July 09, 2011

Can tofu be succulent?

Tofu secuwa

While it may be true that Madison, Wis. officially only has one vegetarian restaurant, there is no lack of dining opportunity for vegetarians and vegans in Mad City. As if to prove that point, Dave, the coordinator of the Madison area vegetarian meetup group, is forever arranging fab vegan meals at area restaurants. And I believe one of the great byproducts of these outings is a greater understanding on the part of the restaurants, of how to prepare vegan meals, making them even more vegan-friendly than before. (Thank you, Dave!)

Could that be Dave, in the red shirt?

We attended a recent meetup dining event at Chautara, an Indian, Tibetan, Nepali restaurant on State St., and one of our favorites. There were 50 people at the event, and so much interest in attending, that a second night had to be arranged.

The meal started with a generous platter of pakauda, which are deep fried vegetable fritters in chickpea batter. These were so tasty that I ate way too many. Way too many — and I'd do it again.

Next we had a choice of soup or garden salad, and I chose the latter. It was fresh and tangy.

Dave chose the dal, a mixed bean soup which looked and smelled delicious but I forgot to ask how it tasted. (Actually, I think I know how it tasted having ordered it myself many times in the past. It probably tasted great.)

There were three entrées. Above you see seitan buff, a sauté of seitan and vegetables with garlic, ginger and tamari.

Pictured at the top of the post, and directly above, is tofu secuwa, skewered char-grilled, marinated tofu with green peppers and onions. Succulent is the word that comes to mind when I think about the taste and appearance of this dish. Can tofu be succulent? I'd have to say yes, but if you don't agree, order tofu secuwa at Chautara next time you're in Madison.

The last entrée was bhat tarkari, delicious and delicate chickpeas and vegetables in a flavorful sauce served with white jasmine rice.

To end the meal we were presented with a delicious fresh fruit salad. The meal came with a choice of lemonade, iced mint tea or water, and everything except the seitan and pakauda was gluten-free.

A few of the happy diners at my table.

If you live in the Madison area, I recommend joining the Madison area vegetarian meetup group and attending a monthly event. You'll have a great time, a great meal, and maybe make some new friends. But if you're just visiting the city for a short stay, and looking for a place to eat, try Chautara or its sister restaurant, Himal Chuli.


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  1. Your meet up meals always look so good and make me jealous, lol. Everything sounds so good!


  2. Yes, it does look succulent! It all looks really good! I would have eaten way too many of those padukas too.

    Thinking of the meet ups from the perspective of prompting non-vegan venues to think about preparing an all vegan meal is a really good observation! Sort of a win-win, really. Kudos to Dave...and all you veggies over there in Mad City! :)

  3. Of course tofu can be succulent! I thought that my grilled tofu was succulent. . . and besides, it's such a great word. ;)

    Fabulous meetup meal, as always!

  4. The tofu looks so good! The chickpea dish also sounds great. Kudos to WI for having things like this happen, hopefully the start of many, many more, and a headsup to other restaurants!

  5. Courtney,
    The meetup meals ARE always wonderful, but there are equally good restaurants in Minn. — you should start a meetup! :)

    It really is great to have an advocate like Dave spreading not just the vegan ethos, but also teaching about gluten-free options.

    Believe it or not, I've never grilled tofu, but obviously I need to move forward with that. :)

    You highlighted my two favorite dishes. It takes a dedicated, organized individual like Dave to make this happen — and a community of hungry vegetarians and vegans! :)

  6. How incredible that not only are these non-veg restaurants willing to offer an entire vegan meal, but that they do it so well. Hopefully the turnouts to these events prompts an additional section to their "regular" menus!

  7. Beautiful food! That dal looks lovely. Oh and yes tofu can taste succulent!

  8. for a minute I thought i was on the wrong blog because some of those dishes look meaty!

    i've always said it's fine if there is only one or a few veggie places, as long as they are good ones!

  9. Abby,
    Wouldn't it be nice to find a vegan section on every restaurant menu! I only know of a couple that have a veg section — and one with an entire veg menu with vegan-friendly foods noted.

    I think I may have to head back to Chautara for another meal before we leave Madison. So good!

    Nope, no meat. :) Chautara has a vegetarian section on their menu, but they do serve meaty things. I once went there with a friend who ordered goat.

  10. Oh, that food looks good! Yes, I agree that tofu can be succulent! And my mouh's watering at your photos! I had to call John over to see them. He's a BBBBIIIIGGGGGG tofu fan!

    Those fritters look and sound very like pakora (also a favourite in the SVH household), but I'm guessing it doesn't have the Indian spices?

    As always, your post has made me VERY HUNGRY! :o) Thank goodness it's nearly lunchtime! But it's a pity I can't join you at that restaurant!

  11. Thanks Andrea for a great write-up. I wish I had a marketing budget -- I'd hire you in an instant.

  12. Penny,
    I had to double check the name when I wrote the post because I thought they were pakoras, too. The paduka may be the same thing, but they seemed puffier and plumper than pakoras I've had in Indian restaurants. On the other hand, maybe the source I checked was wrong, and they are pakoras.

