The Best Ice Cream on Phi Phi is Vegan

You can’t spend time on a tropical island without eating ice cream. But vegans can’t eat ice cream… right? Wrong!

You can’t spend time on a tropical island without eating ice cream. But vegans can’t eat ice cream… right? Wrong! All the big ice cream companies have released vegan versions of all the tasty frozen treats. Most recently, Magnum came out with one following Haagen Dazs and Ben & Jerry’s. While these are widely available in many western countries, Asia has yet to catch up. So we were worried that we’d have to spend out time in Thailand ice-cream less. We did a quick Google search and turned out that Phi Phi’s most famous coconut ice cream was 100% vegan!

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Dow: Vegan Restaurant on Phi Phi Island, Thailand

Phi Phi is a great island with so many food options! We tried a whole bunch but kept coming back to Dow, a vegan restaurant (with a seperate non-vegan menu too). Great prices, cold draft beers and a wide selection of food is only a little part of why we loved this place. They had a lot of second hand books on sale, had games for us to play while waiting for our food and the staff was friendly and professional.

Phi Phi is a great island with so many food options! We tried a whole bunch but kept coming back to Dow, a vegan restaurant (with a seperate non-vegan menu too). Great prices, cold draft beers and a wide selection of food is only a little part of why we loved this place. They had a lot of second hand books on sale, had games for us to play while waiting for our food and the staff was friendly and professional.

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Easy to Identify Mushroom in NYC: Hen-of-the-Woods (Maitake)

I find these mushrooms the most rewarding to pick, because even a small one is enough as a side dish to any meal and the bigger ones can feed an entire family! Every time I’ve looked for hens, I found at least one and usually had 2-4 kilos (4-9 pounds) in just 30 minutes of searching. Of course, you can also find a single mushroom that weighs 13+ kilos (30+ pounds).

It’s prime mushroom picking season but it’s quickly cooling down. You might be seeing mushrooms all around you, even in city parks and on the side of highways! There’s still some time to go out and forage before winter chases us indoors for Netflix, hot chocolate and hibernation. However, most mushrooms take a lot of experience to identify which can be scary and discouraging.

It is also extremely dangerous to eat anything that you’re not certain about. Although there are many YouTube videos and Facebook groups are not always a reliable way to be sure that you will be safe. Even after you read this article, go talk to experienced mushroom pickers, join a mycological society and always be overly careful.

Two other warnings:

  1. It is not legal to pick mushrooms everywhere. Ask a police officer, park ranger or at the info center where you can pick them. If you go anywhere else, you risk getting a hefty fine. In NYC it can be up to $250!
  2. Wild mushrooms are not like the ones you buy at the store. Some people might experience an allergy to a specific type even though they are not allergic to others. Some edible mushrooms have skins that certain people might react to with a stomach ache. Although I am lucky to be allergy free and tolerate everything I’ve tried so far, I’m aware that I might eat a perfectly good edible mushroom that might make me feel sick.

That being said, mushrooms are a great way eat sustainably, healthily and package-free. They are also vegan but can be cooked with whatever ingredients you prefer. Some people make ice cream and cheese cake out of mushrooms…

Let’s get down to business, there are mushrooms that are growing everywhere around New York right now and they happen to taste delicious! The hen-of-the-woods (maitake) doesn’t have any poisonous look alikes, grows to be huge so it’s satisfying to find and it’s a great way to begin your mushroom picking lifestyle.

Hen-of-the-woods (maitake):

The hen-of-the-woods looks a little like the fluffy feathers of a hen, hence it’s name. Here are some photos of how they can look at different stages of growth.

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Picture credits: Photo 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5

Don’t confuse the hen-of-the-woods with the chicken-of-the-woods. Chickens can grow higher up on the tree, they are orange and they grow in layers. I have heard a lot about these mushrooms and I’m told they’re delicious, however I haven’t found any yet and I don’t know how to tell them apart from the many other orange mushrooms that grow on trees! Stick with hens at the beginning, you can’t go wrong with them and there are plenty to go around!

Hen-of-the-woods mushrooms typically grow on oak trees, so if you see acorns on the ground you’re in the right spot. If you look at the roots of an oak, you’ll notice that they have a clumpy shape with many little lumps which is very similar to the hen mushroom. From a distance, you might confuse a hen mushroom with some dried leaves. Always go check it out, and take a look around the entire tree. They tend to grow on bigger, wider oaks and there can be a several clusters of them around a single tree!

I find these mushrooms the most rewarding to pick, because even a small one is enough as a side dish to any meal and the bigger ones can feed an entire family! Every time I’ve looked for hens, I found at least one and usually had 2-4 kilos (4-9 pounds) in just 30 minutes of searching. Of course, you can also find a single mushroom that weighs 13+ kilos (30+ pounds).

