Vegan's Chronicles + [vegan product]

Birthday Food Extravaganza

My 27th birthday was lovely, thank you for asking! :) I spent the day in Cheonan, eating, reading, baking, writing, eating some more, a little bit of shopping, eating again, catching up with my parents, watching the Asian Olympics on tv, and eating some more... . to sum it all up, it was a day of indulgences!

Before we get to the food pics, here's a fun fact about me: My unnie (big sister) and I are not twins, but we share the same birth date (Nov 18), exactly two years apart! And it's the same for my mom and her younger brother too (same birth dates, different years). It seems that our family is just good with timing births. hehe. One might think that it would suck having to share a birthday with a sibling, but I've always loved it. Especially seeing the surprise and amazement on people's faces when we tell them. And yes, we always had two birthday cakes, growing up.

So yea, last Thursday was my sister's birthday too~ Unfortunately, she's in LA, so we couldn't spend it together as a family, but we did do a skype chat. :) Happy birthday unnie!

Anyhoo~~ I have so many food pictures to share, let's get right to it, shall we?

IMG_0762

This was my birthday breakfast. Traditionally, my family always makes breakfast a big deal on birthdays and we usually do the gift-giving, cake and happy birthday song at breakfast too. But this year, my dad had to go out to some conference at the break of dawn, so we postponed that whole ceremony for dinner and kept breakfast pretty simple.

IMG_0756

This is a plate of ddeok that my mom made the night before. We packaged them up like they do in real department stores, with those fanshy stickers and everything! You can't really tell from the picture, but they are studded with chestnuts, Korean red dates, and sweet kidney beans and green peas. Delicious.

IMG_0768

Golden sweet potato!

IMG_0787

For my mid-morning snack, I broke into the box of Finnish rye bread-crackers and white chocolate that I got from Monika.

IMG_0796

I wasn't sure exactly how I should eat the rye crackers, so I just spread some peanut butter and jelly on top. They were really supermega crunchy!! I loved the crunch, but I think they would be better with a different kind of topping, like hummus or beans and salsa. :) yum~!

IMG_0798

Next, for lunch, my umma and I went out to a han-jung-shik (traditional Korean food) restaurant. They had a few non-vegan banchans which we put off to the side, but there was still a decent number of vegan ones for me to enjoy.

IMG_0803

Here's a little bit of everything assembled on a mini plate.

IMG_0808

For dessert, we got some 'yak bab' (약밥, "medicine rice"), and ddeok covered in ground black sesame seeds...

IMG_0810

... and a bowl of maeshil cha (sweet plum tea) to wash it all down. What a delightful way to end the meal! :)

After that delicious lunch and a little bit of walking around, we returned home so that we could bake my birthday cake! Ever since I went vegan a few years ago, I've been making my own birthday cakes. It might sound a bit sad and pathetic that I have to make my own, but I actually like getting to choose the kind of cake I get. I remember the very first one I made. It was the most basic chocolate cake ever, with zero embellishments. It didn't look so appetizing, but I remember feeling so proud of myself and thinking it was the best cake ever. haha.

IMG_2884

My first vegan birthday cake, circa 2008.

Rainbow Cupcakes

And then last year, I went all experimental with psychedelic, radioactive rainbow cupcakes.

Well this year, I had my heart set on something classic, rich, fun, and decadent. This was not an occasion for substituting, skimping, or half-assing. I demanded the works- ie, chocolate and sprinkles. And ofcourse, whatever this birthday girl wants, this birthday girl gets.

IMG_0770

So to make my birthday cake dreams come true, I turned to none other than the classic chocolate cupcake recipe from 'Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.'

27th birthday chocolate cupcakes

Here they are, fresh outta the oven. Wait, wait, there's something missing... . The topping!

IMG_0812

To style these cupcakes up, we used the chocolate mousse topping recipe from the same VCTOTW, which calls for tofu, chocolate chips, soymilk, vanilla extract, and maple syrup (we used rice syrup instead).

27th birthday chocolate cupcakes

This was my first time using a decorative frosting tip! I just used a ziplock bag for the piping bag. The mousse was a little thinner than it probably should've been, so the piping 'ridges' kind of got lost, but I made it work anyway.

27th birthday chocolate cupcakes

Tada~! I present to you, my 27th birthday cupcakes, in all their chocolate glory.

27th birthday chocolate cupcakes

I had two different decorative toppings: vegan white chocolate shavings (from Monika) and colorful sprinkles! Just what every birthday cake needs.

27th birthday chocolate cupcakes
27th birthday chocolate cupcakes

Happy birthday to me. And unnie.

27th birthday chocolate cupcakes

Digging in!

27th birthday chocolate cupcakes

The cake was soooo delicious, and the mousse topping was fantastic. It definitely took everything to a whole other stratosphere of vegan-awesome.

27th birthday chocolate cupcakes

The perfect bite.

Hm, I just realized my birthday cakes kind of tell the story of my vegan journey over the years. The first year was all about the basics, then the second year was about being experimental and risky with vegan cooking, and then this year, it's been about doing something perhaps a little more classic and 'refined'? A happy medium? :)

And now, we shall move onto the grand finale of the day: the birthday dinner. My mom had a delicious vegan dinner planned in her head and she even kept the menu a secret from me til it was time to cook together. haha.

IMG_0998

First, we made a plate of mostly raw veggies, cut long and thin with thinly sliced pickled radish circles in the middle. The idea is to place some of the veggies in one of the radish slices, and wrap it all up.

IMG_0995

You can make the tiny wraps for everyone before the meal, like so, or your diners can make their own 'wraps' as they eat.

IMG_1087

You can buy these radish wraps at any Korean supermarket.

IMG_1014

Deeeelicious peanut-mustard dipping sauce. To make, just mix together 1Tbs each of creamy peanut butter, crushed sesame seeds, vinegar, lemon juice, sugar, maple/agave syrup, and soy sauce, 1tsp of Korean mustard (the kind that comes in a tube), and add salt and pepper to taste.

IMG_1026

These were really fresh and crunchy, and the peanut sauce was divine. If you're averse to salty foods, you might want to omit the soysauce in the peanut dressing since the pickled radish wraps are already a little salty. I, however, thought it was perfect as is.

IMG_1007

Next on the menu was savory tofu pancakes!

  • 1 block of firm tofu
  • 1 onion
  • 1 inch knob of carrot
  • handful of spring onions
  • 1/2 - 1 green & red bell peppers
  • 1/2 cup of corn
  • about 2/3 cup of all-purpose flour (add until the batter sticks together, like in the picture)
  • 1 Tbs cornstarch
  • cooking oil

IMG_0980

1. Chop up the onion, carrot, bell pepper, and spring onions, into a fine dice.
2. Drain and mash the tofu and add all the other ingredients. Mix well

IMG_1000

3. Add oil to a frying pan over medium heat, and spoon batter onto the pan. Gently shape with the back of the spoon.
4. Fry 'em up til they're golden brown on both sides.

IMG_1009

Waahhh, mashikketda~!

IMG_1001

Seaweed salad

IMG_1022

Vegan dwenjang jjigye.

IMG_1021

All together now. What a feast! I definitely had a food baby after this, but I still left room for dessert:

27th birthday

More birthday cake, accompanied by candles, pears, and a birthday song.

I'm so thankful for my loving parents who did so much to make the day a special one. I had a grand time with family and eventually had to head back to Seoul... , only to be spoiled even more by friends over the weekend! But that's for another post, another day. :)