Friday, 30 December 2011


Being a big fan of sweet potato, not only did I order (and love) the japchae at Saveurs de Coree, but when I saw sweet potato noodles in the shops a few days later I immediately purchased a packet. And I have no regrets. Sweet potato noodles take a little longer than wheat noodles to cook, and I went really light on the sauces because I didn't want to overwhelm the awesomeness of any sweet potato that might make its way through.

This recipe is not strictly japchae. I should have added some mushrooms or something, and I didn't add a sweetner. But it was so good, and I am looking forward to trying this again soon.

an attempt at sweet potato noodles

serves two people

200g dried sweet potato noodles
1 clove garlic, minced
1 carrot, julienned
a little bit of broccoli
little bit of chinese cabbage (just the leaves, cut tiny to wilt fast)
a dash of light soy sauce (or gf tamari)
a small amount of sesame oil (about a teaspoon or so)
some sesame seeds

Boil the noodles until they are delightfully soft, about five minutes or just over. Drain and cut (or cut in the wok, just know they come long and you have to cut them).

In a hot wok, add some cooking oil then throw in the garlic and the carrots. Fry about for a minute or two, then add some water and the broccoli and wombok, and put the lid on to steam. After the broccoli has gone beautiful and bright green, lower the heat and add the noodles, soy/tamari, and the sesame oil. Toss to combine, let them all cook together for a minute, and plate. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Delicious, fast, made from sweet potatoes. No regrets.

saveurs de coree [dongcheng, beijing]

The only reason I tried out Saveurs de Coree is because Happy Cow told me they knew what the word vegan meant. And this is sort of true!

I love the atmosphere of the Ju'Er location, though its poor lighting meant I was unable to get any nice photos. They have a lovely looking outdoor section that I look forward to trying when it's not -4C, and lots of fun Korean books inside, and an awesome water feature in the back room that I really enjoyed.

The menu is extensive, filled with all sorts of things, and a little leaf indicates things that can be made vegetarian or vegan. It says so, right there at the bottom of the menu! Sadly this is where things got a little complicated for me. The menu clearly states that things with leaves can be made vegetarian or vegan, however our waitperson (who spoke some English) clearly had no idea.

potato cakes

We ended up ordering a whole bunch of food, and it was all really delicious. We went for these gamja jeon (potato pancakes), and some japchae and ttekkdokki to share, and then a plate of mushroom rice each. These three dishes pictured were amazing. I was so excited by the japchae (sweet potato noodles fried with sesame oil and vegetables) that when I saw sweet potato noodles in the shops on Monday I purchased a pack immediately (more on that tomorrow). The ttekkdokki was delicious but spicy, as always.

japchae + ttekkdokki

Dessert was tofu chocolate mousse, good but a bit pricy and tiny (and all the pictures were blurry).

I'm mostly confident of the vegan-ness of the meal except for one factor: they don't use dairy at all, and there were no eggs in any of the dishes I ordered. However due to the waitperson's confusion, I'm not sure if they went to the kitchen and said 'these dishes need to be vegan' (which based on the menu I think they'd be clear on), or if they said 'these dishes can't have seafood'. If it was the former I'm all good; if it was the latter then maybe my kimchi was of the non-vegetarian variety.

The menu is available in English, Korean and Mandarin. There are some pictures. Cost is a bit high, this was the most expensive meal I've had since arriving in Beijing, but the service is attentive (when the waitperson stops texting) and they let us hang around even though we were clearly the last people to leave, and when we left one of the waitstaff had their coat on.

Saveurs de Coree
20 Ju Er Hutong

There is a second location at 128-1, Xiang Er Hutong off Jiaodaokou, no more than ten minutes walk from the Ju'Er location, that specialises in 'fine Korean grill.'

A step up to enter, poor lighting. An obstacle course to get from the front (tiny) room to the rest of the restaurant. About 10-15 minutes walk from Beixinqiao Station (line 5, exit D). Some English spoken. Not sure about gluten free. Meals: 100-200Y (including dessert and alcohol).

Monday, 26 December 2011

christmas disaster

so even when you're celebrating a low-key christmas in china with five of your friends, and all the food has been cooked by someone else and you just have to pick it up, there is still room for a christmas day kitchen disaster:

a christmas disaster

merry christmas if that's your thing! and remember to put the lid on your pumpkin puree, even when you're only heating it up for five minutes. although who has pumpkin puree at christmas? i mean really.

some christmas cheer

Saturday, 24 December 2011

shenton park cat haven (and the dog refuge, too)

Shenton Park Cat Haven is looking for forever homes for some adorable but homeless cats! They are seriously oversubscribed and though since that news article went up they've had a whole heap of cats adopted, the oversubscription continues.

If you can't give the gift of a home but are looking for a present for someone, you could also consider making a donation to the Cat Haven or to the Dog's Refuge (also in Shenton Park).

If you want to make a Victorian-based donation, there's The Lost Dogs' Home in North Melbourne or Edgar's Mission.

There is a possibility I have left my donation-presents until the last minute.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

the first curry

My kitchen here is pretty limited, so I was a bit nervous about trying curry for the first time. I should not have worried, though: I don't think I've ever had a curry disaster, for I am a Curry Master. I made this one up as I went along, and had to use curry powder because I haven't been able to find turmeric, and red onions because I didn't have any shallots, and it still all came out okay.

I served this on noodles, because I don't have any rice.

the first curry

pumpkin curry

quarter of a red onion, diced tiny
inch of ginger, minced or shredded
little bit of garlic, minced
1 large tomato, diced large
300g pumpkin, diced larger still
some curry powder
some chilli flakes
some cumin
little bit of extra water

in a little oil, fry the onion until it starts to colour, then add the garlic and the ginger. after a minute or two, add the curry powder, chilli flakes and cumin, and fry until they become fragrant, then toss in the tomato and the pumpkin. allow the tomato to soften, and ensure it's mixed a bit with the pumpkin, then add in some water, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and cover, leaving to simmer for about half an hour. check on it every now and then, adding a little bit more water if it's soaked it all up. keep simmering and adding water until the pumpkin is nice and soft.

serve on rice or noodles or roti.

