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Street Vegan, Adam Sobel (2015 Adam Sobel)

Street Vegan by Adam Sobel - review by

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Having grown up in New York City I cannot imagine creating many of the dishes described in this cookbook in a truck on the streets of Manhattan.  Yet that is what Adam Sobel does, year-round.  Peppered throughout the book are anecdotes about the author’s experiences working with vegan foods on a truck.  The fact that the restaurants of Manhattan (in the guise of a “Business Improvement District”) found an old law making it illegal to sell merchandise from a parking spot that is metered causes the food trucks to expect near daily tickets as part of “business as usual”.  That also makes the perseverance of these foodies amazing.  Sobel’s truck, named the “ Cinnamon Snail” won the coveted “Vendy” award for many years.  The “Vendy” is regarded as the “Oscar of street food”.

The book is nicely laid out with ample, succulent pictures that are guaranteed to whet your appetite.  Whether you are interested in recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, appetizers, beverages or sauces you will find something that will satisfy your interest.  I found the recipes we tried to be very flavorful and unique.  Often Adam combines ingredients that are not normally paired together.  This makes for unusual but appealing dishes that are worth the often extensive preparation times.  Sobel’s recipes are not for the novice cook.  The dishes frequently combine three or four different recipes that come together for the final dish.  This may intimidate some, but don’t let it.  The end results are worth the efforts required.

We tried a handful of recipes from the book.  Each was very tasty but often called for more spicy-heat than I was willing to include into recipes at our home.  After all you can always add more heat to your plate if you are so inclined.  This is an excellent book for an experienced or adventuresome cook. The fresh approach of using uncommon ingredient combinations results in some very tasty dishes.

Glenn McCarthy (6/20/2015)

Red Bean-Scallion Pancakes with Thai Basil Tofu Strips and Tamarind Plum Sauce from Street Vegan

For the Tamarind Plum Sauce

  • ½ C pitted and chopped prunes soaked in 2 C of warm water for at least an hour
  • 3 T tamarind concentrate
  • 3 T agave nectar
  • 2 T tamari
  • 2 T molasses
  • 2 T freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 t ground coriander
  • ½ t freshly ground pepper

For the Thai Basil Tofu Strips

  • ½ C chopped Thai basil leaves, plus more for garnish
  • 2 T chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 T soy sauce
  • 3 T toasted sesame oil
  • 3 T Thai red curry paste
  • 2 T rice vinegar
  • 2 T sugar
  • 1 block extra-firm tofu

For the Red Bean Pancakes

  • 1 C all-purpose flour
  • ¼ C buckwheat flout
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 2 t baking soda
  • 1 T ground coriander
  • 1 2/3 C unsweetened soy milk
  • 2 T toasted sesame oil
  • 3 T soy sauce
  • ½ C rinsed, cooked red beans
  • ¼ C minced scallions, white and light green parts
  • 2 T sesame seeds
  • 2 t crushed red pepper
  • ¼ C coconut oil (for the pan)
  • 2 C arugula
  • 2 C kimchi
  • Cashews for garnish
  • Black sesame seeds (optional) for garnish

Make the tamarind plum sauce: Place the prunes, soaking water, tamarind concentrate, agave nectar, tamari, molasses, lime juice, coriander and pepper in a blender.  Blend on high speed for 30 seconds, until the mixture forms a smooth puree.  Place the puree in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes.  Cool and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 6 days.

Make the tofu marinade:  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly oil the paper.  Place the Thai basil, cilantro, soy sauce, curry paste, sesame oil, vinegar and sugar in a blender and blend on high until smooth and emulsified.  Cut tofu into strips approximately ½ inch wide by ½ inch thick and 2 inches long.  Gently toss the tofu with the marinade in a small mixing bowl until tofu entirely covered in marinade.

Bake the tofu strips:  Transfer the tofu to the prepared baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, turning once, until the strips are crispy on the outside and the marinade has been absorbed.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.  If not using immediately the tofu can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

Make the pancake batter:  Whisk together the all-purpose flour, buckwheat flour, baking powder, baking soda and coriander in a small bowl until no lumps remain.  Whisk in the soy milk, soy sauce and sesame oil until you create a smooth, somewhat thick batter.  Fold in the beans, scallions, sesame seeds and red pepper flakes.

Fry the pancakes:  Using some of the coconut oil, lightly grease a skillet or griddle and set over medium heat.  Spoon out small pancakes (about 2½ inches) using a scant ¼ cup of batter for each.  When bubbles appear toward the center and the edges are slightly pulling up from the pan, flip the pancakes and continue cooking for another 2 minutes.

To serve:  place 1 pancake on each plate, and drizzle with the tamarind plum sauce.  Top each pancake with ½ cup of arugula and ½ cup of kimchi.  Layer another pancake on top and add several pieces of the Thai basil tofu.  Drizzle over the top another spoonful of the sauce and garnish with the basil leaves, curried cashews and black sesame seeds (if using).