Thursday, July 21, 2005

the soy of cooking

Well, I traded off my Clap Your Hands Say Yeah ticket for a soyful dinner. What? you blurt out in disbelief, you sold your ticket to the hype-tastic band du jour for fake buffalo wings served on a wooden-stick-for-bone? Yes. Yes, I did. (How's that for a band name? Soy Buffalo Wings. We ROCK! and we're CHEWY! It's better than the Dostoevsky of a name like clap your hands etc etc etc.... )

While I do enjoy the raucous and circus sounds of CYHSY's album, I just wasn't in the concertizing mood so I made plans instead with some pals for dinner. We ended up going to Red Bamboo on W. 4th. The cuisine? Vegetarian Soul Food!! What does that mean? Fake meat! Awesome!!!

Perhaps their mission statement of sorts will help us out a little:
Red Bamboo focuses on creating unique and authentic vegan and vegetarian meals using the finest soy, gluten, fruit and vegetable products available. Our foods, ranging from Carribean spiced seitan to Creole soul "chicken" to Thai summer rice rolls, reflect the wisdom of diverse culinary traditions. We sincerely hope that every meal at Red Bamboo becomes a festive and memorable experience and at the same time, a meditation on what truly nourishes you.

Mmmm. Well, they did succeed in piquing our curiousity into just about everything on the menu. As a group, we had all eaten soy meat products before but didn't really know what goes into it, how it's made, how they make something fishy as opposed to chickeny. And it wasn't just "fish" either, there were codcakes and salmon on the menu. Like do they sit down at the soy lab and say, hmmm, how can we make this more salmon-like? as opposed to flounder? Are these places like super secret about their concoctions and do they have soy spies? I say concoctions, because no matter how tasty the stuff is, I can't but think these are concoctions, some sort of magical complicated scientific recipe. I think my friend DC said "alchemy" - and that's about right. Alchemy - the mysterious art of turning everyday objects into gold, or in our case.. meat.

DC is a former meat eater turned veg. and thus the menu was particularly delightful for all the meaty things he misses. Like buffalo wings and philly cheesesteaks. T (I just realized I don't know her last name. This is making me feel guilty.) ordered codfish cakes with mango something and I got creole soul chicken, mostly because it was "panko-crusted." You can't go wrong-o with Panko. I'm missing a life of fame and fortune as a composer of jingles.
Everything tasted almost like they were supposed to. The buffalo wings were a bit chewy but looked like Mcdonalds chicken nuggets on the inside (I suppose whatever they use is just as much a concoction), my chicken was tasty but I think it's hard to go wrong with anything crispily fried, the codcakes tasted fishy and smushy, and the cheesesteak tasted not so much like it's supposed to, but it did taste like meat. I was actually more weirded out by my mashed potatoes which were mixed with sweet corn, alternately too smooth and sweet.
The portions were very generous and on the whole, pretty tasty. As a whole-hearted meat-eater, I wouldn't mind going back there again and trying something else. I can say, I've never thought that much about the makeup of food.
I tried doing some research on soy meat products but only for about a few minutes. What I did find:
Henry Ford loved soybeans. He was a soy fanatic - using them in cars, making ice cream, and even wearing soybean fiber suits!
The Soy Story is a long one. Three thousand years ago... it all started in China and two thousand years ago, "The great Chinese art of meat substitution was born." My favorite sentence: "In soy milk processing, the Chinese were perhaps inspired by their nomadic, animal herding, milk guzzling northern neighbours, the Mongols." Hahahaha. Milk guzzling.


Robyn said...

I've been interested in trying Red Bamboo, but I'm not a fan of fake soy things. It's not because of the taste; I just don't eat soy products very much. Depending on what it is, I've had some very good soy-meat dishes, although I'd rather that placed didn't try to make it resemble something else. Just call em...SOY NUGGETS! (Okay, that doesn't sound very appetizing.)
I've read a lot of bad things about soy ( but I don't know what to believe. Blaah. I think I eat worse stuff. :p
I could never get into CYHASY. I guess I'm "neutral" as far as liking their music goes.

me said...

I'm a big fan of tofu. but I won't wear it.
There's always things that are deemed bad. So I say: Eat Everything!