(i would pay a lot of money for roti right now)

Monday, 19 December 2011

the bookworm [sanlitun, beijing]

The Bookworm is an English-language lending library, bookstore, cafe and bar. I went there recently for Green Drinks after work, and I also dropped by for their booksale last weekend. Before perusing the books, however, I stopped for a mid morning meal.

The menu is not very vegan friendly, and they don't carry soy milk so no coffee for me. I was assured that this would be suitable - it's one of three items that can be modified or should be okay for vegans. My dining companions all loved their meals (brunches) -they were massive and filled with things they found exciting. This salad was okay. It was nothing exciting, and I dislike cold tofu puffs, which is personal preference. It was actually nice to have some lettuce, I haven't had any since I arrived in China.

I'm not 100% sure about the veganinity of the dressing.

Service is okay, there's usually someone who speaks English and the menu is in Chinese with English subtitles.

tofu salad at the bookworm

the bookworm
Courtyard 4, Gongti Beilu / Nansanlitun Road
Chaoyang District

get there on line 10 (gongtibeilu) or line 2 (dongsishitiao) and walk down Gong Ti Beilu. The Bookworm is not accessible for people with mobility issues, it is up a very steep flight of stairs with no elevator access. There are also internal stairs. Brightly lit during the day, poorly lit in the evening. Confusing double door for entry which is difficult to get the hang of.


Saturday, 17 December 2011

white nights / 白夜西餐 [dongzhimen, beijing]

My first ever visit to a Russian restaurant!

It surprises me how many people think they've never had Russian food, or don't know what Russian food entails. A number of my friends (not my housemate, whose family is Russian and was the one to suggest the restaurant) paged through the menu, unexpectedly discovering they actually knew many Russian dishes, such as stroganov, or Chicken Kiev.

Russian food is pretty cream and meat heavy, so I went for two things that V was pretty sure I could eat: pierogi, and vareniki, both filled with potato, and when I asked the waitstaff, they said there was no dairy so I went for it. The vareniki were fried and looked like curry puffs, and the pierogi were steamed, and they were all delicious. An entire meal of potato and pastry and I have no regrets.

The photos didn't turn out, little white things on little white plates in a dimly lit, smoke-filled restaurant, so here instead have a photo of our refreshments for the evening:

strawberry juice and vodka

a bottle of vodka and some strawberry nectar, ordered from the menu. We were expected to drink the entire bottle, and we did, just five of us, and I desperately wish I'd brought Berocca to China with me when I woke up the next morning.

The meal was good, stodgy and filling on a very cold evening. Service was a bit average, but the prices were good (including vodka it came to about 60-70RMB each) and it's no more than a ten minute walk from my apartment. A definite revisit.

White Nights / 白夜西餐
13A Beizhong Jie
off Dongzhimennei Dajie, near the Russian Embassy
Dongcheng District

on PT: Take the subway to Dongzhimen Station, exit A, walk East along Dongzhimen Outer Street and take the second right. Stairs to get into the building, poor lighting, and the toilet is down some stairs and around a corner. Ordering and payment at the table. Menu is in English, Russian and Chinese with pictures. Waitstaff speak Mandarin.

Was it vegan rating: probably. I asked and was told what I ordered had no dairy, and I didn't get sick afterwards. I didn't ask about egg because V thought it was very unlikely.


Sunday, 11 December 2011

stir-fried noodles + marinated tofu

marinated tofu + noodles

An old standard, stir-frying some noodles with some vegetables and tofu. I've been eating a lot of this, and mostly cooking it Malaysian mee goreng style, because I get home quite late of an evening from work and it's so easy and fast to prepare, just whatever I have in the fridge. I made a special trip to the supermarket though, for five spice and firm tofu, and pan fried this (as I'm spending a year with no oven, alas). A combination of five spice, mushroom dark soy sauce, smidge of light soy and some fresh garlic, spooned over some thickly sliced tofu, which I left to marinate as I skyped to E for an hour.

Then I dirtied a lot of dishes: pot for the noodles; fry pan for the tofu; wok to bring it all together. You know the drill. I haven't marinated tofu since I left Australia and it was so good. I'm definitely going to try to do that more often.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

eight treasures rice and vegan compromises

sticky rice on a stick

Being a vegan in China can be hard, and sometimes you try your hardest and you still can't be sure. I've been having a lot of problems lately, judging myself and worrying about being judged. I went to a Greenpeace event a few weeks back, where a (white, British) vegan scolded me for going to non-vego restaurants with my non-vego friends. The first vegan I met here, on my first day, came with us all to a restaurant and then didn't eat a thing. She told me she never eats at non-vego restaurants, and I thought at first, that's a bit hardcore. But having been here five weeks now, I realise it's what she has to do to be totally confident that she's living animal-free.

The only time I'm confident that my meal has no animal products is when I'm in my house and I'm cooking for myself, and when I visit the vegan restaurant down the road (and most of the time I'm confident about the vego restaurants, too, if I ask the right questions). The term vegetarian food (素菜) here is generally understood as 'there's no meat as a main ingredient', and it sometimes means I get a bit of a mince garnish on my beans, a little pork in my eggplant. Today at lunch I asked 'does this have meat?' The chef looked at me and was like 'why?', as if it was a ridiculous question to ask. I once asked 'does this have egg?' and got the answer, 'it doesn't have egg, it's sweet!'; but I'm pretty sure it had an egg-wash. I giggled and ate it anyway, because it was a friend's grandmother and she'd gone to so much effort to get vego treats for me.

I'm making these compromises or having these questions at least a couple of days a week. I try my hardest to stay vegan, but even speaking Mandarin I can never be quite sure, and I worry about what people would think, if they knew that today I picked the egg out of my meal and kept eating rather than having to miss lunch.

