Sometimes the menus at Vegan restaurants seem like they are written in another language, below is a simple guide to decoding some of the most commonly used ingredients in a vegan/vegetarian’s diet…
Alright, so you’re in a hip vegan/vegitarian restaurant with your super cool bohemian girlfriend/boyfriend and you want to impress them by ordering something truly earth friendly. Looking at the menu however, it looks like it is written in another language (hippy-ese): “Freshly grilled seitan over a bed of local rainbow chard and quinoa” or perhaps you’d like to try the “terikayi tempeh with brown rice”
The girl/guy you’re with has ordered and is staring at you waiting for your decision, the sweat beads down your forehead and nervously you order something that you can’t even pronounce…
Luckily guys, I am about to create a comprehensive list to identify and explain some common vegan and vegetarian food items so you never find yourself caught in this embarassing situation. (you can thank me later) Here we go.
Tofu is a product made of soy protein rendered from soy milk. It is made in the same type of way as cheese in that the soy milk is cultured and the curds are pressed to ultimately form tofu. By itself, tofu does not really have any specific taste, but it is a delicious addition to meals with other prominent ingredients and powerful sauces as it takes on the flavor of whatever it is being prepared with. Tofu is a staple protein source for vegans and vegetarians. It is also dairy/gluten free.
Tempeh is nothing but a bunch of soybeans fused together in a natural fermentation process. Yeah I know, this sounds kind of funky, but it actually yields are really delicious nutty flavor and texture. Unlike tofu (which is also made from soybeans), tempeh is made up of a whole bean, rather than going under further refining processes. Usually, tempeh is served grilled and marinated (see above photo) and tastes particularly good with teriyaki sauce (in my humble opinion).
Originating in the Andean region of South America, quinoa is a delicious protein-rich(12-18%) grain that adds heartiness to any vegetarian or vegan meal. Quinoa has a somewhat nutty flavor and retains the flavor of any sauce that it is prepared with, thought it also tastes good all by itself. It holds much historical value for native communities in South America but it requires a relatively long growing season in very particular climates. While the quinoa you find in the grocery store might not be grown locally, it is still a better option than pre-packaged, pre-cooked white rice (like Uncle Ben’s *cringe*)
4) Seitan: (a.k.a. Wheat Meat)
While that might look like a delicious steak dinner you would order at Houston’s, in reality that is actually not meat at all. I introduce to you, Seitan, a protein rich ‘meat-like’ food made from wheat gluten. Seitan is one of my favorite vegan meat subsitutes. It legitmately does taste like meat, minus the substandard slaughterhouse and high blood pressure. If you’re afraid of breaking too far away from your carnivorous lifestyle, Seitan is probably the closest thing you can have to the real deal. No weird textures here.
Vegenaise is a common Mayo-type product that is found in almost every vegan restaurant, it can also be purchased commercially. Basically, this stuff tastes like mayonnaise, looks like mayonnaise, and has the same textures as mayonnaise. The only difference is that this product is made without the use of eggs or dairy. Because it is not made with animal products, it has ZERO cholesterol (real mayo has at least 5mg per tablespoon)!
Alright, though this list is not complete, it does offer a quick review of some of the most commonly used ingredients in vegan and vegetarian cuisines. So don’t be afraid folks, go out and indulge! hey, it’s good for you!