Your Ultimate Guide To Plant-Based Proteins (+ Recipe Included!)

Kate Jacoby, Chef/Co-Owner at V Street and Vedge (two of Philadelphia’s famed vegetable restaurants), breaks down everything we ever wanted to know about plant-based proteins! 

I consider myself a Veg: not full vegan or vegetarian, but someone who tries to partake in the lifestyle as often as possible, and loves to eat as if I was. I’m not ready to entirely give up my chicken tacos just yet. Future me feels hopeful, but I’d have to really put my mind to it.

In my weird “kind of vegetarian but not really” state, I’ve been consuming a lot of plant-based proteins, like tofu, tempeh and seitan. Sometimes they are cooked in such a way that I’m like, “hold up, this fake though?”

Technically speaking, no, it’s not fake at all. But what actually is tofu? Or tempeh…or seitan? How is it best prepared? What is its nutritional value? I posed all of these questions (and then some) to Kate Jacoby. Kate and her husband are the brains behind V Street, and Vedge, two of Philly’s famed plant-based restaurants. Check out her alternative protein breakdown below!

blog-proteinbreakdown

(Click here to download the above chart!) 

Tempeh

What is it?

Fermented soy bean cake — with a dense texture and nutty flavor.

What’s the story?

Originally from Indonesia, tempeh is made by fermenting whole soy beans with a special culture, then pressing and cutting it into cakes. 

How do you cook it?

Very versatile, but it’s best when braised first before searing.

Fun Fact:

It’s super high in protein — we’re talking 20+ grams per serving!  And since it’s fermented, your nutrient uptake is excellent!

Recommended Brand:

Lightlife

Tofu

What is it?

Soy Bean Curd — essentially, it’s soy cheese – it’s made the same way you would great traditional cheese by setting soy milk with nigari seaweed.

What’s the story?

Another ancient food, tofu is known throughout Asia as a centuries-old source of excellent protein. You can find soft, freshly made tofu or you can find it in firm and extra firm styles.  Either way, it’s incredibly versatile.

How do you cook it?

Possibilities are endless. It can be blended, baked, fried, sautéed and seared — you name it! We love our pickled tofu which is at once tangy and a bit sweet, but our favorite preparation is our grilled tofu. 

Fun Fact:

Benjamin Franklin brought tofu to Philadelphia in 1770!

Recommended Brand:

Fresh Tofu made in Allentown, PA

Seitan

What is it?

Plain and simple, it’s wheat protein. Technically, it’s gluten, but everyone hates that word these days!

What’s the story?

Originally Chinese in origin, this protein has been around since the 6th century!  It’s got a nice chewy, pull-apart texture that makes it a very satisfying meat alternative. 

How do you cook it?

Give it a quick rinse and then sear it up — get it nice and crispy on the edges!

Fun Fact:

Before Kate started working with Rich, she was a customer back in his first restaurant days, and he favorite dish was a Pecan & Sage Baked Seitan.  She cites this as one of the many reasons she fell in love with him and insisted they serve it at their wedding…

Recommended Brand:

Ray’s, also made up in Allentown, PA

Choripan2

(Source)

So after all of that, I had to know…how did Kate get her start?

Where are you from/ what do you do/ how did you get to where you are? 

I was born and raised in the Philadelphia suburbs, in Center City Philadelphia after college, then in DC and a short stint teaching English in Paris. I’m the Pastry Chef and Co-Owner of Vedge and V Street so I do a lot of recipe testing, tasting, cheerleading and bookkeeping between 2 of Philly’s coolest plant-based restaurants. I got here by working closely along my hero/husband/business partner Chef Rich Landau who has been at the forefront of the Vegetarian Culinary Revolution (if I may be so bold) since the mid 90s.

Have you always lived a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle? 

I started to go veg when I was 16 because it seemed liked a nice thing to do — good for my health and even better for animals.  I started leaning vegan in college when I learned about the environmental impact of animal agriculture. Granted I live in a bit of a bubble, but it’s a no-brainer for me these days.

What made you jump into the restaurant industry?

I had just finished at Georgetown and was slated to leave in the fall to teach English in France. I got a summer job working for the Fair Housing Council of Montgomery County by day and hosting at Horizons Café by night.  I fell in love with the restaurant business (and the Chef!) and had a tough time leaving for Paris. Came home early, started a PhD program in Sociology, but picked up shifts at the restaurant — not just hosting, now prep and cooking on the line.  When the pastry department needed some fresh blood, I made the full-time commitment, and the rest is history.

How was it working so closely with your husband to develop two of the best restaurants in Philly? 

People say they could never work with their spouses; we wonder how people could marry someone they couldn’t work alongside!  We thrive because we share the same vision over time, we’ve adapted well together, and we are at once each other’s biggest fans and toughest critics. We’re honest with each other, and we have each other’s backs 100%.  We also trust each other fully to best oversee our specific departments.

What goal did you have in mind when you were developing both Vedge and V Street? 

For Vedge, a vegetable restaurant, we wanted to be a regional, national, international example of cutting edge vegetable-focused cooking.  At V Street, a street food bar, we’re offering a new context to enjoy plant-based fare. Vedge draws inspiration from the vegetables themselves; V Street features our appreciation and interpretation of some of the tastiest street foods from all over the world.