This is part of the reason why reviews have dropped off. I've eaten a lot of amazing meals since I've arrived here, and my friends in Beijing, every one of them a meat eater, let me pick almost every dish when we go out for food. I've discovered some delicious local dishes, filled with unexpected combinations (cabbage + glass noodles, I don't know how to describe this wonder). I'm for the most part content with the decisions I'm making, but I feel like I cannot with confidence recommend these places to people, for fear that I'm wrong. I've made my peace with knowing I lose my vegan powers intermittently during my time here, but I don't want to put other vegos and vegans unknowingly at risk. I'm thinking about starting to review the places I go to, but adding caveats about how hard it was to be confident it was vegan and other things like that.

Anyway, this eight treasures pudding on a stick. I thought it was vegan but in hindsight I don't think it was, which pisses me off because it was delicious and in a way serves me right for being too intimidated by the Jinan accent to ask. Steamed in a bamboo stem and served on a stick and filled with fruits, what genius! Also genius: the eggs on a stick. Cracked into moulds and fried on to the stick. Obviously not vegan but interesting to look at.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

eggy tomato / 炒鸡蛋西红柿

It never even occurred to me to veganise this very common Chinese dish until my housemate V started attempting to cook it just the way her mum does. Fried egg and tomatoes is common and cheap and fast, and is comprised almost entirely of tomato and eggs, but I decided it was possible and after a couple of attempts I have it all sorted. Since then I've made it several times. It's not exciting but it's easy and it contains some good things, and it's quick comfort food when I'm home late from work.

Don't talk to me about the photo below, I'm so used to the exceptional photographic conditions in my kitchen in Brunswick that I think I'm going to have to make some modifications to get my food photography anywhere up to where I need it to be for the eleven more months that I'm here.

vegan tomato eggs

vegan eggy tomato
comfort food

chop two large ripe tomatoes into thin wedges. in a fry pan, heat a large dollop of oil, throw in a tiny bit of minced garlic and then throw in the tomatoes. add a dash of water, and leave to fry for four or five minutes, until the tomatoes are seriously starting to wilt (but not fall apart). mash in 300g of silken tofu, and mix in a dash or three of light soy (or gf tamari for gf) and a tablespoon of nutritional yeast. leave it to simmer on high heat for two or three minutes. garnish with a little pepper or fresh spring onions if that takes your fancy. Makes a nice second or third dish in a meal, or you can eat it on its own with a spoon.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

fu hui ci yuan vegetarian cultural restaurant : 福慧慈缘文化会馆 [tiananmen area, beijing]

Addresses in Beijing can be a little difficult to decipher. Sometimes the area is given, sometimes just 'Beijing' is specified. And the areas can be very big. So I've spent some time mapping every vegetarian restaurant in Beijing, just to work out where all of them are compared to my apartment and my office.

The first time I headed out on my lunch break to find Fu Hui Ci Yuan, I completely failed, and ended up coming back to the office and grabbing a bread snack on the way. The second time I was more prepared. I'd assumed the English translation of the name would be sufficient, but I was wrong, as I discovered when I turned up at the the corner of Dong'anmen Street and Donghuangchenggen St, to discover a building named Leopard, and suddenly the direction "金钱豹/ 王府世纪北" (literally "leopard / palace century north") made sense.

fu hui ci yuan vegetarian cultural restaurant

This first visit I selected the mushrooms + noodles in broth, and the peanut soy milk (hot). I tried to order more but the waitress told me that it'd be too much food and wouldn't let me, which I appreciated because she was right.

The mushrooms were exactly what I wanted. They were accompanied by two baby bok choy, of which there could have been more, but the broth was lovely and so were the mushrooms. The peanut soy milk was interesting, but it turns out not really my thing.

It's a 15 minute walk from my workplace, which is not bad for guaranteed no meat, and my meal came in at 37¥ which I also liked. Will definitely visit again in the next eleven months.

The menu has English and Mandarin. Some of the staff have a little bit of English but it's mostly a spoken-Chinese experience.

fu hui ci yuan vegetarian cultural restaurant : 福慧慈缘文化会馆
53 dong'anmen street
beijing (200006)

on pt: catch the subway to Tiananmen East (on line 1), exit B. walk east along East Chang'an Street, then north (left) up Nanheyandajie, right onto Dong'anmen, first left onto Donghuangchenggen, and right into Xila Hutong. there are two stairs up to enter, lighting is good and tables are well-spaced.

there's a sign on the street that says they're vegan, but this is a translation error.

金钱豹/ 王府世纪北)

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

veggie table [lama temple area, beijing]

I stumbled across Veggie Table by accident late one evening when I was on the back of a scooter looking at apartments (apartment hunting in China: it's totally different to Australia). I wasn't able to visit that night, but a few days later I thought of it when I was in the area again, when it was half past three and I'd been touristing and had yet to eat lunch. Veggie Table is open from 11am onwards, the kitchen open until it closes, it serves vegan cake and it's a ten minute walk from my house. OH YEAH.

the table setting at veggie table

I've been there twice since discovering it, and I've been very happy both times. The first visit I had the falafel burger, which is more do it yourself than the name suggests, with an excellent amount of falafel balls, two pita breads, tahini, cucumber, tomato and lettuce. This was really satisfying and pretty great. The second visit I wanted to try the chili pasta, but sadly they were all out so I went for the mushroom burger, which is a mushroom patty (rather than a whole mushroom, as I thought it'd be) on a wholemeal bun, with coleslaw and wedges. This burger was so good. I am absolutely going to be eating this again, it was filling and hearty and way more than I was expecting.

falafel lunch at veggie table

The cake is good, even the next day. No photos because I got it takeaway both times; once, I had the carrot cake for breakfast (in bed at the hostel after a tiring day of cycling: no regrets); the second, I had the chocolate cake after a hard day of cleaning and moving in to my new apartment. Aside from the large dollop of (vegan) cream, it was so good. I had considered calling my travelling blog 'the year of no cake,' because for the most part Chinese kitchens don't have ovens so I thought there'd be no cake for vegans; I'm so happy to declare it's not true. There is cake for me.

