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)!

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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!

YouTube Channel Launch – Kueh Bahulu Recipe Video

Happy New Year!

A new year, a new beginning! 2018 marks the start of my first ever YouTube channel. In 2016 some friends had already suggested YouTube since I’m trained in video and animation. But I was so occupied with work at a design studio that I didn’t have much free time. It was only when I started freelancing in 2017 (even though the workload is the same), I had the flexibility to take on new personal projects.

Hope to bring more engaging content to anyone interested in healthier foods, as I know people generally like viewing than reading. Many recipes also require techniques that are best shown visually. Please like, subscribe and enable notifications to my channel to be notified when new videos are out. Currently planning to release one video per month, that’s the best I can do as I need to prioritise my clients’ works, but the wait will be worth it! I’ll still have regular 2-3 times monthly blog posts here, so don’t worry, I won’t be leaving here 🙂

In some Southeast Asian countries, kueh (or kuih) is a generic Malay (or Bahasa) word for snack, usually referring to traditional snacks made with wheat or rice flour, coconut, tapioca, sticky rice and pandan.

Kueh bahulu is a bite-sized sponge cake quite similar to French madeleines but with much simpler ingredients, in fact it’s been called the Asian madeleine by some. It was chosen to be the first video recipe as this snack is close to every Singaporean’s heart. I’ve never seen an eggless recipe for it yet. It’s something that every neighbourhood bakery has, packed in small plastic bags, usually sold for a dollar or two. Also a regular sight at Malay or Chinese familys’ snack tables during Hari Raya or Chinese New Year. If you don’t take eggs for whatever reason, you won’t miss out on the nostalgia with this recipe. Here I used aquafaba (chickpea water) to replace the eggs and tweaked the traditional recipe to maximise rising. Since there’s a limit to the degree of fluffiness achievable with aquafaba, it’s not as airy as the egg ones. Still it’s a soft, slightly chewy and delightful snack reminiscent of childhood.


Kueh Bahulu (makes 18-22 depends on mould)

  • 90g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 90g raw sugar
  • Aquafaba from 1 can of chickpeas
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence/paste
  • 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp neutral flavoured oil

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 180C/355F.
  2. Grease and flour your mould(s). If you’re using the traditional aluminium one, preheat it in oven for about 20mins after greasing, then flour it after removing from oven.
  3. Put flour and sugar into metal pans and place in oven. This is to remove moisture so it keeps longer.
  4. Using an electric mixer, whip aquafaba and vinegar in a large bowl till soft to stiff peaks. Took me about 15mins on high speed.
  5. Remove flour and sugar from oven.
  6. Add 1/3 of the sugar into the whipped aquafaba, and whip at medium speed till just combined.
  7. Repeat till all sugar is used up. Beat till mixture ribbons, about 10-15mins on high speed.
  8. Add oil, vanilla and mix on low for few seconds till you see no more patches of both.
  9. Sieve the heated flour into the mixture 1/3 at a time. Using a whisk, mix till just combined.
  10. Repeat till all flour is used up. Do not over mix.
  11. Pour batter into your mould(s). Tap the moulds lightly few times to remove air bubbles. Bake for 15mins or till golden brown, rotating the pan at around 8mins.
  12. Repeat till all batter is used up. If you’re using the same mould, you will need to grease and flour again before pouring the batter.
  13. Let kueh cool in mould for about 5mins or until it is easy to remove, then use toothpick to release it. Let cool on a rack completely before storing.

Notes:

  • Use a non-stick metal mould instead, the traditional aluminium one sticks too easily and is very hard to clean :/
  • Don’t keep sugar in the oven too long as it’ll melt. About 10-15mins of heating on fan mode is good enough.
  • Bake longer for more crisp and brown exterior.
  • Keeps well in fridge for 1week, not recommended to keep at room temperature (in the tropics) for more than 2 days.
  • The kueh will harden in the fridge, best to toast it lightly for few mins before eating.

If you enjoyed the video, please like, share and subscribe for more! Thank you SO MUCH for your support over the past years! I’m really excited to bring more varied recipes to different platforms, hope to show more people the beauty of vegan food! May your 2018 be full of blessings, health and happiness.

 

Eight Treasures Chinese New Year Menu Tasting

Yes, I know Christmas still haven’t arrived and Chinese New Year is still a month away! But being Chinese, we all know a high level of kiasu-ness is needed to secure a table for the family reunion meal in local restaurants. It’s common for Chinese eateries to be fully booked for the first 2 days of Chinese New Year MONTHS in advance!

In the spirit of sharing the sgvegan love and promoting Chinese vegan food, Eight Treasures Vegetarian restaurant generously invited some fellow sgvegan instagrammers, including myself, for a 8 course Chinese New Year menu tasting. Instead of ending with the usual Chinese desserts, boss Zenna presented a spread of handmade, rustic Western desserts from Well Dressed Salad Bar (which is the sister cafe). Thanks to her, we had the best of both worlds! Here are all that we stuffed ourselves with.

