Okonomiyaki + Japanese Mayo (Plant-Based Japanese Recipes)

I’m starting a small series of plant-based Japanese recipes! This series is inspired by my travels in Japan and will feature my take on some of the amazing food I had there. Those who don’t take alliums or alcohol, fret not – I’ve crafted these recipes in a way where these are optional!

It’s very easy to find Japanese ingredients in Singapore from regular supermarkets like NTUC (often has a Japanese section) or speciality stores like Donki, Isetan and Meidi-ya. However, it’s not always easy to figure out what’s plant-based, as sometimes the translations aren’t accurate. I will advice to be a little more careful when buying packaged Japanese products here if you wish to avoid animal products.

Although Japan is not commonly known to be vegan-friendly, things are changing and there’s a surprising amount of accidentally plant-based foods. You can read more about my recommendations from Japan starting from here, or see my reviews of dishes and packaged foods here. The recipes in this series will mostly be of food I ate there as I have a good idea of what’s the benchmark! I don’t claim them to be authentic since I didn’t grow up eating Japanese food, but this is what worked for me. Try it out!

What is Okonomiyaki?

Okonomiyaki is a customisable savoury pancake popular all across Japan, but especially famous in 2 places – Osaka and Hiroshima. Okonomi means “as you like” and yaki means fried or stir-fried. There are 2 main styles of okonomiyaki, Osaka style (mixed) and Hiroshima style (layered). At okonomiyaki restaurants, although you can choose what you like to be mixed into the batter, the batter itself already contains eggs and very likely, fish stock. This is a plant-based take on Osaka’s version. If you’re in Osaka, I recommend Vegetable Bar Aju’s (my fav vegan restaurant there) okonomiyaki.

How the pancake looks like before dressing it up.

Ingredients introduction

There are certain ingredients that may be foreign to some. Some are important in getting the texture right.

Ingredients used for these 2 recipes.

1. Nagaimo (Chinese yam, don’t omit)

Chinese people will know this too!

A starchy root, usually available in wet markets or the refrigerated section of supermarkets. This is one amazing ingredient that I learnt about during a vegan takoyaki cooking class in Kyoto. Chinese use it in stir-fries and soups, but often in Japanese cuisine, it’s simply grated and eaten raw as a topping. It’s naturally sticky and smooth without flavour – a fantastic egg replacement in certain applications. Traditional okonomiyaki already contains nagaimo to lift the batter.

2. Aonori (topping, optional)

A type of seaweed dried and made into flakes. The one in the photo is actually aosa (a cheaper type of seaweed) not aonori, but taste is almost the same.

3. Japanese mayonnaise (topping, optional)

Tastier than Western mayo with stronger umami. Vegan mayo is quite easily available in the big cities I visited in Japan, but I haven’t seen it here yet. So I made my own, recipe below. Although optional, I highly recommend as the creamy savouriness really adds depth.

4. Dashi powder (use either this or soup stock)

If you don’t wish to make soup stock from scratch, you can buy konbu dashi powder. This is also used in my mayo recipe below. I got this one in Donki.

5. Beni Shouga (red ginger pickles, optional)

This goes into the batter. It’s gingery and slightly sweet. It’s optional but often used in okonomiyaki, so I included it. I think the main idea is to introduce something crunchy, tangy and umami for textural variation. So you can add any types of pickles you like, or add something else with umami if you don’t like pickles.

6. Okonomi sauce (topping)

Similar to BBQ sauce but thicker and slightly more tangy and sweet. You can replace with regular BBQ sauce. I got this from the Japanese section in NTUC.

7. Baking powder + vinegar+unsweetened soymilk (egg replacement, don’t omit)

Having air bubbles in the batter is necessary for a light texture.

This is to produce air bubbles in the batter so it’s light and tender, not dense or doughy. Okonomiyaki usually already have baking powder, I just added vinegar to help produce the air bubbles. You can use any types of vinegar with a light flavour, like rice, brown rice, apple cider or distilled vinegar. Soymilk helps to add protein and moisture, which also helps to achieve a light and moist texture. This particular brand of soy milk in the photo is great for cooking, from Donki. Don’t use sweetened flavoured soymilk, unless you really like chocolate flavoured okonomiyaki? 🙂

8. Dashi (don’t omit)

Dashi is the backbone of Japanese cuisine. It’s a soup stock used in most savoury foods, usually made from fish (katsuo). The ocean has blessed us with another source of briny umami from plants – kelp, a.k.a konbu. Learn how to make konbu dashi easily here. Since washing the dried konbu isn’t recommended, I prefer to use Japanese konbu (available in some NTUC and Japanese shops) as Chinese ones sometimes have sand. In this picture, the dashi hasn’t been boiled yet hence the light colour. You may use vegetable or mushroom stock to replace.

Recipe: Japanese mayonnaise (egg & dairy-free)

Makes about 500ml (The recipe is doubled because my food processor is too big, if you want to make less, half the recipe.)

  • 1/2 cup aquafaba (the water from a can of chickpeas)
  • 2 tsp mustard powder
  • 1 tsp black salt
  • 3 tsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 cups grape seed oil
  • 2 tsp konbu dashi powder 
  • 4 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • Pinch of turmeric (optional, for colour)
  1. Process aquafaba and mustard in a food processor.
  2. While the food processor is running, drizzle a third of the oil slowly into mixture. Do not pour all at once.
  3. Add salt, sugar and dashi powder.
  4. Drizzle a third of the oil again while the food processor is running.
  5. Add rice vinegar, lemon juice and drizzle the remaining oil. Process the mixture for extra 10 seconds after everything is mixed.
  6. Taste and adjust by adding more sugar, dashi or black salt to your taste. Try not to add more of the liquid ingredients to avoid diluting it. If it’s too thin, drizzle more oil while machine is running to thicken. Store in clean bottles, can be kept in fridge for a week.

Recipe: Okonomiyaki (egg-free)

Makes 3 medium-sized pancakes. Recipe adapted from Just One Cookbook – look at the step-by-step photos here before attempting.

