Slow Cooked Soy Sauce Beans & Nuts

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

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

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

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

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

Spices used

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

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

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

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

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

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


Recipe

Spices & Seasoning:

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

Beans & Nuts:

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

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


Note:

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

Nutritional Comments

Contributed by KrystleCo.

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

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

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

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

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

Make soaking a habit in your food prep today!

VEGANUARY RECIPES: NO-COOK ONE-POT NOODLES SERIES 3

How was your Veganuary? If you tried out being vegan for a month, I hope you find it easy enough to continue for a bit more. If not, I hope this series will help you in other ways 🙂 Part 1 here, part 2 here.

The last recipe of the Veganuary series on No-Cook Noodles is inspired by Korean flavours. Although nothing close to authentic traditional Korean food, this is a fast and easy way to fix your kimchi cravings and fill your tummy!

In this recipe I stuffed minced stir-fried tempeh into tofu puffs. This catches the soup well and every bite is full of juicy, complex flavours. If you wish to save time and omit cooking completely, you can add them separately or use silken tofu which is a food item that is ready-to-eat. Tempeh recipes are here, simply mince with knife or crumble them by hand before frying. Rinse and squeeze the tofu puffs before using, cut in half, score pockets and stuff with the cooked tempeh. This stuffed tofu puffs are high protein and can be easily packed, so it’s a perfect food prep item.

Ingredients


NO COOK KIMCHI UDON

  • 6 tofu puffs stuffed with minced cooked tempeh
  • 1/4 cup kimchi
  • 1 serving of instant udon, remove seasoning packets, rinsed
  • 1/3 cucumber, julienned (use a julienne peeler for easy prep)
  • 1/4 carrot, julienned (use a julienne peeler for easy prep)
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce, to taste
  • 1 tbsp gochujang
  • Coriander, to garnish
  • Ready-to-eat seaweed, to garnish
  • Sesame seeds, to garnish

Combine all base ingredients in a heatproof bowl/container. Pour boiling water till all ingredients are covered well. Cover and wait for 3-5mins. Remove cover, mix to ensure gochujang is well dissolved. Add garnishes and serve.

 

Nutritional Analysis

Provided by nutritionist Krystle.

Kimchi is traditionally used as a side dish in Korea, but has gained popularity all over Asia because of its unique spicy and sour taste as well as its health promoting properties.
Kimchi is made from fermented and salted vegetables such as Napa Cabbage and Korean Radishes. It is low in calories and high in vitamin A and C. But one of the highlights of kimchi is the fact that it is fermented — which makes it a good source of probiotics and promotes a healthy gut.

The main probiotic present in Kimchi is Lactic Acid Bacteria (LAB). It plays a role in treating diarrhoea and boosts the immune system, reduces serum cholesterol levels and blood pressure, prevents bacterial vaginosis and urinary tract infections. Probiotics is also very important for the control of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD).

Let us not forget how other key ingredients of making kimchi such as cruciferous vegetables, garlic, ginger, red pepper powder etc are very healthy functional foods. It contains antioxidants and phytochemicals with anti-cancer properties.

Another femented ingredient used in this dish is none other than the good ol’ tempeh. Packed full of nutrition and protein, and is easy to digest thanks the fermentation process. Phytic acid in the soybeans has been broken down during fermentation, which in turns helps to improve digestion and absorption of the nutrients. Also rich in probiotics such as bifidobacteria, it also promotes good gut microbiota.

If you have concerns about bloating, flatulence, indigestion, or is suffering from IBS, IBD and even Chron’s Disease, consuming more fermented food provides an easy alternative natural treatment. Not only does it benefits people who has gut issues, it also benefit any regular healthy person as health maintenance.

Prebiotic, on the other hand are like food for the Probiotics. If you are already eating a whole foods plant based diet, chances are you are getting most of your natural source of prebiotic – oligosaccharides fiber! They passed through the system undigested by enzymes and ended up in the colon — perfect fuel to be fermented by probiotics/good bacteria to continue to thrive in your gut. Some of the top prebiotic sources are garlic, onions, leeks, bananas etc.

What about dairy based fermented foods? Although LAB present in the yoghurt actually helps to alleviate some of the symptoms of lactose intolerances, however, if your main symptom of diarrhoea stems from Lactose, it is not wise to get your probiotics from fermented dairy products like yoghurt and cheeses. Other plant based sources that do not stimulate your intolerances like kimchi, tempeh, sauerkraut, miso are better source of probiotics and sometimes even prebiotics!

Sodium is high in this dish due to the kimchi, gochujang and soy sauce. So take less soup or skip one of the sauces.

