big walk in freezer to relax in, or maybe I would like to live inside the freezer at Thai Fresh. It would be really cold and I probably wouldn’t last long but I would eat so much ice cream that I would die happy and refreshed. Well,  if you can be dead and refreshed simultaneously.

Thai Fresh is an amalgam of restaurant, grocery store, Thai cooking school, ice cream parlor, and tea shop on Mary and South 5th in South Austin. They are set up like a deli and almost always have a vegan option ready and waiting. You can eat there or take whatever you like to go and you pay by the size rather than a set cost. It is a good idea to call ahead if you are in a hurry because in case they don’t have anything vegan they will make you something in the meantime. The available dishes are always changing but a list of everything can be found on their site. The menu is rounded out right now with freshly made Agua Fresca’s, the owner Jam has a recipe for a Thai Basil Lime one that looks AMAZING!

Besides the deli they also have a tea counter and groceries including my favorite soy sauce Healthy Boyand all sorts of noodles, sauces, specialty ingredients, and local produce. When I went on July 13 they even had Kaffir Lime tree starts which I highly recommend if you want to make Thai food, it makes all the difference and growing the plant is super easy. Just don’t leave it out in the freezing cold.

I think, for me, the Ice Cream is the most exciting part. Many, if not most, of the varieties are vegan and there are all sorts of original concocotions that they make in the shop like Thai Basil and Tamarind. Today I had to have the coconut peach because it is July and Texas peaches are where it’s at. The ice cream was so delicious. Sweet and creamy and just exactly what I wanted on this hot summer day.

Thai Taco

Sometimes I wish I could force people to make a recipe. This is one of those times. But then, who knows, everyone’s tastes are different and you might not even like this fabulous taco that I made the other day. I think you would, though,  if you are anything like me! I’ll never know unless you try it and tell me. I thought it was totally amazing. Unreal. I made sausage a couple days earlier and the beagles opened the refrigerator and got two of them out! Still, the remaining sausages with the fixins was enough for the both of us humans and we have pretty big appetites so if you make this for two, you will probably have extra sausages. I used lentils in the sausages because I thought they would go the best with Thai food and I am really glad I tried it, although cooking them was an extra step I think it was well worth it because the texture of these sausages was just perfect. One thing I would change in the future is to add some hot peppers to sausages to make them spicy. I had some dried chili peppers but they didn’t make enough of a difference, I think a tiny jalapeno would work well, just remember to put gloves on before you knead the dough! Also, I have been using this healthy boy mushroom soy sauce and it is really amazing and added a lot to the vegan fish sauce.

Thai Sausages
1/2 cup cooked lentils
1 cup broth
1 Tablespoon peanut oil
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/4 cups vital wheat gluten
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 cup red onions, chopped fine
5 Thai lime leaves, chopped fine
1/4 cup cilantro, roots and stems work
2 Tablespoons lemongrass, chopped
1 teaspoon ginger, minced
1 teaspoon dried hot peppers (i think fresh would work better)

Knead the ingredients together and roll up tootsie roll style and steam for 40 minutes. Follow these directions if you haven’t done it before. Chop the sausages into bite size pieces and fry them in peanut oil while you steam the tortillas.

Toppings

1 cucumber, sliced into thin strips
1 carrot, sliced into thin strips
sprouts (mung bean or radish)
cilantro
Thai basil or mint
green onions
1 recipe vegan fish sauce
peanuts
lime

Enjoy!

In other news Spring has finally sprung here in Austin TX.

I spent the weekend getting organized for our move and doing some garage sale-ing.

I did not buy this troll

These people in South Austin take garage sailing to the next level.

Dinger found a place in the sunAnd we went to the dog parkIt was a good weekend.

Sanguine Moon Curry

So many things about cooking seem so obvious once you learn them. I think my grandparents knew that food that ripens together usually has complimentary flavors but I didn’t know that tidbit of knowledge until recently and it has made cooking so easy. I went to the store and I found persimmons which I have never cooked with before but they were on sale and they were ripe so I picked a couple up. I also had some local oyster mushrooms and the sweet potatoes and arugula that I picked at the farm. By the time I got home it was pretty late and I didn’t really feel look cooking so I did what I often do when I don’t want to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, I made Thai food.

Actually, I don’t even know if you can really call it Thai food since it is so inauthentic hence the name Sanguine Moon Curry. The Sanguine Moon is also known as the Hunter’s Moon which is what follows the autumnal equinox. With the fall colors and the autumn vegetables I thought it made perfect sense.  This was a very lazy dish where the sum of the whole was definitely more than the parts. The persimmon added tannins and a certain astringent quality that worked so well with the sweetness of the lemongrass and the sweet potatoes. The quinoa also added an interesting nutty note to the dish that made it seem perfect for this time of year.

For the Quinoa

Toast
1 Cup of Quinoa in
1 teaspoon of coconut oil
Add
2 Cups of broth or water,
Cover and steam for about 25 minutes

For the Curry

Saute until aromatic
1 Tablespoon of Massaman Curry Paste
Combine with
1/2 can of coconut milk
After a couple minutes Add
1/2 can of coconut milk
1 cup of broth
1 peeled & chopped persimmon
2 cups of chopped sweet potatoes
2 cups of chopped arugula
Cook until potatoes are soft about 20 minutes & Add
1 bunch of Oyster mushrooms
1/2 lime juice
1 tsp of sugar
Once the mushrooms are softened. Serve with a mound of Quinoa in the center and the curry around it topped with scallions. Enjoy!