Hen-of-the-woods are either off-white, kind of beige/grayish or more brownish, especially around it’s rounded edges. They always grow in clumps, so from a distance you could confuse them with clustered mushrooms – remember that even though it looks like a cluster, it’s one big mushroom that spreads out and looks fluffy. If you cut it at the stem and you see many individual mushrooms, it’s not a hen. If you see any gills (pictured below) it is NOT a hen.

Hens are smooth, fluffy looking, single-stemmed mushrooms.

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Remember, the picture above is NOT a hen-of-the-woods. It’s an example of gills, that hens do NOT have.

Sometimes, the hen-of-the-woods grows on trees other than oaks. If you want to be extra safe, you can stick to only eating the ones that you find on oak trees, although like I already said, there isn’t any dangerous look-a-like. Hens are very unique looking.

Don’t forget to bring some common sense with you to the forest. If there are too many bugs on the hen, if it looks dry or off-color, then it’s probably not good for eating. While most insects are pretty safe to eat if cooked correctly, you should stay away from unintentional entomophagy. Plus, insects can cause allergic reactions in people who are also allergic to shellfish.

Another common sense move is to avoid picking mushrooms in forests where there’s a mark on the tree, or a colorful rope tied around an area. These could mark a protected area, a sick tree, some sort of pest, pollution, disease, etc. If it looks questionable, don’t go there.

Same goes for roadside mushrooms. Think about the pollution that they are exposed to. Would you like some car exhaust with your mushrooms? I don’t think so. Don’t pick anything that looks unclean (not including natural forest dirt) or could be polluted. Similarly to road exhaust, some places could be using pesticides or other chemicals in the area. Although most of us are already exposed to them from the food we buy in supermarkets, the less chemicals we consume, the better.

When you find a hen and bring it home, watch a video on how to clean it correctly. It has many layers, the thick white stem isn’t as yummy as the rest of it so you want to cut that off and if possible, clean it outside or in a large tub to avoid clogging your drain with forest debris. If you see any holes, cut into them and remove any insects, spiders or slugs.

How do you cook a hen?

There are so many ways to cook these mushrooms! Chop them into tiny pieces and stir fry, with other veggies, or if you’re not vegetarian then maybe some meat, lard or eggs to make the perfect mushroomy omelette.

The nutritional value of hens varies depending on the website, but everyone agrees that they have very little fat or protein and lots of vitamin D. Some websites claim that they have very few carbs, others claim that they are 70% carbs. Almost everyone agrees that they are a healthy addition to a balanced diet!

I tend to use too much olive oil and caramelized onions to make a fatty, crispy, scrumptious meal but there are much healthier alternatives. You can cook them in the oven with coconut oil, you can steam them, boil them, grill them probably even air fry them. Whatever you chose to do, make sure to cook them well as they can be a bit chewy and hard on the stomach if you undercook hens, although this is true for mushrooms in general. You can find various recipes here.

If you didn’t manage to find any, or didn’t want to risk picking the wrong mushroom, you can still enjoy eating wild hen-of-the-woods. Check out your local farmers markets from August until November and I guarantee that you’ll find some hens – generally for $1 per pound!

Do you enjoy picking mushrooms? Have you tried hen-of-the-woods? Share your stories, tips, recipes and favorite mushroom picking spots in the comments below!

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Govinda’s Vegan Restaurant: Ao Nang, Thailand 2018

Govinda, a vegan restaurant in Ao Nang, Thailand was delicious and the staff was incredibly kind!

Govinda, a vegan restaurant in Ao Nang, Thailand was delicious and the staff was incredibly kind! We arrived over half an hour before opening and sat downstairs waiting. It was pouring and miserable, the owner noticed us waiting and invited us in, carrying our heavy luggage in. It was awesome. We spent and ate way too much but it was worth it!

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Best Vegan Food in China Town, NYC: Bodhi Kosher

On our way in I saw sashimi in the display window and I was disappointed that we weren’t in an all-vegan restaurant. It turned out that the sashimi was vegan too! Another customer who had lived in New York her whole life told us that it was her favorite place in the city.

It was hard to find a vegan restaurant in China Town. Just kidding… it was hard picking one of the dozens of restaurants all claiming to have the “best vegan food in New York City.”

When we lived in Shanghai, China, the concept of veganism was not something that was understood by local people. Although it was easy to avoid animal products by ordering veggie side dishes in local restaurants, there was only one exclusively vegan expat restaurant. So even though we knew that New York is extremely vegan-friendly, we had no idea that China Town was in on the hype.

