Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Hey Jan, Ghapama/Ղափամա....Recipe! [+ANNOUNCEMENT]

Hello dear friends far & wide! I have a recipe for you all as well as an announcement, and I'm very excited about both!

After many months of thinking about it, getting intimidated by video editing, and still somehow deciding to follow through with it, I have launched my own YouTube channel, called Vegan Armenian Kitchen!

I plan to feature recipes for both vegan-by-default and veganized Armenian dishes, as well as dishes from other cuisines that have become staples for Armenians. I have a long list of recipes that I plan to tackle, but am always open to suggestions, so feel free to get in touch with your ideas!

To kick things off, I am featuring a recipe for ghapama, which is a delicious and festive stuffed pumpkin, perfect as a centerpiece for the holidays! While it seems like it would automatically be vegan-by-default, the recipe tends to include both butter and honey, so I will just be swapping those out with vegan alternatives. You can watch the video recipe at the bottom of this post:

What you need:
-1 medium pumpkin
-2-3 TBSP coconut oil (for coating pumpkin and for rice)
-1.5-2 cups of long grain rice (better to have more than not enough!)
-1/3-1/2 cup of each: dried apricots (chopped), cranberries, raisins and walnuts (you can use dried plums instead of cranberries)
-1/3 cup maple syrup (can adjust depending on your sweet tooth level)
-2 TBSP cinnamon
-1 TBSP ginger powder (optional)
-1 TBSP clove powder (optional)
-1/2 cup fresh pomegranate seeds
-5 TBSP boiling water
-3 pinches of salt

-Cook rice with a touch of salt
-Preheat oven to 450 degrees F
-Cut pumpkin open and remove pulp, saving the seeds to bake later
-Coat pumpkin in 1.5 TBSP coconut oil and a few pinches of salt
-Mix remaining coconut oil into the rice and stir (it will melt since the rice is hot)
-Add in your spices and stir
-Add in your dried fruits and walnuts and stir
-Drizzle your maple syrup and stir
-Stuff pumpkin to the top and add the boiling water
-Seal pumpkin and place it on a tray in the oven
-Bake for about 1 hour, but make sure to poke it with a knife before removing it (it should be very soft when ready)
-Cut the pumpkin in slices and top with fresh pomegranate seeds (optional)
Ghapama is such a delicious and easy recipe, and really looks beautiful as a centerpiece! Remember, it must be good if there's an entire song dedicated to it! ;)

You can check out my first (aka be nice) recipe video below: 

Please SUBSCRIBE to my baby channel! 💖💜💚
You can also follow me on Instagram!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

GoGo Quinoa Super Grains Pasta Review

When GoGo Quinoa asked if I would be interested in doing a review of their latest creation, Super Grains Pasta, the name alone had me very excited.

The Laval-based Canadian company, which sells everything from grains to cookies, was named the Globe and Mail's #1 gluten-free pasta in 2014 and has now launched a "game-changing" pasta made from a "blend of chia, quinoa, sorghum, and amaranth super grains."

As a result, the product boasts 8g of protein and 6g of fibre per cup, and is also a good source of iron. I have no digestive issues with gluten, corn or soy, but for those who do, the Super Grains Pasta is free from all of those ingredients. I was sent a package of the pasta, along with a box of the new double-chocolate quinoa cookies:
You had me at double-chocolate
The pasta is described as having an "al dente texture" that "goes well with all sauces." Challenge accepted. I decided to prepare it as a pasta salad, cooking it per the instructions and then pairing it with some veggies and a dressing. The pasta itself is really pretty:
I cooked it for about 10 minutes, and gave it a nice rinse in a strainer under cold water. I sampled the pasta alone before mixing it in with anything, and the description is correct--it has a perfect al dente texture, which I usually miss the mark on when I am cooking regular pasta. In terms of taste, I didn't see a huge difference when compared to conventional pasta, which is a good thing since I love conventional pasta. It was between white pasta and whole wheat pasta, the latter of which I enjoy, but can always spot. This definitely seemed like a good compromise. 

