If you’re a vegetarian or vegan in Shanghai looking for something delicious, Lindsey Fine is your girl. Between running Happy Buddha, her vegetarian restaurant, making and selling Serenity Seitan, a high protein meat substitute (that tastes a lot better than the words “meat substitute” imply), and launching a vegan ice cream line, Lindsey makes creations that are the answer to any lingering cravings someone on a challenging diet might experience.
We caught up with her MOMENTS before she made the leap from vegetarian to vegan (assisted by the 21-day vegan challenge she organized, which is going on now) to make VEGAN CHEESE! It was so shockingly good I kept spooning it into my mouth throughout the entire interview. We used said mouth cheeze (with a Z for the vegan version) to make a vegan pizza, which is a bit labor intensive (as is making any pizza) but definitely worth it if you want to indulge AND be able to look your cow in the eye the next morning. See below for the recipe and interview. Or don’t and forever wonder.
Vegan Buffalo Seitan Pizza Recipe
Step 1: Prepare the dough as instructed below (makes 2 crusts).
1 and 1/2 cups warm water (110 degrees)
2 packages (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for bowl
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 teaspoons coarse salt
1. Pour warm water into a medium bowl; sprinkle with yeast. Let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.
2. Whisk sugar and oil into yeast mixture, then stir in 1 cup flour and salt until combined. Stir in remaining 3 cups flour until a dough forms around the spoon. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 3 minutes.
3. Brush a large bowl with oil. Transfer dough to the bowl, turning to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm spot until doubled in bulk about 1 hour.
4. After dough has risen, punch down and knead in the bowl a few times so you have a smooth ball. Divide into two pieces.
5. Preheat oven to 250 degrees C.
6. Using your hands or a rolling pin, flatten and shape the dough into desired shape and thickness.
7. Bake at 250 degrees C for about 8-10 minutes, until dough begins to cook but isn't too brown, you'll be baking it again later after the toppings are added.
Step 2: While pizza dough is baking, you can start to prepare the vegan cheeze.
½ Cup Raw Cashews
1 Cup Water
3 Tablespoons + 2 teaspoons Tapioca Starch(also known as Tapioca Flour)
1 Tablespoon Nutritional Yeast Flakes
1 teaspoon Apple Cider Vinegar
½ teaspoon Salt
¼ teaspoon Garlic Powder
1. Add the cashews to a small pot and with enough water to cover the cashews, plus a bit extra. Bring to a boil and cook for 10 to 15 minutes until they are softened. Alternatively, you can soak them overnight.
2. Drain and rinse the cashews and add them along with the 1 cup of water to a blender and blend until the mixture becomes a white liquid.
Note: If you want your cheeze to be very white, run it through a strainer, then return it to the blender before adding the remaining ingredients. This is a good step to complete if you are not using a high powered blender.
3. Add the remaining ingredients to blender. Blend until completely smooth.
4. Pour mixture into a small pot and heat over medium-high heat, and stirring continually as it cooks. Clumps will begin to form, and after a few more minutes a smooth paste will form. Cook for about one more minute. It should look like melted cheese when you raise the stirring spoon.
Step 3: Making the Buffalo Seitan
1/2 package Serenity Seitan Marinated Steaks, roughly chopped
4-5 Tablespoons Frank's Hot Sauce
Heat buffalo sauce and add chopped Seitan. Heat thoroughly and keep stirring until buffalo sauce is cooked in and Seitan is slightly browned.
Step 4: Assemble and bake!
1/2 Jar of Serenity Vegan Blue Cheeze
1. Take about 3-4 Tablespoons of the buffalo sauce and spread it over the pre-baked crust.
2. Spread the vegan "mozzarella" cheeze over the buffalo sauce. If it's become too cold you might want to quickly heat again to make it easier to spread.
4. Sprinkle buffalo Seitan over cheeze.
5. Evenly dollop small spoonfuls of Serenity vegan cashew cheeze over the seitan, approximately 1/2 jar.
6. Bake for about 8-10 minutes until crust and vegan cheeze is golden brown.
7. Slice and enjoy!
Lindsey Fine on Veganism
SmSh: Soooo when did you become a vegetarian and why?
I was talking with a friend over 10 years ago -- I’m an animal lover, I’ve always been an animal lover -- and he said, if you love animals so much why aren’t you a vegetarian? I started thinking about it and it was such a simple question...if I love dogs and cats so much, what’s the difference between that and a cow? So I decided to become a vegetarian.
SmSh: Do you think there are any misconceptions about vegetarians or vegans?
Yeaaaa! I think there are lots of misconceptions! Like we’re all just tree-hugging hippies who don’t like to have fun, or we’re really serious about life. The reason I wanted to start Happy Buddha was to show people that comfort food isn’t only non-vegetarian food, that you can still eat nachos and chips and burgers that don’t have meat in it. For me it’s always been about showing that through what I love to do, which is to cook and to feed people, and I think that’s the best way to kind of change peoples ideas. Because I feel like if you start to talk about the health impacts or the environmental impact, some people tend to shut down, but if you’re just like hey man, try this food it’s really good! That’s the best way to change their mind of what it is.
SmSh: How do you feel about the flexitarians? People who kind of dip a toe into vegetarianism or veganism but don’t commit fully? Is the community generally pretty supportive of that because there’s less meat eating going on, or is it more like YOU HAVE TO COMMIT TO THIS OR DON’T!
I think that most people I know are supportive of effort because if everybody had that attitude then we’d all be a lot better off and the environment would be a lot better off, so I think we have to celebrate the little steps that people take. And not everybody would agree with that, but that’s ok!
SmSh: It’s just really hard to be vegan, it seems. Coming from someone who has never attempted to be vegan.
Yeah it is difficult, for many reasons. One is eating is such a social thing, and if there aren’t a lot of vegan options, or your friends aren’t vegan, it can be kind of isolating at first, so it’s really important to find a community, so I think it’s really cool that there’s such a growing and strong community of vegans and vegetarians in Shanghai because you have to have that social support.
SmSh: Is that why you’re doing the 21-day vegan challenge? To make this diet more accessible to people and teach them more about it?
We wanted to bring people together and make a bigger impact and we wanted to make it fun! So we have not only the challenge of being vegan for 21 days, but also the social aspect of it, so we have activities planned almost every day of the 21 days, so that you can get together and still go out and meet new people, and try new foods as well, and we’ve got lots of great restaurant partners involved who are offering discounts. Hopefully people who aren’t vegan... maybe they’ll continue to have this as part of their lifestyle even if they don’t stay vegan or vegetarian after the 21 days, but they’ll now know more people and more restaurants that they didn’t know about before.
I don’t ever try to push people to be vegan, or vegetarian, but I think if everybody just learned a little bit more about it, and if everybody just ate a little less meat and dairy and less eggs, then the benefits to their health and environment would be huge.