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Saturday, April 28, 2012

Thai Peanut & Lime Salad Dressing

So often as a vegan, people will assume that the only thing left to eat on such a restricted diet is - Salad.  I am willing to disagree with that perception entirely, however, for the purpose of this post, let us just assume that the aforementioned perception is accurate.

In which case, I am going to share with you all my personal favourite salad dressing, the Thai Peanut & Line Dressing.  Certainly with the inclusion of peanuts and lime, this is definitely a Thai style salad, however it is intentionally lacking any of the burning spice, usually associated with Thai food.

The vegetables for the salad are quite flexible, but I certainly consider red cabbage to be the most vital of the ingredients (the most nutrient dense also).

Sauce Ingredients
Garlic (3 cloves)
Fresh Coriander, chopped (bunch)
Peanut Butter (1/4 cup)
Lime Juice (4 Tbs)
Tahini (1 Tbs)
Soy Sauce (1 Tbs)
White Vinegar (1 Tbs)
Grated Ginger (1 small knob)
Honey (2 Tbs)
Sesame Oil (2 tsp)
Sunflower Oil (100ml)

Instructions are not really necessary for this salad, basically just mix all of these ingredients together in a large bowl.  After which, add whatever vegetable ingredients that you choose.  This really makes eating raw vegetables an absolute delight.  An extremely healthy delectable vegan concoction that can be eaten as a meal by itself, or also as a side dish.  Enjoy!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Tofurkey Vegan Pizza

Since making the transition to a vegan lifestyle, one of the food items I was most teary-eyed at having to give up was pizza.  Therefore, when browsing my local Cold Storage, I was surprised and excited to see a vegan pizza on offer.  Vegan pizza is not something new to me, I have had the opportunity to sample many types in other countries.  However, seeing a vegan pizza in a Singapore supermarket was a nice surprise.  This pizza is supposedly unique for having fake cheese that really melts.  Health wise, it certainly beats real pizza.  There is zero cholesterol inside, compared to 15mg in a standard American pizza.  Also there is 330mg less sodium, 10g less fat and 4g less saturated fats.

The pizzas come in a variety of flavours.  For this review I went with the Pepperoni Pizza.  The pizza is a little on the small size, especially for the huge price.  Frozen pizza (the most common meal of choice of lonely, lazy, overweight, single Westerner folks) is something I ate quite frequently in England, but certainly it is no where near as delicious as freshly cooked pizza, especially when talking about the base/crust. The same can be said for this frozen pizza, the crust is simply too stiff and ridged.

After cooking was complete.  I sliced a segment to see how authentic and oozy the 'cheese' was.  Unfortunately, this replica cheese is a long way away from the real thing.  It doesn't really have any cheese flavour or texture.  There is a slight soft mushiness to it, but nothing like real cheese.  The mock meat on top did have smoky flavour, but only vaguely resembled what real pepperoni tastes like.  As I mentioned, size wise it is small, and could barely feed two people - Especially a self-confessed pizza gorger like myself.

Price: $17.95.     5/10

Conclusion - It was something that I simply had to purchase, in order to suppress my curiosity.  However, moving forwards, it is not something that I would purchase again.  Pizza definitely can be made vegan, with there being ample delicious combinations that are possible.  With that being said, a pizza that can achieve authentic fake meat and fake cheese still has a long way to come - In the future, no doubt, it will eventually be concocted, though.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Papas Bravas

As my mother is currently on a well deserved break in Spain, I thought it would be only fitting if I brought a part of Spain to Singapore, in the form of food glorious food.  The rough translation of Papas Bravas is 'angry' or 'fierce' potatoes.  This name is warranted as there is a biting spice to the dish.  However, don't go crazy with the spice.  It should be present, but it shouldn't overwhelm the dish.

Don't be intimidated by the name, this is a strikingly simple dish to put together. Below I will share the ingredients needed and the steps in which to piece this dish together, enjoy!

Potatoes (1kg)
Onion (1 medium)
Garlic (3 cloves)
Tomatoes (3)
Tomato Paste (2 Tsp)
Tabasco Sauce (2 Tsp)
Smoked Paprika (3 tsp)
Salt (2 tsp)
Sugar (1 tsp)

1.  First step is to roast the potatoes.  Cut them into small wedges, place them in a plastic bag, into the bag add oil (3 Tsp) and salt.
2.  Once mixed, place onto a baking tray, and cook for 40-50 minutes on 180 degrees.
3.  When the potatoes are cooking.  Dice onions, garlic and fresh tomatoes.
4.  I use a wok, as it enhances the flavour.  Add oil, then onions into the wok and cook until transparent.  After that, add the garlic.
5.  Once garlic is cooked, add the fresh tomatoes, and cook until soft.  Do not cover with lid, this needs to be a dry paste, not a sauce.
6.  The add the tomato paste inside and continue to cook.
7.  Time to add the spices - Add the paprika, tabasco sauce, sugar and a pinch more salt.
8.  Once all ingredients are added, then continue to cook for 5 minutes, to bring out all the flavour.
9.  Once potatoes are roasted, add them into the wok.
10.  Mixed the potatoes into the paste until it looks like the pictures above.  Serve.