    Just hold that thought for when you're rich and famous. :)

  13. I love what Dave's doing, what effective, productive vegan diplomacy/advocacy! And how wonderful that there's always such great participation at the meetups, it always looks like everyone's having such fun!

    Is this post your revenge for my making you "too full and inebriated to move from [your] chair?" LOL! If it is, then well done, you! You got me. I just ate, but it matters little - everything looks so outrageously delicious that I'm hungry all over again! If I could reach through my screen and grab fistfuls of that tantalizing food, I'd definitely start with the tofu (I think we have a consensus that tofu can indeed be succulent!), and then snag as many of those paduka fritters as were left after you'd pillaged the platter (you should have written, "so there!" after "and I'd do it again!" You sounded admirably defiant! :-)). After that, I'd want a mega serving of the bhat tarkari (like chickpeas much, laloofah?) and a bowl of that soup!

    I can tell that if I lived anywhere near Madison, I'd have to wear jumbo stretch pants to the monthly meetups. LOL

    *sigh* I can't tear my gaze away from that tofu...

  14. Amazing looking food! Love the fried fritters and tofu! All of the food from the meetup group always look so yummy! :-)

  15. Laloofa,
    Dave works closely with the restaurants so they understand what a vegan meal requires, and I think it must be a real eye-opener to them to see the extent of the interest. I think this is a form of urban activism to be admired and copied!

    I wasn't planning revenge, but I'm not going to apologize, either, after that post of yours. I needed stretch pants just to read it. :) The image of you in your giant stretch pants gave me a good chuckle. I just want to mention that the tofu was much more gorgeous in person!

    Chow vegan,
    Indulging in a little fried something every so often sure has its charms, doesn't it? :)

  16. Quit laughin' at my jumbo stretch pants. They're very practical. LOL

    I can't imagine the tofu looked even more gorgeous in person - it looks so perfect in your photos! Want some!!!

  17. Laloofa,
    Hey, I love my stretch pants! And, yes, the tofu did look better in person.

  18. I used to eat more tofu. And yes, it can be succulent. However, I prefer seitan and tempeh.

  19. Andrea, you're so silent of late! I've been thinking of Buffy during that sweltering heat and humidity and hope she's been faring okay. And you too, for that matter!

  20. Mel,
    I like tempeh a lot, too.

    Not to worry (too much). Buffy is OK, as am I. There have been big house issues (BIG), back problems (getting much better) and other assorted problems keeping me from the computer. Send me an email (cookeasyvegan at gmail dot com) so we can arrange a meetup! Looks like we'll be rolling in next Tuesday. Hope that will be a possibility for you. :)

  21. Andrea, I'm glad to hear that Buffy is okay and that your back problems are getting much better, but am sorry to hear you suffered them at all and that you've been having (BIG) house problems! With your new Seattle house, or the one there in Madison? Either way, that's stressful, I know, and a real PITA!

    Thanks for your email address, at this point Tuesday should work out great for a meet-up! I'll email you shortly! :-)

  22. I, too, was getting worried, Andrea. Hope your back continues to improve and the house issues get sorted out soon.

    I am SO envious of you and Laloofah getting together! I would LOVE to meet up with you two!

  23. Wow, that looks delicious! We were just eating pretty well in the real Tibet, but I am sorry to have missed this meal.

  24. Laloofa,
    We've had lots of things happening at our Wis. house — new roof needed, collapsed pipes UNDER the basement floor, stove repairs, blah, blah, blah. Haven't lived in the Seattle house yet so who knows what thrills await. Old houses are full of surprises.

    I wish you were coming to meet up with us. I'd LOVE to meet you in person. I just know we'd have so much to talk about! If I ever get to Scotland again, you can be sure I'll look you up. :) Or, you could visit Seattle ...

    We missed you, but eating in the real Tibet trumps Chautara any day! Welcome back!

  25. Jenny left a new comment and I accidentally deleted it:

    "Always so envious of the vegan meet-ups. I eat deep fried things about twice a year, I think, and I always deeply enjoy them, as I know I would those fritters."

    I know just what you mean about "deeply enjoying" the deep fried things. Tasty little devils, aren't they?

  26. @ Penny ~ Andrea and I can both assure you that you were there with us in spirit! Were you ears burning that day? 'Cause we were talking about you! (All good things, of course!) :-) I hope you and Andrea get to meet in person one day soon. You'll really have fun! :-)

    Andrea, I intend to email you tomorrow. Meanwhile, take a peek at my blog when you get a moment... you're a stah, dahling, a stah! ;-)

  27. The food looks fabulous! Have you moved to Wisconsin or are you still in Seattle? I've missed some posts.

  28. My mouth is watering! I would be wearing my XL sweat pants to that kind of feast, for sure! Hope the house issues are settling down for you!


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