Vegan Chinese Five Spice Beef Stir-Fry

Vegan Chinese Five Spice Beef Stir-Fry | plantcrush.coIf you haven’t noticed already, I’m kind of obsessed with Chinese five spice. I’ve used it to spice up BBQ jackfruit buns, added it to creamy peanut sauce, and I’ve even made cookies with it! Here’s a classic dish my mom always makes with this iconic spice–a fragrant faux beef stir fry that can serve as the protein base for a variety of other dishes.

Vegan Chinese Five Spice Beef Stir-Fry |

Vegan Chinese Five Spice Beef Stir-Fry
makes 3-4 servings

Prep time: 20-25 minutes
Wait time:
20 minutes
Total time:
45 minutes


  • 4 oz vegan soy beef slices (the dried kind)–I used this brand*
  • 3 tablespoons liquid aminos (or soy sauce, but note that soy sauce is saltier–adjust accordingly)
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese five spice
  • 3 cups vegetable broth (I used some broth I previously made from leftover veggies)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 shallot bulb*
  • more Chinese five spice, and mushroom seasoning, to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne (optional, to your taste!)


  1. Mix the liquid aminos, maple syrup, Chinese five spice, and vegetable broth together to make a marinade. I like to blend it all in a high speed blender to really pulverize the garlic, but that’s optional!
  2. Soak the soy beef in the marinade for at least 20 minutes–I like to turn the container upside down halfway through, so that each piece gets soaked. This could also be soaked overnight.
  3. Peel the shallot bulb and finely chop the shallot cloves.
  4. Heat up a medium saucepan, add the oil and sauté the shallots until translucent, about 2-3 minutes.
  5. Add the marinated soy beef slices to the pan, and pour in the marinade too.
  6. Add more seasonings to your taste, while tossing the beef around. I added 1/2 teaspoon of Chinese five spice, 1/2 teaspoon of mushroom powder, and a generous dash of cayenne for some heat. Depending on how flavorful the vegetable broth is, you may need more/less mushroom powder. The broth I made was pretty robust, so I just needed a little!
  7. Let it simmer on medium heat until the marinade has reduced and been soaked up, tossing occasionally (about 4-6 minutes). You want the slices to be juicy, but not soggy. As the sauce reduces and soaks into the slices, it should start to caramelize a bit. This is when you know you’re at the finish line! Let some of the pieces get a bit charred, if you like (see below).
  8. Take the pan off the heat and it’s ready to serve! This is a versatile protein dish–it can be enjoyed simply with rice and fresh cucumber slices, or in loaded vermicelli bowls, which I will be sharing a blog about very soon.

*This recipe is meant for the dried beef-like proteins typically found in Asian grocery stores.
**Confused about what a shallot bulb is, vs. a shallot clove? I was too! This article helps!
If you don’t have shallots, a medium onion also works just fine.

Vegan Chinese Five Spice Beef Stir-Fry |


Vietnamese Inspired Mock Tuna Salad

Vietnamese Inspired Mock Tuna Salad |

I’ve had this one on my mind for a while–a vegan “tuna” salad infused with Vietnamese flavors, like nước mắm! This is not traditional from my experience, and I tried to find some examples but couldn’t find that much online. However, I was particularly inspired by this account and recipe from Andrew Zimmern, influenced by his experience on a Vietnamese island. It sounded legit, so I decided to give it a try, with a plant-based twist! Can you guess what I used in place of tuna?

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Vegan Vietnamese Fish Dipping Sauce | Nước Mắm Chấm Chay

Cleaned Up Flatlays-5There’s no way around it–you can’t do Vietnamese food without nước mắm (fish sauce).
It’s the main base in nước chấm, a light dipping sauce that accompanies most Vietnamese dishes. You’d think this would be an issue for Vietnamese vegans and vegetarians, but it’s actually the easiest thing, especially for those of us who grew up around the spiritual traditions of vegetarianism.  Continue reading

Five Spice Peanut Sauce


Guys, I’m participating in VeganMoFo again! VeganMoFo is a month-long challenge to post as much vegan food as possible, kind of like NaNoWriMo. It’s been a few years since I took part, but I decided (to be crazy) and challenge myself this month. It’s the most insane time for me to do this, because I’m in the middle of my design thesis for graduate school (more on that as the month progresses). However, I owe you guys so many blog posts and recipes that I’ve been testing over and over (I need to get over perfectionism)…and I guess I’m all about the crazy! Check out my IG post below to learn more about me and my focus.

