Rice noodle soup with seaweed tempeh slices (愉片米粉)

The plant-based version of a local favourite, fish head bee hoon. A dish commonly found in vegetarian hawker stalls with mock soy “fish” slices in thick rice noodle soup. It’s also one of the few local dishes that contains cow’s milk in the soup.

As usual, my approach is to use whole foods instead of processed mock meats. The dairy in the soup can easily be substituted with non-dairy milks like soy or oat. The umami-rich and briny fish slices posed a bigger challenge. My aim is not to copy the taste of animal protein exactly, but to have a new take on flavours that are familiar yet new.

After cutting dairy back in 2009, I’ve always ordered this dish without the milk but didn’t fancy the mock fish slices. Thus I had an idea to use tempeh to substitute. Why tempeh? Because it can absorb more flavour than tofu and has a softer texture than seitan.

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(Fresh tempeh from wet market, $2 for 3 packs. I always remove the natural black mold before cooking but I’ve found that it seems safe to eat.)

The main difference between plant and animal proteins is that plant proteins are mild on their own. Extra effort is needed to impart and coax flavours out of them. Thus there’s an extra step of marinating , wrapping in seaweed and frying the tempeh to impart a briny, “ocean” flavour and moist texture.

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(Wrapped in sushi seaweed, other ready-to-eat seaweeds should also work.)

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(All ingredients are from NTUC/Wet market, vegan belacan from vegetarian groceries. For veggie stock, simply boil carrots, daikon, burdock, mushrooms in a pot or rice cooker for 15mins.)


 

SEAWEED TEMPEH BEE HOON RECIPE

(Serves 1)

Seaweed tempeh slices:

  • 1 tbsp fermented bean paste/salted beans
  • 1 palm sized piece of dried kelp, rinsed and soaked till softened
  • Few pcs of ready to eat seaweed, as needed
  • 6 pcs tempeh
  • 1 tsp vegan belacan
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • Corn flour, as needed
  • Dashes of white pepper
  • Stock, as needed (I used homemade kombu stock by boiling kelp in water)
  • Cooking oil, as needed

Noodle soup base:

  • 1/2 pc salted mustard vegetable, sliced
  • 1 salted sour plum (I couldn’t find any in the shops near my house so I used tamarind juice)
  • 1 serving thick rice noodle (I used brown rice noodles from NTUC)
  • 0.5 cm ginger, sliced thinly
  • 1tbsp cooking oil
  • Stock, as needed
  • 1 tomato, cut into slices
  • 1/8 cup chinese cooking wine (optional)
  • 1 stalk spring onion, cut at the white part (use more ginger if you don’t take alliums)
  • 5 stalks of bak choy or similar leafy greens
  • ¼ cup neutral flavoured non-dairy milk (I used Bonsoy)
  • 1 tsp sesame oil, dried seaweed, chopped spring onions or coriander for garnish

Toast belacan for 2mins in a pan and crumble it. Crush the beans with a spoon. Mix bean paste, belacan, soy sauce and white pepper in a bowl. Put the kelp piece at the bottom. Place tempeh blocks into the marinade, add stock until just covered. Set in fridge for at least 2 hours. Remove marinated tempeh. Mix 3 tbsp of marinade with 2 tbsp corn flour till you get a sticky paste. Dip tempeh into this paste then wrap seaweed. Cut into bite sized pieces. Heat oil in a pan, add the wrapped tempeh plus 5-6 tbsp marinade. Fry till slightly browned. Drain and set aside. Keep the kelp and marinade.

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In a small pot, heat some oil. Add ginger, sautee till fragrant. Add white part of spring onion, the used kelp piece, stir for 1 min, add enough stock/water to fill 2/3rds of the pot. Add salted veggie, sour plum, 1 tablespoon of the marinade, bring to a boil and let simmer for 10-15 mins or longer if you can afford the time. Remove the kelp if preferred. Add rice noodles, tomatoes, Chinese cooking wine, bring to a boil. Then add non-dairy milk and bak choy, stir till greens are cooked. Season with white pepper, more soy sauce if preferred. Top with the seaweed tempeh slices, dried seaweed and spring onions and serve.

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Notes:

  • If you want to reduce oil used, bake the tempeh instead or fry with less oil in a non-stick pan.
  • To save time and maximize soup flavour, let soup simmer while you’re preparing the seaweed tempeh slices.
  • If you don’t like the beany flavour of tempeh, boil or steam it shortly before marinating to reduce the taste.
  • Non-dairy milks can separate under heat, so add that right before turning off the heat.
  • These tempeh slices can be made in bulk when you have time and kept frozen, as a convenient and tasty protein food.
  • If you can’t find salted sour plum, sub with tamarind juice, assam slices, lemon/lime juice. The goal is to give the soup a slight fruity tartness which brings out umami flavour while the acid can reduce the sometimes overly fishy smell of kelp.

Garlic Braised Eggplant

A well-loved dish from North China. Soft and tender eggplant pieces packed with umami and full of garlic fragrance. Like many North Chinese dishes, it’s a prime example of how the most simple ingredients can transform into something amazing in the right hands.