The menu is in English, and some of the staff speak English. Open Wednesdays to Mondays (closed Tuesdays, as I learned the disappointing way today). Service can be a little slow, but not overly so. Sometimes greenie and vego events are held there.

veggie table
19 Wudaoying Hutong
Lama Temple Area
Dongcheng District

Take Line 2 or 5 to Yonghegong station, exit D. Head North from the exit towards the second ring road, and turn down the tiny alley way immediately there. It's about 150m down, on your right. Three stairs up to enter, and awkward double door and hard to manoeuvre. Good lighting.

me at peril

belated (i just moved countries!), but i have an article up at peril magazine: Care and Feeding: Comfort Food for Chinese-Australian Vegans.

Friday, 28 October 2011

going wandering

Later today I get on a plane and by almost this time tomorrow I will have moved to China, where I will be living for about the next twelve months. I will still be posting lots of food to this blog, but my posts to Planet VegMel will be filtered so only thinky posts and Melbourne posts appear. If you'd like to follow my continuing food adventures, until I come home you'll have to do it separate from the Planet.

Also I have a blog specifically for my China adventure, Song of the Travelling Penguin. It's a tumblr, which you can just add to your RSS reader if you don't like tumblrs. I've enabled disqus so you can even leave me comments if you want! There are no posts there yet because I haven't left, but stand by!

Anyway. I love you Melbourne, I'll see you all again soon.

with haibao

Thursday, 27 October 2011

lentil as anything, abbotsford convent

Went to brunch with Lisa and Danni at Abbotsford Convent, because Lisa was in town for the Animals Australia Forum (to which I didn't get to go, crryyy).

potato cakes (doo doo dododo)

Danni and Lisa both ordered the potato cakes. I sampled this, they were slightly spiced, with a side of vegetables and a little chutney. They weren't crispy like hash browns, more loosely bound like a patty, but they were an excellent meal.

spicy beans

I ordered the spicy beans, which also came with some vegetables. These were pretty delicious too, but I coveted the potato cakes (this might have to do with my potato obsession).

previously: breakfast at the convent

Lentil As Anything
1 St Heliers Street

It's totally not accessible. It's poorly lit, you have to walk through a mini kitchen to get inside, it's cramped and crowded and the tables are close together. If you want to sit outside it's a little better. Lentil as Anything is a pay what you feel venue.

Monday, 24 October 2011

yumcha lunch at veggie kitchen: intention of love

I met up with my friend Fei for lunch on Friday at Veggie Kitchen: Intention of Love. I love Veggie Kitchen. The food is always amazing, I always come out of it having tried something deliciously new, and the service is lovely and friendly and accommodating and it is pretty close to home. I've been there several times (and I do think I should visit more often), but before last week I had never been there for lunch.

Veggie Kitchen has a great lunchtime menu with lots of dim sum favourites, so Fei and I decided to try it out. I didn't take photos of everything but between the two of us we ordered the perfect amount of food.

We started with the beancurd skin rolls. These were layered inside with nori and then fried. These were crispy and fresh, and would have been my favourites had it not been for the RADISH CAKE:

crispy tasty radish cakes

Crispy on the outside and soft inside and perfect flavour and great sauce coating.

We also ordered the handmade noodles and a serve of the siu mai, and we finished up with the peanut bao. Delicious vegan dim sum, and without the need to go to Box Hill!

Veggie Kitchen was empty the entire time we were eating, which was about an hour. I know it was a friday lunchtime but seriously! I hope more people are able to drop by at a lunch time, it was deliciously worth it.

previous visit: cny banquet.

Veggie Kitchen: Intention of Love
159 St George Rd

GF available. Easy to get to on the 112 (an accessible stop is right across the road) or the 508 bus. A step up into restaurant, widely spaced tables, and ordering and paying can happen at the table or at the counter. Toilet is down a long corridor and difficult to maneuver to. Takes CC.

Friday, 21 October 2011

After my eventual first visit to New Day Rising, I was very quick to return yesterday with Danni and Fi in tow!

Danni and Fi both went the CLT, with Danni also trying out one of the vegan muffins (orange and date - so soft and delicious!). I decided to try the beans, which were great. I'd been worried they'd be too fennel-y, but they were just perfect, with a flavour I enjoyed and just enough avocado and bread (three pieces, one is hiding) to soak things up. The vegan beans come with tahini, which allegedly make a nice addition but which I forgot to add! I do wish people would stop giving me rocket though. It is the worst. :o(

New Day Rising
221d Blyth Street
Brunswick East

super easy to get to at the end of the 96 tram (not an accessible stop); the venue is tiiiiny and crowded with little maneuverability; the toilet is around the corner and outside. all ordering is at the table (mostly because it's too tiny to go anywhere). cash only!

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

new day rising

I promise I already had my outing to New Day Rising with SJ planned before Michael posted about it last week. This is just a coincidence!

sorry if this is blurry! i don't currently have my glasses because i am a poor planner

The CLT (coconut, lettuce and tomato) is so delicious I don't know what to do with myself. I can't believe I waited this long to try it, after first hearing Lisa talk about the CLT, and I'm trying to make it there again before I leave Brunswick for the Great China Adventure.

The smoked coconut in this is so intense but nicely set off by the tomato, lettuce and avocado and I want it. All of it. In my mouth.

others eating the CLT: dannipants; k; Lisa; Cindy + Michael.

New Day Rising
221d Blyth Street
Brunswick East

super easy to get to at the end of the 96 tram (not an accessible stop); the venue is tiiiiny and crowded with little maneuverability; the toilet is around the corner and outside. all ordering is at the table (mostly because it's too tiny to go anywhere). cash only!

