Chef Chat

Chef Chat, Part 2: Happy and Mike Tsai of Pepper Tree Veggie Cuisine

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.

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.

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Mandy Oaklander
Contact: Mandy Oaklander