Rustic Pineapple Balls (Lunar New Year Recipe)

Healthy Pineapple Balls Recipe

Pineapple pastries, usually in the form of tarts, are a common sight in Singapore and Malaysia during Chinese New Year. Pineapples represent prosperity and good luck in some Chinese cultures. The name also sounds similar to “fortune, come” when said in Hokkien. In Singapore, after moving into a new house, Chinese folks often roll whole pineapples on the floor as it symbolises “rolling good luck” into the new house.

Crumbly, soft and a delightful blend of sweet and sour flavours. Not perfectly round and smooth but hey, it’s homemade!

I developed this recipe with a single purpose in mind – to be able to stuff myself without feeling sick! As I got older, my body doesn’t seem to like buttery, oily and sugary foods as much as before (the same reason I created my old tempeh bak kwa recipe). I wanted delicious pineapple tarts that won’t be heavy on my stomach, so I can have energy to make hundreds of dumplings (recipe in my book)! 

Secret ingredient 🙂

Instead of vegan butter, which is expensive and highly processed, I opted to use coconut oil instead. Before you exclaim “coconut taste!!”, I’m here to assure you that it’s not that unpleasant coconut aftertaste. The almost pungent coconut aftertaste usually appears when the food loses its freshness (thus storage for this is important, see notes), or when low quality coconut ingredients were used. Good quality coconut milk/oil gives a pleasant sweetness and fragrance that’s unique to this versatile tropical fruit. Furthermore, coconut pairs well with pineapple – it’s not exactly the same as traditional pineapple tarts, but delicious in its own way.

Peeling and coring pineapples is really a lot more work, but it tastes much fresher.

If you’re in the tropics, you have to refrigerate your coconut oil to get it solid enough. It should not be liquid-y but yet soft enough for you to scoop out of the jar. There are 2 types of coconut oil – unrefined (also known as cold pressed) and refined. Unrefined coconut oil is the one with the sweet coconut fragrance and rich flavour. It has a lower smoke point thus is more suitable for baking. Refined coconut oil has no coconut flavour at all, it’s more suitable for high heat cooking like frying as it has a higher smoke point. For this recipe, I have tried with both types. The balls made with refined oil turned out really bland. The ones made with unrefined coconut oil was delightfully buttery with a natural sweet fragrance. However, it develops a strong coconut aftertaste after 3 days at room temperature. Thus, this recipe produces a small amount as I recommend you to finish it within 3 days – shouldn’t be a problem!

Cooking pineapples and reducing them to jam takes at least 1 hour, so best to make it in advance.
The dough will come together once solid coconut oil pieces are mixed in.
The dough needs to be handled carefully due to the characteristics of coconut oil.

RUSTIC Pineapple Balls (eggless, dairy-free)

Makes about 20-24 bite-sized balls

For the pineapple jam (can be made 1 day in advance, makes 2 batches of balls)

  • 2 medium pineapples, peeled, eyes and cores removed and cut into chunks
  • A pinch of salt
  • 70g sugar, or to taste (depends on the sweetness of your pineapple)

Use a blender or food processor to puree the pineapple. In a pot, add blended pineapples and water. Bring to a gentle boil. Add sugar and salt, let simmer over low heat till it’s reduced to a paste. To prevent burning, mix it with a spatula every 5 mins or so. It might take 50-60mins to reduce, depending on the natural amount of moisture that your pineapple has. Once it reaches a jam-like consistency, remove from heat and transfer to a clean airtight jar. Place in the fridge to cool. It can be refrigerated for up to 5-7 days, depending on the temperature of your fridge.

For the pastry (can be made 1 day in advance)

  • 150g all-purpose/plain flour
  • 30g potato starch
  • 1/8 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 25g sugar
  • A pinch of turmeric (optional, for colour only)
  • 100g coconut oil (soft solid)
  • 1 tbsp soy milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste or extract (for best results, avoid vanilla flavouring)

 

For the egg-free wash (can be made 1 day in advance)

  • 2 tsp gula melaka/sugar
  • A pinch of turmeric, for colour
  • 1 tsp soy milk
  • 1 tbsp oil

Mix flour, starch, baking powder, turmeric, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Weigh out your coconut oil and cut it into small pieces. Add the coconut oil pieces, vanilla paste and soy milk into the flour mixture. Use your hand to gently squeeze and mix till the oil is mostly melted and incorporated into the flour. Mix and knead gently till you get a dough. Transfer onto a cling wrap and flatten the dough. Wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Remove it from fridge at least 20 mins before shaping as the dough will harden when chilled.

