The vegan diet — meatless masterpieces

Some people become vegetarians because they love animals. Some, as comedian A. Whitney Brown put it, because they hate plants.

But vegans are committed. Not only do they not eat food that harms or kills animals, some don’t even want food that inconveniences animals.

Like honey. Hardcore vegans will not eat honey because, as Noah Lewis of vegetus.org puts it, “the simple fact is that the bees are enslaved.” Similarly, some vegans will not eat sugar because, while it comes entirely from a plant, some sugar is whitened by using bone char, which comes from animals.

Although the vegan diet lacks in meat, dairy and egg products — or because of it — the diet can be better for you than that which the standard American eats. In 2009, the American Dietetic Association took the position that vegetarian and vegan diets reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes, and lead to lower cholesterol and blood pressure.

It can be healthy, but there are some things to watch out for when on a vegan diet: You have to make sure to get enough protein and vitamin B-12 — and calcium, iodine, vitamin D, iron, zinc and n-3 fatty acids.

Fortunately, a well-balanced vegan diet provides all of these essential nutrients, though you may want to take vitamin B-12 supplements, just in case.

cooking a well-balanced vegan diet can be difficult, at least if you want to stick to what most Americans think of as normal ingredients. Many vegan recipes attempt to re-create meatless versions of familiar meat-based dishes, and to do so they rely on such potentially off-putting ingredients as vegan chicken, egg replacers and nondairy cheese.

Other recipes use soy products such as tofu and tempeh for their protein, and it is one of these that I tried first in cooking a vegan diet for a day.

Mee Goreng, which is a type of stir-fried noodles, is popular street fare in the Philippines. When I have had it before, it always had meat in it, usually chicken or shrimp or both. But then I came upon a vegan recipe for it using tofu, and tofu fans are sure to be instantly hooked.

If they like spicy food, that is. As with a lot of street food, Mee Goreng usually packs a kick. If you want it milder, simply trim down or eliminate the amount you use of sambal oelek, the all-purpose Indonesian and Malaysian ground chili paste.

Also as is the case with much street food, Mee Goreng tends to be a little oily. The recipe calls for 5 tablespoons of oil for four to six servings; I got by with four tablespoons, but that is still a quarter cup of oil.

Do you need it? Yes. The oil brings the dish together, from the spicy sambal to the faintly bitter bok choy to the sweet sauce made from equal parts of soy sauce, brown sugar and molasses.

The tofu, which has the amazing ability to soak up all the flavors in which it is cooked, serves as a protein-rich punctuation to the meal.

For my next dish, I dispensed with the tofu and received my protein in the form of garbanzo beans, which are also known as chickpeas.

Indian-Style Vegetable Curry With Potatoes and Cauliflower (that name seems a little over-descriptive to me) is another spicy dish. I like spices; sue me. If less fiery food is more your style, you can use a mild curry powder (but I wouldn’t use much less) and leave out the serrano chile.

This dish benefits greatly from the mutually complementary flavors of potato, cauliflower, garbanzo beans and curry. A bit of tomato paste and a cup of coconut milk make it deeply satisfying, yet it is so healthful that you’ll practically pat yourself on the back for eating it.

It is the kind of dish that calls out for basmati rice; if you have it, use it.