Bean Curd Sheet Vegan Adventures

I'll bet that's a blog post title that you just could not resist! A few weeks ago, I saw a recipe that someone had posted on Instagram that looked so good that I had to try it.

This is vegan Teriyaki Chicken from a recipe @veggieanh. It uses king oyster mushrooms and tofu skin which is where my adventure began. It was seriously delicious and the tofu skin was weirdly similar to chicken skin. I had a terrible time untangling the tofu skins (also known as bean curd sheets and a bunch of other things) and I am inclined to chalk that up to not knowing what type of tofu skin to use. In case you aren't familiar with it, tofu skin is a little like the skin that forms on top of pudding but as part of the tofu making process. For technical info, you'll have to look elsewhere but I do know that there are people out there making it at home.
I had purchased the first bean curd skin that I saw which was the fresh stuff at T and T Market. It tended to be very sticky and hard to flatten out into sheets. I made a huge mess but the recipe turned out tasty and the 'chicken skin' turned out very well. The advantage of this was that it was very thin but I feel like it would be better sliced up into noodles or something maybe as it was so hard to flatten. 
From this point, I started watching YouTube videos by people who knew what they were doing. Some folks got from somewhere, dried large sheets that flattened easily and rehydrated with very little liquid. I have still not found that product and I feel like the key is on the Chinese symbols that identify the product. The English translation gives no clues as to what the nature of the product actually is. 
One of my next attempts was a recipe for Vegan Duck (from this point forward the recipes are a mish-mash of YouTuber recipes). Again, I obviously used the wrong product but the results were still amazing (it is all about the sauce).
This time I had purchased dried bean curd sheets that would need rehydrating. After a couple of hours in water, this became something that I would compare to vinyl wallpaper and was definitely not the product that I would choose for the duck recipe. However, it is what I had so I went ahead and rolled the sheets as the YouTube video instructed. This brand of sheets did not behave well (although it tasted just like all bean curd does) but I was able to salvage a few finished rolls as you see above.
Next, I attempted to make bean curd skin 'bacon'. Vegans seem quite enthused (myself included) about making something that tastes like bacon and ideas are all over social media. I tried a couple of different types of products and finally found a thin sheet that comes in maybe 4" by 8" squares.
These sheets worked the best as 'bacon' although I took the thin sheets and folded them once so the strips are double layered. Again the whole trick is in the marinade and this was a very good one. Just Google a recipe and you will find something that suits you. I think this came from a YouTuber called Sauce Stache and the result was smokey and sweet and I will make it again.
Finally, we tried another more traditional Chinese recipe for a Bean Curd Roll. I used another brand of thicker sheets and you can see from the photo and the texture that it is a little heavier. I'm not sure if traditionally, a thick sheet would be used. These are both fried and then braised (or maybe steamed) and just filled with all kinds of vegan ingredients. They were quite tasty and once again the sauce was the star! 

Some of the thicker product worked just fine when torn into pieces and paired with a nice stir fry sauce as in the dish above. Of course, tofu and all its related products are quite neutral in flavour and so provide a palette for whatever you like as sauces and marinades. Healthy, of course, as soy provides one of the few complete non-animal proteins. I will continue to look for the very thin large sheets that I see in the YouTube videos. But this was fun and educational, at least for me! 

Edible Flours - Vegan Bakery

Once you start looking for it, it is surprising how many bakeries are either fully plant-based (as EF) or at least have options. That's not to say that we need more baked treats but it's nice to know that they are out there. Located on West Broadway near Arbutus, Edible Flours is only one bus from Commercial Street Station.

Admittedly, it is again about the opportunity to use our Plant-Based Deals book that brought us to Edible Flours. That, of course, is the point of the book namely to get us to places that we have not been and we were ultimately glad that we visited.
When we think bakery, we are inclined to think sweet rather than savoury which is just not the case. While the Apple Sticky Bun was amazing, and full of apple and cinnamon, the Spinach Artichoke Roll was very tasty as well. They seem to have their vegan cheese game well in hand and it contributed greatly to this pastry. Main course and dessert on one plate!
Mharie is a big fan of the Starbucks lemon bar (not vegan) so we thought we should try the EF Blueberry Lemon Bar for comparison. Guess what? Edible Flours is a hands-down winner! Never mind the fact that, beyond black coffee, Starbucks doesn't seem to have much interest in vegans. This was a moist and tasty cake with delicious lemon icing. Very nice!
There is a plant-based Nanaimo Bar available here but our server told us that the Smores Bar is her favourite so we tried that. This was indeed rich and wonderful. The challenge for the bakers here was to produce marshmallows that are plant-based and of course, the choice of chocolate and they have nailed it on both fronts. Well done Edible Flours!
EF is in a nice airy space and you can watch the bakers in the back if you choose. They also have some outside tables. The staff were friendly and even told us that they are busy exploring their Plant-Based Deals book!
Food                        4 out of 5
Vegan Options         5 out of 5
Comfort                    4 out of 5
Service                     4 out of 5
Value                        4 out of 5

