VeganMoFo 2018: Cook Daily, London

Cuisine:Filipino

This was another cuisine that I was not expecting to be able to tick off – I went to the Philippines when I was vegetarian and didn’t find any traditional dishes to try. But Cook Daily in London serves a vegan adobo dish which you can order with either mock chicken or tofu puffs. Full disclosure: Dr HH ordered this, then had to switch with me because I accidentally ordered a spicy dish and could not handle it. Anyway, he chose the tofu puffs, and added the spring rolls and special sauce as well.

I have actually attempted to make adobo once before, but chickened out of using the full amount of vinegar recommended because it sounded insane. It turns out I should have had faith in the recipe, because vinegary adobo is officially delicious!

This adobo was served over brown rice, and was extremely flavoursome. It was lovely and sharp from the vinegar, the vegetables were fresh, the puffs were spongy, and everything was flavoursome without burning my taste buds like the dish I’d foolishly ordered. It was an extremely well-crafted, well-seasoned dish, and I was pleased to confirm that Cook Daily is every bit as good as I’d heard.

What other veganisable Filipino dishes are out there? Have you found a vegan Filipino restaurant?

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VeganMoFo 2018: Satsang, Prague

Cuisine: Thai

Thai cuisine is one of the most frustrating for me, as so many dishes seem like they really could or should be vegan, but they aren’t on account of the fish sauce. So it’s always a relief to find a completely meat-free restaurant that serves Thai food. Satsang is a vegetarian restaurant with some solid brunch options and a Thai-heavy evening menu, with a vegan pad thai plus three different kinds of curry, all vegan.

I spent a while agonising over what to choose, but Dr HH did not. As soon as he read that the green curry was the spiciest, his mind was made up! He declared it a very good curry – not mind blowingly spicy, but spicy enough, and full of good stuff like tofu, aubergine, and mushrooms. He’d be happy to have this again.

I was also very satisfied with my pad thai. I love the fact that pad thai often comes with the various toppings all separate and off to the side so that I can incorporate them as and when I like. Why aren’t more dishes served like that?! Again, the tofu was great and it was a really flavoursome, filling dish.

So, hurrah for fish-free Thai food! As our old spot in Prague (Thai Box Food) has closed down, I can see Satsang becoming a regular haunt.

Have you ever been caught out by fish sauce in “vegan” Thai food? What’s your favourite Thai dish?

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VeganMoFo 2018: V Rev Vegan Diner, Manchester

Cuisine: American

Americans may be offended by this, but to a lot of Europeans, American cuisine just is fast food and burger joints. I’m embracing the stereotype! And I mean, it’s called a diner – what could be more American than that?!

V Rev is something of a Manchester vegan institution, and some of the locals seem weirdly proprietary towards it in a way they aren’t towards all the other vegan places around town. On the one hand, it’s great that people are passionate about it. On the other, it’s rubbish to see people attacked for expressing any less than 100% complimentary opinion about it. I wrote a lukewarm review of V Rev in its old premises. In autumn 2016 it moved on to a bigger and better location, and I think it’s fair to say it experienced a few teething problems, generally more with the staff than the food.  In autumn 2017 it closed due to flooding, and I finally visited it in December when it reopened with a new menu and real plates instead of plastic baskets, at last.

My expectations were quite low from the negative reviews, and as such V Rev was comfortably better than expected.  Some of the complaints were that it was always impossible to get a seat and that the tables are too close together – we arrived for an early lunch, but even by the time we left there were still free tables, and we felt there was a respectable distance between them.  The other main complaint is the waiting times, and even when we were the only customers we still had to wait over 30 minutes for our food, which I feel isn’t unreasonable but just starting to push it perhaps.  The food was warm when it arrived, which we’d heard wasn’t always the case.

There were two chicken-style burgers on the menu, and three or four beef.  We both went for chicken.  This was my southwestern one, which had some spicy mayo, a good slab of cheese and some delicious fried onions. 

Dr HH got the kenan and kale, which had added avocado – always a smart move! We both enjoyed our burgers, but found it a shame that both chicken options were quite similar.  We also found the seitan patties a little tough in places, but generally approved of that good crispy exterior.  Yum!

All the burgers come with regular fries for £1 and loaded for £2. I got the regular ones and thought they were the perfect fries!  Dr HH went bold with the poutine fries, which he really enjoyed.

This probably would have been enough to fill us up, but I believe vegan law states that if you see mac n cheese balls on the menu, you have to order them.  So we did, and I regret nothing!  They were crispy and delicious, and I’m trying to figure out how to recreate them.

There’s quite a tempting cocktail menu, but as it was barely midday I didn’t feel that I could indulge.  Instead, we shared a cookies and cream milkshake.  The thin, watery milkshakes are another common grievance I see online, and to those complainers I simply say: stir!  A good stir resulted in a consistently thicker and creamier milkshake, which was totally delicious.

