Yes, this is where you get our magical Popcorn Tofu. Yes, you can get it by the pound or in a Po-Boy. And yes, it has its own Facebook page.
Our deli counter is both traditional and uniquely Wheatsville. We will custom make you anything from a sandwich to a No-Ice Smoothie. Every day we make the prepared dishes you can see (and sample!) at the counter. Based on your feedback, we’ve got some favorites in heavy rotation and make everything else based on seasonal availability or because we’ve got a crazy craving.
If you just want to Grab and Go our Hot Bar is the place to pick up breakfast tacos, home-made soups, salads or one of our hot entrees. Between the deli and the hot bar you could eat three meals a day here and never dirty a dish at home.
Owner and founder Kala Uprety gives us the inner scoop about her delicious authentic Nepalese + Fusion vegetarian food!
1. How and why did Kala’s Kuisine get started?
In 1973, when I first came to the US as a student, I always dreamed of being in the food business. My grandparents had a brown sugar and molasses factory in Nepal, and I was always enjoyed seeing them turn raw ingredients into healthy, natural treats. 20 years later, while working as a computer programmer, I brainstormed ideas of what type of food I would want to sell. Then, while I was traveling abroad in Europe with my husband, I saw that there was packaged vegetarian food that was easy to grab and go. This made it very easy for me to eat abroad, whereas I had a difficult time finding interesting vegetarian options to eat at home. I saw an opportunity in the Austin market to create healthy vegetarian food that combined flavors from my home country of Nepal with the flavors native to Texas. I started with a few fresh products that were twists on traditional Nepalese dishes. By taking these traditional recipes and adding southwestern ingredients, I created a taste that was unique to Kala's Kuisine. Beyond fresh food, we have expanded our offering to include a variety of salsas, chutneys, pestos, hot sauces and fermented products. We started by supplying our fusion products to local grocery stores like Wheatsville co-op and other premier health food stores and now also operate booths at the 3 main Austin farmers markets every week.
2. Tell us a bit about the fusion flavors.
We sell a wide variety of products from fresh foods to fermented products, all with unique combinations of flavors that fuse influences from the East and West. For instance, our Roti Wraps and Saag Wraps combine a tortilla filled with curry-spiced vegetables making them both twists on the taco/burrito concept, but with eastern flavors.
Samosas, our most popular product, are filled with a potato and vegetable mixture that is seasoned to appeal to the western palate. The blend of spices is unique to Kala's Kuisine and offers a milder curry flavor than traditional Samosas.
Our Pasta Salads, Nepali Pasta Salad and Saag Pasta, take traditional dishes and mix them with pasta to create two brand new concepts, not available anywhere else. Saag Pasta, for example, has a nut-free spinach pesto base tossed with great northern beans and semolina rainbow noodles. This creates a tangy-spicy flavor in a cold noodle salad. Our Nepali Pasta Salad starts with a tomato-carrot based "spaghetti sauce" with eastern spices that make it unique to us. This sauce base is mixed with almonds and angel hair semolina noodles to create a milder spiced cold salad.
All of our salsas have a combination of eastern and western flavors that make them completely original. Our Curry-Chipotle and Mirchi Masala salsas, for example, combine Nepalese curry spices with the peppery flavors of the southwest to create flavor-filled hot sauces. Our newest addition, fermented products, are age old traditional Nepalese recipes that use western techniques to create crispy condiments that spice up any dish.
3. What are your favorite accompaniments to your food?
The great thing about all of our products is their versatility. I could name over twenty ways you could use each of our salsas, hot sauces and fermented products to create unique and interesting dishes. Here are a few of my favorite combinations:
Our Samosas pair perfectly with our Mango Chutney making an appetizer combination of salty, spicy and sweet that is impossible to resist. If you want to create a new take on a TexMex dinner, take our Mirchi Masala salsa, add some sour cream and pour over your favorite enchiladas for a Nepalese twist. For a flavorful breakfast with some extra kick, try adding our Curry-Chipotle salsa to some scrambled eggs. Then add some cheese and your favorite sautéed vegetables and you have a spicy breakfast taco.
You can also get creative with our condiment products by using them in surprising ways to add additional flavor to a variety of dishes. Our Pestos are great for tossing with pasta, spreading over naan or mixing with brown rice and vegetables for a healthy lunch bowl. Fermented products have a ton of unique uses apart from being great garnishes. Kimchi radishes are a great addition to salads or rice to add texture and tang. Carrot and Ruby krout are both tasty condiments that spice up any simple sandwich. For a unique salad dressing, combine our Lemon Preserve with Italian herbs and olive oil and pour over your choice of mixed greens.
