For years I’ve heard about Tortilleria Mexicana Los Hermanos, where they make fresh tortillas deep in the heart of Bushwick. In addition to the tortilla factory they have a small no-frills restaurant attached, where you can sample their fresh tortillas. I finally made it out there a few weeks ago, and for $2.50 I got this beautiful, overstuffed vegetarian taco. On top of the fresh corn tortilla is a smear of beans, some fresh veggies and herbs, crumbled queso blanco, crema, and large slices of avocado. They also give you a wedge of lime and access to bottled hot sauce, the addition of which elevated this taco from good to great. You get your hot, your cold The next time I’m in the neighborhood I may make a little detour over to Los Hermanos for a quick snack.
I never ate at Two Duck Goose, which closed last year and re-opened recently as Hey Hey Canteen. Two Duck Goose seemed to be a slightly upscale Chiense-American restaurant; Hey Hey Canteen reinvented itself as a more casual place with a noodle-heavy menu. My friend Hong-An suggested we check it out a few weeks ago, and I decided on the cold sesame noodles. I’m a fan of cold sesame noodles in general, and they sounded like a refreshing way to beat the heat. At Hey Hey Canteen they give youa huge bowl of noodles, and it’s a fresher version of what you’ll find at your neighborhood Chinese place; shreds of carrot and cucumber joined the familiar sesame peanut sauce, and the noodles were chewy and firm. All things being equal I actually prefer the cheaper version from my neighborhood joint, but Hey Hey Canteen does make some tasty noodles.
Hey Hey Canteen — 400 4th Ave
It started, as much of my cooking does, with a problem. I had been buying spring garlic at the farmer’s market, and unlike regular garlic spring garlic comes with long green tops, similar to leeks. I’d been using most of them, but I had trimmed a bunch of the tops off. They were a little tough but had a great garlic aroma, and it seemed a shame to just throw them away. I wondered though, what could I do with them? Thankfully I watch a lot of Jacques Pepin, and in one episode when Jacques was trimming leeks he casually mentioned saving the leek tops for stock. So I had part of the answer; I could make a flavorful stock or poaching liquid with the garlic tops. But what would I poach in that liquid? Luckily I had purchased a beautiful little head of cauliflower at the market as well, and the idea took full shape.
I fulled a large pot with water, and added a healthy amount of salt. A few black peppercorns, a pinch of red pepper flakes, and of course the garlic tops. I brought this to a boil, then reduced the heat and let it simmer for about twenty minutes. While it simmered I trimmed the core off of the cauliflower. I added the whole head to the liquid, and brought it up to a boil and then again dropped the heat and let it simmer. It took about 15 minutes for the cauliflower to become tender all the way through; you can check it by poking it with a knife. I pulled the head out of the water and let it sit on a cutting board to cool off a bit, then sliced it into nice chunks for easier eating.
The cauliflower soaks in all of the garlic-y, seasoned water and keeps its buttery texture. For a little contrast I quickly sauteed some kale and zucchini and seasoned that with some red wine vinegar; the cauliflower needed some acidity to balance it out.
Now that I think about it, the garlic tops should really be included in my Vegetarian Offal project; it’s always good to remember that almost every part of every vegetable can be used for something,
After filming our episode of Lost Vegetarian at Bricolage we stayed for brunch. I knew they had a lot of vegetarian options on their regular menu, but I was curious to see what they would do for brunch. I had the vegetarian breakfast banh xeo — a thin, rice flour crepe, in this case topped with mushrooms, beansprouts, pickled onions, and fried eggs. I’ve had banh xeo a few times, and sometimes they can be greasy. Fortunately at Bricolage they do it right. They also offer a full cocktail program, which we tried as well. The best part was that at the end of the meal Chef Lien Lin bought us our meal. As I’ve mentioned before, many Vietnamese restaurants have token vegetarian options, if they have any at all. At Bricolage they have several options, and so far everything I’ve had was great.
Bricolage — 162 5th Ave
I first heard about Rangoon NoodleLab when the Vegan Shop-Up posted a photo on their Instagram account. I like Burmese food, but it’s hard to find here in NYC and it’s even harder to find vegetarian offerings when you can manage to find Burmese food. Rangoon NoodleLab, a pop-up Burmese food event currently happening weekly at The Bodega in Bushwick, solves both problems. They have a vegan dish on their menu: spicy glass noodles with Burmese yellow tofu, sometimes called shan tofu. Shan tofu is made with chickpeas or yellow split peas rather than soy beans, and it has a unique texture. It’s not quite grainy, but almost pudding-like. At Rangoon NoodleLab they toss the shan tofu with a bright and flavorful lime vinaigrette, making a nice counterpoint to the spicy glass noodles.
You can go to the Rangoon NoodleLab Facebook page to check their schedule and their most recent menu offerings.
Rangoon NoodleLab at The Bodega — 24 St Nicholas Ave
It’s been a while since I posted a cooking post, but that’s not because I haven’t been cooking. One of the dishes I’ve been cooking a lot recently is this vegan kimchi fried rice. There are a lot of reasons for that, but the biggest one is that vegan kimchi has become a lot easier to get. For years most commercially available kimchi was made with the traditional recipe, which includes dried fish or shrimp in the seasoning. Over the past few years, though, several brands have been making vegan kimchi for those of us who love the flavor of kimchi but don’t want the fish. Then the Korean-owned bodega near me (the same place where they told me how to make this) started selling homemade kimchi. And in addition to more traditional kimchi they regularly make batches without the seafood. So it’s easy for me to get. The other reason I’ve been making it a lot is because it’s easy to do, and full of shortcuts. I can get a carton of cooked rice from the Chinese restaurant (conveniently located across the street from the bodega) and I only have to cook the veggies. Here’s a simple variation, though you can make it with anything.
I start by cooking up some sliced shiitake mushrooms and some firm tofu; I let everything get crisp and crunchy, and season it with salt and pepper. While that’s happening I steam some bok choy, and then set it aside for later. When the mushrooms and tofu get crisp I add the vegan kimchi to the hot pan, and stir it around with the mushrooms. When the kimchi is heated through I move everything off to one side and add the cooked rice to the open space in the pan. I season the rice with some soy sauce and let it cook for a few seconds before mixing it with the mushroom/tofu/kimchi. I check it for seasoning and adjust as necessary; sometimes it needs more soy sauce, sometimes it needs a splash of cchili sauce. When it’s seasoned properly I stir in the steamed bok choy, turn off the heat, and add a splash of sesame oil.
As I said you can make this with any combination of veggies you want. Youc ould even do it with just kimchi and rice, no extras. The point is that making the dish is super easy, all you have to do is cheat.
I’d heard good things about the celery root schnitzel at Werkstatt, a relatively new restaurant on Coney Island Ave. I’m a fan of celery root, but I couldn’t quite figure out how they would make schnitzel out of it. I imagined that maybe they formed some mashed celery root into a patty and then fried it, which sounded pretty good to me. It turns out I was wrong, though. I went with some friends for my birthday, and in addition to a yummy giant pretzel and some tasty cocktails I ordered the aforementioned schnitzel (they also have more traditional meat varieties). They take a large slice of whole celery root, boiled until soft in what I’m guessing is seasoned water, and then bread it and fry it. It’s got great flavor and texture, and topped with a squeeze of lemon and some tartar sauce it’s a fantastic dish. As with most Austrian fare the schnitzel come with some tasty salads — cucumber, potato, cabbage, and tomato — but the celery root schnitzel means vegetarians don’t have to make a meal out of those side dishes.
Werkstatt — 509 Coney Island Ave