Budgies Burritos - Vegan Options and a Show!

In an area that I have come to refer to as the Vegan Triangle (ask me why), Kingsway, Broadway and Main,  we stopped for lunch at Budgies Burritos where everything on the menu including quesadillas and nachos, is vegan friendly. It is our second use of this year's Plant Curious Plant Based Deals Book which has now officially paid for itself!

We ordered a couple of burritos and a couple of tacos and couldn't even finish them (obviously they came home with us).
One of our burrito choices was the Jamedog. At no time did it occur to me to ask where the names of any of these things came from but someone should! This one kind of centered around garlic and lime roasted potatoes which were pretty tasty. Rice, beans, cheese, and cabbage kind of rounded out the tasty whole wheat tortilla wrapped meal and we enjoyed it. 
We also ordered The Henry which I cut in half myself and almost mangled beyond recognition. This one had Tofurkey Kielbasa sausage as its main ingredient. I have to admit that the sausage was not bad. It has to be at least 20 years since I have tried a Tofurkey product and I have carefully avoided it ever since. I guess things change over 2 decades. Each of the burritos came with options; black beans or pinto, whole wheat or white tortilla, cheese or guacamole. We tried to change things up a bit.
We tried a couple of tacos as well, one with a marinated tofu and one which ended up being Tofurkey again which was fine (I don't think that is what we ordered). We asked for cheese on one of the tacos and it was nicely melted on the tortilla and with all the usual taco stuff  these were both nice messy tasty snacks. One criticism that we have was that the cheese in the burritos was unmelted and really, the centre of the burritos was not really warm. Once you order, these are basically assembled from ready ingredients and then warmed. Melting vegan cheese sometimes requires attention and we fell like if it was applied directly to the tortilla, it would be more successfully done...melted, that is. This from us as expert burrito makers. 
BB is not what you would call a new fancy place. It is a bit 60s or 70s or something and we like the hominess, old diner stools to sit on and eclectic d├ęcor! We even like the dizzying wallpaper in the bathroom. There is a whole other dining room with booths downstairs. This is a very good place for a quick and substantial lunch or dinner and I wish it was close to home.
And as for the show, as we were munching on our burritos, one BB patron sprinted out the door. Someone on the street had picked up his bike and casually, started down the road with it. The bike was rescued and no punches were thrown to my knowledge. It lent some excitement to our lunch! Lock up your bike even if you are just waiting for a burrito!
Food                                      3 1/2 out of 5
Vegan Options                       4 1/2 out of 5
Comfort                                 3 1/2 out of 5
Service                                  3 1/2 out of 5
Value                                     4 out of 5



Sushi Maro - Vegan Options - Plant Curious Deals Book

We love this year's Plant Curious Plant-Based Deals Book even more than last year's. This year's book is less expensive to purchase, has more deals, and is valid for a longer period of time! Why haven't you bought yours yet! There are a few places in the book that we have never been to and didn't know about. Sushi Maro was on our list already but the book saved us a few bucks!