Okonomiyaki is hard to photograph ;__;

Batter

  • 1 cup flour, sifted (also works with whole wheat flour)
  • 1/2 tsp black salt (or sea salt, to enhance flavour)
  • 1/2 tsp soy sauce (because we are omitting animal products, it’ll be best to add more flavour to the batter)
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar (or any light flavoured vinegar)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened soymilk
  • 3 inch nagaimo, grated
  • 3/4 cup plant-based dashi (Or 1 tsp dashi powder dissolved in 3/4 cup water)

These ingredients can be replaced with anything you like:

  • 1/2 of a medium sized cabbage, chopped finely
  • 1 tomato, chopped finely
  • 4 shiitake mushrooms, chopped finely
  • 1/4 cup chopped pickles (or anything with umami that you like, eg: other pickles, kimchi, preserved black beans, achar, Chinese preserved mustard, etc)
  • Green onions, chopped finely (those who can’t take alliums, try chopped chilli, ginger or toon sauce, etc.)
  • Slices of marinated tofu or tempeh, or any sliced protein, mushroom or veggie that you prefer.

Toppings (as much or as little as you like)

  • Japanese mayonnaise
  • Okonomi sauce
  • Chopped spring onions (optional)
  • Vegan dried squid (can buy from vegetarian grocery shops, optional, to replace bonito flakes)
  • Aonori or aosa (or similar seaweed flakes)
  • Other topping ideas: Chilli sauce, fried onions, soy floss, black pepper, chilli flakes, sesame seeds, furikake
  1. Mix flour, salt and sugar in a big bowl.
  2. Add grated nagaimo and dashi stock. Mix.
  3. Add vinegar, soy milk and pickles. Mix till just combined.
  4. Add chopped vegetables and mushrooms a third at a time. Mix before adding the next batch. Batter should be sticky and thick with visible air bubbles.
  5. Heat oil in a non-stick pan.
  6. Pour a third of the batter into the pan. Use spatulas to press the batter into a round shape. Reduce to low medium heat, cook for couple of minutes till browned.
  7. Press slices of tempeh/tofu on top of the batter.
  8. Using 2 spatulas, flip the pancake to cook the side with sliced tofu/tempeh.
  9. Cook till browned, remove from heat and transfer to plate. Spread okonomi sauce on top.
  10. Top with mayo, aonori, spring onions and other toppings you like.
  11. Repeat until you use up all batter. Serve hot!
Because you can add anything you like, your’s may look different – don’t worry! The texture should come out tender, light, slightly gooey, soft, not runny or dense and doughy.

Notes:

1. Do not over mix the batter to avoid pressing out air bubbles. Stop when everything is just combined.

2. A good okonomiyaki has one more ingredient – tempura bits. It’s helps to make the batter fluffier. However, my parents wish to avoid deep fried foods so I didn’t buy it. Those are available in the okonomiyaki section in Donki. Note that not all types are plant-based.

3. If you’re cooking this for the first time, start by making smaller pancakes so it’s easier to flip. Don’t hesitate when you flip and do it with one quick action.

I can’t take full credit for developing this recipe. There’s plenty of Japanese recipes online but I prefer to learn from ones that are written by Japanese people. I learnt a lot from Just One Cookbook and my favourite, A Japanese Vegan’s Kitchen. Highly recommend their pages for precious, time-saving tips! Next up, ramen. Stay tuned 🙂

Tempeh Bak Kwa – Updated Recipe + Channel 8 Feature

Hope everyone’s 2019 has been good so far! 2019 so far has given me some new opportunities and positive changes. I hope that things are finally looking up and all the hard work I did in 2018 will pay off. My closest friends will know that 2018 was tough in certain aspects. I really want to thank all the amazing friends that supported, listened and gave me advice – couldn’t have made it without you!

In late December 2018, I received an email from a Channel 8 producer, asking to feature my old tempeh bak kwa recipe on the Hello Singapore show. She had found the recipe on this blog as she was searching for one that is healthier and isn’t conventional meat bak kwa. As an introvert who isn’t comfortable being filmed or photographed (I really prefer being behind camera!), I struggled at first on whether to accept it. But this is a great chance for the masses to learn that our favourite traditional foods can also be made with plants. So I decided to step out of my comfort zone and put my discomfort aside.

It was a fun and interesting shoot with Youyi 有懿 thanks to Channel 8’s amazing crew! I was very nervous and awkward because it’s my first time being filmed. Everyone was very patient and nice during the shoot and wrapped everything up in the most professional manner I’ve ever seen on a set (I’ve worked on sets before as assistants). The show will be aired on Hello Singapore 狮城有约 on 28 Jan 2019, 7.15pm and will be available online on Toggle. Also really glad that the crew enjoyed the bak kwa (and tapao-ed everything back)!

you yi
You Yi and the crew were amazing and so professional!

Recipe is based on the one I posted 3 years ago, but simplified. Here’s the updated detailed recipe which is easier, slightly shorter with ingredients that are rather easy to find. I chose tempeh as the base protein as it’s a more digestible alternative to processed mock meat. Flaxseed powder is used as the binder, the other ingredients contribute to taste.

This is a slightly tricky recipe to make as temperature and time control is crucial, usually some pieces (especially those at the edges) will be burnt.

Tempeh Bak Kwa (makes 12-15 bite sized pieces):

For base:

  • 400g tempeh
  • ½ cup neutral flavour plant oil (don’t use olive or unrefined coconut)

For marinade:

  • 1 block of fermented red beancurd
  • 2 tbsp ground flaxseed powder (for binding, cannot omit, found in organic section in NTUC)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tbsp red rice yeast (optional, for colour, from TCM shops)
  • 90g raw sugar (or use regular sugar)
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • ½ tbsp rice wine (optional)
  • 1 tbsp maltose (can be bought from Chinese goods shops in market)
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • ½ tsp of each: five-spice powder, ginger powder, chilli powder, white pepper powder, black pepper
  • 1 tsp liquid smoke (optional but highly recommended, can be found in bigger Cold Storage outlets)
  • 1/2 tbsp white miso (optional, improves umami)
  • 1 tsp marmite (optional, improves umami)

For glaze:

  • 1 tbsp maltose
  • 1tbsp water/red water (see step 2)
  1. Steam tempeh for 5-10mins and let cool. In a food processor, blend with the oil to a thick, smooth paste. This step is important in removing the fermented taste from tempeh.
  2. Mix or boil 1/2 cup hot water and red rice yeast in a bowl. The water will be reddish, strain and let cool.
  3. Add all marinade ingredients into food processor on top of blended tempeh and oil. Blend till combined and well mixed.
  4. Transfer paste to a bowl. Cover bowl and leave overnight in fridge, or for at least 6 hours.
  5. Preheat oven to 180C. Spread paste on baking paper on a large baking tray. Spread out the paste with spatula to about 0.3 cm thick. Sides will be thinner so gently push back the sides to minimise burning while baking.
  6. Bake in oven for ~25 mins till paste is dry to touch and able to lift slightly in one piece. Remove from oven. 
  7. Let the paste cool slightly before cutting. Meanwhile, increase oven temperature to 230C. Mix 1 tbsp maltose with 1 tbsp red water to make the glaze.
  8. Using a pizza cutter, cut into bite sized pieces. Brush one side with glaze.
  9. Bake for 7-10mins then remove tray from oven, flip each slice over and glaze the other side. Return to oven and grill for 5 mins or until sides are slightly charred. Watch the oven carefully here, at this point it burns easily!
  10. Remove and let cool, minimize touching when hot, as it breaks easily. The slices will harden when cooled. Brush with the remaining glaze (optional, it will look shinier) Can be kept in airtight container in fridge for up to 1-2 weeks.

Due to time constraints and the amount of labour needed to make this, I won’t be able to sell them. If you want good vegan bak kwa, I can recommend the one from Yes Natural brand. 🙂

Thank you for reading my posts as always! This happened because of your amazing support. I hope to continue producing good, plant-based content to help fellow Asians who want to eat healthier/vegan. Due to my new responsibilities, the posts may not be as frequent as they were in 2018 but I will keep them coming 🙂

PS: On a side note, I made a short travel film of my Japan trip here. Enjoy!

Tempeh Rendang (Low FODMAP, gluten-free)

Rendang has been in the news quite a bit. While Malay food lovers worldwide were going “Alamak!” over this, it made me crave for some spicy, coconut-y protein goodness! Since April is IBS Awareness Month, I decided to make a low FODMAP version of this local favourite.

FODMAP stands for:
Fermentable i.e. Foods that are digested by intestinal bacteria – producing gas that causes bloating
Oligosaccharides i.e. Starchyose, Raffinose e.g. sources from legumes, beans, lentils, certain vegetables. Acts as soluble fiber.
Disaccharides i.e. sucrose (table sugar), lactose (milk sugar) and maltose (malt sugar)
Monosaccharides i.e. simplest form of carbohydrate such as glucose, fructose (fruit sugar)
Polyols e.g. sugar alcohol such as xylitol, sorbitol; low calorie/no calorie sweetener which are poorly digested.

Here’s a list of high FODMAP foods that doctors suggest IBS patients to avoid.

Malay food is usually not vegan or FODMAP-friendly because of the high usage of shrimp paste (belacan), meats, garlic, shallots and onions. Nevertheless, Malay cuisine also uses plenty of plant-based proteins like tempeh, beancurd skin and tofu. Moreover a large amount of flavour comes from other spices which are low FODMAP.

Low FODMAP spices and herbs. Note that tamarind is low FODMAP when less than 1 tbsp.

If you do not have IBS, feel free to use onion, garlic, shallots in replacement of leek and asafoetida. For those who cannot take all alliums, I have yet to come up with an allium-free recipe but intend to do so. Stay tuned!


Recipe: Low FODMAP tempeh rendang
(Serves 2)

For the rempah (paste):
– 1/2 tsp asafoetida
– Green part from 1 leek
– 2.5 cm galangal
– 2.5 cm ginger
– 3 lemongrass, white part only, chopped very finely
– 3-10 pcs dried red chilli, soaked and deseeded
– 1 tsp salt

Pound in a pestle and mortar or process in food processor to a paste. Add water if too dry. Set aside.

For the dish:
– 200g tempeh, cut into cubes
– 1.5 tbsp oil
– 1 stick cinnamon
– 2-3 cloves
– 1 star anise
– 2-3 cardamom pods
– 3 lemongrass stalks, green parts, bruised to release fragrance
– 6 kaffir lime leaves, scrunched up to release fragrance
– 1/4 cup shredded coconut, toasted till slightly browned
– 1 tbsp tamarind paste (any more will be considered high FODMAP)
– 1/2 cup coconut milk (if you can tolerate more, use 1 cup for best flavour.)
– 1 tsp salt
– 1/2 cup water

Garnish (optional):
– 1 stalk coriander
– Juice from 1 lime

Heat oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Fry rempah till fragrant. Add cinnamon, cloves, star anise, cardamom pods, lemongrass and fry till fragrant. Add tempeh and stir till mixed with the spices and paste. Add salt, coconut milk and water, cover and simmer over low-medium heat till liquid is almost reduced. Taste and season with lime juice and more salt if preferred. Garnish and serve hot with rice. Leftovers can be kept in fridge up to 3 days.

Notes:
– According to Monash University  , ½ cup coconut milk and 1 tbsp tamarind paste is considered high FODMAP if eaten at one sitting. This recipe serves 2 people as a side dish. So if you’re observing the diet, avoid eating the whole serving at one go, no matter how tempting it may be!
– If you wish to save time, make the paste in bulk and refrigerate. Mine kept well for 3 weeks and counting.
– If you wish to save even more time, some spice paste brands in NTUC carries ready-made rendang paste, but they all have onion/garlic/shallots.

Rendang is usually made with palm sugar to give it the signature brown colour, but those with IBS may be sensitive to processed sugar. Hence, I omitted it here, but feel free to add 1 – 2 tbsp of palm sugar if you prefer!

If made correctly, the tempeh cubes should be juicy inside.

 

Although Low FODMAP vegan diet may be restrictive, you can definitely make it exciting and flavourful with the uses of spices and herbs. Spices and herbs are usually Low FODMAP. They are basically made up indigestible insoluble fiber. We usually do not consume them directly or in large amounts.

