Malaysian Vegan Festival @ Publika, Kuala Lumpur + Vegan finds in Johor Bahru

Happy 2020 friends! Last year I couldn’t update as much as I wanted, as there were so much going on in my personal and professional life. Now things have stabilised (at work) and quietened down (personal life), I finally have the time to share about my travels. I hope these will be helpful for fellow plant-eaters going to the same places. You can follow my reviews at abillionveg.

Malaysian Vegan Festival @ Publika, Kuala Lumpur

In August 2019 I had a chance to be part of the Malaysian Vegan Festival with abillionveg, an up-and-coming global app for anything and everything vegan (free download here!). Was there doing outreach with my colleague Jash, our community meow-nager. 

Catch us at upcoming sustainability/vegan events!

As a Singaporean who has only visited Malaysia 3 times before this (I also don’t know why), I never knew much about vegan food there. This was my first exposure to popular local vegan-friendly businesses. Here are my top picks from the festival.

Sala

Vegan traditional Malay food that tasted homely. Favourite was the sambal chilli, so spicy and memorable! Was also my first time having roti jala, which literally translates to “net bread”.

 

Served with chickpea curry. The green one is kueh dardar, a sweet crepe roll with coconut, which is rare to find it vegan.
Nasi kerabu, the blue comes from blue pea flower. Brown stuff seems to be shiitake mushroom stems.
Sotong nasi lemak (vegan squid coconut rice). Seems to be the Chinese vegetarian type of sotong that’s made from konjac.

LN Fortunate

Absolutely loved their hearty breads. They place a lot of emphasis on healthy ingredients and making food from scratch. Got their handmade mooncakes and chocolate cookies as souvenirs for family & friends. Hope they open a branch in Singapore!

Charcoal burger
Pumpkin kaya bun

Sushi Kitchen

Although my Japanese friends would argue that these aren’t authentic sushi, I absolutely loved the freshness of the veggies.

Favourite was the inari!

Some meals we had outside the festival.

Kind Kones

Was most excited to try this 100% vegan ice cream and dessert spot after hearing great things, and it didn’t disappoint. Staff were so friendly and welcoming here, a refreshing change to the average standard of customer service in Singapore. They have an outlet in Singapore at Forum Orchard, too.

French vanilla + berry on wholemeal cones.
We were surprised at how well they knew us 🙂

Restoran Cameleon 

Fully vegetarian, old school and offers Malaysian Chinese style comfort foods. Also had a shelf selling vegetarian snacks and mooncakes. I got some vegan walnut cookies and 鸡仔饼 as souvenirs for family and office.

Nasi lemak (coconut rice) and satay at the back.

BMS Organics (Kuala Lumpur Airport)

Located conveniently at KLIA2, their menu has vegan options clearly labelled. Great place to eat before a flight as the food felt clean and wholesome.

Rojak (mixed fruits salad) + Assam laksa noodles

Johor Bahru eats

The last time I visited JB was 5 years ago because I’ve always been quite a homebody. Spending hours in immigration and traffic is my worst nightmare! Anyway, braved the crowds on a Sunday and here’s what I ate with my friends.

VBurg Cafe

Heard great reviews about this place so we grabbed from the mall near the checkpoint to Skudai. I loved that the staff was very attentive and gave us wonderful recommendations. But they said there are no more vegan desserts anymore 🙁 although the menu showed a couple of options. Hope they update the menu soon or bring them back.

Pumpkin kaya toast set
Satay burger

Then we headed to Paradigm mall to shop + get a massage. We found Violife (and other vegan milks and butter) in Village Grocer at the basement!

For those who are looking, you can get these in JB now!

BMS Organics @ Paradigm Mall

I love BMS Organics because their food quality is fresh and good. We had the nasi lemak (without egg), herbal noodles and laksa – they were all great. My favourite thing was the Vision Quinoa Cocoa drink which tasted like Milo without the gut irritation! I bought a whole tin of it back.

Herbal noodles
It’s called “Vision” because they added blueberry extracts which is supposed to support your eyes.

Noodle face

We didn’t eat here but I bought their yummy homemade nasi lemak sambal. Everything’s vegetarian here and the staff said most of the items can be made vegan.

And it’s good! Spicy enough with good lemongrass flavour. You can eat it with anything.

What I love about Malaysia is that the service is better and people are generally so much more friendly. Not sure when I’ll be back again because crossing the causeway is a nightmare. If you think there are some amazing dishes I absolutely must try (the spicier the better), please share with me. Might brave the causeway crowds for it!

About abillionveg

You might have heard about us! I’ve been working with abillionveg for more than a year now and I absolutely love our mission. We want to encourage a billion people to be vegan by 2030 and we need your help to do so. Simply download our app for free and start posting reviews of anything vegan from anywhere. We donate USD1 per every review with a photo to animal welfare groups. You can choose which non-profit group to support; we have 40 partners worldwide! If you download from this link, you’re also directly supporting me and my efforts in sharing all these information. Thank you so much!

Tempeh Rendang (Low FODMAP, gluten-free)

Rendang has been in the news quite a bit. While Malay food lovers worldwide were going “Alamak!” over this, it made me crave for some spicy, coconut-y protein goodness! Since April is IBS Awareness Month, I decided to make a low FODMAP version of this local favourite.

FODMAP stands for:
Fermentable i.e. Foods that are digested by intestinal bacteria – producing gas that causes bloating
Oligosaccharides i.e. Starchyose, Raffinose e.g. sources from legumes, beans, lentils, certain vegetables. Acts as soluble fiber.
Disaccharides i.e. sucrose (table sugar), lactose (milk sugar) and maltose (malt sugar)
Monosaccharides i.e. simplest form of carbohydrate such as glucose, fructose (fruit sugar)
Polyols e.g. sugar alcohol such as xylitol, sorbitol; low calorie/no calorie sweetener which are poorly digested.

