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The Essential Vegetarian

By Katie Jeffries

Features Editor

Welcome back from what I hope was a relaxing Thanksgiving break. I went home, to Chicago, and visited a few of my favorite vegetarian-friendly restaurants. The first was Chowpatti, an international vegetarian restaurant. The name comes from a beach in Bombay that is known for its variety of vendors selling all kinds of food. The restaurant’s menu follows this trend, with a large choice of food. The menu is predominantly Indian, but also includes vast offerings of American, Italian, Middle Eastern, and Mexican dishes.

The dishes, while tasty and healthy, are not the best value -- a $10 meal is not necessarily filling. The service is friendly, albeit slow. The restaurant is located at 1035 S. Arlington Heights Road in Arlington Heights.

Another favorite is LuLu’s on 626 Davis St. in Evanston. This Pan-Asian restaurant’s motto is “Dim Sum and then sum” which means that even vegetarians can find a hearty meal at a good price. My favorite dish is the cold sesame noodles, served with scallions and peanuts. The vegetarian spring rolls are a nice appetizer as well, and are served with a spicy mustard sauce.

The staff is young and enthusiastic, which fits the colorful decor. Takeout is also available. A meal will run at most $10 per person for an entree and appetizer.

Eating at these two restaurants was a welcome change from the annual annoyance of Thanksgiving dinner. I was served the traditional meal at my grandparents’ house, and made do as usual with what was served. Not having turkey at so large a meal rarely poses a problem. In fact, I think that in the spirit of the holiday, it is appropriate to be in tune with the plight of animal rights and environmental concerns which are addressed by being vegetarian.

On a final note, I learned an important lesson last night dining at Networks: it pays to go to the top. I ordered a special sandwich to be prepared without meat. The cashier had a lengthy debate with one manager trying to get me a discount (she succeeded in getting 50 cents knocked off the price). I appreciated her effort, but was saddened to find that after a lengthy wait, my dish was served to me with meat in it. Fortunately, just at that moment my good friend Tony showed up and rescued my meal. He offered to make me a special sandwich with portobello mushroom. It was quickly prepared and delivered to my table. The moral of this story: if anyone at Networks gives you a hard time, ask for Tony.

This week’s recipe is a simple one for vegetable fried rice. As always, I look forward to your comments on any subject (including those nasty old grey-box-to-grey-box wars) at <>.

Chinese Vegetable Fried Rice

1 1/2 cups brown or brown basmati rice

2 tablespoons canola oil, divided

3 eggs, beaten

1 1-pound bag frozen mixed vegetables, thawed

4 to 5 scallions, thinly sliced

Natural soy sauce

Combine the rice with 4 cups of water in a large saucepan. Bring to a simmer, then cover and simmer gently until the water is absorbed, about 35 minutes.

Heat half of the oil in a medium-wide skillet. When hot, add the beaten eggs. Turn the heat down to medium-low, cover, and cook until the eggs are set on top. Flip and cook briefly on the other side, then slide the egg pancake onto a plate. When cool enough to handle, cut into strips about 1/2 inch wide by 1 1/2 inches long.

Heat the remaining oil in a wok or stir-fry pan. Add the mixed vegetables and stir-fry until they are just tender-crisp. Add the cooked rice and scallions. Season to taste with soy sauce and stir fry over medium-high heat for 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the egg strips and serve, passing around extra soy sauce if you’d like. Feeds 6 or more.

If you like, serve this with pan-sautÉed tofu on the side and perhaps some sliced tomatoes and bell peppers.