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Lucky Yu Sheng

Also known as raw fish salad, a staple at every Singaporean Chinese New Year table. The fun part is the mixing, which is done by everyone together at the table with chopsticks while saying prosperous phrases. The fish in the vegan version makes use of starch from konjac (a.k.a konnyaku), a root plant, which gives the chewy, springy texture similar to raw fish. My favourite part was the how the fresh veggie + fruit shreds and crisp crackers soaked up the refreshingly tangy, sweet plum sauce. A very appetizing start to a huge meal.

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Signature Vegetarian Sharks’ Fin Soup

Shark’s fin is an absolutely terrible ingredient, and I strongly believe that it should be banned. The vegan version uses either a type of gourd or vermicelli to emulate the smooth silky threads. Strips of beancurd and sliced shiitake are also added for bite and chewiness in this smooth, hearty soup. Vinegar and pepper is a must, but add only after tasting the soup on its own to gauge if it is truly good or not. With such a good vegan alternative to a traditional but cruel dish, there’s no reason we should consume shark’s fin at all.

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Fruit Salad Yam Ring

Another staple in Southern Chinese feasts because yam and roundness both represent prosperity in Chinese beliefs. Cubes of mixed fruits and tossed in vegan mayo, stuffed into a ring of crisp and spiced yam, sitting on a bed of deep fried rice noodles. Personally I prefer the traditional yam rings – filled with stir fried mixed veggies and mushrooms, because mixing sweet and savoury flavours isn’t always my cup of tea. This is an interesting Westernized interpretation that will appeal to children especially.

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Pickled Radish veg. Fish

Fried soy seaweed slices sitting in a mushroom-y sauce, topped with umami pickeld radish and fried ginger. Usually Chinese mock meats don’t taste great, but this was good! The slices had a nice crisp bite on the outside, soaking up the sauce well and thus moist inside. None of the dry, over-flavoured MSG aftertaste of regular mock meats. The crisp ginger topping were an absolute delight, rich fragrance without the overwhelming spiciness.

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Golden Veg. Salad Prawn

Us Chinese, are very literal and money-loving. Deep fried foods are very common in Chinese New Year dishes as the golden-brown chunks symbolize gold nuggets and wealth. These konjac prawns were crisp outside, soft and springy inside. The vegan mayo added an umami tangy sweetness, balancing out the oiliness of this deep fried dish.

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Bai Lin Mushroom with Seasonal Greens

Because of the similarity in tenderness and juiciness, Bai ling mushrooms (a.k.a abalone mushrooms) are the vegan answer to abalone – which is another overpriced seafood placed on tables to show off the hosts’ wealth. Personally I’m very critical of the overall Chinese culture of showing off, placing too much emphasis on money and face value – some traditions are unnecessary and even harmful in the big picture of modern times. Here, I love the fact that they didn’t label it as mock abalone like other vegetarian restaurants will. Mushrooms are mushrooms, they aren’t pretending to be seafood!

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Black Pepper Monkey Head Mushrooms

Monkeyhead mushrooms (a.k.a lion’s mane mushrooms) are widely used in Chinese meatless cuisine. The juicy meatiness is something that will appeal to the hardcore carnivores. Here, the chunks are tender and excellently infused with a strong black pepper sauce. Do take note that many vegetarian restaurants use processed monkeyhead mushrooms that contain egg, however Eight Treasures’ one is pure vegan!

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Eight Treasures Beancurd

Fried silken tofu drenched in Chinese olive sauce. Umami rich with spinach and shimeji mushrooms for texture. The perfect companion to plain rice or noodles. Note that Chinese olives are not the same thing as Western olives used in pizza!

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Longevity Heng Hwa Noodles 

A Chinese meal is never complete without a good serving of carbs! A lightly braised and moist wheat noodle dish that cleansed our palette after the savoury and heavier dishes. Topped with seaweed and roasted peanuts, this will go well with all the sauce heavy dishes. So if you’re not feeling like having rice, get this instead!

The savoury dishes were good, the desserts were absolutely amazing! Zenna of Well Dressed Salad Bar have been wowing the vegan community with beautiful creations since the start of this year. They are all Western style sweets that are tuned to Asian taste buds (just the right sweetness!). For those who say vegans can’t eat desserts, sorry, you gotta eat your words!

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Rustic Plum Galette

A flaky crust with a tart plum filling with the sweet and sour flavours perfectly balanced. Look at how the glazing glistens without any use of egg whites!

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Blueberry Cinnamon Rolls, BisTOFFEE cake, X’MAS Pomegranate AvoChoco Brownie

The cinnamon rolls literally melt in your mouth, the bistoffee cake had a lovely caramel flavour. The brownie was my favourite, fudgy and rich chocolate flavour with bites of pomegranate and nutty bits.

