Sticky Rice Ball (Ci Fun Tuan)

Sticky Rice Ball Ingredients

Happy Lunar New Year!

Traditionally, a vegetarian dish called jai, also known as Buddhist’s delight, is eaten on the first day of the new year. I’m not actually breaking with tradition as one doesn’t eat jai all the livelong day (I guess you could but I’m not going to). For breakfast, I made a sticky rice ball.

In Chinese, it’s called ci fun tuan, a sticky rice ball/roll made of steamed glutinous rice with a savory filling. While it’s a popular Chinese breakfast item for those on the go, I didn’t grow up eating it on a regular basis.

The one time I vividly remember my mom making something like it was when my sister was still studying at the library around dinnertime. So mom made a rice ball with meat inside of it and made me take it to my sister where it was surreptitiously eaten after a bit of giggling.*

Sticky Rice Ball

As you can see, I need to work on my technique as I had a few thin spots. I was trying to make the rice a thinner layer so it’s not this giant carb bomb.

Originally, the shape was to be a roll. But I had to really squish to get it to stick together and a ball shape was just easier to make. Ci fun tuan from a store have a thick cellophane wrapper, I only had flimsy plastic wrap, so I used parchment paper to shape and wrap up for on the go eating.

Sticky Rice Ball Inside View

The pretty pink color is from sautéed beet greens. I also subbed in Hodo Five-Spice Tofu Nuggets, and fried seitan (found at the Asian supermarket) for the more traditional ingredients of pork floss, pickled mustard greens, cruller, and sichuan vegetable. Other possible veggie fillings: seitan sausage, sautéed mushrooms, really anything that’s not too saucy otherwise it’ll just drip all over. And no one wants that.

* I’m neither advocating nor endorsing eating in a public library.

Sticky Rice Ball (Ci Fun Tuan)
Makes about 4-6 balls depending on size

1 3/4 cup glutinous rice (using the measuring cup that came with the rice cooker)
1/4 cup jasmine rice
A variety of strongly flavored fillings such as baked tofu, seitan sausage, sautéed greens and/or Chinese dried mushrooms

Cooking directions is for use with a rice cooker with a 5.5 cups capacity. Using the inner pot of the rice cooker, rinse the rice in several changes of water until the water is clear. Add enough water to cook the sweet rice as indicated on the inner pot. Let the rice soak in the water for 2 hours before cooking.

Cook the rice according to the rice cooker directions. Allow the rice to cool enough to handle. It’s easier to shape the rice when it’s warm. Lay a piece of parchment paper or heavy duty cellophane in your hand or on a flat surface if that’s easier. Place a scoop of rice on it and spread out, add whatever fillings. Add another layer of rice on top. Using the paper, shape into a ball or tube, pressing firmly until it’s tight and compact.

Make it as big or small as you like. I like mine with a minimal amount of rice, I don’t mind eating carbs but I don’t want to eat a lot of it at one go so I try to use the least amount of rice I can get away with.

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Miyoko’s Creamery

Miyoko's Creamery Chive Cheese

Miyoko's Creamery Classic Double Cream Chive

I never thought I would be swooning over vegan cheese. I remember a time when non-dairy cheese was disgusting to put it mildly. But now thankfully, we live in the era of artisanal vegan cheese.

Ever since I heard about Miyoko’s Creamery, I’ve been anxious to try their cultured nut-based cheese. I had read through Miyoko Schinner’s vegan cheese making cookbook, Artisan Vegan Cheese. But deep down I knew I’m much too lazy and impatient to make my own nut cheese.

I finally spotted the white boxes in the refrigerated section at the Whole Foods near me (Redwood City and San Mateo). There’s only a few flavors available on the store shelves, compared to the many flavors seen on their website.

Miyoko's Creamery Packaging

Actually, it’s probably for the best that the selection was limited otherwise I would still be standing there trying to decide on a flavor. I settled on the Classic Double Cream Chive and Aged English Smoked Farmhouse. The first one I tried is the chive cheese and it’s my favorite. It’s creamy and totally spreadable on a cracker with a great chive taste (pictured at the very top).