Very simple, and incredibly delicious!  Enjoy!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Shimbashi Soba - Orchard

A common complaint amongst any vegans or vegetarians is that meat selling restaurants simply don't have enough vegetarian options available to customers.  It was refreshing to hear that Shimbashi Soba have been going to extensive efforts to evolve and revamp their vegetarian options, so that more options and diversity is available.  Therefore, when I was invited to sample their food, I jumped at the chance.  I know some prefer to eat at only 100% vegetarian establishments, and that is fine by me.  Nevertheless, in an area such as Orchard, that is so deprived of vegetarian eateries, it is great to see that the meat selling restaurants are providing more meat-free options. Shimbashi Soba attracts visitors who are mainly curious to sample their unique handmade soba noodles, which I will also be trying out later in this review.

Shimbashi Soba
Location: 290 Orchard Road, #B1-41, The Paragon
Contact: 67359882
Opening Hours: Daily: 11.30am – 10.00pm

Last year, Shimbashi Soba added extra variety to their vegetarian section in the menu.  In the future, they plan to expand it even more.  What is available now is a variety of unique and special dishes.  As the name of the restaurant would suggest, they are synonymous for their soba dishes.  Additionally, this menu section is also completely vegan.  For certain Buddhist eaters, leek and onion are present in some dishes, so make sure to ask for their exclusion when ordering.

Shimbashi Soba is all about bringing some of the rarer and more traditional Japanese dishes to Singapore.  This is also the case with the tea on offer.  This is the Roasted Buckwheat Tea (sobacha) - A tea which is seldom known about outside of Japan and Korea.  The main flavour is a quiet nutty taste, that shimmers throughout the pot.  For those curious to know what buckwheat actually is - It is actually not a wheat, nor is it a grass.  It is more closely related to rhubarb.  High in anti-oxidants and vitamin B, this comforting cup of tea is definitely something that compliments the food on offer.
The opening dish of the meal was the Yaki Miso.  Unlike the usual miso most Singaporeans will be familiar with, this miso doesn't have the strong salt flavour.  This is because it is shiromiso (white miso).  This dish is a little more complicated than just grilled miso, though.  There are also walnuts, white leek, and Japanese rice crackers inside.  The walnuts give a welcome textural element, and the leeks add a nice flavour packed punch.  Visually, it must be said that this is one of the most unique and impressive dishes I have reviewed also.

Price: $5.80.     9/10

If you mentioned the words Japanese food to anyone, then surely the first image that will pop into their minds will be sushi.  Therefore, this review would be incomplete without sampling the sushi on offer here.  Here we have the Gunkan Nigiri Sushi 5 Kinds.  Starting from the left we have - tofu with spicy yukke sauce, wild vegetable and miso, grated nagaimo yam, Japanese fermented beans (natto), and pickled cucumber.  Overall, this is unbelievable sushi, the rice is whole and firm, the ingredients are cold and fresh.  Good value, as this style of sushi is quite rare.  The nagaimo yam was the highlight, as the raw Japanese yam matched expertly with the crunchy seaweed.  Definitely one you must order.

Price: $7.80.     9/10

The next dish was certainly a new experience for me.  This is the Dengaku Fu, the concept of this dish is simple, as is the case with most Japanese food.  There is a total of six gluten cubes.  This is real gluten, not glutinous rice (which I originally suspected it was).  The gluten cubes are infused with certain subtle flavours.  Firstly, the green cubes - No, not green tea.  They are, in fact, infused with wormwood.  The yellow cubes are infused with millet.  Neither flavours can really be detected, as I mentioned previously, the flavour is extremely subtle.  The texture closely resembles mochi, which is something I adore eating - Therefore this dengaku fu went down well with me.

Price: $8.80.     7/10

More sushi is on the horizon, this time it comes in the form of the Shiitake Nigiri.  Mushroom within sushi is something I haven't dabbled with before.  Certainly they couple well together, though.  The highlight of the dish is the delicious juices of the mushroom exploding in your mouth, upon eating.  The rich smokey juices of the grilled mushroom, paired with soy sauce and the rice made for an excellent combination.  As with all the sushi, there is a superb freshness to all the ingredients.  Price wise, this is quite reasonable, definitely a dish I would order again next time.