Eggplant is not an easy plant to prepare. Bland and somewhat ‘slimy’ on it’s own, it needs a good amount of seasoning to flavour it fully, and oil to tenderise it. This dish can easily burn, practise is required to control heat and timing. Don’t worry if you don’t get it perfect the first time.

This recipe is from my mother, although I can’t make it as good as her, I think it’s good enough to share!

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Since ingredients are simple, more care is needed in choosing and preparing ingredients. Choose eggplants that are smooth, shiny, long and slender. Cut them to bite sized so each piece can be fully infused with fragrance. I realised the thicker the eggplant, the larger the seeds. Crush the garlic first to release a stronger flavour. Use a neutral flavoured oil with quality soy sauce. A good soy sauce should only have 4 ingredients: soybeans, wheat, salt and water.


GARLIC EGGPLANT RECIPE

  • 2 medium sized eggplant, chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed and roughly chopped
  • 1.5 tbsp oil (to use less oil, refer to notes)
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce

1. Heat oil in a wok over medium heat. Add garlic, fry till fragrant and lightly browned. Take note not to burn it.
2. Add eggplant and soy sauce. Flip and stir for 10 seconds till eggplant is evenly coated with oil.
3. Lower the heat and cover the wok, letting eggplant simmer for 20 seconds. Then remove the cover and stir contents for 5 seconds. This is to prevent burning during braising. Repeat this step 4 more times. Keep an eye on the liquid level, take care not to burn it.
4. When most liquid is absorbed and eggplant is soft, turn off the heat and serve.


 

Notes:
1. To use less oil, replace 0.5 tbsp oil with 1/4 cup of stock. Mix the soy sauce and stock together then add at step 2. You can use even less oil with a non stick pan. Usually less oil can lighten the taste a lot, so you may need to find other ways to compensate.
2. If your eggplant is starting to stick to your pan, stir it quickly or add stock/water one tbsp at a time. Do not add too much water as it will dilute the flavours.
3. Garlic can’t be replaced in this dish without changing the flavour. If you cannot take garlic, replace it with 1 tbsp sugar and 1.5 tbsp Chinese vinegar. Sweet and sour eggplant (糖醋茄子) is also a classic Northern dish that is incredibly delicious.

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To complete this Northern Chinese style meal, I had it with a type bread called wo wo tou. It’s a steamed corn bread with a hole in the middle that you can stuff with savoury foods. Perfect way to soak up the extra sauce.DSC02353

Young Jackfruit Bak Kut Teh

Bak Kut Teh literally means “pork bone tea” in Hokkien, a local dialect. A garlicky, peppery, sometimes herbal, pork soup popular here, with variations from the different Chinese dialect groups. I wasn’t sure what to call this plant-based version as there’s neither pork nor bone. I also didn’t want to prefix “vegetarian” or “vegan” in front of it as Singaporeans can get sensitive when they see their beloved foods made without meat. The former conjures up images of “no protein and very green” and the latter, well, has too much baggage. Let’s just go with “bak kut teh” for familiarity’s sake.

The best plant-based bak kut teh I’ve had was from O’Bean. Theirs was a more Cantonese style with medicinal Chinese herbs, and interestingly, thickened with their organic soy milk. However because those herbs were used, there was a slight bitter aftertaste that not all will like. My recipe is similar to the Hokkien style that uses spices with generous amounts of premium soy sauce. The result is a soul-warming soup full of umami that you can’t stop at one spoon.

People always ask, “But how to make bak kut teh without bak (pork)?”

A bit darker than usual as they were frozen.
A bit darker than usual as mine were frozen.

Current vegetarian versions will have various mock meats, mushrooms, beancurd skin and tofu puffs. As with all local food recipes on my blog, I wanted to reinterpret it with mostly whole foods. Young jackfruit is commonly used by our Asian neighbours in stews and curries. The spark came when I first saw it in Western recipes like pulled jackfruit burgers and jackfruit bacon, I knew it will work in local pork recipes. And rest assured – it will not turn your savoury dish sweet as young jackfruit has little flavour on its own unlike its ripe counterpart. What it has is an amazingly tender texture that soaks up juices perfectly and releases a delicate meaty flavour into the soup when cooked.

In Singapore you can buy young jackfruit from Tekka Market’s fruit stalls and Mustafa (chilled veggies section).

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Ingredients used.

 

YOUNG JACKFRUIT BAK KUT TEH (SERVES 1)

Main ingredients:

  • 5 pcs young jackfruit, cut into bite-sizes chunks
  • 3 pcs dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked till soft
  • 5 – 7 pcs dried tau kee (beancurd skin), soaked till soft
  • 3 pcs black fungus
  • 1.5 cups stock (reserve mushroom soaking water if no stock at hand)
  • 1 – 1.5 tbsp premium soy sauce (good soy sauce should only have 4 ingredients – salt, water, wheat and soy beans.)

