Today’s a special day. It’s my little brother’s birthday (happy birthday, Patrick!), it’s the first actual chilly day we’ve had all fall (up until now, temps have been in the 80s, and even above 100F which is crazy for where I live!), and… it’s the release day of Marisa Baggett’s new cookbook, Vegetarian Sushi Secrets!
While I’m always excited about sushi cookbooks (that’s what happens when your original food blog is all about sushi), this one’s especially exciting for me for several reasons. First, we ladies of sushi stick together, and I love Marisa’s cookbooks. Secondly, you may have noticed I’ve been cooking more vegetarian and vegan food – although I still eat meat, I love trying out new recipes for my brother’s girlfriend, who is vegan. And thirdly… I had the huge honor of writing a foreword for Marisa’s new cookbook!
Of course, in addition to writing a foreword for her cookbook, I just had to try out some of her recipes as soon as she sent me a copy. I’m completely obsessed with her spicy tofu rolls. Her Faux Roe “Boats” are a fun vegetarian take on fish roe gunkan maki. And then, because I wanted to try one non-sushi recipe as well, I made this clear soup with pumpkin dumplings.
This soup is perfect for a chilly autumn day like today. Obviously, it’s totally appropriate for the pumpkin-mania that happens as soon as the clock strikes September. And I love the addition of Japanese curry to the dumpling fillings – it’s warming, makes the flavor ever so Japanese, and I pretty much always love anything curry. Delicious!
Recipe from Vegetarian Sushi Secrets by Marisa Baggett, out today!
- 1 cup (220 g) pumpkin puree
- 1 square Japanese curry base
- 3 green onions (scallions), thinly sliced
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1/2 bunch fresh coriander leaves (cilantro), roughly chopped
- 4 teaspoons soy sauce
- 1/2 cup (30 g) panko breadcrumbs
- 18 square wonton wrappers
- 2 teaspoons potato starch, dissolved in 4 teaspoons water
- Place a large pot of water over high heat. Bring to a boil.
- To prepare the dumplings, combine the pumpkin puree, Japanese curry base, green onions, garlic, coriander leaves, soy sauce, and panko breadcrumbs in a food processor. Pulse a few times, then process until well blended.
- Place two wonton wrappers on your work surface. (Keep the remaining wrappers covered with a damp towel.) Spoon 1 tablespoon of the pumpkin mixture in the center of each wrapper. Dip a fingertip in the potato starch mixture and wet the edges of the wonton wrapper. Pull the edges of the wrapper around the mixture and pinch closed. Fold the dumpling so the ends meet and crimp to close. Repeat with the remaining wrappers and filling.
- Gently drop the dumplings in the boiling water and then turn off the heat. Stir with a spoon to make sure none of the dumplings stick to the bottom of the pot. Let the dumplings cook for 3 minutes. Remove from the pot with a slotted spoon.
- To assemble the soup, lay out 6 medium-sized soup bowls. Place 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin seed oil and 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin seeds in each bowl. Divide the tofu evenly among the bowls. Add 3 warm dumplings to each bowl. Ladle 1 cup (250 ml) of hot dashi into each bowl. Sprinkle with green onions, if desired. Serve immediately.
I received a copy of this cookbook for free, as well as provided a foreword for the cookbook. Links in this post may be affiliate links.
After breakfast at The Table Cafe, we wandered to the nearby Borough Market.
We found a cool wall.
And just when we thought we were lost on this dreary, drizzly morning…
Hello there, Borough Market.
We arrived around 10am, early enough that there were no crowds, and many of the vendors were just barely setting up shop.
Quaintest field trip ever?
All my life, I had wondered what Turkish delight tastes like. (Thank you, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.) In the US, it’s not exactly a common dessert – in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever encountered it here. So of course, without one moment of hesitation, when I saw an entire Turkish delight shop at Borough Market, I had to buy some.
From there, we continued to wander throughout the market.
Practically every medieval-era fantasy book out there has an instance where the hero or heroine stops to grab a hot meat pie from a vendor, on their way to somewhere important.
(It should come as no surprise that much of my worldly knowledge comes from being a voracious fantasy reader. 😀 )
And again, this is another one of those things that you just don’t really see all that often in the US. I had certainly never tried one before.
On a cold, dreary, rainy day… a piping hot bison pie really hits the spot.