This recipe fulfils 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)

  • 38.5% of protein for males, 45% of protein for females
  • Around 50% of iron for males, 20% of iron for females
  • Around 21% of fiber
  • 11% of calcium
  • 21% of Vitamin A
  • 10% of Vitamin C (note that some will be lost due to heat)

Thanks for reading this series of Veganuary No-Cook recipes. Wish you continued good health for the whole of 2018!

VEGANUARY RECIPES: NO-COOK ONE-POT NOODLES SERIES 2

The second instalment of my Veganuary series on no-cook one-pot noodles. This series is meant to help those who are not yet confident in cooking, too busy to cook, or when you want a hot homemade meal but have no access to a stove. Read the first part here. Nutritionist Krystle will give a nutritional analysis at the end.

This recipes may need a bit of food prep if you want to make it as fast as possible. Food prep simply means preparing certain ingredients in advance to cut down on meal preparation time. Refer to my guide on food prep and basics of cooking. I do not recommend meat products to be used in this method. Boiling water may not be able to bring up the internal temperature of meats to a safe range to kill harmful bacteria.

Like miso, tom yum paste is a condiment I use often as it is flavourful and easy to use. For most brands, you just need to stir it in hot water to make a tasty soup. We can get vegan ones from vegetarian grocery shops or Chinese vegetarian eateries. Note that most common tom yum sauces contain fish sauce. Here I’m using the same brand as my tom yum pasta recipe. This recipe is not a traditional Thai dish, but it is more of a quick way to get a hot, balanced and filling meal.

Ingredients that can be “cooked” with boiling water.

Ingredients used

Here are the ingredients I used for this recipe, where I purchased and their prices. All of them are common items I use in daily meals.

Try to get fresh produce from wet markets for better quality.

NO-COOK TOM YUM RICE NOODLES

Base ingredients:

  • 1 – 1.5 tbsp tom yam paste (Amount depends on brand, some brands are saltier.)
  • A large handful (60g) of pea sprouts (Packaged pea sprouts only need a quick rinse thus they are convenient to use.)
  • 1 serving (65g) red rice noodles
  • 1/4 cup (65g) cooked chickpeas, drained (I used rinsed canned chickpeas, try to cook your own from dried beans, it’s cheaper + healthier. Cooked beans can be frozen to keep longer.)
  • 8-10 (65g) cooked tempeh slices (Tempeh tastes great pan-fried with strong condiments, more tempeh recipes here. Cooked tempeh can last up to a week in fridge.)
  • 1/4 carrot, julienned (Use a julienne peeler to shred it fast.)
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, seeds removed, sliced
  • 1/2 tomato, cut into wedges
  • 1 cm leek, sliced thinly (Replace with coriander as garnish if you don’t take alliums.)

Add last:

  • 2-5 tbsp coconut milk (Amount depends on your taste – the more the tastier.)
  • Juice from 1 lime, to garnish

Bring water to a boil in a kettle. Combine all base ingredients in a large heatproof bowl/container. Pour boiling water till all ingredients are covered well. Cover and wait for 5mins. Dissolve the tom yum paste. Add garnishes and serve hot.


To prevent lime seeds from dropping, press against a spoon while squeezing.

Nutritional Analysis

Nutritional breakdown by nutritionist Krystle:

This recipe fulfils 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)

  • 38.5% of protein for males, 45% of protein for females
  • Around 65% of iron for males, 33.15% of iron for females
  • Around 47% of fiber
  • 13.7% of calcium
  • 105% of Vitamin A
  • 257% of Vitamin C (note that some will be lost due to heat)

Krystle’s comments:

A hearty warm bowl of noodles feels like a comfort food for all but at the same time gives you important nutrients and energy needs to keep you going! This recipe is nutritionally balanced and healthier than most of the hawker food out there. The veggies give high fiber, Vitamin C and Vitamin A. If you are watching your cholesterol levels, use low-fat coconut milk.

The key ingredients used has several health promoting factors.

Red Cargo Rice Vermicelli

– Higher in Fiber. It keeps your cholesterol and blood sugar in check and it’s definitely a healthier choice compared to normal white rice vermicelli.

– Contains antioxidants especially zinc. Zinc is important for normal cell division and growth, maintains your immune system and fights against oxidative stress and chronic inflammation.

Tempeh

-Tempeh is a healthy and delicious protein source. You can easily substitute meat using tempeh without the artery clogging saturated fat.

-Although it can be naturally higher in fat, it contains Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFA) which are the good essential fat. PUFA also help to control cholesterol levels.

– It is also high in trace minerals like maganese, phosphorus and copper, which are important for normal bodily metabolism and functions.

– As it is made using fermentation, it is highly digestible and therefore helps in the absorption of other key nutrients present in tempeh.

-If you want a great meat substitute high in good quality protein, Tempeh is the way to go. You can use various marinating methods/recipes to make it more palatable and at the same time enjoy the health benefits it brings.