How do the restaurants differ?  

Vedge is elegant and sophisticated; it’s a dining experience.  V Street is fun and exciting — a place to roll up your sleeves and eat some good food.  Vedge is also twice the size with a smaller menu and open for both lunch and dinner. 

If you could take any items off the V street or Vedge menu and combine them to create the ultimate 5 course meal, what would it be?

Great Question!  1) Vedge Fancy Radishes , 2) VST Carrot Asado, 3) Vedge Rutabaga Fondue, 4) VST: Mushrooms Dan Dan Noodles, 5) Vedge: Wood Roasted Carrot. And I have to add some dessert, since I’m the pastry chef after all, so I would finish up with the Mud Pie from Vedge and whatever the Soft Serve is at the moment at VST!

Do you have any advice for someones who’s interested in going vegetarian or vegan? 

Don’t worry about being perfect. Make small efforts and ease into it.  You won’t be arrested by the vegan police if you slip up!  It’s also helpful to find a community — a few people who you can share recipes with and celebrate/vent with from time to time. Celebrate the fact that Ben & Jerry’s is making vegan ice cream now! Or vent because you can’t eat at your favorite burrito shop anymore because they use lard! Who uses lard anymore?!?

Do you recommend any best practices for making the transition?  

Buy our cookbooks!  We have 3 in print currently and the V Street book will be out this fall.  Come eat at our restaurants — our life’s work is to demonstrate to non-vegans that our restaurant is delicious, satisfying and sexy; we’re really good at winning over the skeptical. Watch any of the thought-provoking documentaries and videos that are out there these days — they give you great talking points to relate to anyone you meet on the street or have discussions with at holiday gatherings!  And find a few blogs you like — they’re great sources for inspiration and practical advice on anything from food and clothing to cleaning products and new cars (Tesla is adding a vegan interior option to their already super-sweet rides!) 

What’s next for you guys? 

So much!  We’re narrowing down some locations in DC (back to my Hoya Saxa days!) for a Vedge-type of location.  And we have a few pots simmering here in Philly — waiting for a rolling boil before we announce anything specific.  Hang tight… 

To finish off, Kate offered up one of their recipes inside their soon-to-be released V Street cookbook! Ever make BBQ Seitan Tacos? Check out the recipe below!

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(photo: Yoni Nimrod

V-Street’s BBQ Seitan Tacos

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

½ cup ketchup

2 tsp molasses

1 tsp plus 2 tbsp sunflower oil

¼ tsp sesame oil

½ tsp tamari

½ tsp lime juice

1 tsp ginger puree

¼ tsp cumin

¼ tsp pepper

2 tbsp sriracha

16 oz seitan

2 tbsp Latin spice

Tortillas

Directions

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the ketchup, molasses, 1 tsp of sunflower oil, sesame oil, tamari, lime juice, ginger puree, cumin, pepper and sriracha and whisk together until smooth. Transfer to airtight storage container and refrigerate for up to 5 days.

Next, shred the seitan into think chunks about 2 inches in length. Do not slice with a knife; rather, pull it apart with your hands to follow the natural break points and create a rustic effect.

In a medium mixing bowl, toss the seitan with the remaining oil and Latin spice until it’s evenly coated.

Heat a large sautee pan or skillet on high, then sear the seitan a little at a time until the edges are crispy and brown. Then slowly add Huli Huli sauce until seitan is evenly coated. Reduce heat to medium, stirring occasionally, until sauce caramelizes around seitan.

Heat tortillas on the open flame of a range or wrapped in foil in a 350F oven for 10 minutes. Then, stuff tortillas with warm BBQ seitan and serve with garnishes of your choice such as Hearts of Palm Slaw or Lomi Tomato Salad!

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(photo: Yoni Nimrod)

A huge thank you to Kate for making this post possible. If you’re ever in Philadelphia, do yourself a favor and make a reservation at either Vedge or V-Street!

Check out more delicious recipes on the BLDG 25 Blog! 

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Comments

  1. ALL PLANTS CONTAIN PROTEIN, NOT JUST SOY!!!!
    please educate yourself better and stop propagating the idea that vegans don`t eat anything but tofu.

    EAT GREENS! EAT BEANS! EAT NUTS! EAT FRUITS!

  2. I used to be a full vegetarian, but have fallen of the path in the recent years. I have been trying to start up again, but have been failing miserably at it. I eat meat in moderation, but still, I really would love to be a full veggie, or even better a vegan, again. Does anyone have any tips on how can I stay away from the dead flesh and only eat good veggie diet???

  3. @Lillica

    Be as informed as you can about the issue. Just watching cowspiracy, earthlings, and more, and learning facts of what goes into animal products made me quit meat for good. Also, try and get to know some good vegan restaurants, find some recipes that you know you’ll like that don’t have meat in them, and work on adjusting your palette so that you actually enjoy eating veggies and beans for proteins rather than meats! As for animal byproducts, I would suggest finding healthy and natural (non-GMO) substitutes at first, then move towards less processed substitutes and to wholesome meals. It’s super easy after you get the hang of it and are passionate about it .

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