Review: Street Vegan By Adam Sobel

Street Vegan Cover

[image source: Penguin Random House]

The Cinnamon Snail Food Truck from New York has a well deserved reputation for superamazing food. The first all-vegan all-organic food truck in the US, they’ve won awards, been featured twice on the front page of the New York Times dining section, received super accolades and moooore. Here in Melbourne, I’d be reading blogs from North America and seeing people making a point of visiting The Cinnamon Snail on their holidays. I know people from Melbourne who have gone to NYC with a visit to Cinnamon Snail at the top of their list and came back raving about it. So when I heard that chef Adam Sobel was releasing a cookbook I figured this may be the only chance I have to get close to trying the food for myself, as an NYC trip isn’t something that will be happening for me any time soon!

This is one of those books where I was turning every page and loving what I saw followed by a quick thought process of just how soon I can get over to the US and try the food myself, then doing a desperate hand wringing wail that I’m you know, on the other side of the planet. Okay enough tales of woe, on to the food!

So seitan is one of those things I don’t like to make much because it always seems too mushy. Even if I reduce liquids, I feel it’s too soft inside which always makes me feel it’s not cooked. I also have a habit of incinerating overcooking it just to be sure it is properly cooked and reduce that mushiness. I loved the photo (crispy bits!) and the description of the Seitan with Maple Mustard Glaze. The recipe calls for tofu in the seitan but I used some canned butter beans instead as well as swapping the stated raw garlic for some I’d already roasted. I also did a bit of an experiment and cooked the seitan two ways: first, pan frying in oil as stated in the recipe and second with my air fryer. I wanted to try an oil free method of cooking too, though I did lightly spray the seitan strips with some coconut oil before putting them in the air fryer. Because the seitan strips were going to be tossed in the maple mustard glaze, I didn’t mind too much about the strips being too dry from the air fryer. I made these the night before breakfast and let them sit in the glaze overnight and although the air fried strips were a little on the dry side, they were still fine enough. The best bit was these didn’t have the too-soft-too-mushy factor my previous homemade efforts have suffered.

I loved these strips and they weren’t difficult or time consuming to make. I got up early and made some bread before breakfast, chopped up some spinach and grilled red peppers and wondered if refusing to share makes me a bad parent:

Street Vegan maple mustard seitan

Another recipe from the breakfast chapter is the Cashew Oat Waffles with Caramelised Apples. These involve making some oat flour (from rolled oats) and grinding up some raw cashews in a food processor. While the waffle batter was resting for the twenty minutes specified, I made the caramelised apples. I didn’t follow the recipe 100% here with the cooking of the apples (only because I’m, you know, lazy and impatient) but it was almost exactly the same. With the waffle batter, I used aquafaba (liquid from canned chickpeas) in place of the oil as I try to avoid using oil wherever possible. They turned out great and I loved the sweetness of the cashew in the waffles. Here the waffles are topped with the apples and I added a little coconut yoghurt. They toasted up fine the next day as well. Here are two days of waffles:

S treet Vegan Oat Cashew Waffles with Caramelised Apples

The Cranberry Brazil Nut granola was really easy to make. And eat. I love Brazil nuts but don’t often use them and I found a stash in the freezer looking all forgotten. This granola is flavoured with cinnamon and orange. I used quinoa flour in place of amaranth flour and I baked it much longer than the recipe stated because I wanted to get as much crunch as possible. This granola is great with coconut yoghurt or on top of a smoothie bowl. Best granola I’ve made:

Street Vegan Cranberry Brazil Nut Granola

I figured I cooked enough from the breakfast chapter and that it would only be fair to make something non-breakfasty. Hmm, nah. Strike that, reverse it and get your face in to the Almond Milk French Toast with Raspberry-Grapefruit Coulis and Smoky Roasted Almonds! I had to plan for this, like tell Husband the ruby red grapefruit I bought for him ages ago, that he failed to notice in the fruit bowl in the middle of the table where we eat every day, was not to be touched after all. I made the coulis the day before, ditto for the roasted almonds, though I did mostly pecans and a little of the almonds because as usual, when I go to make a recipe I am often out or almost out of something that features in the recipe’s title. Making the coulis and nuts in advance was a big time saver when it came to assembling everything. The nuts were soooo good (maple syrup! Liquid smoke! Nutmeg! And more!) that I’ll be making a huge batch around Christmas and giving them out as gifts. The only bread in the house was a little on the heavier side, and cut unevenly *cough* so next time I’d use a regular style loaf for pretty triangles:

Street Vegan Almond French Toast

Now I confess I always skip the Soups chapter and leave it for last. I’m just not a soup person. I won’t even order a laksa or a pho if there are other chewy things available. So ah, I left the soup chapter of Street Vegan til last. But when I read it, I was all FEED ME SOUP. I had all the ingredients for the Maple Butternut Squash Soup so I went off to the kitchen and made it on the spot. This soup is full of great flavours: cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, coriander, cumin, star anise, maple and more. It was awesome the next day. Let’s take this outside, soup!

Street Vegan maple butternut soup

I had to try something from the sandwiches chapter. As soon as I saw the word ‘gomasio’ I was sold. Well, it is also truthful to point out I was extra sold on seeing ‘five-spice’. Do you ever have one spice you buy with the best of intentions, but you never use it? Then when you find it in the pantry it’s two years out of date so you bin it and buy another to replace it, but then don’t use that one either? That’s my relationship with Chinese five-spice powder. So the recipe for Miso Teriyaki Seitan with Grilled Onions and Five-Spice Fried Sunflower Gomasio had me all yeahhhhhhh time to rock out that five-spice from the back of the shelf. Party time, excellent! Okay so I did change the recipe a little but only a wee bit. It calls for seitan (whether you make it yourself or buy it) but I chose to use the Gardein chickenless tenders. I didn’t chop them up and mix them with the onions and miso teriyaki sauce like the recipe says, I just spooned the sauce over the tenders. I also didn’t have the wasabi mayo which I really think would ramp this sandwich right up. Still, I’m hard pressed to choose whether I liked the gomasio or the miso teriyaki sauce more. This sandwich is full of fabulous flavours. I’m in love, even though I served it on a cheapie bread roll and not a baguette. You can shove a round roll in your mouth more easily which is what I did with this sandwich. The intro for this recipe says “this sandwich has developed a cult following”, and yep I can sure see why:

Street Vegan miso teriyaki gomasio sandwich

And because that sandwich was so good, I had to try another one. But first, let me tell you about the time I was reading various articles along the lines of “things food bloggers do that piss people off”. One of those things was referring to food as amazeballs. But I’m a rebel at heart because I deliberately go in the opposite direction to the pointy arrows at Ikea and so I’m going to say, in an all-caps show of defiance, that the Thai Barbecue Seitan Ribs with Pickled Thai Basil and Onions and Smoked Chile-Roasted Peanuts was AMAZEBALLS. There are a few things to prepare but I saved some time by making the smoked chile roasted peanuts the day before. I’m not a big lover of roast peanuts but it was so, so hard you guys to resist eating all these before I made the sandwich. I did screw up a little with seitan and following the order in how it got cooked with the barbecue sauce but it all turned out alright. I knew I HAD to make this, I love Thai basil but of course I couldn’t find any in the shops. I had to go to Bunnings (one of those giant hardware and gardening stores) and buy some Thai basil in a pot. With teeny tiny leaves, but I was desperate. I didn’t use a baguette either but the bread was fancy enough. This sandwich is full of brilliantly combined flavours and textures. The crispiness of the seitan, the nice soft pickled onions and the crunch and sweetness of the roasted peanuts (not to mention the smokiness) equals AMAZEBALLS:

StreetVegan_Thaibbqseitanribs

There are great sweet recipes in Street Vegan but I resisted them all but in the name of research, you understand, I did have to make at least one for the blog. I went for the Pine Nut Friendlies because I’ve always felt sorry for pine nuts. They seem to be relegated to being toasted and thrown on to pasta or put in pesto. At least in my house… anyway, pine nuts rule in these cookies and each bite is pine nutty deliciousness:

Street Vegan Pine Nut Friendlies

Sometimes when I review cookbook recipes, I kinda wince when I mention modifications I made in case the author reads it and is all objection! What has that criminal done to my recipe!?!? and shakes a fist at me. This is such a time. See, it was early morning, my head all stuffed up from a cold and me not learning that past experience dictates when I’m tired and sick and not thinking clearly, maaaaybe, just maybe, that’s not the best time to make substitutions. I did make a fair bit o’ subs for the Mint Matlock Takes All His Clothes Off mint chocolate cookies. Like using aquafaba in place of the coconut oil and egg replacer. And spelt flour instead of plain. Aaaand coconut sugar even when I know that’s taking a big risk. But hey! These turned out all lovely minty chocolately pillow like anyway! So while they deviate from the Matlock cookies, they’re still close enough to be in the same TV lawyer-detective category. Or maybe more along the lines of Remington Steele. No photos, as they probably look nothing like how the recipe should turn out, but we scoffed them down anyway.

Street Vegan is full of awesome. It’s rocketed straight in to my most fave cookbooks evahhhh list. IT HAS A DONUT CHAPTER. The recipes are brilliant but I especially love the stories Adam Sobel has included. He talks about starting out with the Cinnamon Snail food truck, community outreach, problems they experienced with law enforcement, challenges they faced with providing food to gazillions of people and more. I smiled and snort-laughed a lot reading this book, especially during the recipe intros (bwahaha at the intro for the granola recipe!). It’s one of those books I would be happy to leaf through over and over, even if I’m not looking for something to make.

At first glance, I can understand why some may find some of the recipes a bit too involved or a fair bit of work. However I learnt my lesson when I had written off other great cookbooks in the past, thinking they were a bit too fussy. Seriously, don’t let that deter you. If you think these recipes look great but take ‘too much time’, just give it a go when you do have that extra time (and really, sometimes it’s an extra fifteen minutes). When I read a cookbook I always make mental notes of how long I think something would take, could I make it when the kids are home (and always needing something as soon I start working!), should I make something at night and leave it for the next day, and so on. So while yes, there are recipes in this book where I feel I have to have some more free time and uninterrupted peace and quiet to blast an embarrassing CD while I cook, it’s nothing a bit of time management won’t fix. This book is definitely worth it.

Keep up to date with The Cinnamon Snail‘s locations via their Facebook page, Twitter and Instagram.

 

24 thoughts on “Review: Street Vegan By Adam Sobel

  1. Oh man I laughed so many times reading this post/review. When I was in NYC in the spring the truck wasn’t running, I was so bummed but I’ll def take your advice and pick up the cook book -how can’t I with a 12 letter name sandwich, I ran out of break just reading it.

    I’m dropping my mom off at the airport today and sent her your review posts of Leigh Drew’s cookbooks with hopes she can bring one back for me, your reviews had better reference pictures and info on the cookbooks than the publishing company’s website!

  2. Ha ha ha! I love that you went to Bunnings for Thai Basil! Very smart thinking! I’ll remember that next time I can’t find a herb I need 🙂

  3. I was just in NYC last Friday to see a concert. My heart stopped each time I passed a food truck. Sadly it wasn’t in the area, but we did grab some awesome sushi from Beyond Sushi. Now these pictures REALLY want me to grab something from Cinnamon Snail!

  4. Are you on commission? If not, you totally should be. I’ve been toying with buying it for a while, and I strongly suspect I’ll be adding it to my to-buy-when-I’ve-got-some-spare-cash list.

  5. Oooh I haven’t heard of this book or place, but now I want to go there/eat everything in this book! I am coming back into a cookbook craze after going out on my own for a while. How to justify another book though…hmmm. Everything you’ve cooked looks amazing, great photos too 🙂 I especially love the funky gold and greeny tray (?)

    • that was an ebay find, I think it was some vintage Italian/Venetian tray I got for quite cheap (hope it’s not some cheap piece of crap though!)

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