All in all, V Rev was better than its detractors would have me believe, but not quite the vegan haven that its biggest supporters claim.  It’s definitely getting there though, I think.  My biggest complaint on the day was that the restaurant was absolutely freezing – we had to keep our coats on! Bear that in mind if you’re visiting in the colder months!

If  you’ve been to V Rev, what was your verdict? And what does American cuisine suggest to you?

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VeganMoFo 2018: The Real Greek, London

Cuisine: Greek

When I was mapping out this theme for VeganMoFo, I made a list of cuisines that I could easily tick off (Indian, Italian), and those that I could try to find but would be unlikely to succeed in – Greek was one of those. Besides using a Greek cookbook for a month, I don’t have much experience with Greek food since giving up feta when I became vegan. So I was very happy when I accidentally happened upon this Greek chain in London that had just introduced a vegan menu.

The vegan options were fairly extensive – numerous cold and hot mezze dishes, plus two heartier souvlaki wraps, and three dessert options (and yes, one of those is baklava). It’s very much a sharing sort of place – just order a few nibbles and tuck in. I like that kind of eating, but it depends on having a relaxing atmosphere where you can leisurely peck at food while you chat with your companions. The Real Greek (or at least the Covent Garden branch) is decidedly not that place.

The tables are squeezed in very close together, and there must be some problem with the acoustics that makes the whole place deafeningly loud – I did not feel at ease the whole time, hollering at Dr HH, whilst trying to prevent our neighbours from hearing our every word as well. Nor could we really take our time – we ordered three hot mezze dishes, and they arrived five minutes after we placed our order. On the one hand, it’s nice to get quick service. On the other hand, that’s suspiciously fast.

Of course, the most important thing to consider is the food itself. We couldn’t resist these chickpea filo triangles, which were flavoured with cumin, turmeric, sun-dried tomatoes, and chilli. You probably don’t need me to tell you how good that pastry was. Just look at it! The filling was nice, and the sun-dried tomatoes were definitely the winning touch. They really elevated this, flavour-wise.

Pastry craving satisfied, we decided to focus on recognisably Greek dishes to round out our meal. So we went for these gigandes plaki, or giant beans, in a tomato sauce. The sauce was very rich and herby, and I’d definitely recommend it. It’s just a shame that it (along with our other two dishes) was so heavily garnished with dill. I can’t stand dill, and I hadn’t realised it was so big in Greek cuisine.

And you can’t go for Greek food without getting a moussaka! This one was made with potato, courgette, aubergine, and jackfruit, and it was also nice and flavoursome. Not ideal for sharing, of course, but still tasty. It is worth noting that all of these hot dishes were served lukewarm rather than actually hot, which was a bit disappointing.

All in all, the food was tasty, but the temperature and the atmosphere let it down a bit. And you’d probably have to spend quite a bit of money (or order one of the dips with bread) in order to fill up – we shared these three courses because we just wanted a light meal, but if you were properly hungry you’d definitely need a couple more. I was disappointed not to have room for the baklava, and I’m not sure I’ll be willing to return to see if it’s any good.

Have you ever been to a restaurant that was too noisy to be enjoyable? And what’s the best Greek dish?

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VeganMoFo 2018: Mamy, Prague

Cuisine: Korean

Mamy remains the only Korean restaurant I’ve ever eaten in. It’s always our default option when we have visitors in town, as it’s one of the few Prague eateries I know with both meaty and vegan dishes on the menu. I don’t know much about Korean food, but I’ve always sort of assumed I wouldn’t like it. Just about every ESL teacher ends up in South Korea at some point, but the food was one factor that discouraged me from seriously considering it – not only the lack of meat-free options, but also the spiciness. Fortunately, I’ve found a few mild dishes on the Mamy menu that keep me going back for more.

It is always a good idea to order this fried tofu dish to start. Fried tofu is always a winner in my eyes, and when you factor in a tasty sauce, I’m sold!

The vegetable kimbab is also always a good option – yes, largely because it’s not remotely spicy. I always forget how filling things like this are. It looks like just a few mouthfuls, but before you know it you’ve eaten a whole sack of rice! These are always fresh and delicious.

Dr HH will order anything with dumplings on the side, and rightly so – they are crispy and delicious. He enjoyed this mandu tangsu, with is fried dumplings and vegetables with sweet and sour sauce. This was obviously not as overwhelmingly spicy as the dishes we ordered on our first visit, so he managed to devour the lot.

We also enjoyed this tofu bibimbab, a big bowl with fried tofu, carrots, onions, salad, soy sauce, and rice, with a little dish of soup on the side. This is a hearty dish, but perhaps not quite as exciting flavour-wise as some of the other things we’ve ordered.