Spices:

  • 3 bulbs garlic, smashed without peeling with the side of a knife (use with few slices of ginger if allium-free is preferred, but flavour may be a bit different.)
  • 1 tsp whole white pepper, smashed with side of knife
  • ½ tsp whole black pepper, smashed with side of knife
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick

Garnish:

  • 1 handful coriander
  • 1 chilli padi, sliced

In a pot, heat some oil over medium heat. Add jackfruit, shiitake and all spices. Fry for 2 mins, till jackfruit is well coated in oil and turns slightly darker. Add stock, bring to a boil. Add soy sauce, tau kee and black fungus. Simmer over medium-low heat with lid slightly ajar for 15 – 20mins or so till jackfruit is tender. Remove from heat, add more powdered white pepper or soy sauce if preferred. Garnish with coriander, serve with sliced chilli and rice.

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Note:

  • This can be made into a filling one-pot meal by adding more stock and noodles.
  • If you don’t have jackfruit on hand, it’s ok to omit – still makes a decent bak kut teh with just the spices and soy sauce.
  • Don’t discard young jackfruit seeds. They are crunchy after cooking and quite nutritious.
  • Other ingredients that you can add to dress up the soup are: all kinds of mushrooms, firm tofu, tofu puffs, greens like bak choy and seitan chunks.

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Chinese Curry with Veggies, Tempeh & Tofu

In Southeast Asia, curry has a special place in our hearts and comes in endless forms. On at least two occasions, it has even stirred up passionate nationwide debates and uproar. Allow me to clarify this to international readers who aren’t familiar: curry is a type of dish, not a dish!

I’ve heard this question from foreigners many times, “Why eat something so spicy when the weather is so hot?” From a traditional Chinese medicine perspective, the high humidity of our climate may cause our bodies to become saturated with the water element. Spices help to dispel excess moisture. They also have plenty of other health benefits proven by modern science. Eating a piping hot bowl of curry at a bustling hawker centre in 33C weather is my definition of shiok!

As a third culture kid who grew up mostly with family meals from a different part of the world, the Singaporean in me is determined to make a good Chinese curry. I can’t claim that this recipe is 100% authentic, but it is tasty at least to me. I was aiming for flavours similar to those from vegetarian economic rice stalls, where aunties would spoon curry gravy over your rice if you ask for “kali zhi“.  I made some adaptations to a meat-based Malaysian-Chinese recipe.


CHINESE STYLE CURRY (SERVES 1)

Proteins:

  • 3 slices each of firm tofu and tempeh
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp vegan sambal belacan
  • 1/2 cup water/stock
  • Pinch of salt

Mix curry powder, sambal and water in a bowl. Add tofu and tempeh slices to marinade, ensure they are covered by the liquid, leave aside for 15mins, then pan fry them just enough to form a light brown crusting.

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Since tofu and tempeh aren’t flavourful on their own, marinating helps add taste.

Paste ingredients:

  • 1 tsp vegan belacan paste, best heated/toasted for 1 min
  • 1 tbsp curry powder (Prefereably Chinese, but any can work)
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, white parts chopped finely (green part keep for later)
  • 2 candlenuts, halved (I like a thicker gravy, use 1 if thinner is preferred)
  • 1 dried red chilli, seeds removed
  • Half cm ginger
  • ½ shallot (sub with more ginger, lemongrass or belacan if allium-free is preferred.)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp oil

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Pound paste ingredients in a pestle and mortar the dry ingredients, then stir in the oil. Or pulse all in a blender.

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A blender can give a smoother paste. If you want a solution without pounding/blending, use pre-made vegan curry pastes available from vegetarian/indian grocery shops.

Main ingredients:

  • 1/2 medium potato, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
  • ½ eggplant, cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 2 long beans, cut into ~3cm length
  • ¼ carrot, sliced
  • 1/3 medium sized onion, diced (for allium-free, use more curry leaves/ginger/lemongrass/belacan)
  • 1 bunch curry leaves
  • Lemongrass stalk (green part from earlier)
  • 1 and 1/2 cup water/stock (more for thinner curry)
  • ¼ cup + 1 tbsp coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • Salt, to taste
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My curry leaves were frozen that’s why they look weird!

In a pot, heat 1 tbsp oil over medium-high heat. Add paste and fry till fragrant or oil separates from it, keep stirring to prevent burning. Add onion, eggplant and potato, stir till onion is slightly translucent. Add water/stock, bring to a boil. Add lemongrass, curry leaves, long beans, carrots, pan-fried tofu and tempeh, and ¼ cup coconut milk. Bring heat to low-medium and simmer for 10-15mins or until potatoes are soft enough to be mashed. Stir in the last 1 tbsp coconut milk and season with salt to taste. Serve hot with warm rice or breads.

