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WASHINGTON, DC-August 5: Sautéed ginger miso tempeh. (Photo by
Photo by Scott Suchman/For the Washington Post

Portland’s Vegan Chefs on Their Favorite Ingredients for Home Cooking

Pantry staples, meat alternatives, and personal stashes

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Portland remains one of the best cities, nationwide, for vegans: The city is home to a fully vegan grocery store, the country’s oldest continually operating tofu factory, and a staggering assortment of vegan restaurants — from Sri Lankan food to Detroit-style pizza. Therefore, the city is simply abundant with talented vegan chefs, veritable experts in the world of meat-free home cooking.

For those who are new to vegan cooking, creating an animal-free version of a dish may initially seem daunting, especially with recipes where a protein or cream sauce take center stage. Does one need to rely on store-bought alternatives? Not necessarily, but markets throughout Portland offer vegan cheeses, sausages, and even fish fillets for those dipping toes into the world of meat-free cooking. With the help of pantry staples, from nutritional yeast to doubanjiang to cashew nuts, vegan cooking can be as satisfying as its animal-based counterparts. We asked a few of Portland’s vegan chefs for their essentials — the vegan ingredients that they personally rely on and enjoy at home, not just in their restaurant kitchens.

Note: These quotes have been edited and condensed for clarity.

Mushroom Season In Poland
Photo by Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Favorite Ingredients to Cook with at Home

“My favorite ingredient to cook with at home is cashews or other nuts. I’m always attempting to figure out which one can make a better cream or cheese base.”
-Jewan Manuel, Plant Based Papi

Cumin, paprika, nutritional yeast, merquén (smoky spice blend from the Mapuche indigenous people of Southern Chile), coconut milk, potatoes, Epif leftovers.”
-Pepe Arancibia, Epif

“My favorite ingredients would have to be chipotles in adobo sauce, a large variety of good hot sauces, kala namak (Himalayan black salt), truffles or truffle oil, and barukas nuts.”
-Kayla Lamberson, The Mocking Bird

“I cook a lot of Latin-inspired meals at home. Epazote and avocado leaves (to cook overnight soaked black beans) and Harvest Vegetarian chicken powder is essential to give some traditional recipes that extra boost of flavor. I collect any and all vegan fish sauces I can find out at Asian grocery stores for my Filipino, Vietnamese, and Korean recipes.”
-Cyrus Ichiza, Ichiza Kitchen

My top five: garlic, onions, dried mushrooms, white pepper, fried shallots.”
-Thuy Pham, Mama Dut

I use a lot of mushroom powder. I buy freeze-dried shiitakes and turn them into a powder and keep it by my stove next to my salt. I add the powder to pretty much everything, from enchiladas to macaroni.”
-Rebecca Smith, Ice Queen

A picture of tofu curry and coconut rice in takeout containers from Top Burmese
Top Burmese / Official

Grocery and Pantry Staples

“Kaah Guatemalan-style coban, morita, and roja salsas are all my favorites — find them at Portland Mercado or New Seasons. I always have different varieties of rice: long grain, short grain, sticky, and sweet rice. I have too many styles of noodles, but I always have on hand Naengmyeon (buckwheat or yam noodles) and Bihon (rice and corn starch noodles).”
-Cyrus Ichiza, Ichiza Kitchen

“If I go to the grocery store without a list, I am for sure going to be getting tofu, tempeh, broccoli, cashews, avocado, red peppers, onion, baby carrots, plain yogurt, lettuce, tortillas, and sliced bread. With these basic foods, I can make a variety of stuff with staples, such as olives, chipotle powder, peanut butter, dried dill, vegetable broth, nutritional yeast, grains, beans, textured vegetable protein, liquid smoke, and apple cider vinegar.”
-Rebecca Smith, Ice Queen

Garbanzo beans, jasmine rice, rice flour, coconut milk, oats, nutritional yeast, dates, young jackfruit.”
-Thuy Pham, Mama Dut

With having such a busy schedule, it’s always important to ensure I’m keeping my diet in line. If I need to make a quick meal, I’ll sauté kale and spinach with garlic and a chili paste. Also, popping popcorn on the stove top! My secret: pop it in avocado oil, but top it with some melted coconut oil instead of butter. Toss in a little Himalayan pink sea salt.”
-Jewan Manuel, Plant Based Papi