After wandering through the entire indoor section of Borough Market…
We went out the back, and discovered there’s an outdoor section to the market too!
Egg tarts – possibly Son’s biggest weakness.
(Hey, look… more pies! Of course I had to go check it out.)
“Hold on, I gotta check the map… how do we get back?”
We took the Northern line from London Bridge station to Bank station; then the District line to South Kensington, and walked back to the hotel.
Immediately upon our return to the hotel… we got into the goodies.
Our first time trying Turkish delight certainly was delightful.
(Clockwise from top: fig and walnut, carrot, pistachio, and rose-flavored Turkish delights.)
The pastéis de nata (egg tarts) from Borough Market were absolutely divine.
We regretted not getting two!
By then, our jet-lagged selves were completely tuckered out. Several hours of sweet, Turkish delight-flavored dreams ensued… and then we were off to more adventures in London!
Our first morning in London was a sharp contrast to the weather we had arrived to the aftenoon before. Dreary, chilly, and pouring rain, it was a day more suited to staying inside wrapped in a blanket with a hot drink and a good book. But we only had two days to explore London before we were off to the next city in our whirlwind trip, so off into the rain we went.
The London train system is wonderfully easy to get around. We were each able to pay £9 for an all-day ticket, and go wherever in London we liked.
For our first stop, we took the District line from South Kensington station (which is the one right next to the Ampersand Hotel) to Blackfriar station.
From there, we braved the elements and made our way across one of the many bridges… only to look across the way and realize there was a covered walking bridge that connected the station we had been in to the other side of the River Thames.
Once we made it across the river, we wandered through an art school and a garden before finding our way to our goal.
The Table Cafe.
Son discovered this cute little cafe while searching online for places to eat (this was such a last-minute, whirlwind trip, we did minimal research beforehand).
Yes, we both look like wet dogs. We were soaked.
It was filled with young professionals grabbing breakfast with friends or coworkers before work.
Son’s typically a savory breakfast kind of person, and “The Stack” caught his eye.
Layers of bagels, beans, chorizo, poached eggs, and hollandaise sauce.
His breakfast was tasty, but mine was better – the best pancake I have ever had (fried until the edges were crispy!), with perfectly-cooked bacon, and caramelized bananas.
The Table Cafe… do go visit if you’re ever in London, and definitely get the pancakes!
The Table Cafe
83 Southwark Street
London, SE1 0HX
After dinner at Tombo, we were walking back towards The Ampersand when we came across a Wafflemeister.
I follow a lot of food and travel bloggers on Instagram, and it just so happened that a few days before we left for our trip, another blogger was visiting London as well. One of the places she mentioned as a must-try was Wafflemeister.
So many delicious options!
On the recommendation from the man working there, we ended up with a liege waffle topped with whipped cream, white chocolate, and strawberries. (£4.1)
It was very sweet, almost cloyingly so, but still very delicious. A tasty start to our trip!
When we travel, we tend to wander a lot.
We also have a habit of stopping by grocery and convenience stores – both to see how the locals shop, and to pick up plenty of water for the trip so we’re not murdered by the ridiculous prices hotels tend to charge for water.
We found a convenience store just a couple of blocks away from our hotel, but more importantly… we found Kinder eggs!
I’m not ashamed to admit, this was one of my top priorities for the trip. When we were kids, my dad used to (illegally?) bring us back Kinder eggs every time he had to go to Europe for business trips. I still love the little toys you get in them, especially when they’re the kind you have to put together – and Kinder chocolate is one of my favorites!
Goodnight, London. Stay tuned for much more deliciousness in Europe!
26 Cromwell Place
London, SW7 2LD
When I was younger, I always wanted to go to Europe. Specifically, I wished for Paris, but I’m sure anywhere in that region would have made my teenaged self happy. But, when forced to choose between a France trip with a french teacher from my high school, or a chance at attending a summer ballet intensive, I chose dance over France.
It seems a bit funny, then, that once I hit adulthood and had the ability to go on trips without parental funding or permission, my first few trips out of the country all went in the direction of Asia. Don’t get me wrong, I’d go back in a heartbeat, and Japan just about always would be my first choice if you told me I could fly anywhere tomorrow. But definitely not what I would have imagined for myself a decade ago.