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Notes:

  • Tempeh isn’t common in Chinese curries but it absorbs gravies so well that I felt it had to be included 🙂
  • I couldn’t achieve the “oil split” effect from my paste while frying it – if any curry pro has tips kindly let me know.
  • Adding noodles or lontong (pressed rice cakes) will make it a complete and satisfying one-pot meal.
  • Most veggies can be used for this recipe – just experiment! I personally don’t fancy those cabbage-y curries from some vegetarian stalls so I used firm veggies.
  • Pan-frying tofu/tempeh before cooking in curry helps them to lock in more flavour. Other proteins can include legumes like tau pok (tofu puffs), soaked tau kee (beancurd skin), seitan, canned chickpeas for faster cooking.
  • I don’t press firm tofu before using them – we Chinese actually don’t do that except for some cold dishes. I find that there’s no difference in taste and in fact makes it more dry after cooking.

 

 

Bee hoon goreng with kicap manis tempeh

Malay food, contrary to popular perception, is easy to veganize despite it being a meat heavy cuisine. Meat can always be replaced with other proteins or “meaty” plants. With the variety of spices in Malay food, plant-based dishes can be made tasty. The challenges are replacing the two seafood-based foundations of Malay cuisine – belacan (shrimp paste) and ikan bilis (dried anchovies).

This is my first Malay recipe post. Being a vegetarian pretty much since birth, the only exposure I had to Malay food was mainly mock meat rendang, nasi lemak, mee rebus etc from Chinese vegetarian stalls. Not very legit, I know! Having a good arsenal of creative vegan Malay recipes under my belt is a major goal. Mine may not be of makcik level, but they will be tasty, at least according to my taste buds!

Bee hoon goreng is the first attempt, because it has many familiar ingredients also used in Chinese cuisine. It is a dry rice noodle dish that is lightly fried then slowly simmered till the noodles absorbed all sauces. I topped it with sweet and sour tempeh made with kicap manis (sweet soy sauce) and lime juice. My first step was to find base flavours in place of belacan and ikan bilis to be pounded into the rempah (spice paste).

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Belacan:

We are lucky to have vegan belacan available cheaply at most Chinese vegetarian grocery shops. These shops are in almost every neighbourhood, usually under HDB or in wet markets. If you can’t find, check this list. Do call before going down as the list may be outdated. I’ve used vegan belacan in a previous fish-y sauce recipe. And grab a bottle of sambal belacan while you’re there too.

Vegan belacan is usually made in Malaysia, from fermented soy. There are 2 types, powdered and ball-shaped paste. The ball paste is more pungent so it’s my usual default choice. However, I feel that it’s less pungent than shrimp belacan (I can smell it many units away when my Malay neighbour is cooking!). Since in Malay cuisine, more pungency = more flavour, it takes a bit more to bring out the potential of soy belacan. I usually use twice or more the amount and fry it for longer than the original recipe calls. It smells absolutely delicious when fried with oil!

Ikan bilis:

For a vegan alternative of fish flavours, we look towards the sea too! Plenty of sea plants can give a fishy, briny ocean flavour. The idea of using kelp occurred after mom complained that the kelp buds I purchased from the vegetarian grocery shop were too fishy. I’ve not seen those sold at supermarkets, but I believe wakame (found in Japanese food section of NTUCs) and regular kelp (found in dried foods shops) can work too. Nori and hijiki may be too light tasting to use here. Dried sea plants usually have small amounts of sand, so rinsing thoroughly is a must.

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Pestle and mortars are widely available in most household shops since it is a staple tool in Malay cuisine.
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Feel free to use any ingredients you like. Here, straw mushrooms are to give chewy textural interest in place of sotong (squid).

 


 

BEEHOON GORENG WITH KICAP MANIS TEMPEH (SERVES 1)

For rempah (spice paste):

  1. 1/4 cup dried kelp buds, rinsed and chopped into smaller pieces
  2. 1 tsp vegan belacan
  3. 2 garlic cloves (For allium-free, use more ginger/sauce)
  4. 0.5 cm thick ginger
  5. 1 dried red chilli
  6. Pinch of salt

Sauces:

  1. 1/2 tbsp vegetarian oyster sauce or 1 tsp marmite
  2. 1 tbsp kicap manis
  3. 1/2 tbsp light soy sauce
  4. 1 cup stock/water, or as needed.

For main dish:

  1. 1 tbsp vegetarian sambal belacan (available at Chinese veg grocery shops)
  2. 1 serving dry bee hoon
  3. 1 medium sized tomato, diced
  4. Small handful of mung bean sprouts
  5. 1/3 of a carrot, cut into sticks
  6. 4 straw mushrooms, sliced into half
  7. 4 – 6 chives, cut into 1 cm long pieces (for pungent roots-free, use coriander stems)

Garnishes (optional, as needed):

  1. Sliced chilli
  2. Chopped spring onions (for pungent roots-free, omit or use coriander leaves)
  3. 1 lime, top sliced off

For kicap manis tempeh:

  1. 50g fresh market tempeh, sliced
  2. 2 – 3 tbsp kicap manis (or use 3 tbsp light soy sauce with 1 tbsp coconut/palm sugar)
  3. 1 lime, top sliced off

Steps:

  1. Pound all rempah ingredients in a pestle and mortar till a dry paste.
  2. Mix 1/3 cup stock/water with all sauces into a bowl. Keep the rest of plain stock/water beside when cooking to be used if the pan is too dry and sticking.
  3. In a pan with a cover, heat oil over medium heat. Fry rempah for 2 mins till fragrant – flip often to avoid burning. Add sambal belacan and fry for 1 min or longer if using store bought sambal. Add tomatoes and fry for 2 mins, until tomatoes soften. Pour some stock, just enough to cover ingredients, simmer with lid for 2 mins.
  4. Add bee hoon, carrot, mushrooms, chives and mung bean sprouts. Top up with more stock, just enough to cover bee hoon. Cover pan and simmer on low heat for 4-6 mins, or till bee hoon is softened but not mushy, and have absorbed all stock/water. Check around the 3 mins mark so ensure there’s enough liquid and beehoon won’t burn. Remove from heat.
  5. Meanwhile, make kicap manis tempeh. Add kicap manis into a pan with some oil if not using non-stick. Heat till slight bubbling, then add tempeh. Cook till sauce is reduced and flip tempeh to coat and glaze well.
  6. Top beehoon goreng with tempeh and optional garnishes. Squeeze lime over it and serve hot.

 

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Warning: Kicap manis tempeh is seriously addictive especially with a citrus-y lime tang!

Notes:

  1. Usually bee hoon is presoaked before using, but I think this recipe needs a longer simmering time for flavours to sink in. I’ve tried with presoaked brown rice noodles, they turned out too mushy. I prefer a firmer noodle so I recommend using dry one.
  2. I personally prefer cooking in claypot as it retains heat very well so ingredients are cooked fast, you can use any pan/shallow pot with a lid.
  3. You can also use any other noodles you prefer or have on hand.
  4. Always use stock rather than water for better flavour. An easy way to get some stock is soak dried mushrooms and seaweed in warm water for 15mins, then strain out the liquid to be used as stock.
  5. This dish originally uses lots of onion/garlic. To cater to those veg*ns who don’t take alliums, I’ve modified it to use tomatoes for umami.
  6. One lime usually isn’t enough. I always use 2-3 😉

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Black rice noodles cold dish

A Chinese recipe will be appropriate for the coming Lunar New Year, as this refreshing and umami-rich dish will be a healthy addition to reunion meals. When we think of Chinese cuisine we will automatically think of stir fries, rice and soups served piping hot. There is a class of Chinese dishes known as cold dishes or liangban cai (凉拌菜, literally “cold tossed dish”) from Northern China that defies this perception.

Cold dishes are similar to Western salads only in the sense that they are served slightly chilled or at room temperature, but never cold (unlike the name). Otherwise, they are often not fully raw for the sake of taste (eg, green leafies are always blanched) and the dressings are much simpler – usually just soy sauce, plant oils and Chinese vinegar. No dairy is used and thus they are often vegan unless meat or seafood is a main ingredient. If a cold dish is eaten as a meal, it will definitely contain carbohydrates in the form of various noodles (we think that a meal is not a meal without carbs!). They are easy to make, some even require no cooking at all. Thanks to the non-dairy, savoury-sour sauces, they can keep well and thus are a good make-ahead food prep and lunch box meal!

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Recipe (makes 2 servings)

Main ingredients:

2 servings of black rice noodles, cooked to package instructions (You can use almost any noodles you prefer, I got them from Yes Natural store.)

Half medium-sized carrots, shredded or julienned (use the largest holes of a grater or a julienne peeler, or simply use a knife.)

Half a medium-sized young cucumber, shredded or julienned.

Half cup of mung bean sprouts

Half a pack of baiye tofu, cut into strips and roughly peel the layers apart (don’t worry about peeling them perfectly as they will come apart during cooking).

Sauce:

1.5 tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsp Chinese vinegar

0.5 tbsp sesame oil

1 chilli padi, chopped

Garnishes:

Spring onion, chopped (optional if abstaining from pungent roots)

Coriander leaves

Chopped chilli

Mix all dressing ingredients in a small bowl and let it sit for 5 minutes. Cook mung bean sprouts in a sieve in boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove and immerse in cold or tap water to cool it down. Cook baiye tofu in boiling water for 1 minute. Remove and immerse in cool water. Drain excess water from both by letting them sit in the sieve over a bowl for a minute. Combine all main ingredients with sauce together in a large bowl and mix well, adding more sauces to taste if preferred. If you do not prefer too spicy flavours, remove chilli padi before adding the dressing. Lastly, garnish and serve.

