The inaugural post for Vegan Happy Hour is inspired by a recent excursion to a well known Chinese restaurant chain for some drinks in celebration of receiving a sparkling annual performance review at work. I had just spent a week in Virginia on business getting up at unholy hours of the morning (a.k.a. midnight! have you ever started working at midnight?!) and the first thing I wanted to do when I got back was to grab some drinks with the wife-unit and get some decent, clean, vegan food. It was extremely hard to find vegan food while on travel. Airport food just wasn’t available outside of nuts and raisins and the area I was staying in was a shrine to the fast food empires. I needed something tasty to nom on and drinks to reset my system.
We saddled up to the bar and happily ordered a large Asahi and a caipirinha. Chinese restaurant around us be damned, I wanted a Japanese beer and the wife-unit wanted some fruity Latin drink. Welcome to California I guess.
We took a look at the appetizer menu as the waitress prepared our drinks and found “vegetarian” options. We had a choice of lettuce wraps (UGGHGHHCHCHCHC!!!!) or spring rolls. Lettuce wraps can go F themselves so we went with the spring rolls which to be completely honest, we weren’t sure were vegan but a small amount of research on the internet said that their vegetarian marked items were in fact vegan, so we proceeded.
As I gave the bartender our spring roll order and sipped on my Asahi, I longingly looked at the couple to our left as they heartily slurped up hot and sour soup. The wife-unit saw the couple to our right giggling while they ate their cream cheese wontons and we both declared them as part of this week’s dinner menu at home. A couple of glasses of malbec later, we left while visions of conquering Chinese food danced in our heads.
Fried wontons are one of the easiest things in the world to make in my opinion, but making hot and sour soup was foreign to me so I fired up Google and started researching. Most of the higher rated recipes that I found had exotic ingredients like black fungus (Wood Ear), Cloud Ear fungus or lily buds. Plus they were not vegan. I don’t know what those exotic ingredients are and the thought of eating anything that has the words “ear” and “fungus” in the name turned me off so I looked for something simpler. This vegan hot and sour soup recipe is closely based on one of those “simple” hot and sour recipes with a few tweaks to make it vegan and to fit my taste. The vegan cream cheese wontons recipe follows the soup recipe below.
Vegan Hot and Sour Soup – serves 4-8
- 8 cups of vegetable stock (I used buillon cubes and water)
- 6 tablespoons shoyu/soy sauce
- 1 package of seitan (broken into nugget sized pieces then sliced into thin strips)
- 1-1.5 cups of diced mushrooms
- 1-1.5 cups thinly sliced bamboo shoots
- 4 stalks of green onion
- 1 tbsp of chili-garlic sauce (I used Sriracha)
- 1/2 tsp ground white pepper
- 1/2 cup white vinegar (this is what makes it sour)
- 4 tbsp cornstarch
- 2 tbsp ground flax seed (optional-just cuz I wanted to throw some in)
- 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
Bring the vegetable stock to a boil in a large pot then reduce heat to a simmer. Add the shoyu/soy sauce, seitan, mushrooms, and garlic chili sauce and simmer for about 5 minutes. Add the white pepper, white vinegar and bamboo shoots and simmer for another 5 minutes. Mix the 4 tbsp of cornstarch with 4 tbsp of water and mix until its smooth/not clumpy then add to the soup and stir well. Simmer for about 5 minutes until the soup has thickened. Add the green onions, sesame oil, and ground flax (if using). Serve hot.
Vegan Cream Cheese Wontons
- Wonton wrappers (about 3-4 per person)
- Vegan cream cheese
- Vegetable oil suitable for frying
Heat oil to about 350 degrees. Just enough oil to cook half of a wonton because you can flip them over to cook both sides. Put about a tablespoon of vegan cream cheese onto a wonton wrapper and wet the inside edges of the wonton wrapper with water. Bring the outside edges of the wrapper (not the corners!) together in the middle to make a wonton like you see in a Chinese restaurant. Wet the outside edges of the wonton if necessary to make a good seal. The seal is important because if it isn’t tight, the cream cheese will escape during frying and you will be disappointed to just have a fried wonton wrapper at the end. Fry in the oil until the wonton wrapper is lightly browned.