Which means, of course, I leapt at the opportunity to travel for work, when a client asked Son and myself to be in Germany for a week. (Best. Job. Ever.) Since we’d never been to Europe, and really much hadn’t taken any breaks from work since our last trip, we decided to treat ourselves to a little bit of a vacation, and take some extra time to see more of Europe while we were there.
This time around I’m planning on writing a separate post for each food location (because, duh, of course we did nothing but eat while we were there), partially for ease of future reference if any of you (or I) want to look up a restaurant again while traveling… but also because holy guacamole Son took so many photos, and if I did a post for each day they’d be ridiculously photo-heavy.
(Also, as we all know by now, timeliness is not exactly my strong suite, and this trip actually happened more than two years ago. Yep, I know, I’m the worst. So it’s possible some of the places we went could have closed, or have different menus by now.)
First, we start with London…
We chose to fly Air New Zealand out of LAX, which was an airline choice we were quite happy with. The food was decent, and the media options were plentiful (I watched both The Lego Movie and Frozen on the way there, because obviously those are both very important cultural experiences that were missing from my life.)
Our flight left around 5pm Los Angeles time, and we landed around noon the next day in London time.
After landing, we went to pick up our Tep wireless hotspot. We love being able to have internet access while traveling, since it means we can always fairly easily figure out where we’re going, wander without worrying about getting hopelessly lost, look up reviews and information online, and instagram from anywhere. (Priorities.) The Tep worked wonderfully. We had a slight issue with them forgetting to include the extra batteries we had ordered (a must if you’re going to be away from a power source all day!), but after emailing them about it, they rushed a delivery and the batteries were at our hotel room just a few hours later.
Also, don’t do what we did. We waited at the airport for a couple of hours for a car service that never showed up… only to realize that I had never actually completed the request on their website. -_- (In my defense, their website was very poorly designed… but we tried the service again as we were leaving London and it actually worked wonderfully.)
So… instead, we signed up for a hotel bus (which cost £45) to take us to our hotel.
The Ampersand Hotel is a fairly new hotel, right across the street from South Kensington Station.
The rooms are modern and well-designed, and the location is super-convenient. And, my favorite part… the bathrooms have heated floors! Seriously – it sounds silly, but those heated floors are the absolute best thing ever when your feet are frozen and sore after a full day of walking around London in the rain. It’s the little things, but that was by far my favorite hotel of the entire trip.
Our room even had a little balcony, where we could look out over the rooftops.
And then, because an 11-hour overnight flight is brutal, we both collapsed sideways on the bed, without even bothering with pillows or the covers, and completely passed out for a couple of hours.
As much as I love traveling, when I’m starving and exhausted after a long day of flying and figuring out how to get where we’re supposed to be, I want nothing more than comfort food. Easy comfort food.
In Japan, that means onigiri from a combini. In Austin, that meant whatever Son could scrounge up from the grocery store across the street.
In London, we looked online for anything that sounded like home… but wasn’t too far away.
We settled on Tombo Japanese Restaurant, which is right around the corner from South Kensington Station (just a block away from our hotel).
Tombo is an adorable little restaurant, specializing in bento-style Japanese food and green tea.
Upon entering, we found a deli-style counter filled with all sorts of Japanese-inspired side dishes, and a menu that reminded us of home.
Son got the miso salmon donburi, with seaweed salad.
The salmon was subtly flavored, but very delicious, and something we have made a point to replicate (several times) since returning home.
I went full-out comfort food, with their katsu curry, and we also got a matcha latte to share.
The curry was okay – not quite as spicy as I’d have preferred, and the katsu was a little bland. Even so, there’s just something about curry and rice that screams “comfort food” to me, and this totally hit the spot.
The matcha latte was my favorite part of all. (It seems there’s a good reason they call themselves a matcha bar!)
Especially because just a month or so before the trip, Son had spontaneously decided that he wanted to start making matcha lattes for me every morning… so they hold a special place in my heart.
This one was delicious, and strong enough that I’d have stayed awake all night, if not for the power of jetlag.
(The above is what’s known as “sleepy, puffy, why-are-you-taking-a-picture-of-me, I’m-about-to-faceplant-in-my-food-I’m-so-tired, travel face”.)
Tombo may not always be my first choice for a London restaurant stop, however when in need of Japanese comfort food, it’s a perfect option.
Tombo Japanese Cafe & Matcha Bar
29 Thurloe Place
South Kensington, SW7 2HQ