As vegetarians, we spend a lot of time in the kitchen and eat a lot of home-cooked food. It’s important to us to have tastiest products and most convenient kitchen tools. We’ve taste-tested just about every vegetarian product we could get our hands on over the past 20 years, and found a lot of crap on the market. We’re happy to report we’ve also found some stand-out products that we love and routinely use. Here’s our love-it-can’t-live-without-it list:
Morningstar Original (Vegetarian) Sausage Patties – This is our favorite beef/pork substitute. Has a well balanced meaty texture and taste. We don’t cook it the same way as regular meat because it absorbs water and becomes mushy easily. We typically bake it in the oven until it’s crispy, slice it to the desired size, and then add it to the dish after everything else is cooked.
Gardein Mandarin Orange Crispy Chick’n – This is our favorite chicken substitute. We use it without the Mandarin Orange Sauce. It’s particularly good in dishes with sauce. The crispy breading absorbs all the saucy goodness. It’s properties are similar to the Morningstar Sausage patties, and we prepare it the same way.
Gardein Golden Fishless Fillet – This is one of the few fake fish products available in the market, and it’s quite good. Has a great fishy texture. The fish taste is mild, which is perfectly fine with us.
VegeFarm Vege Bacon Ham – This bacon ham is a lot like smokey Canadian bacon both in texture and taste. Goes great in Chinese dishes as a substitute for pork or ham. It’s not available in most grocery stores, we have to go to Chinese grocery stores (e.g., Ranch 99) to get it.
Sauces and Seasonings:
Knorr Vegetarian Bullion – This is probably the most important ingredient on our list. We use it in almost every dish. The above fake meats are great for texture, but they are not as flavorful as real meat. We add this bullion to most of our dishes to boost the meaty flavor.
Maggi (or Knorr) All Purpose Liquid Seasoning – This stuff is liquid gold. It’ll turn any dish into a Chinese-soy-deliciousness. We put it on plain rice, dumplings, raddish cake
Momoya or S&B brand Seasoned Oil With Red Pepper and Garlic – Combined with Maggie All Purpose Liquid Seasoning, for a dynamite garlicky chili flavor. It’s got all the great chili taste without the heat.
Hidden Valley Original Ranch Seasoning & Salad Dressing Mix – We’ve found that this dried mix creates a better ranch dressing than the already prepared bottled liquid version. We like that we can mix in our favorite brand of mayo. The result is less tangy and more creamy smooth.
Kewpie Deep-Roasted Sesame Dressing – Hands down the most popular dressing in Japan. We were worried we wouldn’t be able to find it when we moved to Hawaii. This dressing combines the deep roasted flavors of sesame with just the right amount of creaminess. Pairs particularly well with cabbage-based salads.
Angelo Pietro Shoyu Original Dressing – The best soy-based dressing on the market. I learned from a Japanese friend that it works well not only on salad, but a combined salad/noodle dish. Has a delicious tangy soy taste.
OurHome Roasted Seasoned Laver – I eat a lot of Korean deep-fried seaweed. I mean a lot. I snack on it just about every day, and down it like most Americans eat potato chips. So I’m really picky on brand. I’ve tried every brand I could find. OurHome has that perfect salty umami taste without the strange aftertaste of many other brands. Hands down my favorite.
Chaokoh Coconut Milk – There’s a wide range of quality in coconut milks. Chaokoh is an expensive brand, but it’s worth it. It has a much higher cream content, which makes for delicious and rich curries. We often find it so creamy that we need to add extra water.
Torani Dark Chocolate Sauce – Chocolate sauce is essential for my daily dose of mochas, along with freshly roasted and ground coffee beans. While Hershey’s offer a more affordable alternatice, both Nestle and Hershey’s add sweetness to the beverage while Torani manages to add more chocolate taste while keeping sweetness at a balance. Bigger pump models will cost less per use.
Madama Oliva Italian Olive Trio – After trying this once, I fell in love. It is almost as good as the ones from an olive bar, but in a oily water mixture that requires refrigeration. It comes in 3 containers each of which contains different type of olives: Green Castelvetrano Olives, Pitted Taggiasca Olives, and Pitted Italian Olive Antipasto. Comes on and off at Costco.
Valbreso Feta Cheese – Sometimes Greek feta crumbles just won’t cut it. You will need to get a block of rich, creamy, moist sheep feta cheese that you can use in your sandwiches, salads, and anything in between. Part of my daily breakfast with no exceptions. Also available in Costco.