Miyoko's Creamery Aged English Smoked Farmhouse

As for the smoked farmhouse, just unwrapping it, you can smell the smokiness. It’s a harder cheese and it crumbled much more easily and wasn’t quite as spreadable compared to the chive cheese. At first, I thought I didn’t care for it but I’ve since come around and appreciate the sharp, rich taste.

Depending on the flavor, prices range from $9.99 to $11.99 for 6.5 oz, it may seem a little pricey but really it’s no different than the cost of a nice, high end dairy cheese. As an occasional treat, my wallet and taste buds have no problem leaving the nut-cheese-making to the experts.

Now & Zen Package Labels

Fun Tidbit:
Anyone else remember Now & Zen? Way back when, they made vegan meaty seitan things like UnTurkey, UnSteak and BBQ UnRibs. I never got around to trying the UnTurkey but I loved the other two (I even saved the packaging labels, I’m such a nerd). I was so sad when the company went out of business. The talent and brains behind Now & Zen was none other than Miyoko Schinner herself. So happy she’s back in business with Miyoko’s Creamery.

This post contains an Amazon link, I get a few coins tossed my way if you click on the link and make a purchase of anything.

5 Easy Vegan Snacks for the Big Game Day

Buffalo Style Roasted Tofu

With Super Bowl weekend right around the corner, lazy me just wants to plop down on the couch with a big bag of potato chips and be done with it. If you’re like me, and the thought of putting out a lavish spread has you feeling deflated, here’s five easy vegan snacks for the big game day.

Buffalo Style Roasted Tofu: A vegan version of buffalo wings. It’s like bar food but you eat it at home. And on game day, you’re allowed to eat in front of the tv in the living room.

Amy's Spicy Chili Fries

Amy’s Spicy Chili Fries: This is for the laziest of the lazy (that would be me), it’s just a can of Amy’s Kitchen Spicy Chili over homemade fries. If you’re super lazy, you could use frozen fries.

Baked King Oyster Mushroom Calamari

Baked King Oyster Mushroom Calamari: Just like fried but better because it’s baked. And it’s not at all fishy (can’t be stinking up the house before kick off), it’s really king oyster mushrooms also know as trumpet mushrooms, sliced into rounds, breaded and baked.

Mini Sloppy Joes

Mini Sloppy Joes: With a mix of smoky maple bacon tempeh and soy chorizo, there’s plenty of flavor packed into these pint-sized sandwiches. Serve with sweet potato fries for a full-sized meal.

Animal Style Taters

Animal Style Taters: At my dream stadium, I would be able to order this, crispy tater tots with melted Daiya cheddar cheese, a drizzle of Thousand Island dressing with vegan mayo, ketchup and sweet relish and topped with caramelized onions.

As simple as everything is to make, lazy me is reserving the right to serve said bag of potato chips on Sunday.

Graze Kitchen Pismo Beach

Graze Kitchen Chef's Vegan Stack Sandwich

So happy to have found another place to eat when visiting family down south along the central California coast. While everyone else was busy scarfing down breakfast at Old West Cinnamon Rolls in Pismo Beach, I spied a bunch of vegan options on the menu next door at the recently opened Graze Kitchen.

Since they don’t open until 10:00am on the weekends, I headed back over to pick up lunch after hanging out at the beach. I got the Chef’s Vegan Stack – grilled zucchini, eggplant, roasted red bell pepper with sun-dried tomato pesto, black olives and pepperoncini on fresh sourdough bread.

So good, the freshness of the veggies really shines through. I’ve dined out on plenty of faux meat sandwiches which I like but an all-veggie sandwich when done really well like this, is just as filling and satisfying, perhaps even more so.

I also got the Graze Quinoa and Kale Salad – marinated artichoke hearts, olives, pepperoncini, red onion, toasted almonds, tossed in an Italian vinaigrette. Expertly seasoned and dressed, with the perfect balance of kale to quinoa. And like the sandwich, you can taste all of the ingredients.