“Vegetables, tomato puree, brown rice pasta, Just Egg, Violife cheese, pinto beans, coffee.”
-Pepe Arancibia, Epif

We don’t have a very well stocked home kitchen. Pepe is doing all of Epif’s prep and line solo nowadays, so he gets sorta kitchened out and doesn’t cook at home very much. We order a lot of takeout. I mean, A LOT. Or we have very simple meals at home.”
-Nicolle Dirks, Epif

A chest freezer at a grocery store stocked with Beyond Sausage
Beyond sausage
Michael Vi/ Shutterstock

Favorite Meat and Cheese Alternatives

“I like Gardein’s variety and quality of products. I also really like Quorn’s new vegan buffalo dippers and meatless products. I’ve used them to make a ground chicken replacement that was really amazing.”
-Thuy Pham, Mama Dut

“For vegan cheese, Miyokos chive wheel and Violife epic mature block. For vegan meat, Beyond brats.”
-Kayla Lamberson, The Mocking Bird

Breakfast tends to be the only meal I can consistently cook away from the restaurant. One of my go-to breakfasts is an omelet and potatoes, so Just Egg is a must. I love to use Beyond Sausage hot Italian and Violife cheddar-style cheese in my omelet. I always have the vegan fish fillet from Gardein; baked perfectly, it goes great with rice, kimchi, and chili oil in the morning.”
-Cyrus Ichiza, Ichiza Kitchen

“I love tofu and tempeh because of the versatility of them. I don’t really like cheese, and people get upset when I say that. However, I do like Follow Your Heart pepper jack shreds if I’m going to choose a cheese.”
-Rebecca Smith, Ice Queen

“Violife cheddar slices, Kite Hill ricotta, Toffuti cream cheese, and vegan veggie patties — not really into fake meats.”
-Pepe Arancibia, Epif

Jackfruit instead of chicken. Minced mushroom, walnuts, and cauliflower for beef crumbles. Banana blossoms for fish alternatives. As far as cheese alternatives, Kite Hill does a great job. If you’re passionate about making things from scratch, like me, macadamia nuts make a great ricotta when ground and cashews are great for any creamy cheese base.”
-Jewan Manuel, Plant Based Papi

Lao PDR - Vientiane - Khua Din early morning fresh food market
Photo by In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images

Personal Stashes of Hard-To-Find Ingredients

“Only when an ingredient is cheaper in bulk, we stock up. We keep a stash of merquén in the house because we have my family send it to us from Chile.”
-Pepe Arancibia, Epif

“My mom is a chef, so I really grew up watching her make something out of anything. It was really surprising to me to grow up, move away, and see that wasn’t the norm. I don’t think I’m half of the chef my mom is, but I tend not to hoard foods because I just try to make something out of whatever I have. I am looking in my cabinet now, and I do hoard GimMe sesame seaweed — it is my favorite snack.”
-Rebecca Smith, Ice Queen

“I have tons of varieties of doubanjiang (Sichuan-style fermented broad beans and chilis) and douci (fermented black soybeans). I’ll honestly pickup any and all I find that are vegan. Since the pandemic, almost all the normal imports from China have stopped in my area, so it’s near impossible to find these regularly anymore. Another hard to find item are quality green sichuan peppercorns — almost completely gone from Asian grocery stores in Portland.”
-Cyrus Ichiza, Ichiza Kitchen

I would normally not stash much, but with opening a space and consistently recipe testing, I always stack up on good kelp granules for my seafood mixtures. Oddly enough, they’re fairly hard to find raw with no seasonings added. For a good binding agent, mung bean starch. There’s a certain brand I use, so when I find it, I make sure I won’t have to go searching for a while.”
-Jewan Manuel, Plant Based Papi

“I have dried bamboo shoots, rice paper, frozen galangal, frozen passionfruit pulp all brought from Vietnam stashed away. I also have a few bottles of soy sauce from Germany that’s amazing. Oh, and also some vegan chocolate from Germany. When my family abroad visits, they bring us suitcases of all our favorite foods. I remember when I was pregnant, my auntie in Germany sent my a huge box of my favorite German candies.”
-Thuy Pham, Mama Dut


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