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Veggie, Peanut Tofu, Tien Hiang, and a Summer Salad

May 24, 2010

On Friday, while Graham was at a talk, I went out wandering South of the Seine. I found this lovely little place in the 7th arrondissement, which makes vegetarian pastries and lunch food.

The woman who runs Veggie was very kind, and was able to explain to me exactly which pastries and salads were vegan. (She also sells lots of fancy imported foods and organic produce, which looked fantastic.) I couldn’t help but pick up an mini apple pie to go.

When Graham and I met up at home, we were both very hungry and, since we’ve begun to catch on to the fact that eating economically may involve eating out at well-chosen places, we decided to head back to what we now call “Falafel Alley,” where we sampled some falafel from a different kosher falafel maker, Chez Marianne.

These were good, though perhaps not quite as good as the falafel as Chez Hanna. First, these had a different, hotter kind of tomato sauce. Second, the eggplant was served mashed, instead of in carmelized slices. Third, the falafel balls were themselves not very spicy (I think you were meant to adjust their spiciness using the tomato chili sauce), and were more on the super-deep-fried-and-crispy side of the falafel spectrum. These were, like the Chez Hanna falafel, served with different kinds of cabbage, cucumbers, and tomato (though no carrots). They did, however, come with tiny dill pickles, which is a plus. So, all and all, very good. I think I just prefer the Chez Hanna falafel a little bit more. 

On Saturday, we took some time to do some very touristy stuff, like walk down the Champs Elysees to the Eiffel Tower. 

Now, I won’t go into too much detail (since our focus is food), but on our way home we found a very interesting bookstore devoted to old books on (and old tools used in) mathematics,

which actually had  what appeared to be a 2nd edition print of Newton’s Principia Mathematica.

Graham was very excited.

When we got home, we decided to use our extremely inexpensive Asian market tofu, and made some peanut tofu with basil-rice and curry-roasted sweet potatoes. Now, when we first opened up the tofu, I was skeptical–it was extremely soft, almost like soft vacuum-packed tofu. I’m also generally bad at frying tofu, and so was especially hesitant to attempt to fry this stuff. So, Grand Master Tofu stepped in, and turned our super-moist tofu blob into this.

I’m pretty sure it involved witch-craft.

While Graham worked on the tofu, I made the rice, the sweet potato spears, and some peanut sauce for drizzling. With our culinary powers combined, we produced a very nice meal.

Though I can’t tell you how to fry tofu like this (you’ll have to ask Graham), the rest is pretty easy. I just chopped up a sweet potato, with the skins on, dumped it into a bowl, and mixed it with a little bit of oil, curry powder, and salt. I then put the sweet potatoes on a baking tray, and baked them at 180 (celcius) for about 30 minutes.

While those were going, I put on some rice, which I cooked in that basil-intensive bouillon I mentioned a few posts ago. For some reason (and it may just be because I’m accustomed to a rice cooker), whenever I’ve made this rice it hasn’t turned out quite right–overcooked in some spots, undercooked in others, and overall quite wet. So, I decided not to fight it, and overcooked all of it, adding a little nutritional yeast at the end and calling it “creamy.”

The peanut sauce is essentially the same one you can find in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, but without the cilantro. (I can’t really provide measurements, since there are no measuring utensils in this apartment.) I put about 2 Tbsp. of peanut butter into a small bowl, along with 2 giant cloves of garlic (chopped), about 2 tsp. of rice vinegar, a few tsp. of La Yu chili oil, about 1 Tbsp. of soy sauce, and a pinch of sugar. I mixed it up, mixed in a little water to get the right consistency, and drizzled it (at room temperature) on the tofu right before eating. The great thing about recipes like this is that they’re very easy to adjust to your tastes–if you like sweet peanut sauces, you can add more sugar; if you like vinegary sauces, you can add more vinegar or soy sauce; if you like tangier sauces, you could add some lime juice and cilantro; if you don’t want it to be super garlicky, just put in one clove; etc.