Friday, 14 October 2011

[wa] swan valley cafe ii, millendon

Flying visit to Perth this week for the Farewell to Perth Tour before jetting off on the Great China Adventure (more on that closer to). After arriving quite late (and too tired to make it to my friend Tina's birthday party!) I got up early the next morning to join my parents and my sister for breakfast at the Swan Valley Cafe.

the waiting area

The Swan Valley Cafe is this cute little vegetarian restaurant and nursery in the Swan Valley. They also sell their own brand of teas (and different types of salt, such as the chilli salt my sister likes to put on her hot chips). It's a really lovely location, just away from the river so you can't see it but you get the cool morning air and that feeling on your skin. You can wander through the plants for sale, and I always wish I could buy some (usually I buy some for other people).

This Sunday, I decided we were going to sit outside.

(not at this table, at the one next to it just out of frame. it is just to give you an idea of the outdoor ambience)

Look at that lovely morning sunlight!

The breakfast menu is not extensive but it's got a nice little bit of variety. There are vegan pancakes, and a scrambled tofu, some granola and some home made baked beans, as well as a big veg breakfast. I was torn between the Mexican scrambled tofu and the pancakes, both of which sounded delicious. Stricken with indecision, although my sister wanted eggs, I managed to convince her to order vegan pancakes, so I could try them.

breakfast #2 mexican tofu

I watched the tofu go past to other tables, and I started considering how small it looked, a concern which only strengthened when my tofu was presented to me. At the same time my sister received a plate of berry pancakes, and she too was concerned: she had ordered banana pancakes, not berry! Generously, then, and with no small sacrifice on my part, I volunteered to eat both her berry pancakes and my scrambled tofu, whilst she reordered her banana pancakes.

Her banana pancakes appeared about ten minutes later, with extra pancakes to make up for the mistake, so no complaints there despite the mix up.

breakfast #1: pancakes

The buckwheat pancakes were amazing. They were served with a coconut cream and some maple syrup, covered in fresh berries, and they were delicious. They were cheap too, for Perth prices ($11), and totally worth it!

The spicy Mexican scrambled tofu is on the menu as eggs but with the vegan tofu option. They come with several pieces of sour dough toast and this delicious avocado, tomato and onion salsa, which was a perfect counterpoint to the spice of the tofu. Regretfully the tofu was a little too much spice and not enough flavour: they were a good consistency and a great spice level, but could have done with some nutritional yeast flakes or some cumin.

Add a soy flat white, and this was an excellent breakfast; and, little piggy that I am with the two breakfasts, I couldn't finish the toast that came with the tofu, and I didn't need to eat lunch despite eating this at 10am.

Swan Valley Cafe also does take away, a service of which I availed myself on Wednesday on my way to the airport. I picked up a hummous, grilled vegetables and salad wrap to take with me on the plane, and it was still super tasty two hours later when I wanted it (though the oil had soaked through the bag). I also grabbed a bag of hand-made, vegan, raw chocolate truffles, for sustenance on the long trip home.

previous visit

Swan Valley Cafe
990 Great Northern Highway
Millendon, 6056

Some GF available
Open every day but at different times

there's a shallow ramp into the building (to skip over the steps), lovely wide doors, lots of excellent lighting and it's quiet. there is an outdoor area around the back but you have to go through the flower shed to access it if steps are an obstacle. ordering is done at the table.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Abbout Falafel House, Coburg

kebab and dolmades from the falafal house

Last week Danni, Emilly and I went for an adventure into the near-reaches of Coburg! I visited the Coburg library for the first time, and tried to find things in Coburg Coles, and for noms we visited Abbout Falafel House, a vegetarian restaurant on Sydney Road. Nothing fancy, but cheap, fast and delicious wraps and dolmades and other delicious things. The dolmades were a little too rich for me, but I loved the wrap. Say yes to the chilli sauce, it's all good.

Abbout Falafel House
465 Sydney Road

Thursday, 6 October 2011

adventures in canberra

parliament house at night

I adventured in to Our Nation's Fair Capital last week for five days of very intensive training. I stayed at the Rydges Capital Hill, which after a couple of days of bread and potatoes managed to end the week by furnishing me with some delicious stuff, most notably a chickpea curry with rice one night, and a sundried tomato and pea risotto one lunch. I really appreciated, once the chef got into the swing of cooking for a vegan, the thought that went into some of the meals I got.

Anyway whilst I was in town, I also managed to escape into Dickson and try out two vego restaurants with some local friends.

assam fish at kingsland hor fun at kingsland

I started at Kingsland, a 100% vegan restaurant, where I ordered the assam fish, the hor fun, and some chicken drumsticks. The chicken and the hor fun were fine, but nothing exciting. The assam fish was perfect. That perfect assamy, fishy flavour. A solid fleshy bite to it. Some delicious sauce. It was perfect! And on a Tuesday night, paying bye cash meant 20% off the total bill, which I appreciated.

laksa at au lac

Thursday night I made it to the famed Au Lac, well spoken of by many a Canberra-based vegan. I was humming and hawing, unsure what I wanted, until I saw the laksa and knew, of course, what my choice had to be. The laksa was good, but not amazing. It had a nice flavour, and I loved the mock meat in the dish, but as always something was missing and so my search continues. Friend J had some soy beef dish, and I wish I'd taken note of it because it was amazingly delicious.

Kingsland Vegetarian Restaurant
5/28 Challis Street
Dickson, ACT

Step up into the restaurant, tables are super close together. Ordering happens at the table; quite a close atmosphere (and gets quite noisy). Didn't check out the toilets.

Au Lac
4/35-39 Woolley Street
Dickson, ACT

20% off the bill if you pay cash Tuesdays and Wednesday. Tables are spaced far apart and there are no steps, ordering (and cash payments) can happen at the table. Bright lights, constant supreme master television. Didn't check out the toilets.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

breakfast at the vegie bar

I have been feeling really good about the Vegie Bar lately, so when my friend Claire was in town recently I thought I'd take her there for breakfast.


vegan french toast at the vegie bar

I went to the Vegie Bar for breakfast about a year and a half ago, and at the time the vegan options were pretty dire. But Vegie Bar has been doing such great things with its daytime and dinner menu lately, I thought it was worth a go. If anything, it is worse than it was before, with this vegan french toast the only vegan item on the menu. ONE VEGAN BREAKFAST. At a vego restaurant! When I asked if I could turn an egg dish into a tofu dish, I was told "no, only on special days." Even Tom Phat does better than that.