Graze Kitchen Vegan Cowboy Cookie

For dessert, a vegan cowboy cookie. Having never tried a cowboy cookie before, I had assumed it was just a chocolate chip cookie with a fancy name. Taking a bite, it’s a lot harder than I expected, maybe because it’s packed full of chocolate chips and walnuts.

Graze Kitchen is all about being healthy and delicious, as well as local, organic and sustainable. They’re super friendly too. With their varied menu items, there’s something for omnivores, vegetarians, vegans and the gluten-free. I’m hoping to convince the whole family to eat there next time we’re all in town.

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Ramen Yamadaya SF Japantown

Vegan Ramen at Ramen Yamadaya

Happy New Year! It’s hard to believe the holidays have come and gone, it all went by in such a blur. Time seems to speed up as I get older, when I was little, Christmas morning took forever to arrive. Now, I blink and it’s all over.

While on holiday, I had lunch at Ramen Yamadaya in San Francisco’s Japantown. After spending the morning at the Fairmont Hotel gawking at the life-sized gingerbread house*, I was more than ready for a piping hot bowl of vegan ramen.

That’s right, vegan ramen. Rarely if ever seen in Japanese restaurants, but there it was, right there in black and white on the menu amongst the meaty versions of ramen. It comes in your choice of spinach or tomato noodles.

Vegan Ramen at Ramen Yamadaya

I got the spinach noodles. It came in a flavorful, silky, milky broth, topped with bamboo shoots, mushrooms, corn and green onions. It’s just the right portion size, I finished all of it and even drank the broth. A perfect lunch for a cold winter’s day in the city.

* The life-sized gingerbread house is large enough for people to walk-thru it. It’s a bit of a Willy Wonka experience. I was surprised (and kinda grossed out) to see missing pieces of the gingerbread house, I can’t believe people would actually pick off some of the candy pieces. What did they do with it? Did they eat it? Why?

There was a life-sized gingerbread dog house too, that was really cute with the gingerbread in the shape of dog bones.

Graham Cracker Gingerbread House

Graham Cracker Gingerbread House

As I’m not much of a baker, I always feel a bit left out of all the baking and cookie making going on at this time of year. I don’t want to be a Grinch nor do I want to subject innocent, unsuspecting people to my novice baking. Thankfully, there’s no baking involved in making a graham cracker gingerbread house.

While most store-bought graham crackers contain honey, Nabisco Original Graham Crackers (in the red box) are vegan. For the frosting glue, you can use caramelized sugar or vegan royal icing. I went with the royal icing, that stuff works just like cement.

Graham Cracker Gingerbread House Step 1

Using a sharp serrated knife, gently saw off the top corners of two graham cracker sheets for the gable sides. Saw two more sheets in half for the square sides and roof. Have plenty of extra graham crackers handy in case of breakage.

Graham Cracker Gingerbread House Step 2

Pipe icing onto the bottom and side of a square piece. Place on a piece of cardboard or an upside-down paper plate. Use a small jar to prop it up while gluing down the next piece. Pipe icing onto the bottom of a gable piece and attach to the square piece.

Remove the small jar and attach the other sides with icing. Make sure the gable pieces are directly across from each other.

Graham Cracker Gingerbread House Step 3

For the roof shingles, split a mini oreo, and scrape off the filling. Attach it with icing to a square graham cracker. Repeat in a tile patten and let the pieces dry before attaching to the rest of the house with icing.

To make a door, cut a sheet in half and then in half again and attach with icing. Add other assorted decorative candy as desired. I used a strip of seaweed for the walkway and sprinkled shredded coconut around for the snow. Lastly, dust with powdered sugar over the top of the house for an extra festive look.

Vegan Royal Icing
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
2 teaspoons water
2 teaspoons light corn syrup

Stir together the sugar and water until smooth. Add the corn syrup and stir until the icing is smooth and glossy. If icing is too thick, add more syrup. To use, fill a resealable plastic bag and snip off a tiny bit of a corner.

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