Chickpeas

– Chickpeas are a legume and thus are high in many nutrients, like protein and fiber, folate, and minerals such as iron and phosphorus.

– For dried legumes, they should be soaked in water for few hours before cooking. The soaking water must be discarded. This is to reduce phytic acid which may cause digestive upsets (bloating, irritation) in some people and to increase the availability of nutrients.

Cooking method

– This cooking method is similar to blanching, where plant ingredients are immersed in boiling water to be cooked briefly before removing.

– This helps retain more of certain nutrients than other high heat methods like frying or baking. Another similar way to minimise nutrient loss is steaming.

Next in the series will feature an “instant” kimchi udon recipe. Stay tuned!

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!

 

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.

DSC02662

(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.

DSC02686

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

DSC02679

DSC02682

(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.

DSC02706

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.

DSC02743 DSC02725

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.

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).

DSC02148
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.

DSC02239

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.

DSC02201

Chap Chye Style Soup (Mixed veggies soup)

DSC01046

Thanks to Quanfa Organic Farm, organic produce easily makes up half of my plants intake now. I like ordering from them because:

  1. Their free delivery quota ($60), as far as I know, is the lowest of all organic farms,
  2. The locally-grown veggies are of high quality and affordable,
  3. They offer a good variety of local & imported produce, many which are not available in regular supermarkets.
  4. Although they do sell some produce at certain supermarkets, I find that the directly purchased produce are fresher.
DSC01052
Some of the produce I bought last week.
DSC01069
My favourite is the slightly spicy wasabi sprouts which is one of the few plants I enjoy raw, with a splash of olive oil and soy sauce.

When we have a fridge full of ingredients, I make a big pot of comforting chap chye soup. It’s a one-pot Nyonya-style dish that we cook often at home. It is the easiest way to use up many different plants at once which may not work together in other dishes. Chap chye, in Hokkien, means mixed vegetables/ingredients. That’s why economic rice is also known as “chap chye fan” – mixed vegetables rice.

My recipe here will be different from the traditional dish. It’s a versatile recipe that works with various ingredients. Adding carbs like noodles or potato can turn it into a filling one-pot meal.

DSC01329
As long as you have most of the basics, the rest can be up to you to replace!
DSC01348
Fermented bean pastes make up the base savoury umami flavours.

 

Chap chye style mixed veggies soup (serves 1)

Soup base:

  • 1 dried bean stick, soaked till soft
  • 5-6 dried lilly buds, soaked till soft
  • 3-4 black fungus, soaked till soft and expanded
  • 1 bunch of mung bean vermicelli, soaked till soft
  • Shiitake mushrooms, soaked till soft and expanded. (I didn’t have any so I used straw mushrooms with kelp buds for flavour.)
  • 0.5 cm ginger
  • 1 garlic clove (sub with more ginger for pungent roots-free version)
  • 1.5 cups stock/water
  • 1/2 tbsp of 2-3 types of any fermented bean pastes (I used black bean paste, miso and spicy beancurd)

Other ingredients from Quanfa that I used:

  • 1 tomato, diced
  • Handful of spinach leaves
  • Handful of sunflower seed sprouts
  • 1 potato, diced

Optional garnishes:

  • sliced chilli
  • white pepper
  • sesame oil

Steps:

  • In a pot, sauté the garlic and ginger in oil for 1 min or till fragrant.
  • Add tomato, bean pastes and fry for 1 min.
  • Add potato, mushroom, black fungus, lilly buds, beancurd sticks. Stir fry for 2 mins then add enough stock/water to cover.
  • Simmer for 5-10 mins or until potatoes softened.
  • Add in spinach and sunflower sprouts, mix till they shrink. Remove from heat. Add garnishes if desired and serve hot.

DSC01391_web


 

You can purchase Quanfa’s produce online, visit their farm directly, or in these locations. I greatly encourage everyone to support local organic businesses as much as possible. They may have to go after 2019 as the government is considering to redevelop their land. I pray that won’t happen, but do support while they are still here!

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).

DSC01075

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.

DSC01086
Pestle and mortars are widely available in most household shops since it is a staple tool in Malay cuisine.
DSC01102
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.

 

DSC01179
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 😉

DSC01133

 

One-Pot Rice Noodles in Miso Soup

Like every other busy person, time for meals can be short. Thus I make quick one-pot meals like this very often. It literally involved throwing everything into a pot of stock or water and bringing to a boil. Stir in a spoonful of sauce and maybe some plant milk for creaminess – ready in 10 minutes!

DSC00763

One thing that I will always have in the fridge is mushroom soaking water. It’s a decent base for soup dishes, and much cheaper than buying ready-made stocks. Simply rinse 5-10 of any dried mushrooms then leave them in a huge bowl of water in the fridge overnight. The mushrooms would be hydrated for cooking too. Dried seaweeds like kelp and wakame can be used too, or combined with mushrooms.