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After spending the afternoon recovering from my Portland trip with @plantphilosophy, I’m finally getting around to doing my intro post for this year’s #VeganMofo18, with a pic of ya girl in her natural environment, crushing hard on Vietnamese herbs #whatveganslooklike #VietAF 💃🏻@veganmofo is a month-long challenge to post as much vegan food as you can. With grad school and my thesis, this is going to be a challenge but I’m up for it! 📷: @2hawaiian • • A bit about my vegan journey—my parents raised me vegetarian and I went vegan about 11 years ago! I’m in it for the animals, the environment, and it’s a huge part of my spiritual practice. 🙏🏼🐥🌏 My passion for this lifestyle was the reason why I started this blog and taught myself food photography, as a way to channel my creativity into sharing the beauty of the vegan lifestyle with recipes, as well as vegan travel posts. My recipes are usually inspired by my Vietnamese family background, my travels, outdoor adventures, and, let’s be honest: whatever’s convenient and in the fridge/produce that’s on sale 😂🙌🏼 #gradschoollife 📚 • • Design is my life—my passion for the planet is what led me to pursue landscape architecture in grad school, which is my other great passion in life! In addition to vegan food, I also love sharing outdoor experiences that I find inspiring and uplifting. I hope you love food and the outdoors, because that’s what my feed is all about! 🌿 • • Throughout the month, I’ll be posting a mixture of the vegan mofo themes and prompts given, with flexibility for lots of back-to-school posts. 👩🏻‍🏫 #dfwvegan

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The theme for the first week of VeganMoFo is INSPIRATION. Due to my grad school schedule, I won’t be sticking to the themes and prompts strictly, but as mentioned on IG, I’ll be posting a mixture of the VeganMoFo themes, with flexibility for lots of travel and back-to-school content. I’ll be doing a lot of micro-blogging on Instagram, with as undertaking as many long-form recipe posts on the blog as I can, so be sure to check both for all my VeganMoFo posts!

Here’s to my first recipe post for #VeganMoFo18: a spicy, aromatic peanut sauce inspired by my family! We love peanut sauce, and we also looove Chinese five spice. The five spice adds a nice aroma of mystery (or nostalgia, if you’re in my family) to a beloved classic.


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The Creek Cafe | Vegan Omakase

This past weekend, the sunlit and cozy interiors of The Creek Cafe welcomed a trickling but steadily increasing stream of curious diners, all eager to get a taste of the cafe’s new vegan Omakase menu. Nestled in the historic Lakewood neighborhood in Dallas, the spot describes itself as Americana with a Tokyo twist. On a normal day, they serve breakfast, pastries, French toast, and Japanese-style fluffy pancakes. Their special two-night vegan event saw such a popular demand that reservations sold out! My dear friend Christina and I were among the lucky attendees, and I’m excited to share our experience with you.

First Photo

Omakase (お任せ): a Japanese phrase meaning “respectfully leaving another to decide what is best.” In this case, the diner is entrusting the chef to make the decision about the dishes to be served. This gives the chef creative flexibility, and also provides the diner with a unique experience.

I love this concept, and learning more about it helped me appreciate the food in a different way. Life is less heavy, when we savor small spontaneities. The tradition of omakase invites us to embrace the artful act of being open to new experiences.

My friend Nick Ammon, who helped The Creek Cafe develop their new vegan menu, told me that it was inspired by traditional Japanese Buddhist cuisine. As someone whose family is rooted in Vietnamese Buddhism, I very much appreciated this concept! My lifestyle as a vegan is absolutely aligned with my spiritual philosophy and family upbringing. Please see below to learn about the meaning behind this kind of food. It will give you a better understanding of the meal and the tradition behind it.

Shojin Ryori (精進料理):  traditional Japanese Buddhist cuisine. Also known as temple food, based on the rightful thought and action in food. “By consuming a diet free of animal flesh, [practitioners] are abstaining from violence against living beings.

Sho (精) means “to focus.”

Jin (進) means “to go forward” or “to advance along the way.”

Shojin (精進) implies a procedure of constant reflection.

Ryori (料理) is the word for cooking or cuisine.

I love that this mindset was the driving concept behind their vegan items. The carefree spirit of mindfulness and minimalism definitely came to mind with each carefully crafted plate. Eating temple food can be a meditative experience, if one slows down, and takes care to appreciate the various textures and the subtle flavors in front of them.

The Creek Cafe | Vegan Menu Review |

course no. 1 

chilled edamame soup | creamy + refreshing | perfect for summer | reminiscent of matcha at first

homemade Japanese pickles | homemade using Texas veggies | adds a nice bite of acidity between the other bites

caponata | made with sweet bell peppers

ume plum vinegar sauce | fragrant, tart + a sweet contrast with everything else.
I dipped the other bites in this sauce and loved it all!

Mixing and matching the bites with each other and the sauce was recommended! I love doing that anyway, because contrasting various flavors usually make for a more satisfying dining experience.