After a quick search on Google we picked a restaurant based on distance from where we were. It was raining and it would have taken an hour to go through all the options… so we walking for two minutes and found ourselves at the end of a long line outside of Buddha Bodai, supposedly the best vegan restaurant in the city.

Isaac used his Mandarin skills to eves-drop on the staff who mentioned a 45 minute waiting list. We considered waiting since the place had such great reviews, but we ended up finding another place nearby and it didn’t have a line. Bodhi Kosher Vegetarian Restaurant was barely a block away from Buddha Bodai.

On our way in I saw sashimi in the display window and I was disappointed that we weren’t in an all-vegan restaurant, because I was excited to browse the menu without having to check what I could and couldn’t eat. It turned out that the sashimi was vegan too! Everything in the restaurant was, and this place also claimed to be the best all-vegan restaurant in the city. Plus, another customer who had lived in New York her whole life told us that it was her favorite place.

The list of items on the menu was overwhelming. There was sushi, dim sum, all sorts of traditional dishes made out with mock meat. Like pulled pork, duck and a meat platter all made of mushrooms, stain and other plant-based ingredients that I couldn’t identify.

Unfortunately we came about three hours after dim sum happy hour, which makes every meal a dollar cheaper! Not that Bodhi Kosher Vegetarian Restaurant is expensive… we spent just over $35 on a giant meat plate, a sushi platter, steamed dumplings, fried dumplings and some dim sum. We even got fortune cookies with the bill – which is not something that happens in China by the way.

We definitely hope to go back and sample some more of their delicious menu. However there’s many other vegan places we still need to eat at in China Town. One of the best things about New York is that you could eat a different restaurant every day and it would still take you a lifetime to try it all!

What’s your favorite restaurant in New York? Leave a comment below!

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Five Things NEVER to Buy at the Grocery Store Again

These days it’s easy to get caught up in all the flashy products available at the supermarket. Everything has a fancy, complicated version of itself. Pick up a bottle of tomato sauce at a grocery store and count the ingredient. Now grab the tortillas and see if you can pronounce all the chemicals. Finally, look at the fancy $10 organic peanut butter, and you’ll see the point I’m trying to get to: salt and peanuts. That’s it…

These days it’s easy to get caught up in all the flashy products available at the supermarket. Everything has a fancy, complicated version of itself. Pick up a bottle of tomato sauce at a grocery store and count the ingredients. Now grab the tortillas and see if you can pronounce all the chemicals. Finally, look at the fancy $10 organic peanut butter, and you’ll see the point I’m trying to get to: salt and peanuts. That’s it.

The peanut butter example is to show that there’s no reason to buy something like this in the store when it’s so simple. The other examples illustrate all of the useless and complicated things that are in basic products. I’m here to tell you about 5 things that are ridiculously easy to make in your own kitchen. There’s no need to EVER buy any of them in the store. You’ll save money, get creative, be healthier, waste fewer containers, and most importantly be able to show off to your friends.

#1 – Peanut butter

Why God, why? WHY do we insist on buying this crap when it literally has two ingredients! You have been LIED to your whole life that peanut butter is something to buy at the store! Not only is it always sold in wasteful plastic, it’s usually loaded with extra salt, sometimes sugar, and all sorts of other chemicals. “Oh, but I buy the fancy organic peanut butter” I hear you say. Again, WHY? This can be made at home in ten minutes, for a fifth of the price. Here’s how.

1. Put peanuts in the oven for 10 minutes at 190 degrees C.
2. Put peanuts in a food processor and pulse. Scrape down the sides. Pulse.
3. Repeat until it’s peanut butter.

That’s it. Never again will you pay $10 for a jar of peanut butter containing $2 worth of peanuts.

#2 – Milk

Okay, yes, I’m vegan, but that isn’t my point here. Obviously, most of us don’t have a cow out back that we can milk for cow’s milk. I’m referring to the alternatives, like rice milk, cashew milk, almond milk, etc. This is also something that’s insanely easy to make at home. Most alternatives to cow’s milk are healthier too! You don’t have to be a vegan to appreciate the smooth taste of freshly made almond milk. Instead of buying a $5 carton of milk every week, try this:

1. Fill a large mason jar 1/3 of the way up with almonds. Fill the jar with water.
2. Wait a few hours, or overnight.
3. Drain the almonds, fill the water up again (drinkable water this time).
4. Dump water and almonds into a blender.
5. Blend.
6. Strain out the almonds with a fine strainer or nut bag, back into the mason jar.

That’s it. You can do the exact same thing with rice, any nut, oats, chia seeds, pretty much any grain. No more wasting cartons, wasting money, or torturing cows for no reason.