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Notes:

  • A large sieve and julienne peeler will make preparation much easier, both can be bought cheaply at provision shops or supermarkets.
  • The traditional cold noodles use chilli oil which is not that available in Singapore, I used chilli padi to infuse the sauce for spiciness. If no spice is preferred, simply omit it. If you have no chilli padi but still want a merciless spiciness, use Tabasco, vegan sambal, sriracha or any chilli sauce available in your country.
  • If you want a 100% gluten-free version, use tamari, coconut aminos and bragg’s instead of soy sauce. Replace Chinese vinegar with lime/lemon juice, rice vinegar, balsamic vinegar or apple cider, and mix dried ready-to-eat seaweed into the sauce for extra umami – it will taste different, but still should be good!
  • For an oil-free version, use 1 tsp tahini instead of sesame oil.
  • For a soy-free version, use coconut aminos instead of soy sauce. Instead of tofu, use large, thick-skinned cooked legumes like navy beans, kidney beans, sweet peas as protein for a complete meal. Although using beans in cold dishes isn’t quite traditional, it should still be tasty when mixed with a good sauce 🙂
  • Unlike Western salads where the dressing should be added only before serving, generally for Chinese cold dishes, the longer it sits with its sauce, the tastier it will be. Only exception is for leafy green veggies. They should not be mixed in too early as the acid from the vinegar will turn them yellow.
  • Almost every type of noodles can be used. Udon, soba, tung hoon, sweet potato noodles and wheat noodles will all work great in this recipe. But I don’t advice using rice noodles, instant or quick-cook wheat noodles, they are very absorbent and might turn soggy after sitting in the sauce for a while.
  • Other traditional cold dish sauces can include wasabi, Szechuan peppercorn oil, fermented bean pastes and minced raw garlic or ginger. Feel free to experiment to your taste!

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Here’s wishing everyone a prosperous and happy Year of the Rooster 🙂 Thanks for reading, have a good holiday and reunion for all those who celebrate!

New site launch+Tomato tofu scramble

Hello everyone, welcome to my new site!

I started morethanveggies almost 5 years ago as a way to show the world that healthy, ethical eating doesn’t mean chomping green veggies. It’s finally time to upgrade to a better and more user-friendly site for your Asian vegan recipe needs! This is where I’ll be posting new content now, with more focus on local Singaporean and traditional Asian foods. To stay updated simply enter your email at the sidebar to subscribe! This site is wonderfully brought to life by the talented people at itwonders based on my design.

A huge THANK YOU to everyone that read, shared and contributed over the years. Hearing you say that the content have helped you, is my best reward. I be working harder to make recipes and guides as my main aim is to make the lives of fellow veg*ns easier, and to inspire people to make healthier & more ethical choices. So here’s a recipe for all you lovely people!

This dish is inspired by the classic Chinese dish, tomato egg stir fry and adapted from blissfulbasil. If you grew up in a Chinese household, most likely you have eaten since it’s a common dish that is considered nutritious. Whatever your reasons to not eat eggs, this is a tasty and easy recipe to do that is also high protein and low fat. Like other versatile Asian recipes, amounts of ingredients can be varied to your taste.

Does this taste like the egg counterpart? I’m the wrong person to ask as I don’t remember the taste of egg. Here, the eggy-ness comes from black salt, or kala namak, a salt with an egg-like flavour due to its sulphur content. It’s used traditionally in Indian and other South Asian cuisines. You can purchase them for a couple of dollars at Mustafa.

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The second serving of umami will come from tomatoes, a fruit (yes, it’s not a veggie) that is naturally high in umami compounds. Soft, ripe tomatoes are very important for a quality final result.

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Lastly, aquafaba , the magical egg replacer that is literally chickpea liquid, is used as a binder here. Simply take a can of chickpeas and drain out the liquid. Actually, it’s not a must-have here. I’ve tried this recipe with and without aquafaba – without will yield a wetter dish, more chunky tofu but still equally delicious. With it, the texture can be made more varied. Cook and stir in the pan less for a more minced and soft like mine, or cook longer and mix less for dryer and chewier bite like this recipe’s. Thus it really depends on your preferences and pantry stocks!

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Recipe:
3 medium-sized ripe tomatoes, diced
300g silken or pressed tofu
1/2 cup aquafaba (slightly less than one can’s liquid)
1/4 tsp + 1/4 tsp black salt (to be used separately)
1/4 tsp tumeric (optional, for colour)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
Ground Black pepper, soy sauce, nutritional yeast, chopped spring onions (optional seasonings)

Steps:
Blend aquafaba, tofu, 1/4 tsp of black salt and tumeric in a blender/food processor till a pale yellow liquid. In a non-stick pan, heat oil till hot. Pour blended liquid into pan. Add tomatoes. Let simmer over medium heat for 2-3mins or so, or until the tofu mixture reaches a texture that is thick enough to be scooped up without flowing off, and the tomatoes “melted” into almost a sauce-like consistency. Stir with a spatula for 1 min to ensure the whole mixture is evenly cooked. Off heat, stir in the 1/4 tsp black salt. Transfer to a bowl, add optional seasonings to taste if preferred. Serve with steamed rice, quinoa, breads or any cooked dry noodles.

