First off, hope you all had a FABULOUS week so far. Can you believe that November is over and that December is finally upon us, which further proves the theory that time is just Mother Nature’s ninja. It’s unseen, fleeting, and can really strike you out of nowhere! Also, it’s even harder to believe that my birthday is in a week. Does anybody know what it feels like to be nineteen years-old? I’m not entirely sure if it’s an age to look forward to, but hey, let’s see what 2017 has to offer!
But aside from my birthday, today is my middle sister’s seventeenth birthday, which is honestly unbelievable. Sadly, I am five hours away from the family and cannot physically be present to celebrate with her, but truthfully, having birthdays on school-days STINK. You’re busy, you can’t make yourself elaborately fancy meals, and classes generally like to stress you out even MORE because it’s December….EXAM MONTH. On the other hand, I’ve learned to plan accordingly and have my birthday celebrated for not one, not two, but THREE days. Basically, it involves me whipping up vegan sweet potato brownies for my friends and visiting the farmers market one day, creating a single-serving sweet potato brownie cake with vegan chocolate ice cream sundae and a Lenny and Larry’s Birthday Cake cookie the next day, and having Indian food the third day. PERFECT right? I’m so stoked! 😙🎂
Speaking of birthdays, here’s a quickie little message that I really want to add because it’s important to me: this morning, I was exploring the customizer of my site domain and found that I now have over a thousand blog followers. My jaw dropped and I was stunned in the happiest way. Two years ago, I created my blog with the expectations of being viewed by only a few readers. Obviously, I’m only one of nearly millions of aspiring bloggers who have a long way to go until I can reach the top blogger list, let alone be able to make revenue from my website. But money and traffic? None of that is what this is all about for me. I will always treasure my blog and all of the people I’ve reached through it, because I genuinely want to add meaning to others’ lives. Whether you’ve been inspired by my weight loss story, recreated a recipe, resonated with a personal post, have been subscribed to my website or have just been reading my content, I truly, truly, truly appreciate every one of you. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. This is one of the best early birthday presents that I could ever imagine. I love you all. 💓
Now enough of my birthday babbles and teary thoughts–let’s get onto to the main subject of this post: TURKEY.
Specifically, vegan turkey. Yes, you read that right. 🦃
During the week I came back to L.A. for Thanksgiving break, my parents and I decided to visit one of my old SoCal vegan favorites: Vinh Loi Tofu! I reviewed it a few years ago on the blog (link here), and I’ve continually gone back for more because I absolutely love how it is one of a select few of Vietnamese restaurants that offer many vegan options or are entirely vegan! We ordered the seaweed rolls as an appetizer, which I demolished three-quarters of along with all of the hoisin sauce like my last visit! While my parents both ordered vegan pho, I got the seafood salad made with loads of mock shrimp and fish pieces, crushed peanuts, crispy onions, mixed greens, iceberg and Romaine lettuce, mint, carrots, red cabbage, bell peppers, bean sprouts, lime and a sweet soy dressing. I also had to try some of Kevin’s special sauce, hoisin sauce, Sriracha and ketchup to dip the fish and seaweed rolls on the side! Everything tasted delicious and I felt so satiated after the meal.
Periodically, I conversed with Kevin and Romane about my life back in college, my vegan journey and how my family felt about me being away from home and living independently. During our communications, I asked if the vegan soy turkeys were still being sold, and to my luck, they were! I was absolutely thrilled and placed my order on one of them immediately. Having the personal communication between the owner and the rest of the service made the memory of the visit that much more remarkable! While I was immensely sad to leave the restaurant, I was further elated to receive a free shirt with the restaurant’s logo to further endorse them and the vegan message!
For the next day and my first try of the turkey, I uploaded a YouTube video of everything that I ate during the day! But if you want to read the full recaps and reviews of all of the meals I had for my low key Thanksgiving, then just keep reading!
The next day, my parents surprised my sisters and I with a trip to Joan’s On Third, an adorable marketplace that resembles Williams-Sonoma during the holidays! The overall structure of the restaurant was magical, and I got lost in the array of gourmet foods and kitchen accessories that were sold! Of course, I didn’t buy anything because I thought everything was a bit ridiculously overpriced.
Joan’s On Third also is a restaurant with a diverse menu and some delicious dishes that can be taken home! There were so many recipes that had elements of the Thanksgiving theme, and I had to try them all! I ended up ordering a grilled artichoke with a balsamic reduction sauce, maple brown sugar sweet potatoes, and a bowl of roasted autumn vegetables that included potatoes, mushrooms, onions, whole garlic cloves, carrots and a little spinach! Everything was so delectably magnificent, especially the maple brown sugar sweet potatoes, which I need to recreate at home! My sisters also gave me their leftover butternut squash soup, which also tasted delicious.
When the post-study munchies came, I grabbed a CLIF energy nut butter-filled bar to satisfy my stomach! This bar was filled with coconut almond butter and had the perfect plain yet sweet rice-crispy coating as on any standard CLIF bar. These bars come in three different varieties: a peanut butter-filled bar, a chocolate hazelnut-filled bar, and a peanut butter-filled bar with a chocolate coating! If you haven’t tried these bars already, you are seriously missing out!
