Sunday, January 19, 2014

Cha Gio Chay (Vegetarian Crispy Spring Rolls)

Homemade Veggie Spring Rolls

A craving for a childhood favorite came about a couple weeks ago. Rather than walking around the corner to the local Vietnamese restaurant and ordering the Cha Gio Chay off their menu, I ventured off to Chinatown.  Hmmm, what did I buy?....Well, when I traveled home to Lancaster some time ago, I asked my Aunt Hong for her recipe.  Of course she didn't divulge the exact measurements, but she gave me the recipe that my mother taught her when she was little.  She also showed me how to make the spring rolls from scratch (lots of small details that make it special, but I'll save those tips...thanks Aunt Hong!)  The recipe called for shrimp and pork, but I veganized the recipe to include tofu and taro. Therefore, I had to get the right ingredients.  

First and foremost, you have to buy the correct spring roll wrappers.  I tried different a brand and boy was that a disaster.  I'll keep the wrapper as my secret:)  Moving on, I also bought bean thread vermicelli, carrots, cabbage, onion, and dried mushrooms.  I made some with and without mung beans too.   Add a little salt, lots of black pepper, and a touch of sugar and you have your spring roll filling.   I think the best part of making spring rolls is the rolling part.  This truly reminds me of my mother in our kitchen on Orange St. in good ol' Lancaster.  Thanks for the memories mom.  Here are the results.  Quite tasty!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Blossom Du Jour

My next food adventure led me to Hell's Kitchen in NYC.   There are 3 Blossom Du Jour locations including Chelsea, Midtown West, and the Upper West Side.  The Midtown West or Hell's Kitchen location is at 617 9th Ave (between 43rd and 44th St).  

All BDJ locations  are 100% vegan and restauranteur Pamela Elizabeth launched this "FUN, on the go" or "alternative fast food" concept in 2010.  Looking through their menu, you will find sandwiches, wraps, salads, sides, add-in options, smoothies, shakes, fresh pressed juices, and sweets.  It's always tough to decide what to order when I go to an all-vegan restaurant because the options are endless.  However, I picked two sandwiches and a side.  

First up:


vegan burger, v-bacon, v-cheese, onion rings, lettuce, tomato, pickles, special sauce

Next up:


marinated seitan, peppers, onions, v-cheese, chipotle aïoli



                                                    crispy romaine, capers, creamy caesar dressing 

Here are some other photos of BDJ.  

Front Entrance

Juice/Beverage Case

Prepared foods to go

Caesar Salad

Sweets anyone?

Shrewd Fast Food

Next time you're in NYC and need something quick, on the go, and sure to stop by one of the BDJ locations throughout the city.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

I'm back!

It feels good to finally post again. Wow, 7 months with no posts=tons of posts to catch up on.  I've been documenting my food journey all along and I'm excited to share all of the tasty meals I've consumed this past year.

First off, last week, I went on a food adventure with one of my closest friends around NYC looking for something noteworthy to blog about.  Let's just say that after many train rides, laughs in the rain, and quality food it was all worth it!!!!! (Right???)

We began the morning with a stop in Queens.  The purpose of the trek was to find the best Burek in town.  I had the Potato Burek Roll (She confirmed it was vegan).  We also sampled one of the desserts, which is called tulumbe.  Tulumbe is a very sweet Balkan type of dessert.  I was a bit skeptical about whether it had any egg or dairy, but the lady confirmed it was vegan friendly.
Potato Burek

Tulumbe to Williamsburg in Brooklyn.  There were two goals here.  A stop at DunWell Doughnuts and Champs Diner and Bakery.  DunWell is owned and operated by Christopher Hollowell and Dan Dunbar.  They are open from 7am-7pm Mon-Fri and 8am-7pm Sat-Sun.  The doughnuts at the shop are ever-changing, but flavors are posted inside.  In addition, updates are usually given on their twitter account.  

Winners of the Food Network Donut Showdown!

Hmmmm, with all of the flavors to choose from (Peanut Butter Jelly, Chocolate Peanut Drizzle, Coconut Cream, Cherry Pie, Black Walnut, Lemonade, Strawberry, Salted Caramel Pecan, Cinnamon Sugar, and Glazed) I finally settled on three flavors.

First up, traditional glazed donut.  I was quite surprised by the simplicity of this sweet donut.  After one bite, I knew I made the right choice.  It was moist and pillowy with just enough glaze to coat.  Well done DunWell!

I also liked the drop doughnut special of the day.  I think it was vanilla raspberry coconut, but I'm not sure.  This was a cake-like doughnut and it had the perfect balance of fruit flavor.

Whereas the glazed doughnut had a lovely texture, I didn't love the Cinnamon Sugar doughnut.  One reason could have been that I waited until the next day.  Even in a day, I think the freshness was lost because the sugar not as well coated.  I wouldn't go out of my way for this doughnut, but I would definitely come back for the glazed!

Cinnamon Sugar

My friend had ordered the Salted Caramel Pecan doughnut.  Pretty good, but a bit too sweet for my taste.
Salted Caramel Pecan

Our final stop on our food adventure was Champs Diner and Bakery.  You would think that we would pass on the desserts and you're right....we did, but I still managed to get a photo of that decadent dessert case.

Take a look at that huge Peanut Butter Cup on the bottom!

The line to get into the diner was very long (over 20 people), but we breezed inside to the counter for takeout.  After looking through the extensive menu, I finally settled on a side of Tofu Scramble, the Vegan Cubano Sandwich, and the Vegan Tofu Benedict, which you can see below.

Tofu Scramble

Cubano served with a side salad

Vegan Tofu Benedict

Close up

Well that wraps up our long filled Saturday from last week.  I just got back from our adventure today and you'll have to wait for the next post to see what we discovered!