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Notes:
– Unlike western recipes involving tofu, the Chinese approach is not to drain out excess water. A lot of our dishes are meant to be paired with rice or noodles, hence they cannot be too dry.
– This recipe can still be done nicely without aquafaba like the version I’ve posted before on facebook. Simply mash the tofu, tumeric and black salt in a bowl with a fork and follow the rest of the recipe.
– Black salt is added twice, because of a characteristic that I realised while working with this particular brand. After heating, there’s barely any eggy flavour but a good umami. The eggy-ness is more pronounced when the salt is not subject to heat. Hence first addition before heating is for umami, second adding after heating is for a slight eggy flavour. You can vary the amounts and when to add based on your preferences.
– Tumeric here is only for the yellow colour. You can omit if you don’t have. Do not add too much as tumeric flavour will show up in the final dish. Also a richer yellow is brought out by heating, hence if initially you don’t see yellow after mixing / blending the tofu, don’t rush to add more tumeric.

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Happy Lunar New Year – Bak Kwa Recipe

Less than a day to the new Monkey Year! Here’s a perfect excuse to escape from nosy visiting aunties pressuring you to get attached/married/reproduce, to the safe sanctuary of your kitchen.

Bak Kwa is a well-loved local Chinese New Year snack originating from Fujian in South China, usually made by smoking and preserving pork pigs. The mainstream media has been abuzz since last year over World Health Organisation’s processed meat warning. So I’ve R&D-ed a non mock meat version as an even healthier alternative to the highly processed soy-based vegetarian bak kwa. Sweet crispness on the surface, moist, savoury and chewy insides. All the ingredients are usually found in supermarkets and pasars. Also, do the mixing with chopsticks if you wanna experience how our grandmothers did 🙂

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

For marinade:
30g vegetarian belacan, toasted and crumbled (from vegetarian grocery shops, or try pasar dried goods stalls. Or sub with red/black miso and omit salt)
1 block of fermented red beancurd
1 tbsp ground flaxseed powder (NTUC health food section)
½ cup water
1 tbsp red rice yeast (optional, gives red hue. Found in TCM shops)
100g raw sugar
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
½ tbsp rice wine (optional)
1 tbsp vegetarian oyster sauce or ¼ tsp vegmite
2 tbsp maltose (pasar dried goods stall confirm have)
2tbsp sesame oil
½ tsp five-spice powder
½ tsp black salt (from Indian grocery shops/Mustafa, or use regular salt)
¼ tsp white pepper powder

For glaze:
1 tbsp maltose
1tbsp water/red water (see step 2)

1 – Steam tempeh for 5mins and let cool. In a food processor, blend with the oil to a thick paste.
2 – Bring the water and red rice yeast to a boil in a pot. The water will be reddish, strain and let cool. (Optional step to give colour)  Mix 2 tbsp of water/red water with flaxseed and set aside.
3 – In a large mixing bowl, combine marinade ingredients. Place bowl over a basin of hot water to melt maltose and make mixing easier. Mix till a smooth syrupy texture.
4 – Add in tempeh paste and mix in one direction to a sticky, gooey paste. Cover bowl and leave overnight in fridge.
5 – The next day, preheat oven to 160C. Spread paste on baking paper on a large baking tray. Place cling wrap on the paste and roll a rolling pin over to flatten to about 0.4 cm thick. Sides will be thinner so use a spatula or similar tool, gently push back the sides to minimize burning while grilling.
6 – Bake in oven for ~25 mins till paste is dry to touch and able to lift slightly in one piece. Remove from oven. Increase temperature to 220C. Mix 1 tbsp maltose with 1 tbsp water to make the glaze.
7 – Let the paste cool slightly before cutting to desired shape and size. Brush one side with glaze, transfer pieces (handle gently!) to a new baking paper.
8 – Bake for 7-10mins then remove tray, 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!
9 – Remove and let cool, minimize touching when hot, it breaks easily. The slices will harden when cooled. Brush with the remaining glaze (optional, it looks shinier!) Can be kept in airtight container in fridge for up to 2 weeks.

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Recipe notes:

1) Steaming tempeh is to rid the beany taste and introduce moisture. Unlike meat, tempeh has very low fat and water content so we need oil to ‘fatten’ it. Thus Step 1 is very important to achieve a moist and rich texture.
2) Flaxseed powder is vital too as the proteins are able to bind everything so your bak kwa won’t become bacon crumbles upon touching (actually, good idea)! Luckily we can get them from NTUC.
3) It’s thicker than regular bak kwa because anything rolled thinner than 0.3/0.4cm burns quite easily. Timing control at the last step is really important – remove immediately if you start to see smoke. If any part is black but tastes fine, enjoy it! If it’s black and bitter, it’s too burnt to eat.
4) As the slices tend to stick, store each slice between greased or baking paper.
5) A drop of liquid smoke will bring the flavour to another smoky dimension. Sadly I’ve either rarely seen them here or they are too expensive!
6) Experiment with flavours – chilli bak kwa sounds awesome 🙂

Wishing all a prosperous, healthy and happy year ahead!