Close up_edited

I particularly loved and appreciated that the lotus root was included in this dish, as it has held great spiritual meaning for many Asian cultures, including my own Vietnamese culture, in which it is held up as a symbol of divine beauty and spiritual enlightenment.

The lotus flower is revered in Japan for its ability to rise from the dirty, murky waters to bloom into a beautiful pure flower. This process symbolizes attaining enlightenment. The idea is that we can rise above human suffering in the same way as the lotus by moving from the lowest to the highest state of consciousness.

course no. 2 

inari + steamed veggies | sweet + savory + chewy | super satisfying

wasabi potato salad | creamy, with a clean sharpness that tingles + lingers

agedashi taro | crispy + packed with flavor | this taro croquette was my favorite!

mushroom pesto | rich flavors all around | this was also my favorite | ok, it’s a tie | this goes very well with the agedashi taro!

salisbury shiitake tofu | great textures, note that shiitake has a really subtle flavor. I enjoyed mixing these bites with some of the mushroom pesto.

stir-fried tubers + 16 grain rice | gorgeous presentation + flavors, just needed some sauce, or maybe I’m just a saucy person!

Once again, I found that the best way to experience this was to mix and match different bites with each other for various flavor combinations.


course no. 3

strawberry white chia pudding + cashew cream | creamy, refreshing + enjoyable | not too sweet + fun to swirl!


Starting this week, The Creek Cafe will be serving several vegan options on its permanent menu, served all day (their hours are 7 am – 3 pm). These options include two omakase plates, onigri, Japanese curry, wasabi potato salad, three bean taco rice, and a panini featuring their salisbury shiitake tofu. All their vegan fare will be clearly marked with a simple vegan logo. The omakase plates will reflect the seasons, and they will also vary according to what the chefs are feeling.

This summer, if you’re in the mood for a light and refreshing breakfast or lunch that doubles as a unique experience, The Creek Cafe is worth checking out.

I, for one, am eagerly awaiting the glorious day when they come out with vegan versions of their decadent French toast and Japanese fluffy pancakes! And I am forever dreaming of vegan croissants.

A big thanks to our friends Nick Ammon and Sarah Fun for all their work helping The Creek Cafe rebrand and add more vegan options to their menu! The cafe’s next event will be a cosplay event—stay posted by following them on Facebook or Instagram!


Light appetizer bites! Photo courtesy of the incredible Sarah Fun.

Omakase is considered a request for a wonderful meal. If you’re looking to save money, omakase isn’t the way to go. Nevertheless, it usually represents an excellent value.

Also keep in mind that Japanese portions tend to be smaller than the hefty Western portions that Texans may be accustomed to. The food reminded me of my time spent at various meditation retreats in Taiwan, in which the fare was quite light and the flavors are usually more subtle, because the focus was spiritual cultivation and inner reflection. That said, this place is definitely must-try if you’re wanting to treat yourself to a different experience, and it would also make unique date spot!


Classic Tofu Scramble

There are some dishes that are such staples, you could make them with your eyes closed. Tofu scramble is that dish for me. I KNOW, soo basic. But soo good. Just like avocado toast, tofu scramble is a vegan breakfast classic, loved by all. I told y’all, my body is in need of the hearty basics after all the crazy indulgences at the Houston Vegandale Festival.

Classic Tofu Scramble |

Tofu scramble was the first thing my mom ever taught me in the kitchen. She likes to make hers a bit on the salty side, because we would usually eat it with plain white rice. SO GOOD. It’s a staple that stands the test of time. Last year, one of my vegan friends told me that my tofu scramble back in high school actually introduced her to vegan food. High school was at least 10 years ago…I was so touched!! Omnivores have told me that this scramble even rivals the one at a certain beloved vegan diner around these parts (Spiral Diner, I still love you and your migas; don’t come for me, hahaha). My cousin Jackie is also obsessed with my tofu scramble and has always asked me exactly how I make it, so I made a Highlight about it on my Instagram to share the process; check it out here!

It’s high time I had a post on here dedicated to this beloved classic. My sister Anna and I often find ourselves making a huge batch of tofu scramble every week or so, especially when we find tofu on sale for 25 cents a box! Yes, that happened this weekend, and we bought ten boxes. My mom was so proud, but she said we should’ve gotten 20. #asianmoms

Tofu scramble is satisfying, quick, and packed with nutrients and protein. And it’s so easy to pack in veggies and customize it to your liking! You can make it so many different ways, depending on your mood. Tofu scramble is THE most versatile dish in any vegan’s repertoire. Everyone’s got their own way of making it, and here’s mine! Lately, I’ve been obsessed with lemon pepper and I put it in everything. It really brightens up a tofu scramble! Continue reading