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!

Veganuary Recipes: No-Cook One-Pot Noodles Series

Veganuary is a movement from the UK that encourages people to start a new year on a healthy note. Participants try a vegan lifestyle (to the degree that they are comfortable with) for a month till 31st Jan. If you’re trying it out, or just wish to change your eating habits this year, here’s a method to make a meal that’s incredibly easy without cooking and it’s not salad!

I’ll be posting as a series of 3 recipes this month. My nutritionist friend Krystle will calculate the nutritional breakdown for all 3 recipes in this series.

Making an “instant’ meal

If you have access to boiling water, you can prepare a decent balanced meal. No stove top or oven cooking needed put it together. I make these type of meals in 2 situations:

  1. At previous workplaces located far from affordable vegetarian stalls.
  2. When travelling in areas where clean and cheap vegan food is unavailable.
Just need to add boiling water and cover for 5 minutes.

Sounds like cup noodles, but don’t worry, it is way healthier than that. But like everything else, it has pros and cons.

Pros:

  • Fast way to make a hot meal.
  • Way more nutritious and filling than convenience meals.
  • Portable. Simply keep in a container (must be suitable for holding hot food) and add boiling water when you want to eat.
  • Customisable.

Cons:

  • Not all ingredients will turn out tasty with this method.
  • Still need to wash, cut and pre-cook certain ingredients.
  • Boiling water is preferred (ie, water that’s just boiled). Hot water may not have enough heat to soften the carbs and other harder ingredients.

Firstly, my definition of a balanced meal is one that has carbohydrates (preferably complex carbs), vitamins (mainly veggies) and protein (from legumes, tempeh, tofu or wheat).

Secondly, using ingredients that can be cooked thoroughly with boiling water is most important. That means softer items, unless you truly don’t mind eating hard and half raw things.

Here’s a quick list of items that can work, all are available from various supermarkets and wet markets:

Carbs:

  • Soft thin noodles (brown rice noodles, certain brands of tung hoon)
  • Instant wheat noodles (for healthier option, buy those that have whole grains and are baked not fried)
  • Cooked rice
  • Cooked starchy plants (sweet potato, potato, pumpkin)
  • Instant oats

Plants:

  • Soft leafy greens (spinach, coriander, bak choy, etc. Avoid stems in certain veggies like kai lan)
  • Cooked hard veggies (broccoli, cauliflower)
  • Plants that are edible raw (tomato, bell peppers, carrots, zucchini)
  • Pickled or fermented veggies (kimchi, achar)

Protein:

  • Packaged silken tofu (all packaged tofu are ready to eat)
  • Soft dried soy products (Thin beancurd skin, tau pok)
  • Cooked legumes (cooked lentils, canned beans, etc)
  • Seitan (dried Japanese types or canned ready-to-eat types, those are available from NTUC)

I generally avoid putting the container into the fridge when bringing to office. I’ll always keep it in a thermal bag to keep it as cool as possible. Because it brings down the temperature, which causes the items to not cook fully after filling with boiling water. Thus, I avoid coconut milk based items and fresh market tofu, as they can spoil fast in our room temperature.

Ingredients list

Here are the ingredients I used for this recipe, where I purchased and their prices. Most of them (except the noodles) are also common items I use in daily meals.

For fresh veggies, try to purchase them from wet markets as they are much fresher and sometimes cheaper. Prices will vary depending on stall.
Use a large bowl or container to prevent hot water from spilling.

 

RECIPE: NO COOK MISO NOODLES

  • 1 serving instant wheat noodles, no seasoning packet needed (I used Koka purple wheat as it’s non-fried and partial wholegrain, some NTUCs sell it without seasoning packets.)
  • 2-3 bunch (50g) spinach, stems removed (spinach stems are usually too tough to chew.)
  • Half block (150g) silken tofu  (I used sprouted organic one from NTUC.)
  • 10g beancurd skin, rinsed (Rinsing helps to remove sulphates which are used in certain brands.)
  • 1 heaping tbsp white miso (Some miso pastes have bonito or fish, always check before buying.)
  • Small handful (50g) enoki mushroom (Other mushrooms may not be fully cooked with this method, certain mushrooms cannot be eaten raw.)
  • 30g carrot, julienned (Use a julienne peeler to save time.)
  • Chopped spring onions, to garnish
  • White pepper, to garnish
  • 1 tsp sesame oil, to garnish
  • Ready-to-eat seaweed, to garnish

Bring water to a boil in a kettle. Combine noodles, spinach, beancurd skin, miso, enoki and carrot in a large heatproof bowl/container. Pour boiling water till all ingredients are covered well. Cover and wait for 5mins. Dissolve the miso. Add garnishes and serve hot.

Don’t let the noodles sit for too long, it will get soggy.

 

Nutritional Information

Krystle is a freelance plant-based nutritionist and group fitness instructor, check her out here.