Alliums such as onions and garlic are often used as a herb for many dishes to give a base flavour. However, onions and garlic are typically considered high FODMAP as it contain an oligosaccharide called fructan, which can be gas-producing. In this recipe, the green part of the leek, an allium, is used instead. The white part of the leek is considered high FODMAP while the green one is low FODMAP. So you can still enjoy alliums but only selected parts are safe. Asafoetida is a great onion substitute with a similar flavour.

A person eating a plant-based diet often gets their protein from legumes like beans and lentils. However in the case of a vegan low FODMAP diet, it can be trickier as legumes are usually high FODMAP. Thankfully, there are still low FODMAP legumes available in the form of tempeh. Although it is made up of soy (a legume), it is low FODMAP as it is made by fermentation. The process of soaking, fermenting and cooking significantly reduces the amount of oligosaccharides present in soybeans. The beneficial bacteria produces enzymes to help to eliminate or reduce the amount of anti-nutrients and oligosaccharides found in soybeans. This makes tempeh’s nutritional profile even more superior because we are able to absorb more nutrients.

Tempeh can be bought here at mid-range supermarkets and wet markets.

A vegan low FODMAP diet can be challenging, but recipes like this can make the whole process easier and tastier! Take restrictions as possibilities to explore new ingredients and recipes. Wish everyone happy tastebuds and guts!

Nutritional info from Krystle Koh.

Best served with a bowl of steaming hot rice!

Singapore Rice Noodles (Sin Chew Bee Hoon) – Low FODMAP, Allium-Free

April is IBS Awareness Month. IBS stands for Irritable Bowel Syndrome, a digestive disorder that has no known cure yet as the causes are complex. But, it can be managed well with lifestyle changes.

Some of my long-time readers will know that I have had IBS for the past 15 years, and it is one of the reasons (other than ethical and environmental) that I adopted a whole food, plant-based diet. 20% of the population in Singapore has IBS and many don’t know about it. I believe in spreading awareness to help those affliccted make beneficial changes to improve quality of life.

One of the ways recommended by doctors to manage IBS is to try a low FODMAP diet for some time. Such a diet mainly involves avoiding foods that may be triggering the gut and identify intolerances. Currently, I am not able to try low FODMAP, but I’m putting out a couple of suitable recipes for those on this diet. Most FODMAP-friendly recipes online now are Western or Westernised dishes. With some creativity and care, Southeast Asian IBS sufferers can enjoy familiar foods again, like a local Chinese rice noodles dish, Sin Chew Bee Hoon.

Sin Chew Bee Hoon means Singapore Rice Noodles. Don’t confuse it with the Singapore Noodles popular in Western countries. Actually, you can’t find that in Singapore. Singapore Noodles are rice noodles stir-fried with curry powder, a combination that originated from Hong Kong, not Singapore .

Mention “Singapore Noodles” to a Singaporean, they will be confused and maybe irritated at the lack of understanding of the food culture, which is a national pride.

What is FODMAP?

FODMAP stands for:

  • Fermentable i.e. Foods that are digested by intestinal bacteria – producing gas that causes bloating.
  • Oligosaccharides i.e. Starchyose, Raffinose e.g. sources from legumes, beans, lentils, certain vegetables. Acts as soluble fiber.
  • Disaccharides i.e. sucrose (refined sugar), lactose (milk sugar) and maltose (malt sugar).
  • Monosaccharides i.e. simplest form of carbohydrate such as glucose, fructose (fruit sugar).
  • Polyols e.g. sugar alcohol such as xylitol, sorbitol; low calorie/no calorie sweetener which are poorly digested.

Low FODMAP simply means avoiding foods high in FODMAP.

Low FODMAP foods. Source: Katescarlata

Pointers to keep in mind:

  • A vegan diet low in FODMAP is highly restrictive and it serves as a short term solution to reduce IBS symptoms and find out intolerances.
  • Low FODMAP doesn’t mean no FODMAP. You would definitely consume FODMAP in many recipes but in amounts that are suitable for your body.
  • Eating actual main meals and less sweet desserts can help to reduce your intake of FODMAP. By reducing sugar intake, you are treating your gut well. Certain fruits such as grapes, strawberry, pineapple can be used as dessert as they are lower in FODMAP.
  • Portion size matters to keep the amount of FODMAP in check.
Firm tofu has less FODMAPs than silken types. Go for sprouted tofu whenever possible.

Sin Chew Bee Hoon 星州米粉 is usually made with high FODMAP ingredients like garlic, onion, shallots, spring onion and oyster sauce. Vegetarian oyster sauce likely contains MSG which is another gut irritant. For this FODMAP-friendly version, I used tomatoes, traditional soy sauce and miso to achieve a rich, natural, MSG-free umami.


Low-FODMAP SIN CHEW BEE HOON

  • 1 serving of rice noodles, soaked till just softened.
  • 1/2 tbsp traditional soy sauce (use tamari or Bragg’s for gluten-free option)
  • 1 tbsp miso
  • 5cm ginger, cut into matchsticks
  • 1/2 block sprouted firm tofu, sliced to bite sized pieces
  • 1 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tomato, cut into wedges
  • 1/3 carrot, julienned
  • 2 chilli padi, halved, seeds removed (some IBS patients are sensitive to chilli, omit if needed)
  • 1 piece bamboo shoot, sliced to bite sized pieces
  • White pepper, to taste
  • Coriander, to garnish
  • 1 Lime, to garnish (some IBS patients are sensitive to citruses even in small amounts, omit if needed)

In a pan, fry tofu slices in oil till evenly browned. Set aside. Dissolve miso and soy sauce into water in a bowl, set aside. In a wok, heat oil and add ginger, chilli, fry till fragrant. Add tomato and stir for a minute over medium heat, till softened. Add bamboo shoots, carrot and fry for a minute or so. Add rice noodles with the miso and soy sauce mixture. Cover and simmer over low heat for 5 minutes, stirring when needed till noodles soften and liquid is almost absorbed. If you like to have more gravy, remove from heat earlier. Garnish with coriander and lime and serve hot.


