The King of Vega (sauce of peace)

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King Vega, fried tofu, steamed broccoli on brown rice

Going vegan, being vegan, or vegan-ing out, as some call it, is anything but easy. A lot omnivores out there with a meat tooth make fun of it, and get all mad, as if it were some kind of fad that will eventually fade out. Or else they hate on the vegan because they’re always getting flack for eating tons of animals. To correct on the haters, and to also defend, that kind of behavior usually comes from a particular self-righteous attitude, touted by a very little few. So a few stinky cubes of tofu shouldn’t generalize the whole bunch. For the most part, and to most, it’s really not a big deal…what we eat or don’t, as long as it tastes good. Some take all food where they can get it. Would the world be a better place if we didn’t eat animal things? Sure. But maybe sooner than we think, plants will prove to be the most intelligent of lifeforms, then what, eat rocks? I’m joking.

We don’t all have the cash flow to eat healthy all the time. Most of our killer planet is poor as fuck. The rest of us are protein spoiled. Food choices should neither be a badge we wear with frat-boy pride, nor a political party that makes us go Rah Rah Rah down the street. Choice, yes. Statement, not today. It’s food for eff sakes. I’m starving. And for the sake of sakes, let’s please press pause on what’s right and wrong, for now at least.

I went vegan about a year ago, for a few months. I’m laughing as I write this because it sounds so thin and ignorant in its honesty. It wasn’t a big deal for me. I remember it was just hot as hell in the summer and I wanted to eat things that didn’t bloat me out and make me sweat french fry oil. I enjoyed being a vegan, however short was my stay on the Planet Vega.

What I realized very quickly was how much work it took. Not just to sustain myself, but also to continue being creative. It was either I spent a million bucks to have enough of everything, or I had to get clever with mixing up a lot of the same ingredients, over and over.

You see, meats taste pretty great, with little to no work. The natural salts and fats lend more of a hand to what’s added to the dish, than the other way round.

With any vegetarian cooking, the onus is on each ingredient, playing its part to create something bigger and more interesting. Vegetarians that eat dairy can always whopp some cheese on there and have instant comfort. But for vegans, you either need to make that shit, or buy it for a pretty penny, depending on where you live. And that’s not always easy.

I bought massive bags of produce, grains and beans; it felt more like I was setting up a bomb shelter. But I was just buying groceries. I was hungry a lot, and eating at least 5 times a day. And though I love cooking, I was soon changing up the flavors as often as possible to keep from getting bored. But then I found the sauce; the happy sauce that got me through.

Some call it the Buddha Sauce, some just call it a spin off of Satay. Others call it South-East Asian Tahini Sauce. It’s like the kid’s ketchup. Throw it on anything, and it’ll work out just fine. All the brown rice, steamed broccoli, tofu, and all the million other things I used to add umami flavor, just to keep me from wanting to smash burgers; this sauce is what kept me going. So, here it is.

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King Vega, fried tofu, steamed broccoli on brown rice

First, you have two choices: peanut butter or tahini. It’s up to you, and I usually use both. If you can’t get store-bought tahini–which I can’t for cheap–it’s easy to make. Sesame seeds, dry hot pan. Toast until brown–maybe a few are popping here and there, no biggy. Off the heat, mortar pestle, oil, garlic and salt. Today it’s part of another sauce, so the lemon TA-hANGY flavor will come later. No mortar and pestle, blender will do fine. Opaque paste is what you’re looking for, thick but pourable.

Well, this isn’t really a recipe, in the traditional sense. Just the components. I have no amounts and measures for ya. I’m writing it out in the way I wish a lot of sauce recipes were shared. Give me the parts and let me tinker and adjust it to my preferences. You mess around with these ingredients, as you like each more or less, and you’ll have your own thing. That’s the truth. All this is, is the canvas. All the extra spices and herbs you add, is your deal. Although paprika, cumin and coriander seed are some of my favorite friends. Read the whole article, then go back and make it.

The King of Vega

  • Olive oil
  • Raw onion, or sautéed onion, or juice–whatever***
  • Garlic–both raw and sautéed works good
  • Raw ginger
  • Sesame oil- few drops minimum
  • Cauliflower–raw or cooked, try all kinds–I think roasted works best
  • Cilantro–more water content
  • Peanut butter, and or Tahini–spoon by spoon, watching the thickness.
  • Pepper–I like rough, cracked corns of Black Pepper Crack
  • Lemon juice and or lime juice (fresh)
  • Water–to adjust thickness, if needed
  • Salt to taste, if needed

Blend it step by step, emulsify that mother brother. Taste and change till you’ve created your own happy sauce.

***One thing I like to do with this one is to minimize the need for adding plain, old  water. If the sauce turns out too thick, which can happen–add few pieces of raw onion–it’s like water with flavors. Carrot juice is also a common additive. I wasn’t huge on it.  But it does help keep it from turning into a spread, without over-taking the powerful ginger, sesame and lemon zing. Sautéed onions and garlic are pretty choice. Any slick wetness, added early, creates a slurry in which most of the heavy dry stuff will get absorbed into. The cauliflower and peanut butter can create something of a crumb if added too early. I recommend the order listed above. Olive oil first. And then the next few ingredients to create a wet slurry. Not much different from making a vinaigrette.  The cauliflower will thicken it all up, as will the peanut butter or tahini.  Then, just follow your nose and your gut.

It’s a beautiful and beautifully easy sauce that goes on anything. Without the ginger, it’s a vegan Alfredo. Take out the soy sauce, ginger, and use tahini instead of peanut butter, chuck in a handful of basil–it becomes pesto. Speaking Alfredo, I once threw some miso paste in there, and it sort of gave me that anchovy savor I love. And Caesar dressing, this can be that too-upping the garlic and lemon. It’s a master of sauces.

And the best part about it: it’s sitting there on the fence, neutral in lifestyle and belief, not at all neutral in flavor, and it can be enjoyed by anyone. You can call it a satay, you can say it’s a perfect tahini sauce. It pours like thick yogurt, but it ain’t clumpy. It’s as smooth as a smoothie. It can be poured or spooned onto whatever delicious things you’re eating. Dip whatever you have right in there and let its sultry SE Asian night envelope your taste thrusters. Minus the ginger (sorta sad) and your macking into the best creamy pasta dish ever. Blast it up with more garlic and miso, and it’s a Caesar to challenge any.

Mess around with it, and make it your own. Hee-haw.

 

 

 

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