Here’s Krystle’s nutritional breakdown of the dish (source: myfitnesspal) :

Nutritional comments:

This is a perfect example of a healthy, balanced meal. It has a balanced amount of carbohydrates, protein, fat and other important vitamins, minerals and fiber. It has no trans fat and no cholesterol – both are known to increase risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Vegetables and whole wheat noodles helps to promote good blood sugar control and keeps you full for a longer time.

Tofu and Green Leafy vegetables are contains calcium and iron. Although the bioavailability of iron and calcium in plant based foods is not as high as animal based foods, it can still be a part of a healthy diet without the hormones and saturated fats from animals based foods. You can increase iron absorption by having a fruit high in vitamin C such as oranges as dessert. Limit your tea and coffee intake especially during your meal times as it further prevents the absorption of iron.
Spinach’s calcium is not readily absorbed in our body due to the presence of oxalic acid. However, it should be the least of our worries as we should always eat a varied diet to get enough calcium from many different healthy sources. Other calcium containing foods includes other green leafy vegetables, beans, legumes, chia seeds, fortified soy milk etc. Calcium from legumes are more easily absorbed than those from leafy greens.

Remember to get enough sunlight to boost your vitamin D levels to increase the absorption of calcium. Exercising regularly also strengthen our bones and muscles.

The carrots and spinach is high in Vitamin A in the form of beta carotene. It is an antioxidant that is great for your eyes and skin.

Sodium is high in this dish due to the amount of miso used. If you are watching your blood pressure, use low sodium condiments or drink less of the soup. You may use more spices and herbs like nutritional yeast, black pepper, spring onion, parsley, basil, mint which helps to add flavour without needing additional sodium.

This dish roughly provides the following recommended daily amounts (RDA) for healthy adults aged 18-60 years old. Note that percentages will differ among individuals. (Source: Health Hub SG)

  • 36% of protein for males, 42% of protein for females
  • 85% of iron for males, 28% of iron for females
  • 33% – 40% of fiber
  • 115% of calcium
  • 114% of Vitamin A

Next in the series will feature a Tom Yum rice noodles recipe made with the same method together with Krystle’s nutritional analysis, stay tuned!

 

Mekhala Living – Organic Vegan Thai Inspired Condiments

Mekhala Living  is a Singapore-based company making vegan and organic food products. Almost all are vegan, except for one which has honey. They pride themselves as an independent company using only natural ingredients from Thailand, working closely with local farmers. They kindly gave me an array of condiments for me to try.

The usual ingredients in them are Himalayan salt, coconut sugar, various spices and herbs plus xanthan gum – nothing of what we shouldn’t put in our bodies.  So far I tried 3 sauces for stir fries and roasting – basil garlic, black pepper, miso lime chilli. This post are stir fry recipes, and next post shall be on the roasted goodies.

Veggie fusilli with black pepper sauce:

The sauce is pretty fiery with a strong kick! Flavours protein rich foods like tempeh very well. So I paired with homegrown Thai basil for a herb fragrance and snow peas for sweetness and crunch.

You’ll need:

One serving of fusilli pasta, slightly undercooked according to packet instructions

3 tbsp olive oil

½ tbsp Mekhala Living’s Black Pepper Sauce

A pinch of salt

One handful of fresh Thai basil

One small block of tempeh, sliced

4-5 holland snow peas, each cut in half

Heat the oil in a pan. Place the tempeh, thai basil, black pepper sauce and salt in. Stir fry until tempeh turns brown. Add pasta and snow peas, more oil if needed. Fry until peas turn dark green. Season with more salt/sauce if needed, ready to serve!

Stir fried Nai Bai with basil garlic sauce:

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Basil garlic is great with green leafy vegetables with crunchy or juicy stems. Usually I will chop onions or garlic, but with the sauce time is saved!

You’ll need:

A bunch of nai bai, ends cut off and washed

2 tbsp Mekhala’s Basil Garlic sauce

2 tbsp olive oil

a pinch of sea salt

Place all ingredients in a wok/pan and coat the veggies evenly with sauce and oil. Turn heat to medium, slowly stir and flip until veggies shrink and the stem turns translucent. Season with more salt/sauce if needed, then ready to serve!

Mixed stir fry with miso lime chilli:

This sauce is the most versatile of all – good on its own or with other condiments. It flavours dishes well and harmonises with most foods. Thus, most suitable with dishes with many types of ingredients. This method of cooking works best with all types of hardy veggies instead of leafy ones; add proteins like tofu and legumes to give thickness to the sauce.

You’ll need:

Half and onion, chopped

2 tbsp Mekhala Miso Lime Chilli sauce

1 tbsp soy sauce mixed with ½ cup water

1 tbsp fermented chilli sauce (homemade)

3-4 strings of french beans, cut

2 strips of tofu puffs, cut into squares

1 bamboo shoot, sliced

About half cup cooked chickpeas

I stir fried the onions in oil first, then added the sauces, long beans, chickpeas and simmered them till the beans turn a darker green. Lastly I added the bamboo shoots and tofu puffs, letting them simmer for 30 seconds. Transfer all to a plate, garnish with fresh herbs and ready to serve!