4. How long have you been selling your food at Wheatsville?
Over 20 years. We started with fresh foods, expanded with our salsas and hot sauces, and have recently added our fermented products to our assortment. Striving to provide unique and interesting flavor combinations in every product, we have been working closely with Wheatsville to curate a collection that appeals to their clientele.
5. What is your favorite thing about Wheatsville?
Our favorite thing about Wheatsville is the environment. It is absolutely a joy to work with such friendly people who have supported Kala's Kuisine from the very beginning. They always provide us with great shelf space and they are inviting to local vendors like us as opposed to other grocery stores that ignore local vendors and focus on mass market brands.
Bukki Sittler of Pie Jacked, filled us in on this excellent local company!
1. How and why did Pie Jacked get started?
One of Mama Joyce's grandsons was diagnosed with Autism when he was very little. After a lot of research, we found that eliminating food allergens has shown to help with some of the symptoms of Autism, including digestion and even some of the "brain fog" aspects. We had him tested for food allergies and the results were overwhelming. Mama Joyce especially reworked basic recipes to help his mother with meals. Once the problem foods were removed from his diet, his entire aspect changed. His digestion improved, he started speaking in full sentences, and his entire face would light up when he smiled instead of just a crinkle at the corners of his mouth. As holidays came around, she knew she had to come up with something for pies - Grandma Buck, Bukki's namesake, had taught Mama Joyce when the family art of pie making when she was a child and it was too important to lose that legacy. With her decades of experience, and experimenting over three years, she finally came up with a crust that matched the flavor and texture of the original pies created 2 generations before her. That little man is Jack, so we named the company Pie Jacked.
2. What allergens are avoided in your pies?
We are top-8 allergen-free. This includes wheat (and all gluten), soy, dairy, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, fish, and shellfish. As if this is not limiting enough, we also avoid corn and GMO ingredients. Our pies are allergen-friendly and vegan. This extends to our entire product line, including our coffee cakes, Mud Pie Crusties, and some other goodies we are still developing!
3. Tell us a bit about the taste and flavors of your pies.
Our pie crust is what people rave over - it is tender and flakey as a pie crust should be. That has been the biggest hurdle to overcome, as so often gluten-free crusts can feel crumble or powdery. They have a light flavor that complements the sweet of fruit pies or even savory pies. Our fruit is based off of the original family recipe. We use evaporated cane juice that enhances the natural flavor and sweetness of our fruits rather than overpowering them. We let the fruits speak for themselves - just the right amount of tartness with our cherry, a light warmth to our apple, a freshness to our peach, and simple sweetness to our blueberry. We use traditional depth pie pans for all of our sizes so that we don't skimp on the fruit filling. We find they create the best balance of crust and fruit to complement each other.
4. What are your favorite accompaniments to your pie?
Either a full holiday meal with all the trimmings ;), or Sweet Ritual Salted Carmel frozen dessert on the apple and cherry pies. Their vanilla is great with all of our flavors.
5. What is your favorite thing about Wheatsville?
I love coming into the store and seeing the seasonal displays that are featured. I love finding new brands, especially new local brands, that way.
Leah Lopez, Founder and CEO Better Bites Bakery, answered a few questions about her very special baked treats.
1. What led you to start your business?
I founded Better Bites Bakery with a simple mission in mind - I wanted my son to be able to enjoy delicious treats and not feel left out due to his severe food allergies. I believe that food is a BLESSING, but there was nothing on the market that was safe for my son - and delicious enough to be enjoyed by the entire family. Given this discovery, we embraced our new journey and the creative cooking began! It wasn't long until I realized that people were loving what was coming out of my kitchen and I was thrilled to share the passion that I had for baking with others.
2. What kind of ingredients do you use?
We strive to be very intentional with our ingredients. Our bakery sources only the finest gluten-free, vegan, non-GMO, Kosher Pareve certified, real food ingredients. We never use artificial colours or preservatives. We believe this is not only better for our bodies, but our taste buds, as well.
3. What allergens do your products NOT contain?
Our products are free of the top 7 allergens. Those allergens are dairy, eggs, soy, wheat, fish, shellfish, and peanuts. We also do not have tree nuts in our facility or products, with the exception of coconut in our Mostess Cupcakes. We are confident that our stringent sanitation procedures will avoid cross contamination for those who avoid coconut.
4. What are some of your favorite things about Wheatsville?
The fact that the Popcorn Tofu is now gluten-free is AWESOME! Also, my employees are definitely hooked on the vegan donuts. I love that we can be inclusive with our breakroom snack choices and not leave anyone out.
