January's Can't-Miss Dish

Looking for a no-fail, mouthwatering, gonna-tell-your-friends-about-it plate? Each month, Boston Globe columnist Ellen Bhang highlights the dish you need to try right now—and something to sip alongside it. 

On the plate: Thai Peanut Sutra

Where to find it: At the newest outpost of Life Alive Organic Café in the Back Bay, plant-based noshing has never been more polished. This high-energy spot—with sister locations in Lowell, Cambridge, Salem, and Brookline—hums from morning ’til night. Fit-looking patrons (some toting rolled-up yoga mats) sip kombucha at a gleaming juice bar. Nearby, gal pals tuck into acai bowls at tables painted azure blue. Framed exhortations like “eat organic” and “share the love” hang on every wall. Chef Leah Dubois loves to talk about Life Alive’s aim. “‘High-vibrational’ means food that makes you feel good,” she explains, unpacking a concept mentioned on the company’s website. “It’s prepared with loving kindness. By sharing it, you feel aligned with the people who made it.”

Notes on the nosh: A sumptuous grain bowl called the Thai Peanut Sutra comes with a saucy origin story. “We came up with a delicious spicy peanut sauce and asked, ‘What is the best vehicle to get this into people’s bellies?’” says Dubois. That sweet, nutty dressing—seasoned with fresh ginger and a dash of wheat-free soy sauce called tamari—is tossed with a veritable rainbow of fruits and vegetables. “The golden beets are jewel-like, and the pineapple gives it an interesting, complex pop of citrus and brightness,” says the chef. These ingredients, together with shredded purple cabbage, basil, and a glossy puree of Japanese pickled plums, arrive on a bed of steamed brown rice. For a couple of dollars more, add roasted tofu as a satisfying protein.

Sip alongside: Like its name, a drink called the Orange Blossom combines the distilled essence of citrus petals with the juice of green apples, lemons, and carrots. Two kinds of good-for-you rhizomes—ginger and turmeric—are also in the mix. The spicy warmth of ginger and earthy astringency of turmeric enhance the crunchy textures and bright flavors of the dish. You get the sense that pairings like these are as much about elevating your mood as quenching your thirst. Dubois would agree. “Let’s keep the vibe high,” she declares.

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