What makes it low FODMAP?

Low FODMAP ingredients.

Vegetables

Vegetables such as cauliflower and broccoli are cruciferous vegetables which are more difficult to digest as it contain higher amounts of raffinose compared to other vegetables such as carrots, tomatoes and bamboo shoots used in the recipe.

Tofu and Miso

Firm tofu is slightly easier to digest than regular soybeans because it went through process of soaking and finally squeezing out the excess liquid — which removes the galacto-oligosaccharides present in soy. Miso is made from fermented soybean so it makes it easy for the gut to digest.

Rice Noodles

Rice is a gluten free complex carbohydrate (starch) and FODMAP only consist of short to medium chain carbohydrate. Therefore it is considered low FODMAP. It is also easier to digest than the regular wheat noodles which is on the high FODMAP scale; plus it also contains gluten which is worse for people with gluten sensitivities. Most IBS sufferers can take rice at moderate amounts without triggering symptoms.

The most efficient ways to manage light to mild IBS is a holistic lifestyle approach – stress management, eating suitably and regularly, regular exercise and sufficient rest. My detailed tips to manage IBS here. When in doubt, always consult a healthcare professional. Wish everyone happy guts and stay tuned for the next recipe!

For a more complete list of FODMAP-friendly foods, visit here. Note that not all Asian ingredients are listed. When in doubt, avoid or test small amounts.

Nutritional information provided by Krystle Co.

 

Slow Cooked Soy Sauce Beans & Nuts

Oil-free, tasty, full of spice and umami. This easy and protein-rich recipe is a food prep staple. It’s easy to make and keeps well in the fridge. If you have problems digesting beans, don’t worry – read on for our nutritionist’s advice.

This recipe was inspired by my mother’s signature slow-cooked tofu. Firm tofu pieces are slowly stewed and left to sit overnight in a lip-smacking, umami-rich broth. As someone who has always been interested in new ways to cook familiar ingredients, I chose beans and nuts instead of tofu. Three reasons:

  • I think Chinese vegetarian cuisine need to move beyond tofu and processed soy. Thus I like to use high protein whole foods to replace tofu in traditional dishes.
  • Beans and nuts offer a more varied nutrition profile and should be an important part of a vegan diet if you have no allergies to them.
  • Cooked beans and nuts also offer more diverse textures. Some have more crunch, some melt in your mouth. If you’re bored of tofu’s soft and chewy textures, go for these.

If you’re living in any Asian country, you’ll be familiar with rice cookers. Cook this in a rice cooker for minimum fuss and effort. It’s not advisable to make it over open fire gas stove for safety reasons. It’s easy to forget there’s something boiling on the stove and sometimes wind may extinguish the fire.

This cooking method is know as 卤 (lu) in Chinese cuisine. It’s a type of oil-free slow cooking that relies on low constant heat, total immersion of ingredients, time and quality of sauce and spices for flavour. The secret to maximum flavour in this recipe is reducing the amount of liquid to as little as possible (without burning) so taste is concentrated in the beans and nuts itself. Thus, control of the water amount is most important.

Spices used

Cloves – A type of flower bud. Sweet and warm flavour. Don’t add too much as it’s very aromatic and strong.

Cao Guo – Also known as Chinese black cardamom, it is commonly used in Sichuan cuisine. Smoky, slightly peppery and earthy. Add one or two into your bottle of Chinese vinegar to impart more flavour.

Cinnamon stick – Sweet, warm and spicy flavour. In the West, ground cinnamon is commonly used in sweet recipes. In Asia, cinnamon is used in both sweet and savoury dishes.

Star anise – Smoky and strongly aromatic. The main ingredient in Chinese five spice powder.

Whole white pepper – White pepper is just black pepper with the outer skin removed. Spicier but less complex flavour than black pepper. The best white pepper is from Muntok Island, Indonesia.

Whole black pepper – Complex spicy flavour due to the outer skin. Even stronger when freshly ground.


Recipe

Spices & Seasoning:

  • 1 pc cao guo
  • 3 pcs star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 8-10 pcs whole white pepper
  • 8-10 pcs whole black pepper
  • 1-2 pcs chilli padi, halved lengthwise, seeds removed (omit if you prefer non-spicy)
  • 1 pc of 1 cm thick ginger, sliced
  • 1 5cmx5cm pc kelp (or 2 tbsp wakame), washed
  • 1 pinch asafoetida (optional, omit if you don’t take alliums for religious reasons)
  • 2 -3 tbsp quality soy sauce

Beans & Nuts:

  • 1/4 cup raw cashews (other nuts like peanuts, walnuts, Chinese almonds can be used too)
  • 2 cups dry whole beans (I used black soy beans, you can use any that don’t split too much when cooked, eg, black-eyed peas, kidney beans, red bean, soy bean, lima beans etc)
  • 1.5L – 2L of water (amount of water varies depending on bean type and cooker type)

12 hours before cooking, soak the dry beans in water. Discard the soaking water 12 hours later and give the beans a rinse. Place all beans, nuts, spices and seasoning into a rice cooker. Add enough water to cover all ingredients fully. Set to cook for about 1.5-2 hours. Around the last half hour mark, open the rice cooker to check the water amount. Refill with more water if too dry to prevent burning. Cook till water is almost absorbed. Transfer into bowl/container, serve hot or cool before storing.


Note:

  • Asafoetida is a traditional Indian spice that improves digestibility of beans. It can be bought from Indian grocery shops. It is not part of the allium family but is forbidden to be consumed in certain religions, as they are believed to have the same effects as alliums.
  • This recipe can be cooked in a pressure cooker or magic pot. Downside is, towards the end of cooking it’s not as easy to check and adjust the water amount compared to rice cooker.
  • You can use ground or powdered spices if you don’t have whole ones, but flavour profile may be less complex and rich.

Nutritional Comments

Contributed by KrystleCo.

Food prep is a fantastic way to eat healthier on a plant based diet. This recipe is full of spices for a great antioxidant boost, a good amount of high quality protein and healthy fats to keep you satiated!

