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

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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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