I mixed it in with some spinach, tomato, onion and celery, and then added a mustard/lemon/vegan mayo dressing, topping it with my dwindling supply of Marash pepper:
My pasta salad was absolutely delicious. I tend to group myself--to the disappointment of all Italians--in the "soggy pasta lovers" category, but I did appreciate the texture and how the pasta held up in this salad. Two thumbs up from me. Next up was dessert:
First things first, I wish the company didn't individually wrap all of the cookies. They're all going to end up in the same place (my stomach), so it really isn't necessary. The cookies, once unwrapped, were nice and firm, and really good. They tasted like a mix of cookie and cake batter, and the extra chocolate chips were a very welcome touch. This particular flavour was the newest addition to the now three-strong cookie line, and I have a feeling it will become very popular. I felt full after just a few (they are quite small), and I am chalking that up to the protein and fibre, thanks to the quinoa and chia.

For those interested in trying GoGo Quino's Super Grains Pasta, it is currently exclusively available in Costco stores in Eastern Canada, but as of November, it will make its debut in both supermarkets and health food stores!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Review of Roubi's Vegan Mante/Մանթը! [Yerevan]

Adding the hearts took an embarrassingly long amount of time.
I mentioned in this post that last year I finally attempted to make my all-time favourite dish, mante/mantı/մանթը*, 100% vegan. I cannot find the photo of it (it was blurry anyway), but it turned out incredibly delicious, and it was exactly how I remembered it growing up. Basically, a mante food coma was had by all.

While I still plan to re-make and post my recipe here, when I found out that Yerevan-based vegetarian/vegan chef Roubi Nalbandian not only made mushroom-based vegan lahmajoun (review here), but also mushroom-based vegan mante, I was excited to try hers since I really enjoyed the lahmajoun she prepared. However, I was traveling a lot in Armenia and ordering vegan mante remained in perpetual "to-do" purgatory.

On my last weekend in Armenia (aka the Areni Wine Festival), Roubi let me know that she sweetly prepared mante for me, as a gift. I picked it up from her a few hours after returning to Yerevan, and decided it would be my last meal in Armenia before going to Canadaland. It was hard not to snack on it:
Roubi made me the dumplings as well as the broth to cook it in!
After running around all day doing last-minute errands (aka buying all of the cognac and dried fruits), it was time to come home and eat what was awaiting me. I cooked the mante in the liquid, which seemed to be tomato paste, water, garlic and salt, and let the dumplings soak up that sweet, sweet broth, and just added dried mint, red pepper and sumac to the mix:
It smelled incredible already and I was getting flashbacks to the vegan mante I made, which gave me flashbacks of my mom's and nene's mante growing up. Because I have to over-do anything and everything, I added more mint just to make sure the photos looked weird (#winning):
To no one's surprise, it was absolutely delicious, just like Roubi's lahmajoun. The dumpling dough was particularly good, and was definitely much more accurate compared to my version (I suck at dough/bread/baking/life). The mushroom filling was cooked really well, although I think it could have used just a tad more spice to mimic the original a little more. Coupled with the broth, it was a such a great final meal in Yerevan, and I definitely did not miss the garlic-madzoun sauce in this case!

For those interested in trying Roubi's vegan masterpieces, you can contact her directly on Facebook right here!

*I know some people pronounce it manti/մանթի, but not I/most people I know. 

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

My Jermuk "Magic School Bus" Experience Featured on Taxidio!

Taxidio recently published a roundup titled "27 Travel Bloggers Take a Trip Down Memory Lane" and my Jermuk experience was featured!
That Jermuk experience (and entire trip) was definitely something to remember, and I keep meaning to dedicate an entire blog post to it ("Jermuk Unplugged") but am overwhelmed with how much there is to include. Until then, this snippet will have to suffice!
I'm #12 on the list and you can check out the entire post right here. Hope you enjoy my "magic school bus" experience!
*All photos (in this post) by Elizabeth Audrey!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Review of LUPIN Boba's Vegan Green Tea Matcha Bubble Tea [Yerevan]

When repat Alexander Azizyan (real last name) told me he was thinking about opening a "boba shop" in Yerevan, I wished him well, pretending to know what boba meant.