Most of the fats from nuts are monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) such as omega 3 and omega 6. Omega 3 and 6 are essential fatty acids that cannot be produced by the body and must be part of the diet. Both types of unsaturated fatty acids are important for regulating your cholesterol levels and promotes smooth flow of blood. Omega 3 is also particularly important for brain health and reducing inflammation in the body.

Beans are low in saturated fats, high in complex carbohydrate, high in fibre and contains high quality protein. Although meats are good sources of high quality protein, they are devoid of fibre, zero complex carbohydrates and high in saturated fats. High quality protein refers to a protein source that contains all the essential amino acids required by the body. In this recipe, black soy provides all the essential amino acids.

However nuts, legumes, beans and pulses can make us feel gassy and bloated. That is because they contain a sugar compound called oligosaccharides which can pass through our intestinal tract undigested. It is then fermented by intestinal bacteria which will produce gases. Gradually increasing your intake of beans will help to overcome gassiness as your gut build up more good intestinal bacteria. By soaking your beans and legumes as suggested, it can help you to remove some of the oligosaccharides present and improve digestibility of beans. Soaking also helps to remove phytic acids present in beans and legumes. These phytic acid binds to other important mineral sources such as zinc making it difficult for absorption. Therefore soaking not only helps to eliminate the problem of gassiness, it also improves the overall digestibility while avoiding mineral and vitamin deficiencies on a plant-based diet.

Soaked beans will split or even sprout – a great sign!

Make soaking a habit in your food prep today!

Tom Yum Spaghetti with Pan-Fried Tofu

A Christmas dinner idea that just walked into my mind when I was clearing out opened coconut milk one Friday. This straightforward East & West fusion recipe is hearty, tangy and spicy, topped with silky pan-fried tofu, a balanced main course idea for your Christmas dinner.

You can get packs of tom yum set spices from NTUC, which has just enough lemongrass, galangal, chilli, kaffir lime leaves, shallots, and lime for 2-3 uses. Tom yum paste here gives a base tangy & spicy flavour, while the fresh spices build on the fragrance. If you don’t have the paste or spice set, this recipe should still be tasty if you use only one of either. The tofu here is lightly seasoned as the main pasta has strong flavours.


Tom Yum Spaghetti with Pan-Fried Tofu

For spaghetti (serves 1):

  • 1 serving of spaghetti pasta
  • 1/2 – 1 tbsp tom yam paste (available from vegetarian grocery shops)
  • 3 tbsp coconut milk
  • 3-5 tbsp pasta cooking water
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp vegan belacan (optional, available from vegetarian grocery shops)
  • 1/2 tsp minced ginger
  • Few slices galangal
  • 2-3 pcs kaffir lime leaves
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, bruised with back of a knife and chopped into 2-3 parts
  • 1 chilli padi, bruised with back of a knife
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1/3 of a carrot, julienned
  • 2 pcs fresh shiitake mushrooms, cut thinly
  • 1 spring coriander, for garnish (optional)
  • Juice from 1/2 a lime, for garnish (optional)

Cook pasta according to packet instructions till slightly less than al dente. Run pasta under tap water for 10secs, drain and set aside, reserving some pasta cooking water. In a bowl, dissolve tom yam paste in coconut milk, pasta water and set aside. In a pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the vegan belacan, ginger, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass and fry till fragrant. Add tomato, fry for 1 min till soft. Add carrot and mushroom, stir for 20 seconds. Add pasta together with the coconut tom yam paste mix. Lower heat to low-medium and simmer covered for 2-4mins, or till liquid is almost absorbed. Stir in lime juice if more tangy flavour is preferred. Remove lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and chilli before serving if preferred. Plate and garnish with coriander.

For pan-fried tofu (makes 8 pcs):

  • 1 block silken tofu, suitable for pan frying type
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • Pepper, to taste
  • Black salt, to taste

Heat oil over medium-high heat in a non-stick pan. Place tofu in gently. Cook over medium heat for 1 min on one side. Add a pinch of black salt and pepper and flip to cook the other side for 2 mins. Remove from heat. Serve beside the pasta.

To save time, cook the tofu while the pasta is boiling.


Note:

For tom yum spaghetti:

  • A very flexible recipe, you can use any mushroom or veggies you like. Eg, long beans, cabbage, shiitake, king oyster etc.
  • If you want to use thin, dark leafy veggies like spinach, add towards the end when pasta is simmering with the sauce.
  • Pasta cooking water is used to make pasta sauces as the starch in the water makes a smoother sauce.

For pan-fried tofu:

  • Extra pan-fried tofu keeps well in fridge for 5-7 days, depending on fridge temperature, thus is a great food prep item to make in advance.

Three Easy & Fast Tempeh Recipes – No Marination Needed

Since the market near my house has cheap and fresh tempeh, it’s a staple in my diet. Tempeh is fermented whole soybeans in a block – it’s easier to digest, with higher protein and fibre than tofu. In Singapore you can get tempeh cheaply (few cents to $1+) from heartland supermarkets and wet markets usually in these forms. Note that city supermarkets are not likely to carry these.

A good, fresh slab of tempeh should NOT be sourish-smelling and you should be able to see more white than beans from outside. I prefer the type that’s wrapped in leaf and paper as that’s the traditional way to make tempeh. I find it more tender than the plastic packaged one. If you buy from a wet market, it is so fresh that it’s still warm – a sign of active fermentation. If it’s wet and cold, that’s the leftover unsold ones from yesterday – but still edible. After buying tempeh, try to use it up within a day or two as the good bacteria is still active, even in the fridge. Tempeh over ferments (turns sour or spoils) quite fast.

Usually found at: Refrigerated daily section near tofu and noodles (supermarkets) or stalls selling a mix of items like young tau foo, tofu, dried goods (at wet markets).
The fresh tempeh sold wrapped in leaves will have black spots around the edges. That’s perfectly normal and can be removed before cooking. I usually pinch or pull them off.

Tempeh can be tricky to prepare. It has a strong bean taste due to the fermentation process. It also has no moisture on its own and can turn out very dry. I always pair it with strong flavours to mask the beany taste and add a form of liquid when frying it. Here’s 3 of the easiest recipes of tempeh in my library. I prepare them as part of my weekly food prep as they are fuss-free, using ready-made sauces. These are not traditional Asian foods, just a way to put familiar flavours into a practical weekly routine.


