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cult score9.1

Where to buy...

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Danny Bowien + JJ Goode

Mission Vegan

Danny Bowien's second book absolutely kills it with his trademark creative dishes and immaculate vibes. This book will make even carnivores question everything...

accessibility
8

A handful of ingredients can be tricky to find locally, but everything was easily available online within a couple of days. The recipes are super approachable; even the ones that seemed tricky were explained so clearly that they were easy to reproduce.

design
9

Not doing a ton creatively here, but the photos are gorgeous, accurate to the finished dishes, and the information is laid out cleanly and logically.

Our biggest issue was the number of dependencies that maybe didn't need to be included ("Umami Salt + Pepper" for example). Sure they were additive and we can't argue with the outcomes, but it seemed to be optimized for avoiding repetition in the book at the expense of cooking ergonomics.

flavor
10

Danny's flavors blew us away. We weren't too optimistic going in because we've had so many vegan versions of dishes that were lacking, but we were so damn wrong.

Several times we called out dishes as being the best thing we've eaten all year.

value
10

No book has been more worthy of its cover price so far this year.

Don't hesitate on this one. It's an absolute gem.

writing
8.5

The writing is super smooth: flowing from idea to idea clearly and really focusing on the recipes and why they're present in the book.

Every recipe intro was worth reading and blended personal anecdote with pro tips on how to get the best out of the recipe that followed.

As someone who is decidedly not vegan (and carries a longstanding disdain for vegan butters), I can confirm that Mission Vegan is something entirely different and a book meant for flavor-lovers of all stripes.

Not only did Danny avoid most of the “alternatives” that are commonly found in vegan dishes; he managed to make his dishes stand out by adding colors and flavors that would make any carnivore question where that meaty flavor is coming from? (Spoiler: It's probably mushrooms.)

The directions keep the home cook in mind by breaking everything down into easy-to-follow steps. He doesn't always define every culinary term (and honestly, not every book should do that ad infinitum), but he's not using anything so complex that a quick Google wouldn't get you where you need to be.

Pro tip: don’t skip out on making a few of Danny’s kimchi recipes! He’s put a lot of thought into making these recipes approachable and safe for beginners and several of the recipes are super fun takes on classics that will impress your friends for very little effort. Definitely make the watermelon kimchi and be prepared to have your mind blown by how amazing that rind is. (Seriously, wtf Danny.)

Dishes like the Matcha Pho, Buckwheat Noodles with Dragonfruit Ice (the most interesting thing we've eaten in months), Tiger Salad, and the Smashed Cucumbers with Tingly Granola (easily the best example of its ever-popular category) will all be going into regular rotation for us.

Several of these, we immediately turned around and served to friends and they were all shocked that A) they were vegan dishes, and B) that they were so damn interesting to eat.

In fact, the only dishes that were a slight miss for us were the Chilled Tofu in Peanut Milk and the Pineapple Kimchi Fried Rice. But these dishes are so simple and minimal that it was easy to see which variables to tweak and bring them up to their full potential.

The hardest part of the week was in tracking down a couple of less-common ingredients like pink peppercorns, Sichuan peppercorn oil, and freeze-dried dragon fruit powder in stores. Pro tip: they're super easy to find online. If in question, start there.

If you’re a cook who expects your finished dish to turn out exactly like the photos, you may need to add some edible flowers to your shopping cart too. Most of our dishes turned out pretty damn close to the super vibe-y inspirational photos, but he definitely does touch up his photos with a couple of embellishments. We left the week extremely jealous of his translucent dish collection.

So, who is this for? If you're even a little interested in getting into some moderately experimental Korean- and Chinese-inspired food (vegan or otherwise), and you don’t mind throwing together a handful of simple prep ingredients from scratch like his Whipped Garlic Sauce or Umami Salt + Pepper, then I think you’ll really love this book.

    Smash
  • Cold Buckwheat Noodles with Dragonfruit Ice
  • Smashed Cucumbers with Tingly "Granola"
  • Watermelon Kimchi
  • Kim's Kabocha Congee
    Pass
  • Cold Tofu in Peanut Milk
  • Pineapple Kimchi