It’s time for some real, serious talk. Something that has always bugged me about the claymation movie, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, is that Santa comes off as a royal jerk. Santa only accepts Rudolph when he realizes that the reindeer’s shining schnoz could be of use to him. He disempowers an elf with dreams of becoming a dentist. He forces a jack-in-the-box to live in exile, simply because he’s named Charlie.
I suppose I shouldn’t be too harsh. I have some cast-off misfit toys of my own. They’re not trains with square tires or squirt guns that shoot grape jelly (although that would be cool). They are spices, stuffed further and further back into my cupboard. They were bought when one new cookbook or another came out or a recipe online enticed me, and then they were forgotten before they were used.
Take Kala Namak, for example, otherwise known as black salt. It’s an Indian spice with a strong sulfurous smell. It hit the blogosphere hard several years ago when Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s book, Vegan Brunch, came out. She added it to vegan omelets for an eggy taste, and everyone was raving about it. I picked some up at an Indian grocery store in Los Angeles and promptly forgot about it. The only time I ever even opened it was to sniff the inside of the bag and see what all the talk was about.
I even packed that bag of black salt with me when I moved across country. I know that you’re supposed to toss spices after a year or six months, but I just didn’t have the heart to do it for something I’d never even used. Plus, it’s salt. It seems like it should have a fairly long shelf life.
In a similar vein, another example is the Vegg. It’s a dry mixture of black salt, nutritional yeast flakes, and sodium alginate. When blended with water, it makes a somewhat gelatinous vegan egg yolk. Not meant to replace eggs for binding and baking purposes, it is instead meant to be used where the sulfurous flavor of eggs is desired. It has a somewhat slimy (for lack of a better word) yolk-like texture because of the sodium alginate. I received a packet of Vegg in a giveaway many moons ago, put it in my cupboard, and let it commiserate with the black salt.
Then I traveled with friends to Kansas City last July. On our way out of Kansas City, we stopped by FÜD to get shakes for the road. My friend, Ray, didn’t want a beverage and decided to get a bit of a snack instead. He asked the server what her favorite menu item was and she said quickly and without hesitation, “The Eggy.”
The Eggy is something like a fried egg sandwich, but vegan just like everything on FÜD’s menu. It was something I would never have ordered in a million years. It’s not that I have anything against vegan foods emulating non-vegan foods or that I didn’t used to enjoy fried eggs. But the truth is, it took me a long time to like them. I had to kind of talk myself into it. I didn’t really start eating them until college. So eating a vegan version of something that tasted like another thing I only learned to like would never have made my list, not when there were tacos and nachos on offer.
Then I watched as Ray greedily downed the half of the Eggy sandwich he ordered. David Hasselhoff was mentioned. He devoured it, murmuring sweet nothings to it while he ate, licking every last bite as if he was starving. In When Harry Met Sally-style, I said to the server, “I’ll have what he’s having.”
So she boxed up half an Eggy sandwich for the road, and I guiltily opened up the to-go box in the car. Why guiltily? Well, there we were stuck in a car for hours as I made the whole car smell like eggs to the chagrin of four trapped vegans. Then I took a bite. And it was worth it. At least for me. I didn’t think in any way that the taste was something I was missing, but every messy, salty bite was devoured. My friend, Melissa, one of the aforementioned trapped vegans, mentioned that it was like the Vegg. And I remembered my old misfit, gathering dust in the cupboard.
And after a couple more months… I finally tried it. I mixed a teaspoon of the dry Vegg mixture in my short Vitamix blender with a quarter cup of water. After just thirty seconds or so it was fully mixed, gooey and thick. I poured it into a cup, microwaved it for fifteen seconds, and poured it over baked tofu I had on hand along with Upton’s seitan bacon, toast, and sliced tomatoes.
The taste was there again, but the baked tofu was a bit too dense. That’s my preferred way to enjoy tofu, but in this eggy form, a softer tofu would be better. So when I saw Ketty from Luminous Vegans post this recipe for fried Vegg using silken tofu instead, I was intrigued. Plus, her picture looked eerily like a fried egg. Thinking of The Eggy, I had to try it.
I made a batch of hash browns using my favorite recipe from Olives for Dinner and added a side of garlicky sautéed kale. Then I topped them with fried thin slices of extra firm silken tofu topped with plenty of black salt. (Yes, that poor, sad bag finally got to come out of hiding.) The soft but firm tofu texture combined with the sticky, sulfurous Vegg made for a weirdly egg-like experience. (If I was serving them to guests, it would be fun to cut the silken tofu into circles for added realism.)
Obviously it’s not the kind of thing you’d want to eat in a trapped car, but you know, if you had access to an open sleigh it could be just the thing…
Disclaimer: I received two complimentary packets of Vegg & a Vegg cookbook. The thoughts & opinions on the product are totally my own. There are Amazon affiliate links in this post.