I had high hopes for this teriyaki tofu dish, but it was actually disappointingly bland – the tofu hadn’t really absorbed the teriyaki sauce as I’d hoped. Even as a great defender of tofu, I can’t endorse this dish. But they do definitely know how to cook tofu (again, I refer you to the fried tofu starter), so don’t be discouraged from ordering something tofu based if you visit.

Will I ever branch out to another Korean restaurant?! Who knows!

What veganised Korean dishes are top of your list? Any non-spicy, non-fermented dishes you’d recommend for me? (Yes, I’m not a fan of kimchi.)

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VeganMoFo 2018: Sova Vegan Butcher, Dublin

Cuisine: Irish

VeganMoFo is a lot of work for just one person. So here is the gallant Dr HH taking the reins for a day for his annual guest post (check out his excellent previous contributions: the greatest scramble recipe of all time, a detailed history of the best burger vegan spot in Nottingham (the world?), and a guide to demolishing a giant serving of tigelle). What’s he got up his sleeve this year?

Hello Dr. HH here to take you on a culinary tour of Ireland. Around Easter time we went on a little adventure to Dublin for a few days for a little spring sunshine. We actually experienced days of rain, upon rain, upon rain. On the one day it didn’t rain, we were on a day trip a little closer to the coast and were greeted with howling winds instead. None of this could possibly deter us from some holiday feasting though.

You may be wondering, why is Dr. HH talking to us about Ireland?

Does he have some Irish ancestry?

Is it because of his great knowledge of Irish history?

Does he already know the best of Dublin’s eateries?

Is it down to his cracking Irish accent? [Note from Ms HH:NO.]

Sadly, it is none of the above. On the day that we were all set for an Irish breakfast at Sova Vegan Butcher, Ms. HH was struck down with illness. She didn’t think she could even make it to the restaurant, nevermind eat anything, so it was down to me save VeganMoFo. This was a lot of pressure and it weighed heavily on me as we slowly made our way out. There were moments when Ms. HH didn’t think she was going to make it but the sight of numerous medical dogs [Note: they were wearing little medical coats! I really should have asked one of them for a diagnosis] along the high street raised her spirits and convinced her to plod on.

By the time we’d settled in at the restaurant Ms. HH’s spirits and (more importantly) appetite were raised and she managed a macaroni cheese, whilst the serious business of the full Irish was left to me. And serious business it was. A hearty plate came out, stacked with garlic and thyme sausages, streaky bacon, black pudding, scrambled tofu, baked beans, spinach, a tomato half, a giant mushroom, sourdough toast, and a little pot of ketchup. I told you it was hearty.

The sausages were great, lots of flavour and a good meaty texture. The tofu was well seasoned and had a nice eggy taste to it. The streaky bacon was quite the exciting novelty, it seemed to essentially be some tasty well seasoned seitan slices, and I am always delighted to see some nicely fried black pudding on my plate. The breakfast staples of a mushroom and beans were solid, though I always prefer some more mushroom on my plate, and the sauce for the beans had more depth than your regular tin of beans. The tomato and spinach are two things I’m never particularly pleased to have on my plate, I’m generally not a big fan of raw tomato and even this lightly grilled version didn’t particularly elevate it. The spinach fell foul of the usual breakfast spinach problems in that it was just spinach. I never understand why it isn’t seasoned, it doesn’t need much to elevate it to a worthy addition to the plate.

Overall, this was an excellent breakfast. It was a hearty plate with lots of different elements to it, just how I like my cooked breakfast. Three different meaty elements and a mushroom made it quite the treat.

How disappointed would you have been if you were too ill to sample this breakfast? Which component looks the most exciting?

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VeganMoFo 2018: Curry&Co, Dresden

Cuisine:  German

Many of you will know that Berlin is widely regarded as vegan heaven, so it’s not surprising to hear that there are some exceptional examples of veganised German cuisine.  Dr HH and I enjoyed some sensational vegan Bavarian dishes in Munich at Easter 2017, for example.  One dish I’d never had the chance to try was the currywurst.  Until now!

The first time we took a daytrip to Dresden back in 2015 we had Curry&Co down as our backup plan – in the end we were too stuffed from some gigantic burgers.  On our second visit, in 2017, we made it our priority.

There’s a vegan meal deal available, combining the vegan currywurst and chips.  There were several sauces to choose for the sausage, but we just went for the plain old curry one:  I got mild, Dr HH got spicy.  We both enjoyed the gigantic sausages and loved the spicy heat of the sauce (though I found mine a little sweet).  The sausages themselves were like hot dogs, and of course a “real” sausage would have been better, but this was good.

And the chips were delicious!  (They come in paper cones, which you can balance in little holes in the table.)  We were offered ketchup and vegan mayo with them too. They were really crispy on the outside, a very fine chip.

All in all: top notch fast food!

What German dishes have you veganised and loved?

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