Meatless Monday: NYC Style Tofu and Vegetable Tempura

(Note: This is re-run — currently traveling in Denver.  We will be back to our regularly scheduled program on Wednesday.)

Way back….way back…in the old days, the 80s, I was a vegan. Yup. Yup. I know it’s hard to believe but I was and living the romantic (not!) bohemian (not!) life in New York’s Tribeca. Times were tough. Money was not plentiful (It’s not now either). I was young, idealistic, hungry having just graduated school, working in an art gallery doing marketing plus waiting tables to make ends meet.

Vegetables and Tofu for Tempura

It was the late 80s, early 90s. The Tunnel was the place to go. Tama Janowitz was big in the literary circles. Madonna was doing “voguing”. Ross Bleckner was the artist everyone was buying and I got involved in my first relationship and started to cook vegan. We decided to stop eating dairy products since he was lactose intolerant. His parents never removed his tonsils as a child, he was now subjected to severe bouts of strep throat for weeks at a time, especially after he drank milk or ate cheese. Bacteria clung to his tonsils and had a party.

We lived in a converted loft in Tribeca on Franklin Street, between West Broadway and Broadway, three blocks south of Canal Street. At the time, there was a store about three blocks to the West, called Commodities just up from the glorious restaurant Chanterelle. It was a huge massive store. One of the few groceries stores in the area (down a little further there was a Gristedes or some chain supermarket) and it featured a lot of soy products, tempeh, meatless burgers, seitan. This was long before Whole Foods or Erewhon. This may have been the first store of its kind in Manhattan but I don’t remember. I do remember it wasn’t cheap. But it was their produce section and soy area that I started to make tempura without egg. It’s a simple process of a cup of flour (any flour), a teaspoon of baking soda and powder and club soda, maybe 1/2cup. (I eyeball it.) Stir until you get a thick paste with lumps. Throw in your veggies: onions, carrots, broccoli, whatever you have. (In tonight’s Meatless Monday, I used Swiss Chard stems. Yum!) Fry up in a wok or sautee pan and dip. Salt while still hot. And since, it was a rainy LA Monday, it was perfect comfort food.

Tofu, Zucchini, Swiss Chard Stems, Red Bell Pepper, Carrots
Tofu, Zucchini, Swiss Chard Stems, Red Bell Pepper, Carrots