Recipes for the same sauces used for roasting coming up soon. Meanwhile visit their online store or their shop at Pasarbella and check out their amazing range of food products from brown rice to jams.

Apple Cinnamon Muffins

Moist muffins with spiced apple cubes inside. 2 step process – pickle the apples overnight then make the muffin base. Makes 12.

Preparing the apples:

2 granny smith apples (the green apples), peeled and cut into small cubes

2 tbsp flour

3 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp non-dairy milk

1 cup brown sugar

a pinch of sea salt

1 tbsp cinnamon powder

Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 5-8 hours.

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Muffin base:

2/3 cup grapeseed oil

1 cup non-dairy milk

2 tsp vanilla extract

½ tsp sea salt

½ tbsp cinnamon powder

1 cup brown sugar

1 tsp baking soda

½ tsp baking powder

2 and a half cups flour

Preheat oven to 175 C. Combine all dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking soda and powder, sugar, cinnamon powder) in a large bowl, make a hole in the middle of the mix and set aside. Mix all wet ingredients (oil, plant milk, vanilla) in another bowl. Pour the wet mixture into the dry mix and stir in one direction. Combine well to a brown batter.

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Add the apple mixture and mix well (in the same stirring direction).

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Spoon into muffin tins or cupcake paper. Take note to fill them at about two-thirds only. Bake at 175 C for 15-20 minutes, or till a toothpick comes out clean when pushed into the centre of the muffin. Transfer on a cooling rack and serve when completely cooled.

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Salted Caramel Butter – No sugar used!

 

Have been meaning to make these since a long time ago, to add another spreadable condiment to my repertoire (besides peanut sauce). Now it’s the holidays, finally! 🙂

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Have seen lots of recipes which calls for boiling a huge amount of sugar. That isn’t easy because sugar burns easily, and of course, not that healthy. This recipe’s inspired by V.K. Rees.

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Ingredients (yields 2 cups) :

200g pitted medjool dates (About 15 medium-sized dates). Soak in water for half an hour till soft.

2 tsp sea salt (More can be added to taste)

¼ cup of any non-dairy milk (Coconut will yield the creamiest result)

1.5 tsp vanilla extract

¼ cup vegan margarine

Place all in a food processor and blend till smooth.

 

Buttery and creamy, the dates add a slight coconut-y aftertaste. I kept the skins of the dates for nutrition and I rather like the grainier texture which resulted. But you’re welcome to remove them if you want a smoother blend.

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Top on cakes, coffee, tea, pastries. Put with apples as an alternative to peanut butter, makes a good lunchbox snack for your little ones too!

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Oatmeal, coconut and peppermint choco bites

Just 4 ingredients + NO FOOD PROCESSOR NEEDED! For the health-loving sweet tooth/snack lover. It’s a little hard to find vegan chocolate chips here so I chopped up some vegan peppermint dark chocolate. Makes about 12.

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You’ll need:

1 cup oatmeal

7-10 pitted medjool dates (soak if too dry)

¼ cup vegan peppermint chocolate chips

½ cup shredded coconut

Add everything to a large mixing bowl. Mash with a fork till you get a nice firm “dough” which sticks together when pressed. Roll into bite-sized balls and dip in shredded coconut.

Ready to eat immediately, or refrigerate for a few hours for a firmer texture. Simple!

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Banana and peanut butter pie

 

No baking needed! Make your own peanut butter for best results. Adapted from Jonsi & Alex’s Arkansas Apple Pie from their Good Heart Cookbook (go download it, it’s free and full of cool raw vegan recipes) I used banana instead and lesser dates as I don’t like very sweet foods.


 

For the crust:

1 cup peanuts

1 cup coconut

3 – 4 pitted medjoul dates

3 tbsp peanut butter

1 tbsp coconut oil

1 tbsp orange zest

1 tbsp cinnamon

Blend all ingredients together till you get a crumbly, moist and sticky mixture that hold when pressed together. Press it into a greased pie pan. Spread a layer of peanut butter over this crust.

For the filling:

1 ripe banana

1 cup raw almonds

5 tbsp peanut butter

6 pitted medjoul dates

1 tbsp lemon zest

1 tbsp cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla paste

Blend all ingredients except almonds till you get a sticky mixture. Add in the almonds and blend a little so you get crunchy bits in the filling. Spread it over the crust.

Toppings:

Coconut flakes, chocolate, soymilk cream (made by mixing 1 tbsp water with soymilk powder), chocolate bits – get creative!

Sprinkle and drizzle them over the pie. Let it set for a couple of hours in the fridge before serving.


Variations: Chocolate peanut butter, chocolate orange, peanut butter & pumpkin, peanut butter & berries..the list is endless 🙂