When I first moved back to Vancouver 20 years ago, I spent a lot of time on The Drive. More specifically; I spent it at Continental, drinking coffee and people watching.
I didn’t live in Commercial Drive. There was a part of me, that, while I loved to visit, was reticent to live there. Like it still had that “rough and tumble” East Van reputation that was too exotic for the every day.
There were lots of tattoos and piercings, and people sporting brightly-coloured hair. There was passionate yelling and crowds gathering on the sidewalk outside of Cafe Roma to watch soccer. There were Italian gentlemen sipping tiny coffees and reading newspapers at Joe’s. There was Havana, where I spent a lot of time both hanging out and making art. It was wonderful.
I’ve grown up since then, and I think East Van has, as well. Yeah, the attitude is still there, but East Van has a sophistication now that it lacked 20 years ago.
That sophistication has a lot to do with the food culture of East Van–and that food culture is being celebrated in a new book, The East Van Foodie. Published by Brad Hill, this book is the follow up to The North Shore Foodie. What I love about Brad’s books is that they aren’t just cookbooks. These are the kinds of books you want to proudly display on your coffee table. They are replete with the greatest food porn.
The East Van Foodie features stories and recipes from some of my fave East Van joints; Havana, Bandidas, Chicha, Fets, Red Wagon, Mamie Taylors. These places are the real deal. They serve straight-up good food.
Today’s recipe is from this book. One fantastic thing about this book is how much vegetarian and vegan food there is in it, and this recipe comes from The Wallflower, a diner on Main St that is very veg friendly.
Pasta Carobonara is, of course, normally made with bacon, eggs and cream. None of which, of course, are vegan. This vegan carbonara uses a smoked tofu and coconut bacon chips to impart that smoky flavor, and roasted garlic cashew cream. Its pretty tasty!
(recipe courtesy of The East Van Foodie)
- 1 cup cashews
- 2 bulbs garlic
- 200 mL coconut milk
- 4 cups water
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1 tbsp pepper
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- olive oil
- 1 500 gm package of pasta, I used spaghetti
- 1 210 package of smoked tofu
- 1/2 cup peas
- Coconut bacon
- The night before, place the cashews in a 500 ml mason jar and cover them with water. Screw on the lid and allow to sit on the counter overnight.
- Slice the tops off of the bulbs of garlic, and place them on a square of aluminum foil. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, then fold up the sides to make a little package. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes, until the cloves are soft. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
- Cook pasta according to directions.
- While pasta is cooking, drain the soaked cashews and add them to the blender with 2 cups of fresh water. Blend well for about a minute. Squish the roasted garlic cloves into the blender and blend again.
- In a medium-sized pot, bring the cashew sauce up to the boil, along with the additional 2 cups of water. Place the coconut milk in a mason jar with the cornstarch and shake well to create a slurry. Add that to the cashew cream, whisking all the time, until it’s thick and creamy. Season.
- In a large frying pan or dutch oven over medium heat, heat a tablespoon of oil. Add the diced tofu and fry for a minute. Add the peas and cook for 30 seconds. Add the pasta back into the pan, then add the sauce. Toss well until everything is coated.
- Serve, garnishing with coconut bacon and fresh herbs.