SM, which is located on Mainland in Yaletown. It is not a vegan restaurant but has a whole separate vegan menu and we love that!
We started with Ohitashi because I had never heard of it! This is a naturally vegan dish (unless you add bonito flakes) of blanched spinach and broth, flavored with soy sauce. It was very good.
The Vegan Bento Box gives a nice little cross-section of tasty items and comes with miso soup on the side. The deep-fried tofu was lightly battered and just crispy and the teriyaki sauce made it flavourful. A nice little salad, some crispy veggie tempura and a yam tempura roll rounded out the box. A pretty good lunch at $13.50. We were impressed except the yam roll left a little to be desired. Yam is a bit too much on the mushy side to be the subject of a roll and didn't seem to be very tempura. It didn't do much for us.
We tried all the nigiri that they had to offer. The avocado was predictable but tasty enough and we are always fans of Onigiri. The salmon (I think it is tomato) had an interesting texture and flavour which made it a nice bite. I don't think a pescatarian would be fooled but that's not really the point.
So we tried 3 of the Chef's Special Rolls which officially made us gluttons but allowed us to use our coupon! The first 2, kind of blend together a little bit. First, was the Mango Roll featuring, your guessed I wasn't paying enough attention at the time but soy skin is a part of this and I'm not sure where. It was very fresh and bright with avocado, pine nuts and a mango sauce.
Next was the King Veggie Roll. More avocado and mango but this time with yam tempura. Again, the yam was not overly impressive. I think a little more tempura crispiness could have helped here and less actual yam which made the whole thing a little too sweet.
Finally, we had the Taste of Yaletown Roll. The centre of this one which is maybe vegan crab cake (?) is a little non descript and not very memorable. There was at least a spicy note with a bit of jalapeno and a splash of hot sauce on the top but it was still not our favourite thing.
The staff and service were friendly and quite attentive. We liked that the room was a bit cluttery feeling and maybe informal. They have a nice outdoor seating space. We are always happy that someone is making an effort to serve plant based food and we hope that they continue to refine the craft.
Food                         3 1/2 out of 5
Vegan options          4 1/2 out of 5
Comfort                    4 out of 5
Service                     4 out of 5
Value                        3 1/2 out of 5


Cobs Bread - Vegan Options

Cobs Bread is making the purchasing of plant-based items from their bakeries easy and exciting. They are providing ease by clearly labelling, in-store and online (search plant based) which items are suitable for vegans and there is a surprising choice. Also, they are providing motivation, by advertising on Insta and elsewhere, their latest vegan item, Cinnamon Buns!

Now there are quite a few places around Metro Vancouver where you can find vegan Cinnamon Buns and that is a good thing but to get them might require some driving and a plan. With nearly 40 Cobs locations in the Lower Mainland, you are never far from plant based goodies.
So above is a Plant-Based Cinnamon Bun for $3.80, the same price as the regular so a) no vegan tax and b) why would you buy the regular? Admittedly, it is a little squished as it came home in a box jammed in a bag with a bunch of other stuff. This was a great cinnamon bun but not the world record holder. I would buy them again. You can get a 6 pack of minis (healthier if you eat them one at a time and not all at once) for $8.45.
So I came for the Cinnamon Bun but stayed for the Wild Blueberry and Custard Teatime. Hard to imagine custard with no egg but you can search the ingredients. I'm not saying that I know what all the ingredients are (and does anyone really?) but there is no dairy or eggs involved. At only $7, this is not expensive as you can get 6 to 8 servings (or maybe only one). Very tasty and slightly messy but worth it.
We've all had Focaccia and I don't know if it usually is not plant-based? This one was pretty good. With rosemary and sea salt, it was a little crispy but nice and soft on the inside.
There is a lot more to be tried and nice to be able to sort easily what is plant-based without having to quiz the staff. Thanks, Cobs!
Food                     4 out of 5
Vegan Options      4 1/2 out of 5
Comfort                Sure
Service                 4 out of 5
Value                    4 1/2 out of 5

Zilla's Donuts, Abbotsford - Vegan Options

I found this place only because it popped up on Google Maps in a place where I was not expecting to see a donut shop (in the middle of a residential area). It turns out that I am the last to know about it as they were already closed the first time we ventured by one Saturday afternoon (sold out!). The next time I showed up just after opening at 8:30 am on Sunday morning and had my first thing in the morning choice of some beautiful donuts.

