Vegan for a week

    A vegetable roll. Photo by Minhee Kang / North by Northwestern.

    In celebration of Go Vegan Week, a few eateries in Chicago are collaborating with Mercy For Animals, a Chicago-based animal advocacy organization, to bring a selection of classic dishes with a vegan twist. Drew’s Eatery, Clark Street Dog, Ian’s Pizza and New York Deli are participating in the event.

    Many vegans assert that animals killed for food are often abused — they live in small, cramped cages and pens, unable to graze, roost or feel the warmth of sunlight. While there are alternatives like cage-free farming, the desire to end animal cruelty is only part of the reason the vegan lifestyle attracts so many people. Animal production is, according to the UN, one of the largest sources of greenhouse gases.

    Of course, now that you’ve been adequately guilt-tripped, I’m sure you would all love to run out right now to one of the four restaurants serving vegan fare, but, the truth is, they are pretty far from the Northwestern campus. So, in celebration of Go Vegan Week, an easy solution is to stay home and make your own vegan meal. In Evanston, Japanese cuisine is a staple of mine, and people are often surprised by how good and easy it is to make vegan Japanese fare.

    Maki, or sushi rolls, are easy to make and don’t have to be made with fish. You just have to take a piece of nori, or seaweed paper, coat one side with rice, place the ingredients inside and roll!

    Anything can go inside a sushi roll so play around with them and have fun!

    Ingredients you will need for every kind of maki:

    • Sushi rice (cook about three cups of sticky rice, Add 1/3 cup vinegar, 3 tablespoons of sugar and 1 tablespoon of salt)
    • Nori (seaweed paper, you can find this at Whole Foods)

    Here are some of my favorite variations:

    Spicy avocado rolls

    Photo by Minhee Kang / North by Northwestern.

    You will need:

    • Avocado, cut into slices
    • Spicy vegan mayo sauce
    • 3 teaspoons vegan mayo (you can find this at Whole Foods)
    • 1 tablespoon chili hot sauce of your choice (I used Sriracha)

    Sweet potato rolls

    You will need:

    • Sweet potato
    • Asparagus, lightly steamed
    • Cucumber, julienned
    • Avocado, cut into slices
    • Spicy vegan mayo
    • Ponzu sauce (you can find this at Whole Foods)

    Preparing the sweet potato:

    1. Poke it a couple times with a fork
    2. Put it on a microwavable dish and microwave for about 2-3 minutes
    3. Flip the potato over and microwave for another 2 minutes
    4. Take the skin off but leave the potato intact
    5. Cut into long rectangles

    After you are done rolling and cutting the maki, take a spoon and sprinkle the sauce over the pieces of sweet potato.

    Vegan asparagus tempura rolls

    You will need:

    • 1 cup flour
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1 cup water
    • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
    • Oil for frying (you will need a lot, at least three cups)
    • Asparagus (you can use any vegetable — it doesn’t have to be asparagus)
    • Panko crumbs (you can find this at Whole Foods)
    1. Combine the flour, salt, sugar and baking powder.
    2. Slowly add the water and oil while stirring, it should be smooth.
    3. Chill in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.
    4. Heat oil in a pot over high heat.
    5. Dip the asparagus into the tempura batter then roll it in the panko crumbs.
    6. Drop it into the oil and let it cook until it is lightly golden brown.


    You will need:

    Photo by Minhee Kang / North by Northwestern.
    • 1 serving Soba noodles
    • 2 stalks of asparagus
    • A few leaves of bokchoi
    • Carrots
    • 1 leaf of Napa cabbage
    • 1/2 stalk of celery
    • 1/2 clove garlic, minced
    • 1 scallion, chopped
    • 1 tablespoon ginger, finely chopped
    • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
    • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
    • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
    • Salt to taste
    1. Boil the noodles in lightly salted water for about three minutes until the noodles are slightly soft.
    2. Throw the vegetable oil in a pan and saute the vegetables until barely tender or about two minutes.
    3. Add the sesame oil and the noodles, cooking for about one minute.
    4. Add the ginger and cook for another minute.
    5. Add the vegetables in with the noodles, add the scallion and cook for one minute.
    6. Add the soy sauce, and then add salt to taste.

    Note: Feel free to use any vegetables you desire. These are just my favorites.

    And voila! Super easy and super sustainable. Other dishes are also effortlessly turned vegan and vegetarian. Cook with vegetable oil, and replace meats with tofu. Tomato sauce easily becomes a “bolognese” with lentils, and there is no need for meat at all. Look online for vegan recipes, and be creative — you’ll find that a lot of your favorite dishes can be just as good in their vegan versions and much healthier for you and the environment!


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