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Forest Berries Frozen Brownie Pie

The smooth chocolate with a hint of hazelnut and tart frozen berries melts on your tongue. This captured the best of brownies, pies and berries in one dessert! Zenna certainly didn’t hold back on the amount of chocolate or quality of chocolate, and that should be the way!

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Ice creams: Matcha WhiteChocolate, Mango Pineapple Madness, Raspberry WhiteChocolate, Peanut Butter Cookie Dough

Every one of the handmade cashew-based ice creams were absolutely delicious. Creamy, rich and not icy at all unlike most people’s perception of vegan ice creams. My favourite is the matcha, high quality matcha was certainly used as there was no strong bitterness.

I can type more paragraphs about how great everything here was (especially the mind-blowing desserts!), but all I can say is, go down and try it for yourself! Bookings for 2017 Chinese New Year is already open at Eight Treasures. Do follow Well Dressed for and Eight Treasures for updates on events and desserts available. Well Dressed is located just below Eight Treasures and you can order food from both!

Well Dressed Salad Bar/Eight Treasures Vegetarian

  • Address: 282 South Bridge Road Singapore 058831
  • Tel: 6534 7787

 

 

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!

Dumplings, a Lunar New Year Tradition (non-recipe post)

It’s the time of the year again – new clothes, big dinners, extended families, playful young cousins. The Chinese family’s biggest celebration. My family is from Shandong in North China where every household knows how to make dumplings from scratch. Because of the labor intensive process, the young and old chip in to help. Usually kneading the dough is the men’s job, while the ladies mix the filling and the wrapping of individual dumplings are done by everyone young and old. It’s a family tradition to sit down together at the table and wrap the stuffing in thin sheets of dough, while having endless conversations and laughter.

The dough is with simply wheat flour and water. Like most Asian recipes there is no set ratio, how much water or flour to add depends on the brand and quality of the flour. Everything is done by feel.

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Let sit for a couple of hours, cut into small chunks, pressed and rolled into thin flat ‘skins’.

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For the stuffing, it’s important to use mostly low moisture plants. Carefully seasoned sauteed tofu is the main ingredient. Usually alongside it are strong flavours like mushrooms, ginger, leek, and lighter vegetables like cabbage or radish for a juiciness and to balance out the flavour. The higher moisture veggies must be squeezed in a cheese bag to rid of excess water that will otherwise dilute the taste. Seasonings will be five spice powder, white pepper, various types of soy sauce and sesame oil.

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Wrapping is the tricky part – you can’t put too much stuffing in one or it bursts when cooked. Too little stuffing and you’d end up chewing a mouthful of skin. Freshly made dough is extremely sticky too, you’d need to keep your hands floured constantly. The edges of the skin cannot touch any flour or filling or it will not stick properly and break during cooking.

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Often cooked in a huge pot of boiling water. Can also be pan-fried or water fried for a crisp coating of greasy goodness!

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And, finally, dipped in Chinese vinegar, sesame oil and a little minced garlic. Biting into one yields a wonderful mix of chewy tenderness and warm savory stuffing.

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The Chinese like to wish each other wealth, but I think wishing everyone health and happiness is most important. May your blessings be endless!

Fried tofu and veggie spring rolls

As with all stuffing-wrapped-in-skin foods, spring rolls are quite labour intensive. The good thing is it can be made ahead and kept frozen for months. An excellent “emergency” food, or when you’re just craving for crispy, savoury foods. The skin can be purchased from the frozen section of supermarkets.

Makes about 15. You’ll need:

1 lotus root

10 pcs dried and soaked shiitake mushroom

1 slab firm tofu, chopped into small cubes

4 leaves of cabbage

10 stalks of chives

Pepper, sesame oil, soy sauce, sea salt

Square spring roll pastry skins

Blend the mushroom, cabbage and chives in a food processor. Grate the lotus root finely. Transfer into a large bowl, add 1 tsp sea salt and let it sit while you prep the tofu.

Get a white cloth bag and place the chopped tofu in. Squeeze the excess water out gently but firmly, you won’t want to mash it too much. Put them in a pan, add oil and 1 tbsp soy sauce. Stir fry till it turns a light brown.

Squeeze the water out of the veggie mixture with the cloth bag too. Then mix them well with the tofu in a large bowl. Taste it at this point and season with pepper or more soy sauce.

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Next, place about 2 tbsp of the filling into every square pastry skin. Of course this amount will vary depending on the size and shape of your skin. Fold the sides and roll it up. Or have fun making any shape you like. Triangles, round parcels, etc.

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Heat some oil in a pan and fry them. Be careful to avoid heating the parts where the skin is thin or it’ll tear. You can also deep fry them in a pot of oil or bake in the oven for a lower fat version. Let excess oil drain on kitchen paper before serving.

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Store any leftovers in the fridge or freezer and reheat whenever you’re hungry 🙂