Located in a newish mixed-use building in a neighbourhood close to George Ferguson and Gladys in Abbotsford, you will need to Google Map it yourself to get there. Of course, I would not have gone out of my way on a Sunday morning if the temptation of plant-based donuts did not present itself. I ordered 6 (one of each for that day) and a coffee to go and took them home to share.
In order to not send our blood sugar levels to dangerous levels, Mharie and I cut each donut in half and then into quarters (we have to try them all, don't we?) and so we really only ate a donut and a half each! The rest of the donuts lasted another day or two and stood up pretty well to being refrigerated. I can't remember what each of them was but we are looking at S'mores and some sort of candied walnut thing above. The walnut thing was cream filled, amazing and very rich. The chocolate was very good on the S'mores donut which is a challenge when you are making something animal product free.
The others were, roughly, Black Forest, Matcha, something chocolate with raspberry and something a little more tropical (with the pineapple). The BF donut was ridiculous. Cherry pie filling filled as you would expect with again, pretty good chocolate, this was my personal favourite. The Matcha was pretty impressive as well.
These donuts were all cakey and substantial and not of the airy Krispy Kreme ilk. You really don't need to have more than one. They were all impressive and worth the $21 for a half dozen.
The plant-based donuts are available on the weekends and they open at 8:30 am. I don't know if you have to be there that early, but for me, it's not worth taking a chance on missing out! And yes, their logo has the silhouette of Godzilla so there is that. Also, they plan to build a deck outside one of these days.
Food                           4 out of 5
Vegan Options           4 out of 5
Comfort                      3 1/2 out of 5
Service                       4 1/2 out of 5
Value                          4 out of 5

Chicago Twist Pizza - Vegan Options

Vegan pizza is definitely becoming more of a thing all the time and I seem to be reviewing a lot of it (well, I like pizza!). However, I notice that particularly on frozen pizza (which we rarely buy) there is a hefty vegan tax despite the fact that there is affordable and decent quality vegan cheese available now. I always debate (with myself mostly) whether the vegan tax applies due to low volumes (no economy of scale) or the notion that vegans are generally wealthier (not this guy) and you can charge them more? Regardless, there are pizza joints too, that charge more and there are pizza joints that charge the same for the vegan cheese option and frankly, I am happy for either.

Chicago Pizza Twist seems to have popped up out of nowhere and there are already 4 branches in the lower mainland. There are branches in random places in Ontario as well according to their website. I noticed that their website menu has a plant-based section which is always nice and makes selection you would think. Ordering a plant-based pizza from the CTP plant-based menu does require some strategy. We used the strategy to order 3 pizzas for takeout from the White Rock location.
We started with a large Pepperoni which turned out to be a really good pizza!  I mean seriously, it was cheesy and tasty and the crust was not bad. The pepperoni itself was really quite decent and even a bit crispy. The only ordering problem is that the pizza is not really plant-based until you select vegan cheese for an extra $2. That $2 applies to any size so that is OK. Not too complicated so far and good pizza!
Next up was the vegan Barbeque Chicken Pizza which was again pretty good but here things got complicated. In addition to the extra $2 (the 2 bucks is nothing but the pizza is listed as plant-based and is not until you modify it!) I asked specifically if the creamy garlic sauce was vegan and I was assured on the phone, that it was. A few minutes later, I got the call that it was not vegan and that they could substitute their red sauce. I thought it was excellent that they called as I would never have known the difference. The same applied to the third pizza that we ordered which was the Tropical Curry (i.e. vegan Tika sauce was not vegan?) Anyway, the chicken was our least favourite thing on any of these pies. Not bad tasting but a little cardboardish in texture. Not absolutely sure what they use for chicken. The rest of the pizza was really quite good even with red sauce!
The third was the Tropical Curry Pizza Twist and I honestly don't know what sauce it came with. I think the vegan Tika Sauce is in fact vegan and someone on the phone was just confused about that one. Again, this was a really good plant-based pizza and I would order it again. Like many of the pizzas on their menu, this one was Indian flavour leaning which we love. Decent crusts on all 3 including the one that we ordered with thin crust (you have a lot of choices here).
The most amazing thing of all is that when we arrived to pick them up, they had made us a 4rth pizza at no charge! I'm not sure if it was over the confusion (which certainly did us no harm) or if they made the veggie twice thinking that they had to change the sauce. Of course, this is mostly a take-out place but there is lots of room to sit down and eat, if you choose to do so. Also, since we tried their pizza, they seem to have added like 5 more plant-based pizza choices. Nicely done CPT!
Food                       4 out of 5
Vegan Options        4 out of 5
Comfort                   3 1/2 out of 5
Service                    4 1/2 out of 5
Value                       4 out of 5

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Are you guys eating again? At some point Marie and I became the kind of people who take pictures of everything we eat, whether in a restaura...