Price: $2.50.     8/10

One of the dishes I've always struggled to appreciate is tempura.  Therefore, when this Yasai Tempura & Matcha Shio arrived, I had my skepticisms.  The vegetables included in this dish were snow peas, sweet potato, eggplant, needle mushrooms, pumpkin, and shiitake mushrooms.  Along with the vegetables, there is a dry green tea and salt concoction, which you can see in the background of the picture.  Diners are meant to dip the tempura vegetables into this powder.   The batter was light and not too greasy, which I was relieved about.  The pumpkin lacked sweetness, however, the mushroom was packed with flavour.

Price: $7.80.     7/10

This review wouldn't do justice to Shimbashi Soba if I didn't review their infamous soba dishes.  We start with the Sansai Soba.  I will start by giving a general comment about both soba dishes - One problem for certain customers may be the lack of flavour in these dishes.  For Asian palates this will likely not be a problem, but for others it could be.  The soba noodles are undoubtedly fresh, bouncy and finely milled - Definitely live up to the hype.  Price wise it may seem alarming, however, consider these are unique vegetables and the only freshly handmade soba noodles you can find in Singapore.

Price: $17.80.     7/10

The second soba sampling came in the form of the Yama Kake Soba.  The Japanese yam is the unique selling point to this dish.  This rare and expensive ingredient is imported directly from Japan.  Also known as jinenjo, this yam is special in the sense that it can be eaten completely raw.  The finely grated (almost frothy) yam can be found floating majestically on top of the soupy soba dish.  The yam has a silky and starchy consistency.  It is this texture, rather than the flavour, which is the appeal.  The soba noodles, which were lurking below, were fantastic.

Price: $20.20.      7/10

To end my dining experience, I sampled the Japanese dessert, known as Soba Kashi Moriawase, which also appears on the vegetarian section of the menu.  There are a variety of desserts all on one plate.  They include - soba balls with red bean, sweetened fried soba, kuzu flour derived glutenous cakes topped with soya bean powder and Japanese jelly.  These desserts certainly helped to illustrate the diversity of dishes that can come from soba.  As with all the food, these desserts were cool, light and refreshing.  A perfect ending to the meal.

Price: $6.80.     7/10

Conclusion - Overall the dining experience is excellent at Shimbashi Soba.  The only setback would be the price.  With there being no difference in price between meat dishes and vegetarian dishes, it could inevitably result in the vegetarian dishes being quite unpopular amongst customers.  If looking at only quality, certainly the food is some of the best Japanese food I have ever sampled. The yaki miso and gunkan nigiri sushi were my personal favourites, both also represents good value price wise.  Hopefully more restaurants can follow Shimbashi Soba's example, in creating more vegetarian options for its customers.

Overall Rating
Food - 8/10
Ambiance- 8/10
Service - 9/10
Value - 7/10

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Soup Spoon - Orchard

 Many of my readers may be shocked to know, that I have recently made the transformation to a vegan lifestyle.  Cutting out all dairy products from my diet, mainly for health reasons.  Now that I have a more restricted diet, it has certainly forced me to become more cautious about eating outside food.  Therefore, I thought I would bring you along a vegan discovery at the popular soup serving restaurant chain - The Soup Spoon.  Let's find out how attainable vegan food really is...

The Soup Spoon
Location: 290 Orchard Road, #B1-K4/K7, The Paragon
Contact: 67383860
Opening Hours: Mon–Fri: 10am – 10pm, Sat–Sun: 09.30am – 10pm

As it turns out, only one of their soups is entirely vegan, and rather surprisingly it is the Pumpkin Soup.  I naturally assumed there would be some kind of cream inside, but alas, there was not.  I opted for the value set meal, so total price you can see below.  Overall the sourdough bread matched well with the soup.  But the soup itself could have been better, the spices that were used seemed to be a little confusing.  Moreover, I found the soup a little starchy.  However, the almonds on top of the soup added a welcome additional textural element.


For the second part of the value meal, I went for the Falafel Hummus Wrap.  Falafel is always something I find delicious, and this rendition was certainly acceptable.  Especially since it was in the context of a wrap, I feel it worked particularly well.  The hummus however was somewhat lost in the dish, the flavour of the hummus should have been elevated more, so that it finds some identity when put inside a wrap.  The salad, which accompanied the wrap was a little bland and lacking in any imagination.  So many innovative things can be done with salads, it surprises me that most eateries opt for the same cliched salad formula.


Total Price: $12.50

Conclusion - Certainly being vegan in Singapore requires asking lots of questions to the staff.  In this instance, the staff were very helpful and assisted me in finding out what was vegan on their menu and what was not.  I must admit, the options are very limited - However, I was expecting there to be nothing vegan at all on their menu, so it was pleasing to know there are a few items.  The set meal was quite good value, it also came with a third option, upon which I choose a muffin.  Therefore, for three components, price wise it is reasonable.  Let's hope my vegan journey continues without any setbacks - Wish me luck!

Overall Rating
Food - 6/10
Ambiance- 6/10
Service - 7/10
Value - 7/10
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