5. Do you have a favorite cool tip?
I love Cookie DO Bites au naturel, but I have a weakness for milkshakes. I love to throw in vanilla ice cream, milk, ice, and a few DO Bites into a blender for a chocolate chip cookie dough milkshake. Try it – you’ll love it!
When and why did you decide to make vegan cupcakes?
Sascha has been vegan baking since 2002 when her infant presented with dairy and egg allergies. Coming from a great line of bakers, her library filled with old newspaper clippings and recipes transcribed from generations past, Sascha taught herself how to recreate these recipes as vegan. Yauss, who has both an undergraduate and graduate degree in design, has been working in the industry since 2003. She has honed her skills in marketing and design, teaching at the college level for over a decade. In fall 2011, Yauss’s mom started encouraging us to put our talents together to package and sell cupcakes. We decided to take the leap in early 2013 and the rest is sweet, sweet history.
What local partners’ products do you use?
Cuvee coffee, Buddha’s Brew kombuchas, Jester King beers, Buzz Mill Coffee, SRSLY chocolate, JBG Organic veggies, Love Bean fudge and caramel spreads, Tequila 512, Treaty Oak rum, Revolution Spirits gin, NadaMoo! ice creams, Bona Dea gluten free flour blend, confituras jams, Zhi teas, Hot Dang OG burger, Happy Hemp toasted hemp seeds, Austin Pesto Co. basil, and lick ice cream so far.
What is your favorite treat that you make?
We can’t get enough of that chocolate Cuvee coffee pudding that goes on top of the Mocha Marmalade trifle jars. Whenever we make it, we all take a little bit home to eat (usually at night, before bed, IN bed!)
Are there new products in the works?
We are always working on new and exciting products! We are constantly looking for new partnerships for the most unique flavor pairings we can bring to market. If we aren’t baking for production, we are baking for R&D.
What are your favorite things about Wheatsville Co-op?
Do you mean besides Popcorn Tofu?! A trip to Wheatsville feels like a trip to visit with old friends. Everyone there is so lovely, supportive, and kind. It feels like everyone really believes in our company and our product, and is as invested in selling it as we are. We have SO much gratitude for the Wheatsville Co-op family and their bear hug of warmth.
Wheatsville may be many things to many people, but for a lot of folks, it’s all about the Popcorn Tofu. Scroll through our Yelp! page, and you’ll see people from all over the country waxing rhapsodic over these deep-fried nuggets of goodness, using words like “stupendous” and “divine.” One enthusiastic fan raves, “It is so good I look like a crazy woman when I eat it, because I have to talk to it and let it know how much I love it.” So how did this magical stuff come to be a Wheatsville staple?
Popcorn tofu originated about ten years ago, when Wheatsville was still one store with one tiny kitchen. The cooks were struggling to meet the demand for another iconic Wheatsville dish, the Southern Fried Tofu, which calls for slices of frozen, thawed, and pressed tofu to be dunked in a marinade, then breaded with a dry mixture of flour, cornmeal, nutritional yeast, and spices. In order to streamline this process, one of the cooks came up with the idea to combine the wet and dry ingredients to create a batter for the tofu, and Wonko’s Popcorn Tofu was born (the name was quickly abbreviated to just Popcorn Tofu, or PCT in Wheatsville-speak—apparently Wonko was a shy guy).
The new dish was an immediate hit, so much so that frying batches in a cast-iron skillet on the stovetop quickly became unsustainable. Fresh Manager Dana Tomlin (then kitchen manager) took matters into her own hands and bought a tabletop deep fryer at Target, then the largest commercial fryer that could fit in the kitchen, and still the deli ran through batches of PCT in a matter of hours. By then, plans for the renovation of the Guadalupe store were in progress. Dana says, “I like to think we did it for the sake of the PCT lovers of the world! But, honestly, most of the store was having this same thing happen—we were all busting out of our seams and the need for space, larger equipment, and more storage was increasing.”
I began my Wheatsville career at around this time, in the spring of 2008, as a baker and a deli counter clerk. I have vivid memories of Dennis, a former cook, making the popcorn tofu at the end of his shift, around 2 pm. Customers would start to trickle in at this time, asking, “Is the popcorn ready yet?” We counter clerks would dash to the kitchen to pull portions of freshly fried PCT from the cooling rack to make po’boys, and by the time it was cool enough to put in the display case, half of the batch would be gone. I don’t ever recall a batch lasting past 7 pm.