#3 – Tortillas

Again, two ingredients, maybe three if you’re feeling frisky. Ignore the novel on the back of your overpriced tortillas and grab some flour. You can make literally hundreds of tortillas for the price of that package, and your gut will thank you for it. Here’s how:

1. Dump a bunch of flour into a bowl. I don’t know, let’s say 300 grams.
2. Add a cup of water and stir until it’s doughy. Not too sticky. Imagine pizza dough.
3. Sprinkle some dough onto your (clean) counter.
4. Grad a golf ball-sized wad of dough and flatten it over the flour. Use a rolling pin or your hands. You’ll get better with practice. Flip it occasionally.
5. Add a LITTLE oil to a pan and get it SUPER hot.
6. Cook the tortilla on that pan for 30-60 seconds on either side.

That’s it. If you like it salty, add some salt to the dough. Or anything. Cinnamon, garlic, any seeds or grains, all can be additions. Play with it however you want. Keep the packaging of your old tortillas in the bathroom for some light reading on those especially long visits.

#4 – Oatmeal

This stuff can be SUPER expensive when you buy the fancy kind. But let’s not do that. Let’s see what’s lying around your house and make it into something you can have for breakfast for a week or more. Grab any nuts you have (peanuts, cashews, almonds), some cinnamon, rolled oats, and some honey or agave.

1. Put all the things listed above into a bowl.
2. Mix them around a bunch with your (clean) hands.
3. Spread it all out onto a baking pan and bake at 200 C for 20-25 min.
4. Lick your fingers.

That’s it. Once it cools, put it in a big container and it’ll store for weeks. Use some of that milk you made earlier for an incredibly healthy and delicious breakfast.

#5 – Guacamole

Ah yes, the caviar of the hipster. People will shell out 10 bucks for a jar of this (welcome to China). You can make it at home for $3. Go and get three avocados, half an onion, as much garlic as you can stand, a lemon and a tomato from your kitchen.

1. Chop up the ingredients above and throw them into a food processor (obviously, squeeze the lemon; don’t chop it…).
2. Press the “On” button.
3. Wait one minute.

That’s… Yeah. That’s it. You just made some delicious guac to serve with the two-ingredient tortillas you made earlier. Make both these things for less than $5 at your next potluck and you’ll be famous. Take THAT, Cindy and Martin from down the street.

So yeah. You can make all this at home, mostly with stuff you have lying around anyway. Hopefully, you found at least one of these things useful, and even more importantly, I hope that next time you’re at the supermarket and pick up a product, you’ll think twice and maybe do a quick Google search of “How to make ______ at home.” You’ll be surprised what you can do yourself!

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Ubud, Bali: A Vegan Food Paradise 2018

When I talked to my Indonesian friends about finding vegan food in Bali and they were skeptical. They told me that Indonesians are obsessed with their meat and all traditional dishes are loaded with animal products. I’ve always been able to find plenty of vegan options despite meat eaters claiming that I’ll starve to death in their country… so I wasn’t too worried but I was a bit disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to feast on delicious unhealthy vegan comfort food. #firstworldveganproblems

When I talked to my Indonesian friends about finding vegan food in Bali and they were skeptical. They told me that Indonesians are obsessed with their meat and all traditional dishes are loaded with animal products. I’ve always been able to find plenty of vegan options despite meat eaters claiming that I’ll starve to death in their country… so I wasn’t too worried but I was a bit disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to feast on delicious unhealthy vegan comfort food. #firstworldveganproblems

I was super excited when I first arrived in Ubud and saw a vegan buffet restaurant. I jumped up and down saying “we have to go-” but another all-you-can-eat buffet interrupted me. During the 10 minute drive we saw at least five places boasting vegan food and we looked at each other excitedly, hello more vegan food than we could possibly ever eat. Yes, there’s dessert too!

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Topside Cafe 2018: Block Island, Rhode Island

Topside Cafe is a great place to grab a coffee or enjoy a meal while waiting for the ferry. It has great prices, vegan as well as meat options and their coffee is absolutely delicious! We visited on a cold winter day and enjoyed their vegan smoothie bowl while my father-in-law munched on his pulled pork sandwich. Their chai latte was amazing and our only regret is that we didn’t get a chance to sample their lunch specials.

Topside Cafe is a great place to grab a coffee or enjoy a meal while waiting for the ferry. It has great prices, vegan as well as meat options and their coffee is absolutely delicious! We visited on a cold winter day and enjoyed their vegan smoothie bowl while my father-in-law munched on his pulled pork sandwich. Their chai latte was amazing and our only regret is that we didn’t get a chance to sample their lunch specials.

Check it out next time you’re on Block Island, you won’t regret it!

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