Char-Siu Style Tempeh

At this pre-Lunar New Year time, many of my Singaporean vegan friends will start worrying, what to do at reunion meals when the host family don’t get the “no animals” idea? Simplest solution is they bring a vegan dish to the reunion. Whether you’re going to host a plant eater or you’re a plant eater hoping your extended family will understand vegan food better, this recipe will satisfy taste buds and dispel the common myth that we only eat vegetables. In fact – no veggies involved here and it won’t taste like tempeh!

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Char siu, which is Cantonese marinated and roasted pork slices, is a local favourite among the Chinese community. Current vegan alternatives found in typical vegetarian stalls are made from gluten (seitan), red colouring and white sugar. Not very interesting and certainly not friendly to your body! I chose tempeh mainly because it absorbs marinade well. I also prefer to keep things processed soy & gluten free for better digestion. (Tempeh is fermented soy, hence easier to digest than tofu.)

You’ll need:

200g tempeh (Recommend to use freshly made ones sold in pasars, they are softer.)

2 blocks fermented red beancurd (available in sauces section from NTUC)

1 tbsp gluten-free light soy sauce (or regular soy sauce)

1 tbsp gluten-free dark soy sauce (or regular soy sauce)

1 tsp five spice powder

¼ tsp white pepper powder

2 tbsp sweet syrup (i melted my own from brown sugar, maple syrup / maltose will work too)

80-100g raw sugar, or as needed to taste (available at NTUC)

1/3 cup mushroom stock (or as needed, simply soak/boil dried shiitake mushrooms in water)

1 tbsp sesame oil

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Method:

Use a fork to poke small holes in tempeh. Cut it into blocks of about 10 x 5cm. Steam for 8-10 mins to rid the beany taste. Let cool. Meanwhile, mix all other ingredients in a bowl. Transfer tempeh into a shallow dish and spread them out in 1 layer. Pour marinade in, making sure all blocks are mostly covered. If not, top up with more stock and stir to mix. Cover dish with cling wrap, refrigerate overnight, it will look similar to the above photo.

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Preheat oven to 200C. Prepare baking tray with aluminum foil and roll up edges. Line tempeh in a row and pour in the remaining liquid (like above pic). Bake for 50min-1 hour, or until all marinade is gone and tempeh roasts to a dark brownish red. Remember to flip sides and rotate tray halfway for even heating.

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Slice and serve. If there’s remaining sauce, keep it together with the slices. Can be kept refrigerated in an airtight container for a week or so. To reheat simply steam or toast for 2 mins. Actually they won’t last a week – who can resist moist, saucy, chewy slices of protein roasted to perfection? Perfect with white rice, on noodles, salads, maybe topping for pizza! Or on its own using your hands, perfect excuse to lick sauce off fingers 🙂

Regular soy sauce isn’t fully gluten-free as wheat is used in the fermentation process. There are some that are fermented with rice instead. Gluten free soy sauces can be found at NTUC health section (brand is Bragg’s), iHerb and vegetarian grocery shops.

More tempeh recipes here.

Garlic Tempeh Crumbles

Sure we don’t have a good affordable selection of vegan dairy or mock meat products in Singapore – but we have a protein that’s very amazing but often under appreciated and still rather unknown globally. Tempeh made fresh locally, the traditional Indonesian way of fermentation in a simpoh air leaf resulting in a soft white coat – so freshly fermented that it is still warm when you put your hand into the basket at our pasars (markets) in the morning. More digestible, more protein and fiber than tofu, all at 65 cents for a pack weighing roughly 80g. Note that it’s perfectly normal for traditional tempeh to have slight mold at the edges; simply pinch them off before cooking. Finish them asap as they will continue to ferment even in the fridge. Or you can heat them after buying if you plan to make them last longer.

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As versatile as tofu, yet many eateries here sell the most unexciting version – merely deep fried with little seasoning. This simple recipe just needs mainly garlic and tempeh bits. Other than having an earthy tang on its own, tempeh absorbs and magnifies flavours of other ingredients. Those who don’t take garlic can still make it delicious with any taste – giving ingredient like spices and mushrooms.

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Traditionally tempeh is cooked as slices but I think crumbling them gives more surface area to absorb more flavours. Good on its own or topped on anything from breads to rice. I made this recipe saltier to use as topping, hence reduce salt if having as a dish.

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Garlic Tempeh Crumbles


You’ll need:

roughly 80g tempeh crumbled into bits .
2 cloves chopped garlic .
1 tbsp of any vegetable cooking oil .
½ tsp salt, or to taste .
Ground black pepper, to taste .

Sauté garlic with oil in a pan over medium heat. Once you smell the garlicky aroma, add tempeh and salt (any longer may burn the garlic). Continue stirring until tempeh turns golden brown. Transfer to a plate, taste and season with more salt and pepper if preferred before serving.


Topped it on oats cooked in mushroom broth for a savoury breakfast! With celery stalks for a refreshing crunch in between the garlic and black pepper.

Here’s an idea for a non – garlic version – simply replace garlic with with 3 sliced white button mushrooms and half a lemongrass stalk. Equally good or even better with the juicy mushrooms!

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