The next evening (Sunday), we ventured out into the 11th arrondissement to check out a vegetarian Chinese restaurant call Tien Hiang. It was interesting walking out there from the 1st, since the neighborhoods change so quickly. You move from the tourist-mobbed 1st, through the quaint (though also tourist-mobbed) Marais, into a quieter, more residential area with more modern-looking buildings. Although the area around Tien Hiang isn’t as quaint as some of the “inner” neighborhoods, it was still pretty neat. Before dinner, we found a little cafe where we sat down to have some tea and coffee, and some people inside (with guitars) broke into song. It was a little jam session among old men, and was generally delightful.

(On a side note: I’ve witnessed quite a few, even more spontaneous instances of people breaking into song in public since I’ve been here. It’s really something else. One night, when Graham and I were walking home after dark, we passed by a little park near Les Halles. In the park, huddled in a circle, were a group of young men. Now, coming from South Bend, when I see young men huddled in circles at nighttime in a park, I expect, in consecutive order, 1) shoes hanging from telephone wires, 2) gunshots, and 3) sirens. So, I was a little hesitant when Graham suggested, “Hey, let’s go look around that park!” But of course, just as we passed by the group of huddled men, they broke out into five-part acapella harmony. Seriously. They had gotten together at night, in the park, just to sing together. Of course.)

Back to Tien Hiang. They had a huge menu–I think it took us about 20 minutes to decide what to get–and all of it was very reasonably priced (about 6 or 7 euros for a dish). We got some crispy little dumplings first,

which had a tasty “minced meat” and vegetable filling.

These came with a sauce that seemed to be a tomato-plum sauce.

Graham got Thai rice, which actually reminded me more of Nasi Goreng.

I got the lemongrass “chicken,” which was, well, awesome.

This was cooked with lots of lemongrass, and was seasoned in a way that I’ve never actually considered seasoning seitan before.

This afternoon, we thought a little cold pasta salad would be nice (since it got up to about 85 today). So, we made some spaghetti (which was, of course, left by the former tenant), and mixed that with raw broccoli, celery, onions, egg-less, mayo (from Loving Hut), a little vinegar, a little spicy mustard, lemon juice, dill, black pepper, and sea salt.

A perfect summer lunch, thanks to Loving Hut.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. adriana brown permalink
    May 25, 2010 2:49 pm

    What treats, what delices!! “to live like gods in France/Paris” is I think a Dutch expression!!
    LOVE
    Adriana

  2. Kiki permalink
    May 25, 2010 6:30 pm

    Hi Amelia,

    The food looks great – again! I also like the pictures of both of you with the Eiffel Tower a lot.

    I finally found that list of English bookstores again and I will make sure to scan and email it to you sometime soon. Very fun for Graham to find that 2nd edition Newton!

    Oh, and ‘Leven als een god in Frankrijk’ is definitely a very relevant Dutch expression! 🙂

    Please say hi to Graham from us!

  3. Caroline Brooks permalink
    June 4, 2010 5:33 pm

    That peanut sauce sounds awesome – I hope i can remember to try that sometime! Sounds like you two are having a wonderful time. As good as some of the food looks even to me, I really enjoy the non-food sidenotes, too!

  4. Haley permalink
    June 25, 2010 11:00 pm

    Could Graham share his Tofu Mastery sometime in the future? I’d definitely be interested in learning!

    Also, this woman at the place nearby told me a trick for tofu that I hadn’t heard of before (although you may have) — freeze the tofu the night before you want to use it, then thaw it in the refrigerator.

    By the way, my mouth is watering from looking at all of these tasty foods. And I’m even eating right now!

    • June 26, 2010 8:47 am

      Yes, I think I see a guest post coming on… Although I’m worried that Graham might just be a tofu natural, and may be unable to communicate his know-how to the rest of us, except by example. I should post a video or something.

      With that said, I think you’re the last person who needs tofu tips! I always loved your tofu.

      Ah, yes, freezing tofu can work well. It will change the texture of the tofu into something a little more sponge- fory, which can be good. I think that that method is especially good breaking into pieces, and turning into “ground pork” or “ground beef” by browning it in some oil and adding some soy sauce and spices. Yum!

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