Vegan Cooking Tips from the Cinnamon Snail's Adam Sobel
If you live in New York City, you’re probably already under the spell of the famous vegan food truck the Cinnamon Snail. Chef Adam Sobel’s decadent creations have sent vegans and omnivores alike on quests to find the Snail anywhere from Brooklyn to New Jersey.
In fact, with creations like ancho chili seitan burgers, maple mustard tempeh sandwiches, rum pumpkin pie donuts and lavender pear turnovers, we can’t believe we’re sitting here writing when we could be out at the Snail getting breakfast.
Adam was kind enough to chat with us and give Ecorazzi readers some great vegan cooking tips. From egg replacers to vegan frosting, Adam gives us a glimpse into the world of the Cinnamon Snail. Make sure you read to the bottom so you can find out what’s next for the Vendy’s People’s Choice Award winning food truck (like a cookbook!)
The Cinnamon Snail has captured the hearts of New Yorkers. I think we all want to know, where did you learn how to cook?
Adam: About 12 years ago, just before I became vegan, I met my wife, who was vegan already for 14 years. She ate a pretty crappy diet. French Fry Veganism. I started out learning to cook so that I could make her really yummy food. Being someone who hated going to school, I learned to cook working in restaurants. After about a year or so I became vegan myself and became totally obsessed with learning to prepare everything I loved as nicely as I could possible pull it off. I am still testing and tweaking and experimenting all the time. Yesterday I made Vegan Choco Tacos with buttery tasting pizzelle wafer shells. Came out too rich, so next time I’ll make a thinner, more milk-chocolatey chocolate to dip them in. It’s the little things like that that are always an experiment that I can learn from to improve my cooking style and techniques.
A series of favorites. We’re curious to know which types of these vegan cooking necessities you prefer:
Favorite egg replacer:
Adam: Eggs are just not necessary. Mostly, eggs just allow people with crappy recipes to bake something without perfect ratios and without an accurate baking time to have something still come out acceptable. Without eggs you can still make fantastic stuff, but you need to be in much more control of all the variables of your pastries. Some things though, I have just given up on, like Matzo Balls. Sure you can make something like that WORK without the ton of eggs, but it’s not going to ever be quite as fluffy and perfect as my nana used to make. Believe me, I HAVE TRIED! -A LOT!
Favorite non-dairy milk:
Adam: Home made cashew milk or almond milk. Edensoy unsweetened soy milk for baking.
Favorite vegan butter:
Adam: Sometimes coconut butter, sometimes Earthbalance (duh…), sometimes chilled extra virgin olive oil. Really depends on the application.
What do you recommend to use as the base of a good cake frosting?
Adam: Shhhhh… that’s a secret. I’ll give you a hint though: Emulsification. Or stuff like peanut butter chocolate cheesecake filling. I like that on cakes plenty, though it’s not the best for piping. Love ganache. Love love love coconut milk based frostings. I DON’T love love love the usual vegan buttercream that everyone seems to make with tons of shortening and grossness.
So many vegans and omnivores shun tofu because, if not prepared right, it can be mushy and flavorless. Do you have any tips on how to prepare a bad ass tofu?
Adam: Tofu can be awesome so many different ways. I love a good charred up grilled piece of tofu, grilled with just enough of a super flavorful marinade to keep it from sticking to the grill. Tofu is just begging you to marinate it or cover it after being cooked in a really bold sauce that will penetrate it’s bland insides. I like to give tofu something acidy to brighten up whatever other flavors you impart on it. I am super-addicted to plum vinegar, and it is super-addicted to tofu, so all together it becomes a big tasty vegan love triangle.
Any vegan cooking tips you can think of that you wish you had known when you first started out?
Adam: Nope. I LOVE figuring stuff out the hard way. I love being challenged by recipes or handicaps, or new ingredients. That’s one of the really fun things about cooking vegan food. It forces you to be creative about how to make the food work fantastically. I consider that I am STILL “starting out” and that there is always room to improve my cooking style and methods. I hope to keep blundering around in the kitchen until I make Chef Boyardee’s hat fall off.
What cookbooks are on your shelf at home?
Adam: Hooo boy… got lots. I REALLY love and recommend anything by Robin Robertson. She has such a talent for inspiring ingredient combinations. Her book “Vegan Planet” is my go to recipe when someone new to vegan cooking want a recommendation.
My favorite cookbooks are actually not vegan ones. We have a lot of traditional pastry books that we are always experimenting with veganising great sounding recipes from. Not all of the vegan dessert books that we own are that exciting. It’s more fun for us to read a thorough recipe and explanation on making vegan pain au chocolat and spend a few days or weeks trying to make it work without animal ingredients.
Does Cinnamon Snail ever plan on releasing a cookbook?
Adam: YES! We just sold our book proposal to Clarkson Potter, and the book will be due out in… a couple years. It takes a lot of time to get all the recipes tested and tweaked for home kitchens. A lot of our recipes for the truck are made in our prep kitchen on giant mixers, and industrial grinders etc. In addition, the book is going to have a lot of really crazy stories about all of the absurd circumstances we deal with preparing food for people on the streets in a small metal box on wheels. It’s been really fun writing it, and we can’t wait to share how weird our job is with the world. One of the reasons we went with Clarkson Potter, is that they make really really beautiful books, and ours is going to have a lot of gorgeous full color photos showing off our sexy food and sexier staff!
One thing that’s going to make the book EXTRA special, is it will contain an extensive chapter on vegan donut making. That’s a subject we have spent a lot of time experimenting in, and our donuts have won awards up against non-veg stuff. We really want other people to take vegan pastries to the limit, where we can see the culture around us start to realize that vegan baking can be as good or better!
What’s next for the Snail?
Adam: Mulling over a few very exciting possibilities we may explore to help us serve more and more people and more neighborhoods. We also have someone really awesome coming to work on the truck that is a super topsecret surprise! Other than that, I’m thinking to personally get a really budget sex change by a nerdy wizard, and a fancy new name like Domino DeBuke, or Pueblo Banaca.
Definitely follow the Snail on facebook to see where in NYC or New Jersey they are going to be on any given day. And now, we’ll end this interview with a bit of food porn. Get ready to drool.