Emily and I recently had a cooking lesson with Jesse Miner, a vegan personal chef based in San Francisco. I met Jesse at one of the first vegan events I went to, and it was great to reconnect with him for a cooking class.
Jesse came to our home with the ingredients we’d be cooking with, as well as equipment in case we needed it. We cooked for several hours, then had a big meal. The menu was put together by Jesse, based on our interests and culinary skill level. The lesson introduced us to several new foods, some of which were instant favorites.
Roasted Japanese Sweet Potatoes
This was a new food to us, and they’re so good! These don’t require preparation, and can be put in the oven at 350 for about an hour, and served sliced. They keep in the refrigerator once cooked, and make a great snack, so we’ve been cooking a few at a time, and eating them throughout the week.
I brought some to work in a mason jar. Depending on how much eccentricity you’re comfortable projecting, this is either a brilliant work snack, or bizarre and shameful behavior.
Spring rolls are a food we enjoy at restaurants but hadn’t made ourselves. If you use store-bought baked tofu, they’re pretty straightforward to make.
Folding them is a bit challenging. You win some, you lose some.
These are a Japanese street food. There’s a food truck in SF that sells them, which is how we’d come across them in the past. The ones we made were filled with pickled plum (umeboshi), a favorite sushi filling of Emily’s, which we’d never cooked with.
They turned out great! As with the spring rolls, we haven’t mastered making them geometrically consistent.
Korean Lettuce Wrap
This was our favorite discovery of the night. Emily and I haven’t been exposed to much Korean food, and vegan Korean food can be difficult to come by. However this was amazing.
This is a lettuce wrap (ssambap) with rice, soy curls Korean barbecue (bulgogi), and a fermented hot pepper sauce (ssamjang).
This wrap has so many flavors, and a few of them were new to me. I’d bought some soy curls ages ago, but I’d never cooked with them. Soy curls are a bit intimidating looking if you’ve never had them, since they are packaged dry, and don’t really look like anything before you rehydrate them.
The bulgogi marinade was delicious, and the ssamjang sauce, based on gochujang, a fermented pepper paste, is a very unique flavor that I was craving the rest of the week.
I plan on writing more about vegan Korean food in another post. However suffice it to say that we loved this dish, and made it twice more that week (until we ran out of soy curls).
For dessert, we made haupia, a sweet Hawaiian dish. Haupia is made with coconut milk and corn starch, and results in a gel-like consistency. It’s a bit hard to describe, but it’s a unique dessert that we hadn’t come across on our recent trip to Hawaii, so we were happy to try some.
Other foods we cooked included a peanut sauce and a Vietnamese hoisin dipping sauce, a cole slaw using the peanut sauce, and collard green wraps using the cole slaw.
The cooking lesson was a great experience. It was great to prepare so many foods that are very different from what we usually cook, and it was great to get outside of our comfort zone culinarily.
Cooking lessons are a fun way to expand your culinary repertoire, and participate in the catering and chef businesses that are the heart and soul of the vegan food movement. I had a great time, and I hope to take more cooking lessons in the future.