The french toast was fine, but there were three of us and we all had to order the same thing. After we'd ordered, I remembered we could have gone to Las Vegan Nirvana instead, and I was filled with regrets.

previous visits: i and ii and iii and iv

The Vegie Bar
378 Brunswick Street

Sunday, 2 October 2011

planet vegmel birthday potluck + blog event part ii


It was Planet VegMel's birthday! So there was a birthday picnic at Edinburgh Gardens, and the weather was beautiful. I took a whole bunch of photos at the picnic, if you'd like to see them you can check them out at my flickr. Cindy has also done a bit of a round up post!

There were zines (which you can download here)

a posse of zines

and badges

declare your VGML predilection

and there was lots of food!

a part of the spread potato bake

For drinks, we started with chamomile lemon iced tea, with maple ice cubes, made by K; and a mango lasso made by the Veganator.

Michael made potato chickpea enchiladas, originally seen on veganise this; Emilly made an eggplant salad; and I made the quinoa avocado salad that has been remixed by many VegMelers.

Toby experimented with tempeh bacon, remixed from Where's the Beef. This was probably my highlight of the picnic, I totally recommend it! Also involving tempeh was Em's gado gado.

In news of other remixes, Carla brought along mock crab cakes, remixed from Cindy and Michael; and Mel made tofu quiches, originally seen at Vicki Vegan and Green Gourmet Giraffe.

Danni made sundried tomato bread and pumpkin + miso muffins (remixes from non-VegMel blogs).

a cake pop kind of like kingstons

For sweets, Cindy and Michael made PB & choc sandwiches, based on peanut butter alligators and chocolate ganache from Sugarspoons.

K made ginger ripple cake, based on a recipe by the Veganator; Mel made apricot delight, remixed from Green Gourmet Giraffe; and Em made Turkish Truffles, a remix of Mel's rum balls. I remixed chocolate caramel slice, from Johanna's original recipe.

In original recipes, Vicki posted about her peanut butter balls; Johanna brought blueberry cake pops (and they were so amazing); and Carla delighted us with lamingtons.

And that was the potluck, but not the end of the birthday:

two more submissions for that recipe sounds very familiar… previous entries can be found here.

Cindy and Michael remixed a beetroot chocolate cake, originally from the Fairest Feed.

Like Cindy and Michael and myself, Mel remixed Toby's Singapore noodles, a delicious noodle treat.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

eggplant salad

emilly made an eggplant salad as her savoury contribution to the planet vegmel picnic. it was super tasty, and filled the house with the smell of eggplant that was a) delicious and b) not cooked by me, which i like (cooking eggplant makes me nervous). she is not really a food blogger, so i have volunteered to blog the recipe on her behalf!

eggplant salad by emilly

eggplant salad

this is a little bit inspired by greg + lucy malouf's soused zucchini recipe, so you could probably make this a zucchini salad, if you were that kind of person (i am not. well, not in salad).

1 medium sized eggplant
lots and lots of salt
olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice (or red wine vinegar)
1 teaspoon castor sugar
2 teaspoons sumac (plus some extra, if you like)
fresh coriander and/or parsley

cut up the eggplant. thinnish slices is best but emilly did it in chunks, and was then cursing the chunks during the entire cooking process. put the eggplant into a colander with lots of salt on each surface; put a plate on the top and some cans to weigh it down and press the eggplant, and leave for at least half an hour.

rinse the eggplant off, pat it dry with a paper towel, and then get more paper towel ready so you can drain the eggplant. fry with what seems like a painful quantity of oil. if you sliced it, you could probably brush each side with some oil so that you don't end up using equal quantities of oil and eggplant, but it cooks nicer and faster with plenty of oil.

for the dressing, combine lemon juice, sugar and sumac. mix together the eggplant and the dressing. this can all go in the fridge if you have prepared it in advance! then when it is time to go to the picnic/serve the salad, add some chopped parsley and/or coriander and sprinkle it over the top!

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

chocolate caramel slice

For the Planet VegMel Picnic (more on the picnic later) I made chocolate caramel slice, originally seen on Johanna's blog. I had quite a different experience than Johanna. She worried that the base was too crumbly, that she might have overcooked the milk because it didn't look right, and too liquidy a chocolate layer. I on the other hand had a lovely time. The base pressed in quite well, and I've never used condensed milk of either the dairy or soy variety previously, so had no idea if it was working and just went with it; and the chocolate was a perfect consistency. And it turned out well! Very crunchy, and the base was a bit high (I used a 20x20cm tin instead of 20x30, and that was a mistake), but overall it was an easy and delicious experience. And at the end of the picnic there was only one lonely piece of slice left!

I also made this gluten free, with a direct substitution of Orgran's GF flour for the flour in Johanna's recipe. I didn't even add extra liquid the way I usually would with a GF conversion, and it turned out just fine.

This is a picnic submission for that recipe seems very familiar...

caramel chocolate slice

chocolate caramel slice
originally at Green Gourmet Giraffe

1 cup dessicated coconut
1 cup brown sugar
quarter of a container of nuttelex (125ish grams)
1 cup GF flour

caramel layer
330g soy condensed milk (or 1 tin)
2 tablespoons or so of golden syrup (I didn't measure, just squeezed the tube until I got bored of squeezing)
30g nuttelex

chocolate topping
150g dark chocolate
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Base: mix all the ingredients and press into a lined tin. Bake at 180C for 15-20 minutes.

While the base is in the oven, in a small saucepan over a lowish medium heat, constantly stir all of the caramel ingredients until it has thickened and is a light golden brown. Hopefully the base will be ready just as the caramel is, because then you can pull it out, spread the caramel over it, and shove it back in the oven. At the same 180C temperature, bake for 10 or so minutes until it's a deep golden brown. Mine went very brown, but it wasn't burnt and it was all okay. Set this aside to cool and go about your business.

