Yesterday, Pepper Tree owner Happy Tsai told us how vegetables are sweeping Houston. Today we catch up with her husband and executive veggie chef, Mike Tsai.
Eating Our Words: Have you been a chef at any other restaurant?
Mike Tsai: No. I cook at home, though.
EOW: Where do you get the ideas for what to make?
MT: Many are recipes from families, from the traditional Taiwanese food we eat when we are kids, like this one. (Points to veggie fritters.)
Happy Tsai: It's very, very traditional. In our country we don't eat a lot of raw food. But here, we know raw food is very important, so we included a salad bar.
EOW: What's your favorite thing to cook?
MT: This one [General Tso's Vegan Chicken.] The tofu layers are frozen and shipped from Taiwan.
EOW: Tofu layers?
MT: When you cook soy milk, there's a very thin layer. They take it out and [build it] layer by layer.
EOW: Do you miss meat?
MT: (Laughs) No.
HT: It's hard for us when we are shopping at the grocery store. We cannot go close to those areas. It smells.
MT: We just have a different lifestyle.
EOW: Besides not using meat or dairy, how is cooking vegan different from cooking regularly?
MT: You just substitute the meat and everything else is the same. We use soybean oil too.
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EOW: What's the most rewarding part of cooking at Pepper Tree?
MT: People finish their plate, and there's no food left. If there's no wasted food, we are happy. The resources belong to everybody, so everybody should conserve it.