  1. SOY SAuce and ginger tempeh

  • 150g tempeh, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 2 tbsp quality soy sauce
  • 0.5cm thick ginger, sliced and cut into thin matchsticks
  • 0.5-1 tbsp oil
  • 1/4 cup water or stock

Mix soy sauce in water/stock. Heat oil in a non-stick pan over medium heat. Add ginger matchsticks and sauté till slightly browned. Add tempeh, sauté till lightly browned on both sides. Add soy sauce mixture, lower heat and simmer till liquid is gone, flipping tempeh halfway. Remove from heat and serve hot, or transfer to a container and let cool before refrigerating.

2. TOM YAM tempeh

  • 150g tempeh, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 tbsp Vegetarian Tom Yam Paste (available at vegetarian grocery shops)
  • 0.5-1 tbsp oil (can use less oil if your pan is non-stick)
  • 1/4 cup water or stock
  • 0.5 tbsp lemon/lime juice

Mix tom yam paste in water/stock. Heat oil in a pan (non-stick preferably) over medium heat. Add tempeh and sauté till lightly browned on both sides. Add tom yam mixture, lower heat and simmer till liquid is gone, flipping tempeh halfway. Remove from heat, add lemon/lime juice and mix well. Serve hot, or transfer to a container and let cool before refrigerating.

3. GOCHUJANG tempeh

  • 150g tempeh, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 tbsp Gochujang (Korean red pepper paste, available at NTUC)
  • 0.5 tbsp quality soy sauce
  • 0.5-1 tbsp oil
  • 1/4 cup water or stock
  • Spring onions as garnish (optional)

Mix gochujang and soy sauce in water/stock. Heat oil in a non-stick pan over medium heat. Add tempeh and sauté till lightly browned on both sides. Add gochujang+soy sauce mixture, lower heat and simmer till liquid is gone, flipping tempeh halfway. Remove from heat and garnish (optional). Serve hot, or transfer to a container and let cool before refrigerating.


Tempeh loses moisture easily in the fridge. To reheat without much loss in moisture, I prefer steaming, pan-frying them again or topping them on hot soups. Keeps well up to 5-7 days (depending on how cold your fridge is). Can also be made in large batches and kept frozen if you wish to keep for long.

Flavour ideas can include garlic and pepper, kicap manis, sambal, chilli sauces, curry powder, sweet+sour sauces and BBQ sauces. Anything that is strong, tangy and spicy will work well. Adding a bit of sugar can balance out more savoury flavours while adding a nice glaze to retain moisture. Adding citruses can help tenderise the tempeh. If you have the time, you can marinate tempeh in the sauces or liquids overnight before cooking, for an even tastier version.

More tempeh recipes here.

Kimchi jjigae

Korean food is extremely popular now due to the Kpop wave. Any type of Asian cuisine that’s mercilessly spicy will definitely appeal to Singaporeans! Boneless Kitchen is our go-to for vegan Korean food made without alliums. Sadly Boneless is too far for me, so when cravings hit, here’s a rather straightforward recipe for a comforting, hearty stew for monsoon season.

Kimchi usually has fish sauce, but luckily for us, NTUC has one brand that is 100% vegan (has alliums) and very tasty. If you like to make your own, check out my (not the most authentic but easy) recipe here. It’s fun, full of active probiotics and you can customise it to your liking!

I didn’t have gochugaru so I used Mofo Gun Powder from Souley Green. Remember to use MORETHANVEGGIES for 15% off before 9 Dec when you shop there!
My trusty old stock pot. Vegan belacan gives the fishy pungency.

kimchi-jjigae (Kimchi Stew)

Ingredients (serves 1)

  • 1/2 cup kimchi, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1/8 cup kimchi brine
  • 4 pcs shiitake mushroom, cut into half, stems removed (keep for stock)
  • ½ block of firm tofu, sliced into bite size pieces
  • 3 green onions (chopped)
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 1 tbsp gochugaru (Korean hot pepper flakes, available from Korean supermarkets, try chilli powder if you don’t have)
  • 1 – 2 tbsp gochujang (Korean red pepper paste, available at NTUC)
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2-3 cups of stock (see below)

For stock (makes about 2-3 cups):

  • 1/2 tbsp vegan belacan (from neighbourhood vegetarian grocery shops)
  • 3-4 pcs shiitake stems
  • 15x3cm dried kelp (from dried goods shops in market/neighbourhood areas)
  • 3 thin slices of ginger
  • 3 green onion white stems, cleaned
  • 3 cloves garlic, roots removed, crushed slightly
  • 4-5 cups water

Directions:

  1. Make stock:

Put all ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20mins over low-medium heat till liquid is reduced to 1/3 or half. Remove from heat and strain.

2. Make stew:

In a pot, sautee ginger and kimchi till kimchi softens. Add gochugaru, gochujang, mushrooms, kimchi brine and stir till ingredients are evenly coated red. Add stock and bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 mins. Add sesame oil and cut tofu on top. Simmer covered over low heat for 5 mins. Remove from heat. Garnish with spring onions. Serve hot with rice.


Notes:

  • For variety, try adding seitan, other soft soy items like tau pok, tau kee, other mushrooms like enoki, oyster, king oyster, shimeji etc.
  • For my friends who can’t take alliums – unfortunately this recipe needs gochujang, I have not seen any brand that is allium-free. Thus this recipe I didn’t omit alliums as onion & garlic are quite essential in Korean cuisine. If you ever find allium-free gochujang, please let me know and I can try a new recipe without alliums.

Chinese-Style Cold Tofu (凉拌豆腐)

Happy World Vegan Day! Today is celebration of compassion, as well as morethanveggies.sg’s one year anniversary. I’ve come a long way since starting a simple tumblr 5 years ago to share foods I like. THANK YOU everyone for your support all these years!

I realised that I barely have many tofu recipes here when tofu is a staple in the Asian vegan lifestyle. Thus I’d love to share this recipe that’s my favourite way to have silken tofu – and no cooking required, just 3 basic ingredients!