After stopping by Gelson’s in the evening, my mother and I picked up the vegan turkey from the restaurant. Upon carrying the turkey in my hands as my mother drove us back, I could not gather my senses, as the soy turkey seemed almost too real to be true! Texture-wise, I could tell that the meat was fake due to its slightly gummy firmness and lack of bones (but really, why would anybody want vegan bones?), but the appearance, shape and golden-brown color of the surface mirrored those of any real turkey meat almost identically! There was even a hole for stuffing!
Since my middle sister was out of town for the actual Thanksgiving holiday, the rest of the family and I found it inappropriate to have a formal dinner without her, so we just rested at home and whipped up what we found in the fridge. As my mother made the family noodle soup and prosciutto bruschetta, I had to review this mock meat and see if it was worth the $49 investment!
Baking the turkey is extremely easy: just preheat the oven to 350F and bake the turkey for 45-75 minutes, depending on your liking. I ended up baking around an eighth of the turkey over slices of a whole eggplant, but had to take a couple of photos of the whole turkey “corpse” before cutting off the rest! If this turkey does not look real enough to you, then I don’t know what will!
Now for a drumroll…turnout of the meal! Eggplant slices topped with marinara, slices of the soy turkey, and two sides of leftover sauteed spinach and broccoli!
Even though this meal was very simple to cook, I seriously treasured every part of it, even every bite of the under-cooked eggplant. Honestly, they were almost inedible, and using the microwave only made it worse because the heating process just vibrated the eggplant’s water molecules so quickly that the slices would dry and shrivel up even more! Not a fun situation. However, the sauteed broccoli and spinach were stellar. Cooked perfectly, full of an ideal medley of flavors, and versatile with the overall dish? Couldn’t go wrong!
Now for the moment you’ve all been waiting for: how was the turkey? Let me break it down for you below!
- Appearance: As stated earlier in the post, the chefs of Vinh Loi Tofu practically nailed the shape and appearance of the turkey in terms of mimicking the real meat. It’s not perfect, of course, because in my opinion, no soy meat will truly be the exact same as real meat in every way. If you are not concerned about the physicality of your soy meat, then this shouldn’t be a problem for you. However, this would be a great turkey to fool your relatives with!
- Texture: Hands down, the texture is probably the most realistic part of the overall composition! The turkey “meat” does not have the same rubbery or doughey consistency as most seitans have, nor is it extremely dense like tofu and tempeh or soft like a vegetable patty. Slicing into the soy meat, you will really feel the tenderness and firmness that you’d imagine in a real turkey. Once you chew the meat, you seriously won’t tell the difference in texture!
- Taste: Flavors GALORE. Despite having Sriracha and teriyaki on hand, I did not need any sauces or condiments to enhance the taste whatsoever! The meat had the perfect amount of saltiness, smokiness and umami sensations that are common in actual animal foods. I absolutely loved every single bite!
- Cost: Clocking in at $49 total, the turkey is relatively expensive. Assuming that it will serve a family of 5-6 people, each portion divides into approximately $10 a person. Given that I had to pay the turkey for myself, it seemed that more expensive. Yes. My dad would not pay for the vegan turkey. That’s adulting for you.
Overall, I say that my experience with Vinh Loi Tofu’s turkey is a MAJOR success! If you enjoy trying out vegan meats or if you are transitioning into a plant-based diet and would like to find some products that parallel your animal-based favorites, then this turkey is perfect for serving to a large party of people! It looks like a turkey, tastes like a turkey, and provides amazing flavors and aromas that you and your loved ones will truly enjoy! But if you do not want tons of leftovers in your fridge as a person of one, then it would be more practical to purchase a single-serving portion of vegan turkey or pot roast for the holidays. But do I regret spending my dollars into this turkey? Absolutely not! In fact, I am extremely grateful that I did!
And how could I end the night without dessert? I topped some vegan organic soy-based pumpkin and peanut butter-blended frozen yogurt (I bought from Humphrey Yogurt, which was tucked away in the Gelson’s supermarket!) with Trader Joe’s Chocolate Almond granola, half a square of Theo Sea Salt Almond dark chocolate and Cascadian Farms organic Graham crunch cereal! The consistency was so, so creamy and the flavors blended even better than I anticipated! Peanut butter and pumpkin may sound a little odd together, but they actually complement each other beautifully!
To sum everything up, I had the most wonderful time creating memories that were full of festivities, delicious food and family bonding. Truthfully, this year holds the best Thanksgiving break that I’ve experienced! The week was the perfect balance of mellow relaxation from studying and video editing, and adventure with restaurant hopping and city exploration! Hope you all had a lovely November, and let’s get pumped up for the holidays and the new year! I know I have, because my roommates and I are already singing Christmas carols and decorating our room with snowflakes and pine!
Would you ever dig into a vegan turkey? Have you started preparing for the winter holidays?