Preheat oven to 165C. Shape pineapple jam into balls of approximately 1 cm diameter, line them up on a clean surface. Shape a piece of dough into balls of approximately 2 cm diameter and flatten with your palms. Ensure the dough is as evenly thin as possible. Place a pineapple jam ball onto the edge of the flattened dough and roll both jam and dough gently downwards. Pinch the sides and any other openings to close. Finally, roll between your hands to ensure the ball is evenly round. Place on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Repeat these steps till you use up all the jam/dough.

For the egg-free wash, mix all ingredients in a bowl with a food-safe brush. Brush the top of each ball gently. Transfer to oven and bake at 165C for 20-22 mins, till the balls are darkened and slightly expanded. Remove from oven and let it cool on the tray for 1 min. Then, transfer onto a wire rack and let cool completely, which might take up to 1 hour depending on your room temperature. Transfer to an airtight container to store.

Warning: addictive.

Notes:

  • Do not add too much turmeric or it’ll interfere with the flavours. Since we used coconut oil not butter, turmeric can help boost the yellow colour.
  • Since we are using coconut oil, dough may soften at room temperature. If dough is too wet or soft, refrigerate it for 5 mins to stiffen.
  • Best consumed within 3 days, if stored at room temperature. Can be refrigerated for up to 7 days.
  • This recipe doesn’t seem to work well with plastic tart moulds due to the dough being slightly unstable at room temperature. I prefer making balls as I don’t like having to many things to wash!
  • If you’re someone who dislikes coconut no matter what, replace coconut oil with 125g dairy-free butter and omit soy milk.

 

Vegan Omurice recipe

First things first: my first recipe book is finally launched on Amazon US! They can ship to many other countries too. UK launch will be in April 2021, you can preview the book here. Thanks for your support since the local launch last year!

Best eaten with a spoon!

Omurice is a popular dish in Japan, and it’s also pretty well-known in some other Asian countries. Savoury with a slight sweetness, it’s particularly enjoyed by children. There are 2 mains parts to this dish – fried ketchup rice wrapped in a soft omelette, thus the name. The latter part poses the main challenge here, therefore this is not the easiest recipe. Since I didn’t want to use expensive ingredients like Just Egg, I had to figure out my own blend that works well, using affordable ingredients, tastes and feels similar to omelette.

Grated nagaimo was the first thing that came to my mind, due to it’s magical binding qualities. It remains flavourless when mixed with other ingredients.

Firstly, the rice. It’s the easy part of this recipe but there are a few things we should pay attention to. Use Japonica/short grained rice if you want to be able to handle the wrapping and transferring from pan to plate easily. Jasmine rice will break apart, which makes wrapping more difficult. If you only have Thai or Vietnamese rice, add a splash of stock during cooking to make the rice slightly more sticky. You can also make the fried rice in advance and heat it up once your “omelette” is done. My favourite tool to make fried rice with is definitely a wok over fire, but in Japan, non-stick saucepans are more commonly used as not every house has gas. So feel free to choose what suits you best. 

I used Japonica brown rice from NTUC.

Next, the “omelette” is made of 3 basic ingredients – firm tofu (tau kwa), grated nagaimo (wai shan/Chinese mountain yam) and aquafaba (water from a can of chickpeas). That’s all! The rest is just turmeric for colouring, black salt (kala namak) and soy sauce for seasoning. You’ll need a blender or food processor for this, just like my book’s tomato tofu scramble. Tofu gives the base creaminess, grated nagaimo contributes the starch and other components necessary for binding and aquafaba gives the lift that’ll make the tofu omelette fluffy and soft. You’ll also need some patience because this tofu-based blend doesn’t behave exactly like egg. It’s much more fragile and can break quite easily thus this consistency is thick so it can hold. Try to handle it gently too.

