Stepping into Liu’s Shanghai, a ten minute walk from the train on a freezing winter night, I was immediately enveloped in warmth. Not just the heating, though that was helpful too, but the tables full of families eating. The piping hot tea. The friendly servers who didn’t seem to mind a single diner taking up a table.
Despite the weather I couldn’t help but order a cold appetizer, the Shanghainese staple kao fu (braised wheat gluten). Int his version the wheat gluten was softer than others I’ve tried, and a great mix of savory and sweet. Boiled peanuts and large chunks of mushrooms were mixed among the shredded gluten, and I would never have guessed that a large cold shiitake would be one of the best mushroom bites I’ve ever had in my life. And I have eaten a lot of mushrooms.
Above you see the vegetarian mock duck, made with silky sheets of bean curd, served with stir-fried baby bok choy. More mild in flavor than the kao fu it was nevertheless nourishing and tasty, particularly the bok choy. It was way more than one person could eat in one setting, so I took most of it home to eat the next day.
One the way back to the train I stopped by Net Cost, a branch of the Eastern European grocery chain, and then J-Mart, and Asian supermarket. Bath Beach is a neighborhood I don’t know much about, but it seems to have a little but of everything I love. I’ll definitely be back.
Liu’s Shanghai — 1869 Bath Ave
A couple of years ago I wrote about Hare Krishna restaurants over on Lost Vegetarian, citing them as a great resource for vegetarian and vegan travelers. I mentioned in that post that we have one here in Brooklyn, Govinda’s Vegetarian Lunch. It’s only open Monday through Friday, from noon to 3:30pm, so it’s not somewhere I can go regularly. But the few times I’ve been I’ve had a great experiences.
You can pay based on the amount of food you want, or you can splurge and get a full meal (pictured here) with a little bit of everything. My most recent visit was the day after Christmas, and the woman behind the counter warned me that it was basically leftovers. Among the offerings I got a pumpkin-sage lasagna, mac & cheese, rice and beans, paneer in tomato sauce, pakoras, a beet salad with pomegranate, and more.
Due to its very specific hours, the Brooklyn Govinda’s may not be ideal for all travelers. But it’s a boon for vegans and vegetarians working in Downtown Brooklyn.
Govinda’s Vegetarian Lunch — 305 Schermerhorn St
We had our first snow of the season this weekend, which had already put me in the mood for soup. Then last night we celebrated a friend’s birthday and I woke up feeling a little under the weather. The result was this big bowl of mushroom miso soup. Here’s what i did.
I started by soaking some dried mushrooms in warm water. Then in a large pot I sauteed some chopped fresh mushrooms in canola oil with salt, pepper, and galangal powder. Once they were fully cooked I added a large splash of vegetarian oyster sauce, which contains mushroom flavoring. I stirred this over heat for a few minutes, and then added a large dollop of awase miso paste (a blend of both white and red miso). I stirred this around for a few minutes, then added the dried mushrooms with the soaking water, then more water, and soy sauce. I brought thus up to a boil, and then let it simmer on low heat for a few minutes. Then I used by stick blender to blend the whole thing up, and let it simmer for another few minutes. Then I strained the mixture and let the finished mushroom miso broth sit over low heat while I prepped the garnishes.
I sliced some fresh mushrooms super thinly and put them aside. In another pot I boiled some salted water. First I blanched some chopped broccolini, then some cubes of extra firm tofu, and then some rice noodles. I know, miso soup doesn’t usually have noodles and you can skip them if you want, but I was craving noodles.
In my bow I put a heaping serving of the cooked rice noodles, then poured the hot broth over them. I arranged the mushroom slices, the tofu, and broccolini on top and then drizzled chili oil over the whole thing.
The mushroom flavor really came through in the broth, and the miso and the chili oil rounded the whole thing out. I’ll definitely be making this again.
I’m surprised to see this is the first Turkish restaurant I’ve written abut on this blog. I’ve passed by Taci’s Beyti many times over the years on the Coney Island Avenue bus, and although I kept meaning to check it out I never did until this past weekend. There isn’t a single vegetarian option among the entrees but there are more than enough appetizers and salads to make a great vegetarian, or even vegan if you wanted, meal. All meals start with a basket of bread, and it’s great. Puffy and soft on the inside, slightly crusty on the outside, and perfect for sopping up sauces. They have all f the classics you’d expect on the menu, from hummus and stuffed grape leaves to artichokes with potatoes. I started with a cold appetizer of red bean stew, served in a light tomato sauce with fresh herbs and lemon. The beans were creamy on the inside, and the bread mopped up the sauce nicely. I also had the spinach pies, five small triangles of filo dough stuffed with fresh spinach blended with a touch of feta cheese. Nothing fancy, just well-made Turkish food. The portions are great for sharing too, so I’d recommend going with a group.
Taci’s Beyti — 1953-1955 Coney Island Ave
Before an… interesting German production of Richard III at BAM, we stopped for a quick German meal at Black Forest Brooklyn. They have a ton of vegetarian and vegan dishes, including an eggplant schnitzel and a vegan bratwurst (pictured above). I’m pretty sure the “brat” was just a Field Roast sausage on a bun, but since I love Field Roast that’s ok. Plus with a bunch of both sweet and hot mustard, plus the vegan sauerkraut, it was spicy and delicious. Even better were the soft pretzel (with more of that mustard) and best off all were the fried mushrooms served with a truffle mayonnaise.
Black Forest Brooklyn — 733 Fulton St
I’m happy to see that Brooklyn’s options for Korean food are getting better. A few years ago we got Insa, the Korean restaurant and karaoke bar, and now we have Hanki Everyday Korean. It’s in the old Tofu on 7th space, which makes it just far enough away that I won’t go there everyday (pun not intended), but close enough that I can order delivery from them and have great vegetarian Korean food here super fast. I recently ordered the vegetable bibimbap — a bowl of rice topped with various fresh, cooked, and pickled vegetables, which is then mixed together with a spicy red pepper paste. I got fried tofu on top as well for a little extra protein. I love bibimbap for its variety of flavors, textures, and temperatures, and even the delivery version worked on all of those fronts.
Hanki Everyday Korean — 226 7th Ave
Outside of soup dumplings I don’t really know a lot about Shanghainese food. The one vegetarian dish I do know about is kao fu, braised wheat gluten served cold in a sweet and savory sauce with peanuts and wood ear mushrooms. That dish was the star of the meal I had at Yaso Tangbao in Downtown Brooklyn. Yaso Tangbao seems to want to be the Shanghainese version of Xian Famous, down to the loud music and the menu on the wall with pictures and number-letter combinations for the dishes. Unlike Xian, where the chewy noodles are the main attraction, my soy garlic noodles were too mushy to really enjoy despite the tasty sauce. My mind keeps wandering back to the kao fu though; the wonderful pillowy texture and the contrasts in flavors were fantastic. I’m now on the lookout for more Shanghai restaurants to explore even more vegetarian options. Any recommendations?
Yaso Tangbao — 148 Lawrence St