Vegan Paht Si-Yu

When I don’t feel like cooking but know it is hopeless to think  someone somewhere will cook for me I usually turn to noodles. To me,  a truly lazy meal does not involve chopping an onion, that is where I draw the unindustrious line, and so Thai-style noodles come in really handy. In this version of paht si-yu I used bok choi and oyster (mushroom) sauce, the latter is non traditional but I find that it subs for fish sauce, it is a totally different flavor but still tastes Thai and adds a little more depth than soy sauce. This meal really takes less then ten minutes.

Cook

1/2 rice stick noodles (here is some direction)

Mix

2 Tablespoons of light soy sauce or Bragg’s
2 Tablespoons of Oyster sauce
1 T Molasses
1 T Brown Sugar
1/2 each of salt and pepper

Chop

4 cloves of garlic
1 mess of greens

Sauté the garlic in cooking oil in a hot wok or skillet until it changes color, maybe 30 seconds. Add the greens and some broth if you need to. Spinach will cook fast, a minute or but Kale would take longer, like 5 minutes. When the greens are almost done add the noodles and stir fry for a minute and then add the sauce and mix well. Take off the heat and enjoy!

Pad Kee Mao – Drunken Vegan Noodles

Drunken noodles has always been one of my favorite things to order at Thai restaurants. I have always loved stir fried tomatoes in Asian food, in fact, I wish that they were an option more often. I recently went to Titaya‘s which was purported to have great food and the whole menu could easily be made vegan. I am happy to report that the rumors are true and the food was great but as soon as I tried my food I realized that I could easily recreate it now that I am growing Holy Basil.My tomatoes in the backyard couldn’t take the heat but the Holy Basil that I got just a couple of months ago is growing fantastically. It is a beautiful plant too with its purple tinted leaves. If you like Thai food I highly recommend growing it and a Kaffir Lime plant because it makes cooking Thai food so easy. I am not going to claim any authenticity in this recipe, however, it isn’t based on any of my cookbooks because they didn’t have it but I assure it was really great! Maybe the best Thai Dish I have ever made. The wonderful thing about cooking Southeast Asian food is that the methods are designed to have the heat going for a short amount of time since it is hot there too. Make sure you have all your ingredients preped and the noodles ready and the whole thing will come together super quickly.

Pad Kee Mao

soak

1 lbs of dried rice noodles

chop

4 cloves of garlic
1 small red onion
2 bell peppers
3 tomatoes (in wedges)
1 jalapeno
1/2 cup of basil

mix

2 Tablespoon light soy sauce
1 Tablespoon dark (sweet) soy sauce
1 teaspoon Oyster (mushroom) sauce
1 Tablespoon Sugar

garnish

1 lime (juice)
2 green onions, chopped

Rice noodles are all a little different so they should be prepared according to package directions. If they are the tiny ones it is usually better to soak them in cold water for 30 minutes and the drain before adding to the stir fry. If they are big ones you can cook them more like Italian pasta, over boiling water. If you are unsure, bring the water to a boil, add the noodles and turn off the heat. Check every couple minutes until they are nearly al dente.

Heat your wok or skillet up to very hot and add cooking oil. You want a piece of onion to sizzle on contact. First add the onion and cook until it just starts to change color. Next, add the peppers and the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the tomato and stir fry for 1 minutes. Run cold water through the noodles and add them in bunches to the pan. Keep flipping in between every bunch to get everything well distributed. Once all the noodles are in add the sauce mix. After the noodles add the basil. Remove from heat and serve with a wedge of lime and green onions.

Enjoy!

Lard Na (formally Larb Na)

*Note I originally posted this as Larb Na do to some confusion with different cookbooks. Thai girl was nice enough to finally put the matter to rest and tell me what was what.

Over the weekend we went to see Synecdoche, New York at a movie theater in far north Austin. Since we were already up there we also stopped at the giant Asian Grocery Store. They have a ton of vegan stuff, not to mention tons of different kinds of noodles, sauces, rice, produce, and random things. I could spend all day there but we were in a hurry to get to the (very good) movie so I was rushing around throwing canned fake duck and trying to find annetto seeds. It was an intense trip.

The next day I thought about making soup but I was really hungry so I made the old Thai standby, Lard Na. Like Pad See Eww this is a recipe that I can make with nearly any ingredients in about 10 minutes. It is a great recipe that works with any greens that you have on hand, even broccoli. Here is how I made it this time:

1 lbs Rice Noodles
3 TBSP peanut oil
1 lbs tofu, drained and pressed
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bunch of greens (I used Kale and cabbage it was great)
1 TBSP sugar
2 TBSP vegetarian fish sauce (or more soy sauce)
1 TBSP Nama Shoyu (or soy sauce)
1 TBSP miso (or Thai fermented soy bean paste if you have it)
1 TBSP cornstarch mixed with 1 cup of broth (or water)
pepper

First cook the noodles according to the package directions until soft but not over done. Rice Noodles are cooked different depending on how thick the noodle is. Often you can bring water to a boil, take it off the burner, and just soak the noodles until they are soft. The key is to drain them as soon as they are done or they will turn to mush. Make sure all of your ingrdiants are ready to go before you start stir-frying and have plates ready as well.

Start a wok or large saute pan on high heat with 1 TBSP of oil. Stir-fry the cooked noodles for a couple of minutes until they are golden. Be careful to toss the noodles and turn them rather than stirring because you don’t want to break them up. Spread the noodles among the dinner plates. Add the remaining 2 TBSP of oil and garlic and saute for a minute or less. Add the tofu and sear against the side of the pan. Cook for about 2 minutes. Add the greens, the sugar, the fish sauce, the shoyu, and the miso and cook until the greens are just starting to wilt. Stir in the cornstarch mixture and cover for about 30 seconds. Uncover and stir and cook a couple more minutes to let the gravy thicken if you desire. If you can’t wait then scoop it out, toss on top of the noodles, mix together and Enjoy!