Black salt (kala namak) gives a nice umami and eggy flavour. Available from Mustafa or Shopee. Mine was bought as salt chunks so I hammered them down to this.

One difference between this tofu omelette base and my tomato tofu scramble’s one is the addition of grated nagaimo. Omurice’s omelette needs to be folded, so it should not break while doing so. Grated nagaimo gives the binding needed while keeping the smooth texture. For tomato tofu scramble, since it’s going to be broken up anyway, we don’t have to add this ingredient. I’ve not tried this with flaxseed powder, I seldom buy it because it’s expensive.

Simply blend the base “omelette” ingredients to this texture and pan fry.
I used onions, shimeji mushrooms and OmniMeat Luncheon (available at Green Common) in my fried rice.
The fried rice is so good that you can have it on its own.
The tofu omelette can be eaten as a veggie omelette too. Just top it with veggies of your choice when cooking.
The tricky part is the wrapping. But don’t worry, just have fun with it!

Vegan Omurice

(serves 2 very hungry people or 3 not-so-hungry people)

Fried Rice

  • 1 tbsp finely chopped garlic/onion (use a tsp toon paste + 1 tsp grated ginger for alliums free option)
  • 2 cups overnight rice
  • 1/4 cup ketchup or to taste
  • White and black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tsp chilli sauce (optional)
  • 1/2 tbsp soy sauce, or to taste
  • 1/2 cup chopped shimeji mushrooms (or other mushrooms or hard veggies you like)
  • 1/3 cup of chopped protein of your choice (I used 1 piece of Omnimeat Luncheon since I bought it for CNY)

Heat oil in a wok or saucepan over medium heat (with a wok, I usually use medium high heat). Sauté garlic or toon paste & ginger till aromatic. Add soy sauce and let it simmer for 5 seconds to reduce. It should smell really good now. Add the chopped mushrooms/hard veggies, flip till ingredients are coated and of an even colour. Add rice, ketchup, chilli sauce, black and white pepper if using. Use a spatula to break the rice up if needed, and flip/mix till each grain is an even reddish colour. Taste and add more pepper/salt/soy sauce/ketchup if preferred.

Tofu omelette

  • 440g firm tofu
  • 1/3 cup aquafaba
  • 1/4 cup grated nagaimo
  • 1 tsp black salt, more on the side to garnish and season to taste
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp oil, for frying, more if needed

Blend all tofu omelette ingredients except oil, to a creamy consistency. Heat oil in a non-stick frying pan over low-medium heat. Scoop about 3/4 cup of the mixture into the hot pan. Use a spatula to even and flatten it. Sprinkle a pinch of black salt and some ground black pepper over the omelette if you like. Cover and let it cook for 3-4 mins, until edges are browned. Shake the pan a bit to ensure that it’s loosened. The colour should be a darker yellow now. Remove from heat.

Side salad (optional)

  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Blanched broccoli
  • Few leaves of any greens like lettuce, arugula, roquette, shredded raw cabbage etc
  • Dressing of your choice

Assembly:

Place about 3/4 cup of rice on one side of the tofu omelette, press down gently with a spatula to ensure it sticks. Using your spatula, flip the other end over the rice. Now it should be mostly, or fully wrapped, depending on how big your pan is and much rice you added. Here, I like to flip the slightly opened side to the spatula and gently transfer to a plate, so the perfectly wrapped side is facing up. Decorate with ketchup to your liking and add the optional side salad. Serve hot.

Works well in lunchboxes too!

Notes:

  • Making the perfect tofu omelette requires a bit of practice, so don’t worry if it breaks/cracks at first. The taste will still be the same and you can sort of tuck the cracked/broken edges under the rice so the end result will still look nice when plated.
  • Use a good non-stick frying pan for this. It’s important that the tofu omelette doesn’t stick, so you won’t end up with charred and scrambled tofu.
  • You can make the fried rice a day in advance. Simply reheat it before adding onto the tofu omelette.
  • You can also blend the tofu mixture a day in advance. It has to be refrigerated.
  • Sprinkling some black salt on the tofu omelette after removing from heat will ensure that the eggy flavour remains. I like to do it while cooking, as my black salt is in small chunks, so it can melt. You can skip this step if you like but I think it makes the tofu omelette taste better.