When he actually went ahead and opened the shop, I finally understood that boba was just a fancy name for bubble tea. He told me when I came to Yerevan he could make me a special vegan option and I took him up on it on one of the hottest days in August.

I went with Bjorn and Zofia, my favourite blonde Polish woman who lived in Yerevan, and we decided walking to the underpass at 38/2 Komitas in the scorching heat was the best option. We eventually arrived, sweaty and in desperate need of refreshments. There were already two guys there chatting away but Alex was ready for us:
Out of our sweaty way, please!
LUPIN boba has a lot to choose from, including smoothies, and Alex told me he could veganize the Green Tea Matcha for me since the powder was already milk-free. Although he uses honey to marinate the tapioca pearls, he used maple syrup for mine, which I appreciated immensely as a Canadian.
We put in our orders and the vegan option came to 2200 AMD (soy milk is of course more expensive in Armenia). I was pretty excited.
Such a good advertisement for Joya!
I took one sip and before Alex could ask me how it was, I proclaimed it was delicious. It was super flavourful and refreshing--especially perfect for such a hot day, and although I know these drinks do tend to have a lot of sugar, it wasn't overwhelmingly sweet.
I'm no bubble tea expert, but the handful of times I've had it in Canada, I would always finish the tapioca pearls ahead of the drink (greed). LUPIN boba aka Alex is very generous with the tapioca pearls and they lasted me all the way to my last sip!
Alex let me know that the Thai Tea could also be veganized, so although I loved my Green Tea Matcha boba, next time I will try that!
Fun fact: LUPIN boba has a fake fruit bowl and some guy tried to take a bite out of the apple, which is now there to serve as a warning:
Pro-tip: Message Alex in advance to let him know if you want the vegan option so he can marinate the tapioca pearls in that sweet sweet maple syrup!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Review of Roubi's Vegan Lahmajoun [Yerevan]

I'm often asked if I miss meat. Besides soujoukh (not the sweet one obviously), I don't miss meat, I miss specific meals with meat in them, aka lahmajoun and mante/manti.

I made a delicious vegan mante last year and put into practice the theory that it's all about the spices, broth and seasoning. Lahmajoun had to be similar, and before I even had a chance to tackle that dish, I saw a post in a Facebook group that vegan/vegetarian chef Roubi Nalbandian was making it in Yerevan. I messaged her about one month before I actually got anywhere near Armenia, basically telling her to "get ready" for me (not a threat I swear) and counted down the days.

One disgustingly hot day in August, I went with Bjorn and Arpine to Marilda Restaurant on Pushkin Street, where Roubi used to work, and ordered three lahmajouns at 350 drams each. I waited for a chi gareli comment from the waiter, but after I mentioned Roubi's name, all was well and the order was placed. We also ordered hmoz and beer because it was one of those days, and waited. About 10-15 minutes later, our food arrived:
I was beyond excited and immediately fell in love after first bite, as did my guests. I got into annoying detective-mode and loudly proclaimed that the mushrooms, parsley, garlic and salcha were what made this vegan lahmajoun so delicious. The seasoned mushrooms gave the entire meal a nice juiciness that perfectly mimicked minced meat, and the parsley and spices gave it that familiar and distinct flavour lahmajoun is known for.
I think any version I attempt will pale in comparison to Roubi's creation, so I am happy (as long as I am in Armenia) to get my vegan lahmajoun fix directly from her! For those interested in joining the not-so-secret vegan fight lahmajoun club, Roubi can be contacted directly on Facebook right here!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

My Blog Featured in 'Top 50 Food Travel Blogs That Will Leave You Salivating'

I received an e-mail letting me know that The Traveling Chamelian has been included in Taxidio's 'Top 50 Food Travel Blogs That Will Leave You Salivating.'
I'm #38 on the list and am glad that my little posts about Armenian, Middle Eastern and Georgian food have caused people to salivate ;)

You can check out the entire list here