When it's cool, melt the chocolate and mix in the oil. Spread it over the caramel layer, and leave it in the fridge to set. I left mine over night. I then brought it to room temperature before cutting.

Cut it small because it's quite sweet!

Sunday, 18 September 2011

moroccan soup bar

It took me two years, but I finally made it to the Moroccan Soup Bar!

at moroccan soup kitchen

I have been hearing about it for years, and I was very excited to be going! Most people to whom I've mentioned it since my recent visit have been astounded that I'd never before been, but I'd been intimidated by rumours of needing to line up at half five (almost true: the line started at about 17:50 and was full by 18:05), and had just never made it there.

It was totally worth it, even with the queueing in the cold wind.

minty tea

Moroccan Soup Bar has a 'spoken menu', so Katie and I didn't have much to peruse as we waited for the arrival of our friends. We did have a delicious cup of this mint tea to warm us as we idled, a little sweet with a lovely subtle flavour.

When we were all four assembled, we went for the vegan banquet for all. This was amazing!

entrees to share

We started with a shared entree plate, with a variety of dips (one made from broccoli) and marinated carrots and things, served with bread. After this we moved on to a large selection of shared plates, each with a grain (mostly rice, though one cous cous) and a curry. Most delicious was the pumpkin curry, but there were also lentils and potatoes and eggplant and all sorts of tasty things.

delicious turkish delight

Stuffed to bursting, I passed on the coffee and nearly passed on the Turkish Delight, but Gen made me try it. I'd never before had Turkish Delight, and the stuff at Moroccan Soup Bar is pretty nice.

I rolled home, uncomfortably full but so satisfied. I'm already planning a return visit!

Moroccan Soup Bar
183 St Georges Road
Fitzroy North

a little step up, ordering happens at the table but payment happens at a high counter. tables are a bit higgledy piggledy and close together. lighting is okay. gf available. bookings taken for 6 people groups. otherwise you have to queue in the cold! seatings are at 6pm and 7.20pm (or at least they were the night i was there).


Good Morning Vegetarian Melbourne! I hope to see you in a few hours at the Planet VegMel Birthday Picnic! There will be badges and a zine, and lots of delicious food! from 1pm at the Edinburgh Gardens, near the bandstand. Bring a picnic blanket and a (vegan, maybe gluten-free) plate!

Friday, 16 September 2011

now vegan: chips at grill'd

It has long disappointed me that I was unable to try Grill'd's chips, hailed as delicious and amazing, but coated in beef tallow before they were fried (groosssss). So it was with delight that I recently heard the news that all the chips in all of Grill'd's stores are 100% vegan.

So of course I raced out to try them (accompanied by Fi).

here chippy chippy

They are chunky. And salty - giant globs of salt. And very herby. Not the best chips in old Melbourne Town, but pretty tasty!

Thursday, 15 September 2011

ninja bread wars: a diptych

the ninja wars

a ninja good time

made using the ppk recipe for gingerbread, staging by Danni and Emilly

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

that recipe sounds very familiar... part one

It's Planet VegMel's 2nd Anniversary! Happy Anniversary, Planet VegMel! It's been an exciting two years for the Planet, I think, as it's grown as a resource. And there are still lots more ways in which it can grow, not just in number of blogs subscribed, but lofty goals for mapping and referencing and all sorts of exciting things.

As part of the birthday celebrations, I am super proud to host the 'That Recipe Seems Very Familiar…' blog event. A number of VegMel bloggers have remixed the recipes of other VegMel bloggers, ranging from minimal alterations to huge variations of deliciousness.

The recipes linked below have been submitted in advance of Planet VegMel's 2nd Anniversary. But if you've got something to submit, this doesn't close you out! I'll be making a second round up post next week, some time after the Birthday Picnic Potluck (this Sunday at Edinburgh Gardens), so that anyone who wishes to remix something for the Potluck can do so. And I hope to see you there! (keep an eye on the Facebook event if the weather looks grim, for the backup plan)

In chronological(ish) order!

Mel at Veganise This has remixed the haggis (and haggis pizza) originally posted by Johanna at Green Gourmet Giraffe.

Cindy and Michael remixed kari kapitan, originally blogged by Steph (me!) at Vegan about Town.

I remixed the potato boston bun, also originally by Johanna at GGG.

Cindy and Michael remixed cottage tofu, originally by Johanna.

Cindy and Michael remixed the very familiar baked cherry/berry cheesecake, seen previously at Gretal Getting Fatter, Easy as Vegan Pie, and vegan about town! (it's totally an amazing recipe)

K remixed salted caramel ice cream, adapted from Cindy and Michael.

I remixed lemony snickerdoodles, originally at Sugar Spoons.

Johanna remixed the baked beans recipe, previously seen at veganise this! and where's the beef, and originally from Veganomicon.

Mel remixed delicious tofu with steamed vegies, adapted from In the Mood for Noodles. And then Johanna remixed it too!

Cindy and Michael remixed cauliflower and caramelised onion tart, originally made by Carla at Easy as Vegan Pie, and previously remixed by Lisa.

In news of more noodles, K remixed a meegoreng originally seen at vegan about town.

Cindy and Michael remixed Toby's Singapore noodles; and two days later, so did I! (because we all love noodles)

Cindy and Michael remix hash browns, originally by Vicki Vegan.

I remixed lemon pepper cashews, dubbed "cashew crack" by Cindy and Michael.

K tries out apricot delight, seen on Green Gourmet Giraffe.

K remixed Zucchini Quinoa Lasagna, originally seen on Vicki Vegan.

Em made almond jam slices, a somewhat a remix of my coconut and jam slice.

Thanks to everybody for participating in this event! It allowed me to rediscover some old favourites, and discover new things (lemon pepper cashews are AMAZING).