One of the deli’s main priorities for the renovation, then, was to ensure that we NEVER AGAIN run out of popcorn tofu! We built our kitchen, with a giant hood vent and electrical capacity, to support a full-sized commercial fryer, doubled our batch size to 40 pounds of tofu, and the rest is Wheatsville history! The freezing, thawing, and pressing process still takes several days but is essential to the success of the dish, since it helps the batter cling to the tofu, so we’ve created a walk-in and freezer storage system that revolves around the process. Our suppliers fortunately adapted to our continuously growing demand for tofu—we buy more tofu from our distributor than anyone else in Texas!
With the PCT system honed to this fine edge, we were able to introduce another flavor a few years back. The Spicy Buffalo Popcorn Tofu (BPCT) made its debut for Super Bowl 2012 and rapidly became part of our daily routine, along with its companion sauce, the Vegan Blue Cheez Dressing. When we rolled out our pizza program not long after, Chad Peters, one of our longest-tenured cooks and a popcorn tofu master, suggested using the small crumbles that are the inevitable by-product of the frying process as a topping. I admit I scoffed, but of course he was right—the PCT and BPCT pizzas with vegan Daiya cheese are among our top sellers.
Over the years, we have shared these recipes and the tips and tricks that make them successful with over 20 other co-ops around the country. We like to think that we are helping to grow the co-op Economy nationwide, right in line with our BIG direction, by demystifying the magic that is popcorn tofu!
Wings Know How
Few things in life say football and party like chicken wings. Hot wings are a staple menu item in sports bars all over the US and deep frying or roasting are the most popular methods of cooking wings. Some BBQ joints offer smoked wings.
I think wings have been relegated to sports bars and wing shops for far too long—wings are amenable to many flavor profiles and cooking methods. I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t braise them and let them crisp up in the pan! I don’t follow a recipe but boldly mix flavors and techniques to achieve wings that are specialized beyond the humble sports bar wings. Here are some ideas to fix wings your own way.
Rubbing and Marinating
The great thing about chicken wings is they can take more intense flavors. You can easily use rubs and marinades that are designed more for red meat and pork rather than poultry.
Tony Chachere’s Original Creole Seasoning is what I use the most for a wing rub. It has great flavor, no MSG, and it is always in my kitchen. Also carried here at Wheatsville, The Paleo Powder is a no-gluten no-MSG product made here in Texas, and the Salt Lick makes a couple of rub options. Lemon Pepper is another great flavor.
Like rubs, you can use just about anything for marinating wings. Try one of the Wheatsville Marinades like Teriyaki or Mojo. Howard Miller, S. Lamar Meat Dept. Supervisor, likes to mix ranch dressing or buttermilk with Yellowbird Sauce.
I like to make a kitchen sink sort of sauce, but Sriracha is pretty much always an ingredient. Vinegar is always a good addition, along with some sort of fat. I usually use a mild oil like canola, but butter is the traditional way to go. I then add a little mustard and honey and start adding hot sauces like Yellowbird.
If you don’t want to make your own sauce, there are plenty of excellent premade sauces. I really like the Stubb’s Wing Sauce. The Texas Texas Dang Good Sauce is an all around good sauce for anything and goes well with wings.
Bringing It All Together
If you are deep frying wings, use a rub, fry them, and then toss them in sauce,
but I usually roast them. I rub them and put them in the oven without sauce until they start to dry out, about 10 minutes, then I start basting them. I remove them from the oven and toss them in sauce several times during cooking.
You can also dredge them in a flour and rub mixture and just let them be in the oven. The flour gives them a nice crust that is like fried chicken. The rub added to the flour kicks up the flavor.
I cook them for no less than 45 minutes at 375°– 400° F, but I open the oven four times to baste and my family likes a little carbon on their wings. If you leave the oven closed, use the lower temperature for a few less minutes.
Sometimes having loose suggestions rather than a set recipe is intimidating but wings can be a great way to stretch out and share some adventure with your family and friends—especially with beer and sports!
Howard’s Yellowbird Buffalo Wings
1 lb chicken wings, separated at joints, discard the tips
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup ranch dressing
several squirts of Yellowbird Habanero Sauce
¾ cup flour
½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
Mix the butter, ranch dressing, and Yellowbird sauce. Coat the wings and let the wings marinade in the mixture for a couple hours in the fridge in a large storage bag.
Preheat Oven to 425°F.
Coat wings with with seasoned flour (flour, salt, black pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder) and arrange a single layer of wings on a lightly greased baking sheet. Adorn each wing with a little melted butter.
Bake in the preheated oven until the chicken is no longer pink in the center, and crispy on the outside, about 35-45 minutes. Turn the wings over halfway during cooking so they cook evenly.