Vegan Food Sucks + Eel

July 22, 2011 § 12 Comments

A long time ago in March, I attended a birthday party where I planned to be polite and keep my veganism on the downlow so as not to cause any troubling waves at the restaurant. I was going to be as quiet as a mouse with a ball gag in a vacuum chamber. However, as my luck would have it, the birthday party was at a pizza place and everyone chose to order communally. A mere two minutes went by before people started questioning why I was not eating, so I timidly mumbled that I wasn’t hungry and that I was vegan.

Some nods of approval went around the table. (good…) Then some cocked heads of disbelief and incredulity. (things are starting to look sour now…) And then this evil hatred spouting man, who for some ungodly reason had been invited to the birthday party, just started RAILING INTO ME. From now on, we will maturely refer to him as Mr. Buttface, somewhat for privacy issues and mostly because I’ve forgotten his name.

Mr. Buttface started attacking me, insulting my intelligence because of what I believe to be a personal and perfectly reasonable choice, telling me that plants feel pain, and arguing that cows and pigs adore being chopped up into stews. I silently fumed through all of this, still resolutely telling myself that I would be a pleasant vegan through the birthday party. And then I heard him say, “PLUS, VEGAN FOOD SUCKS!”

Then the foodie in me could take it no longer, and I glared at him and started a really long incomprehensible diatribe that went something like this, “GRRRRBLAAAAHHHH I BET MY FOOD TASTES BETTER THAN YOURS…blahblahblah.”

Which I now realize probably did not paint vegans in a good light at all. I apologize to the vegan community. Here’s my more refined retort against the “Vegan Food Sucks” argument: When people are saying that vegan food is not tasty, it’s because they are probably recalling the one time that they ate at a crappy restaurant and they ate a highly processed weird fake meat substitute covered in a nutritional yeast sludge. Yeah, that’s gross.

But what they forget is that omnivores naturally enjoy many things that vegans can eat. In fact, when I went to Paris for the first time, it isn’t the croissants that I remember, nor is it the eclairs that I can still savor in my mouth. I reminisce only about the basket of strawberries that I ate with a loved one on a bench situated on a sleepy street; every red strawberry was perfect and tiny and bursting with sweet spring. Before those strawberries, I had never realized that strawberries shouldn’t have an inner white ring of tastelessness to them! There are still unlimited amounts of food to be enjoyed, and I think you just start to appreciate your food more as a vegan because you reach a deeper understanding of where your food comes from.

Also, some may argue that vegan food  never tastes just like “regular” food. It shouldn’t be! The pinnacle of vegan food shouldn’t necessarily taste just like meat, or just like cheese; it has its own flavor profile and qualities. Besides, if you ask me, I think vegans do a pretty damn fine job already at making vegan food taste like meat or cheese. Think back to your last veggie burger. Even if it was not your dream burger, imagine building the exact taste, texture, and essence of a carrot using slabs of raw beef. That’s what we’re doing, omnivores, we’re making MEAT OUT OF VEGETABLES. Complain to me when you successfully do that.

Vegan rant aside, while I think that vegan food shouldn’t taste just like meat or vegetables, I do succumb now and again to craving meatballs and stir fried chicken and gaahh, I used to love eel, specifically unagi nigiri. So I made it vegan. It’s awesome, and comes with awesome sauce. No really, the sauce is awesome too.

Vegan Eel (Unagi Nigiri)
This is so delicious! Don’t just take my word for it, make it at home! PLEASE. As a favor to yourself! The agar in this imparts a bounciness that is found in seafood.

Ingredients
- 1 small potato
- 2 bok choys, white parts only
- 2 tablespoons agar
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 1/4 cup water

1. Cube the potato and cook for 15-20 minutes, or until the potato is tender and mashable with a fork. Throw in the white parts of the bok choy in the last two minutes and cook that along with the potato. Drain.
2. Boil the soaked agar in the 1/4 water until the mixture looks cloudy and the agar is mostly dissolved.
3. Mash the potato with the bok choy with a fork while adding the agar mixture and about 1 tablespoon of the teriyaki sauce (see below). Spread it out onto a parchment lined sheet until about 1/2 cm thick. (About the thickness of the eel you remember!)
4. Place into the fridge and let set for about 30-40 minutes, or until chilled all the way through and has the texture of …eel.
5. Cut into 2 inch by 1 inch sized pieces.
6. On a pan over medium-high heat, pour a little more toasted sesame oil and sear the pieces until slightly blackened. The blackening makes it taste more like eel.
7. Brush the rest of your teriyaki sauce onto the eels. Pile the eels onto some sushi rice, wrap a strip of toasted nori around it, and pretend you have a sushi boat running all the way through your house.

Teriyaki Sauce
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 2 tsp rice wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 2 slivers ginger
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 tsp cornstarch

1. Mix all of the ingredients together.
2. Bring to a boil over medium heat or until very thick and syrupy.

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§ 12 Responses to Vegan Food Sucks + Eel

  • Chrysta says:

    you never fail at amazing me in all your fabulous cooking :)

  • Wish says:

    I agree with you, vegan cuisine should depart more from imitating omnivore dishes. Although, I will say that the striving for imitation has added a certain creativity to vegan cooking over the years. Perhaps that creativity should be unleashed in its own direction. Ingredients such as wheat gluten and various soy products have been flavored and textured in such a way to imitate “meat”, but what if they were flavored/textured in such a way that they made a radical departure… now you’ve got my mind going!

    As always you are excellent, thoughtful and make me giggle! :)

    • Thursdays With Wanda says:

      Here is a song about your post:

      Radically departing wheat gluten
      Does not spend its life in a pen
      And really loves women!

  • Mr. Pretty says:

    The introduction split my sides with laughter. This recipe sounds good :)

    I would eliminate the “so” in “omnivores enjoy so many things…”

    • Thursdays With Wanda says:

      Thanks, Mr. Pretty! I am quite the grammar stickler myself (imagine a sexier version of your high school English teacher?), so your comment was much appreciated.

      Also, I’m glad you found my post funny, but I hate to kill my readers (heehee…get it…splitting your sides?)!

  • eatlovedrink says:

    I just read through a bunch of your old blog posts. You are hilarious. And making fake eel is probably unprecedented. Keep it coming!

  • Toma says:

    You’re r-eel-y great wanda (double pun with extra irony points for the fake-eel.)

    • Thursdays With Wanda says:

      I did enjoy that, thank you! I loved the hand-carved yukon gold potatoes (to look like bone marrow) especially. All I wish is that I were that girl in the picture in the white dress with her jaw open…because then I’d be about to eat all that stuff!

  • shyaporn says:

    What exactly is the proportion you’ve found works of potato to bok choy? “Whites of two bok choy” is a rather wide range.

    • Thursdays With Wanda says:

      Hello Shyaporn!

      Thank you for asking this clarifying question; I understand that not all potatoes and not all bok choys are made alike. I typically like to use about 6 increments of potato to 1 increment of bok choy. The bok choy is there to add to the bouncy texture, while the potato is needed for its flaky yet sticky structural quality. Instead of bok choy, you could also use a stick of burdock, but that might be harder to find depending on where you live.

      I hope that helps!

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