DSC00773

Ingredients (serves 1):

2 cups water, stock or mushroom soaking water (or as needed)

Brown rice noodles (as needed)

1 tomato, cut into wedges

2 thin slices of ginger

1 tbsp wakame (or as needed)

Handful of soybean sprouts, roots removed

4-5 carrot slices (or as needed)

1 shiitake mushroom, sliced (soak for 30 mins in hot water if using dried)

1 tbsp miso paste (or as needed)

¼ cup unsweetened plant milk (I used non-GMO soymilk)

Spring onion and white pepper powder as needed, for garnish (optional)

Place everything except the garnish, miso and plant milk into a pot. Bring to a boil over high heat and simmer over medium heat for 5 mins, or until noodles are soft. Remove from heat and stir in miso and plant milk. Garnish and serve.

step-1-n2

step-3-n-4

Notes:

  • I suggest to always compose a meal to include carbs, protein and vitamins. Here the protein sources are the brown rice noodles, wakame, soybean sprouts, miso and soymilk.
  • You can use any noodle you like, just take note of the recommended cooking time on the packet so as not to overcook them.
  • Instead of miso, you can use tom yam paste, fermented bean pastes, curry pastes/powders for variations.
  • Some plants cook fast, others cook slow. Plants like raw potato and dried beans won’t suit this recipe as the cooking time is too short. Other plants like leafy greens (bak choy, spinach) cooks very fast, they need to go in at the point miso is added to avoid overcooking.
  • For more detailed tips on making one-pot meals, check out my guide on making Asian one-pot meals.

DSC00878

One-pot meals basics part 3 – cooking times

Last post on my approach to Asian – inspired one pot meals, following the past pantry basics and flavour + texture posts. People seem to have a misconception that cooking takes hours. Not at all!

General guide on cooking times (No rules written in stone – it’s common sense, intuition, experience, personal preference!) :

1) Smaller/softer things need less time to be cooked than larger/harder ones. Dried noodles take longer than soft ones. Whole beans take MUCH longer to soften than split lentils. For harder-to-cook things like whole beans and potatoes, boil a big batch at one go, freeze in portions. Then they only need a couple minutes to be warmed. For tough veggies like broccoli, breaking into smaller pieces greatly reduces cooking time.

2) Some things are already cooked. Tofu, seitan and many processed soy products aren’t raw in their packaged form. Cooking them is to rid germs and impart flavour, thus only short heating (or even none if preferred) is needed. My fastest way to enjoy silken tofu is soak in hot water for 5 mins, drain and drizzle with sauce.

3) Don’t overcook. When green veggies turn yellowish under heat, they are overdone and have lost crispness and nutrients. Green leafies just need 30 seconds to a minute blanched in hot water to be done!

Continuing on last post’s working-with-whatever-in-fridge miso udon example, you can heat everything at once in a pot – but you may find tomatoes raw tasting and spring onions tasteless.

Here’s the sequence for max flavour:

1) Bring mushrooms, soaking water and additional 2 cups water to a boil in a pot.
2) Add ginger, spices and tomatoes, simmer at low-medium heat for 2-3mins until tomatoes soften.
3) Add pre-cooked yams and soaked lentils. Simmer at low-medium for 2mins.
4) In goes udon, simmer for just under a minute. Off heat.
5) Stir in miso and sprinkle spring onions. A drizzle of sesame oil and white
pepper will round up flavours perfectly. Dinner served in 10 minutes!

594

 

So to round things up, one-pots are the easiest hot meals to make everyday. Just keep in mind the simple basics of having a balanced pantry, know what gives flavours and/or textures and try not to undercook or overcook ingredients. Soon you can intuitively compose filling meals from anything in no time.

Here’s some other examples of one-pots (and their ingredients) I made and posted on my instagram, for ideas (I’m an incurable noodle lover, you can use any carbs or grains preferred.)

eg

1) Carbs: Brown rice soya noodles. Protein: Pre-soaked roasted barley, edamame. Vitamins: Bamboo shoots, seaweed, edamame, enoki mushroom. Seasonings: Miso paste, sliced green chilli in soy sauce, sesame oil.

2) Carbs: White rice & quinoa. Protein: Quinoa, ground flaxseed powder. Vitamins: Onion stalks, red chilli, curry leaves. Seasonings: Grapeseed oil, sea salt, lemongrass.

3) Carbs: Rice noodles. Protein: Pan-fried tofu, fermented black beans. Vitamins: Cucumber, tomatoes. Seasonings: Sea salt, curry powder, coconut milk.

4) Carbs: Sweet potatoes. Protein: Pre-soaked red lentils. Vitamins: Okra, tomatoes. Seasonings: Sea salt, black pepper, olive oil.

Hope this series can give you confidence to step in the kitchen and take control of what you eat!