Cold tofu is eaten in many South Asian countries like China, Japan and Korea. I’m most familiar with the Chinese style of cold tofu as I grew up eating that. My grandfather would have it regularly for breakfast. Although he was a meat-lover, cold tofu was his favourite dish. Many times I served this to other omni friends and they loved the smoothness, umami and simplicity of it.

Despite the name, its usually served at room temperature or slightly warm, but seldom cold like its just removed from the fridge. Chinese traditional medicine believes that cold foods affect digestive health. I always blanche the tofu to warm it slightly before serving.

This dish simply silken tofu in soy sauce and sesame oil, then you can add toppings. Even if you don’t have any suitable toppings at hand, you can still enjoy it in the most basic form. Because of the simplicity, it’s important to choose quality ingredients.

3 basic ingredients.

A good soy sauce should only have 4 ingredients and absolutely no MSG – water, salt, soy and wheat. A good sesame oil should emit a strong, delicious fragrance right after opening the bottle. For tofu in simple dishes, I go for the organic sprouted type from NTUC as it’s closest to the nigari tofu (露水豆腐) from my “home”town. Tofu is traditionally made only with nigari which is a natural extract from seawater. Such types of tofu has a beautiful mineral taste that reminds me of sea breeze. Sadly most tofu sold in Singapore are modern ones made with GDL and other coagulants. They are not only less nutritious, but also not as smooth, springy and tasty as nigari tofu. People who say tofu is bland, I can totally understand them – most of us have never experienced the beauty of handmade nigari tofu.

Let tofu sit on sieve over a plate to drain excess water.

Chinese-style cold tofu

Basic Ingredients:

  • 1 block tofu
  • 1-2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • Boiling water (optional)

Toppings I used:

  • Chopped spring onions
  • Sliced green chilli
  • Toasted sesame seeds
  • Kicap manis (Indonesian sweet soy sauce)
  • Korean seaweed shreds
  • Ginger
  • Chilli sauce
  • Lao Gan Ma chilli sauce
  1. Place tofu on sieve and cut into 8 parts. Immerse sieve and tofu in boiling water for 1 min. Remove and let tofu drain excess water on sieve for 5 mins. This step is optional, see notes.
  2. Add soy sauce and sesame oil to a bowl or small plate. Place tofu into it. Add toppings and serve.
  3. This dish can be made hours in advance and served cold. The longer you let the tofu sit in the sauce the tastier it gets!

Notes:

  • Step 1 is to kill bacteria and warm up the tofu without cooking. If you’re using wet market tofu (the type sold in a tub of water with no packaging), it’s more hygienic to blanche before eating. Because tofu can release a lot of water and that dilutes the sauce, let it sit on a sieve to drain.
  • If you don’t mind eating it cold and will consume it immediately, step 1 can be skipped.
  • If you’re making it in advance and only serving it hours later or tomorrow, you must drain it much longer for 10+ minutes. The longer tofu sits, the more water it releases and that can dilute the taste and spoil the look of the dish.
  • If your topping is quite salty, use less soy sauce.
Clockwise: Spring onions + sesame + kicap manis, Lao Gan Ma chilli sauce + spring onions, Korean seaweed + ginger and chilli sauce + sliced green chilli.

Marmite tempeh

I like Marmite – only in certain applications. My favourite is with thickly spread vegan butter. This recipe was inspired by Eight Treasure’s Marmite Ribs, a dish my family had during Chinese New Year and everyone (even the omnis) loved it. And because Eight Treasures is so far from my place and I can’t digest mock meats well, I came up with this recipe. Also because I bought a huge jar of Marmite on impulse and needed to find ways to use it!

Savoury, moist and high protein.

Marmite on it’s own, has a terrifying bitterness to my taste. Like their slogan “Love it or hate it”, I love it when used in dishes but hate it on it’s own. It’s got a unique concentrated umami flavour as a result of yeast fermentation that does not occur in other condiments. But the bitterness can be overwhelming when used too much, so I usually add sour and sweet flavours to cushion it. When used correctly, it gives the most lip-smacking savouriness to proteins with some tang and sweet aftertaste.

Tempeh can be found in Singapore at wet markets (at stalls selling mixed goods) or heartland supermarkets like Giant or NTUC (usually in refrigerated section near the tofu). This recipe has 4 main ingredients, is quick and easy to make and keeps well in fridge or freezer. Great protein item to make in advance for lunch boxes.

Remember to flip to cook both sides.

Marmite tempeh

  • 2 slices ginger, cut into thin matchsticks
  • 1 block tempeh, cut to square pieces (I used the 200g block from NTUC).
  • 2/3 tbsp Marmite (or Vegemite)
  • 1 heaping tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp of Chinese cooking wine (or other cooking wines, optional)
  • 1/3 cup stock/water
  • 1 tbsp lemon/lime juice, or to taste

Mix Marmite, sugar, cooking wine, water in a bowl till Marmite is dissolved. Heat the oil in a non-stick pan over medium heat, add ginger. Sautee till fragrant. Add tempeh and flip to coat evenly with oil. Lower heat to low-medium, pour liquid mixture in and mix to coat tempeh. Simmer till liquid is thickened and reduced, flipping halfway to ensure even cooking. Removed from heat, squeeze lemon/lime juice to taste and mix well before serving. Let cool before storing.


Perfect in a sandwich with vegan butter from Peace of Cheese and some chilli sauce!

Notes:

  • I personally prefer to cut tempeh thin as I find it holds flavour better.
  • Cooking wine helps to boost umami flavours in protein dishes, if you don’t have or don’t take alcohol, simply omit. Ginger here also has the same role.
  • If you’re really averse to Marmite, use soy sauce/curry paste/tom yam paste or any strong flavoured condiment of your choice instead.
  • This tempeh will be quite salty if you eat it on its own, as I made it to be a sandwich filler. Reduce Marmite amount or increase tempeh if you want less salt.
  • I find cooked tempeh can dry out in the fridge, so I usually reheat it by frying lightly on both sides with a bit of liquid (oil or water).

Check out more tempeh recipes here.