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

lemon pepper cashews

I was bouncing around the house on Sunday night, all my chores completed and mainlining some television, when I thought I'd give this recipe for a cashew snack by Cindy and Michael a go. I wasn't sure about the lemon-salt-pepper-sugar combo, but their blog declared them 'universally addictive' and who am I to go past a description such as that?

They're so amazing that I left the container on the table with an airy instruction to Danni that she could try a couple, if she wanted; when I got back from my adventures in town, I discovered she'd eaten over half! It's a good thing they're easy and fast to make. A brilliant and delicious snack!

This is another remix for that recipe seems very familiar...

moreish cashews

lemon pepper cashews
originally at Where's the Beef

1 cup raw cashews
quarter cup sugar
salt and pepper to taste (generous portion - I was a bit timid and it definitely could have done with more)
zest of a medium-sized lemon

In a frypan over a medium-high heat, start stirring the cashews and the sugar. When the sugar starts to melt, lower the heat and keep stirring until the sugar is completely melted and the nuts are a lovely golden brown and completely covered in sugar. Turn off the heat and crack through some salt and pepper, then stir through the lemon zest.

Spread the cashews out on a lined baking tray and leave to cool. The baking paper is important, as the sugar will have started to caramelize and you don't want to lose any of its deliciousness from being stuck to a tray! Store in an air-tight container. Or eat them all.

Monday, 12 September 2011

"that recipe seems very familiar..." blog event update

Just a reminder that Planet VegMel's 2nd anniversary is this week! It officially falls on the 14th of September, giving you just two days to get your remixes in for the original anniversary deadline! On Wednesday I'll be making a round-up of all the recipes that have been posted.

However, there is the Birthday Picnic coming up on Sunday the 18th, and I know many VegMel bloggers are planning to remix something for that picnic. With that in mind, there will be a part two post for these remixes about a week after the picnic, giving everyone time to blog about their remix.

So don't worry about desperately needing to meet this Wednesday's deadline! There is still a lovely amount of time left to remix something from another blogger.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

toby's singapore noodles

I was reading twitter yesterday morning, blearily trying to wake up, when I saw that Cindy and Michael had remixed Toby's Singapore noodles. I was torn, because I had wanted to post about it and suddenly I worried I'd look like a copy cat! But several people remixing is part of what remixing is all about! And also we all love noodles, and it's nice to share.

So here it is, my remix of Toby's Singapore noodles, for that recipe seems very familiar... Like Michael, I skipped the sesame seeds, but not because I didn't have them, because I forgot them (even though they were on the kitchen counter).

toby's singapore noodles

Singapore Noodles (Toby Style)
originally by Toby at In the Mood for Noodles

2 sticks of rice vermicelli
100 grams smoked tofu
1 medium carrot, julienned
a hunk of capsicum, similarly sliced
half a white onion, sliced
3 tablespoons curry powder
half a teaspoon chilli flakes
quarter of a cup of vegetable stock
some vegetable oil
a splash or three of sesame oil
a splash or three of light soy sauce
some tumeric powder

Soak the rice noodles in hot water for five to ten minutes. Don't oversoak them, because then it will all fall apart and there will be maifun-related tears. In the meantime, marinate the carrot and the capsicum in the soy sauce, chilli flakes and the sesame oil.

After you drain the noodles, heat up the wok until it's very warm and fry the onion in some oil. Fry it until it softens, then stir through the curry powder and the turmeric, and follow it up with the carrot and capsicum mixture, including all the liquids. Leave to fry until the carrot starts to soften. Add a little dash of water and put the lid on to let it fry and steam for another minute or two. Throw in the noodles and mix through, adding the stock, a little extra soy sauce, sesame oil and some cracked pepper until the stock is cooked off (the wok should be hot enough that this will take about thirty seconds). I love sesame oil, it is amazing.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

lemon snickerdoodles

Over the weekend I was compelled to provide some sort of baked treat for a short-notice afternoon tea, and remembered this lemony snickerdoodle recipe that was originally posted by Em. A quick glance revealed I had all the required ingredients and, clad in my pyjamas, I felt ready to tackle this baking need.

lemon snickerdoodles

I made a few modifications to this recipe. Chief amongst them is that I didn't finish with lemon icing, it was more of a lemon glaze - I suspect that the '3/4 of a lemon' that Em used was a little smaller than the lemon I picked up from the corner shop, because I tripled the icing sugar in the recipe and it was still gloopy. I ended up brushing the glaze onto the snickerdoodles, but don't fret - it all ended well. And now I have three quarters of a cup of lemon glaze in my fridge, if anyone has any ideas.

These went pretty soft very quickly - good for the day of, but not as amazing by the end of the second day. Just have to eat them quickly, what a hardship!

This is my second submission for the that recipe seems very familiar... blog event.

lemon snickerdoodles
originally from sugar spoons, modified from vegetarian times

the dough
1 3/4 cup plain flour
1/4 cornflour
1 teaspoon baking powder
30 grams nuttelex, softened
a smidge over a quarter of a cup of soy milk (with a few drops of vanilla extract mixed through)
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
quarter cup castor sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

the glaze
zest + juice of most of a medium to large lemon
a whole lot of icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 180C. Em suggested lining one baking tray, but I needed two (and got about 20 snickerdoodles out of it).

Beat together the nuttelex until it's soft, then beat in the sugar, followed by soymilk and vanilla essence. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, corn flour and baking powder, then slowly mix this all into the liquids until smooth. You may need to use your hands! Set aside to sit for ten minutes.

In a bowl, combine the sugar and cinnamon.

Form the dough into 1 inch balls, roll into the cinnamon sugar, and place it on the tray. Flatten the cookies! Bake for 12-15 minutes, until the cookies are starting to go a little golden. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool for a bit.

Make the glaze! Combine lemon zest, lemon juice, and icing sugar until you're happy with the consistency. Brush (or dollop, if it's thick enough) onto the snickerdoodles, then sprinkle any remaining cinnamon sugar on top.