So in my last post, I was on the fence about the recipes I’d tried from Urban Vegan. Not anymore. Not since last night, when (despite the ridiculous heat) I made one of the recipes that I’d seen strongly recommended from the book. Chocolate-chipotle chili.
I made this because it was one of the recipes from Urban Vegan that I found genuinely unique and interesting-sounding. It also gave me the opportunity to use my giant bag of chipotle powder for the first time. This was complex and rich and satisfying and generally delicious, and I’m sure it’ll become a winter staple here.
Despite my newfound love for this recipe, Urban Vegan still hasn’t been one of my favourite books to cook from. Other than the issues with serving sizes (which I mentioned earlier), I wasn’t a fan of the book’s tendency to rely on pre-made items like vegan sour cream or jarred curry pastes. I wouldn’t mind this at all if the book included recipes to make these basic things, but it didn’t. I’m no purist and I definitely use the pre-made versions from time to time, but that doesn’t mean that I would ever consider them for the basis of published recipes. I also found the commentary preceding a lot of the recipes to be fairly grating- snide comments about how urban dwellers are so fabulously skinny (with the implication being that this is inherently a good thing) doesn’t make me want to rush off to make the accompanying mini-brownie recipe.
But on the plus side, this chili. Seriously.
As of today, I’ve moved on to the next book- an old favourite, Vegan With a Vengeance. I don’t turn to this as often as Veganomicon, but it’s still always offered me solid recipes. Tonight I tried something that I’d heard a lot of people loving, but that I’d never tried. Brooklyn pad thai.
I’d never made this before because I am admittedly fussy about pad thai. I never order it in restaurants here because I’ve never found one that I like. I’m quite attached to my own pad thai non-recipe, which generally comes about from me pouring in sauces and adding seasonings to taste, until I’ve come as close as possible to replicating the pad thai that I had in Aranyaprathet, Thailand just after we crossed the border from Cambodia. It was my first real pad thai, eaten in a roadside cafe built from fallen trees while our bus was searched for all the terrible things that Westerners tend to bring with them.
I usually find pad thai dishes in Australia to be far too sweet, and I could tell from reading the recipe that this would be the case with the (self-proclaimed inauthentic) Brooklyn pad thai. I made a couple of changes to the recipe, mainly to reduce the sweetness, lest I completely hate it. It definitely wasn’t the best pad thai I’ve had, or made, but it wasn’t awful. Chadwiko proclaimed that the addition of tomato in the sauce made it ‘zesty’, but I found it out of place. But I did like the addition of red onions and spring onions, both of which added some colour- and made it a much prettier dish than my version.
It’s not a favourite, but it opened my eyes and got me to try a couple of new things. Which is what this cookbook challenge is all about for me. I’m looking forward to seeing how else this favourite book of mine can shake up the old a little.