Here’s a list of high FODMAP foods that doctors suggest IBS patients to avoid.

Malay food is usually not vegan or FODMAP-friendly because of the high usage of shrimp paste (belacan), meats, garlic, shallots and onions. Nevertheless, Malay cuisine also uses plenty of plant-based proteins like tempeh, beancurd skin and tofu. Moreover a large amount of flavour comes from other spices which are low FODMAP.

Low FODMAP spices and herbs. Note that tamarind is low FODMAP when less than 1 tbsp.

If you do not have IBS, feel free to use onion, garlic, shallots in replacement of leek and asafoetida. For those who cannot take all alliums, I have yet to come up with an allium-free recipe but intend to do so. Stay tuned!


Recipe: Low FODMAP tempeh rendang
(Serves 2)

For the rempah (paste):
– 1/2 tsp asafoetida
– Green part from 1 leek
– 2.5 cm galangal
– 2.5 cm ginger
– 3 lemongrass, white part only, chopped very finely
– 3-10 pcs dried red chilli, soaked and deseeded
– 1 tsp salt

Pound in a pestle and mortar or process in food processor to a paste. Add water if too dry. Set aside.

For the dish:
– 200g tempeh, cut into cubes
– 1.5 tbsp oil
– 1 stick cinnamon
– 2-3 cloves
– 1 star anise
– 2-3 cardamom pods
– 3 lemongrass stalks, green parts, bruised to release fragrance
– 6 kaffir lime leaves, scrunched up to release fragrance
– 1/4 cup shredded coconut, toasted till slightly browned
– 1 tbsp tamarind paste (any more will be considered high FODMAP)
– 1/2 cup coconut milk (if you can tolerate more, use 1 cup for best flavour.)
– 1 tsp salt
– 1/2 cup water

Garnish (optional):
– 1 stalk coriander
– Juice from 1 lime

Heat oil in a wok over medium-high heat. Fry rempah till fragrant. Add cinnamon, cloves, star anise, cardamom pods, lemongrass and fry till fragrant. Add tempeh and stir till mixed with the spices and paste. Add salt, coconut milk and water, cover and simmer over low-medium heat till liquid is almost reduced. Taste and season with lime juice and more salt if preferred. Garnish and serve hot with rice. Leftovers can be kept in fridge up to 3 days.

Notes:
– According to Monash University  , ½ cup coconut milk and 1 tbsp tamarind paste is considered high FODMAP if eaten at one sitting. This recipe serves 2 people as a side dish. So if you’re observing the diet, avoid eating the whole serving at one go, no matter how tempting it may be!
– If you wish to save time, make the paste in bulk and refrigerate. Mine kept well for 3 weeks and counting.
– If you wish to save even more time, some spice paste brands in NTUC carries ready-made rendang paste, but they all have onion/garlic/shallots.

Rendang is usually made with palm sugar to give it the signature brown colour, but those with IBS may be sensitive to processed sugar. Hence, I omitted it here, but feel free to add 1 – 2 tbsp of palm sugar if you prefer!

If made correctly, the tempeh cubes should be juicy inside.

 

Although Low FODMAP vegan diet may be restrictive, you can definitely make it exciting and flavourful with the uses of spices and herbs. Spices and herbs are usually Low FODMAP. They are basically made up indigestible insoluble fiber. We usually do not consume them directly or in large amounts.

Alliums such as onions and garlic are often used as a herb for many dishes to give a base flavour. However, onions and garlic are typically considered high FODMAP as it contain an oligosaccharide called fructan, which can be gas-producing. In this recipe, the green part of the leek, an allium, is used instead. The white part of the leek is considered high FODMAP while the green one is low FODMAP. So you can still enjoy alliums but only selected parts are safe. Asafoetida is a great onion substitute with a similar flavour.

A person eating a plant-based diet often gets their protein from legumes like beans and lentils. However in the case of a vegan low FODMAP diet, it can be trickier as legumes are usually high FODMAP. Thankfully, there are still low FODMAP legumes available in the form of tempeh. Although it is made up of soy (a legume), it is low FODMAP as it is made by fermentation. The process of soaking, fermenting and cooking significantly reduces the amount of oligosaccharides present in soybeans. The beneficial bacteria produces enzymes to help to eliminate or reduce the amount of anti-nutrients and oligosaccharides found in soybeans. This makes tempeh’s nutritional profile even more superior because we are able to absorb more nutrients.

Tempeh can be bought here at mid-range supermarkets and wet markets.

A vegan low FODMAP diet can be challenging, but recipes like this can make the whole process easier and tastier! Take restrictions as possibilities to explore new ingredients and recipes. Wish everyone happy tastebuds and guts!

Nutritional info from Krystle Koh.

Best served with a bowl of steaming hot rice!

VEGAN KAYA RECIPE VIDEO

My kaya recipe, which was posted 3 years back, turned out to be the most popular recipe! We Southeast Asians really love our velvety smooth and coconut-y sweet breakfast spread, and we want it vegan too! I’ve decided to put out a video since kaya is quite complex to make. It is easier to follow if the steps visually and sequentially laid out.

For foreign friends, pandan leaves are like our vanilla. Being a tropical plant that needs a lot of water, pandan is not cultivated anywhere other than Southeast and South Asia. It’s used in almost all Southeast Asian sweets, drinks and sometimes savoury dishes too. It has a light, pleasant and unique fragrance that can’t exactly be substituted. Likely your local Asian grocery store will carry the extract, frozen or canned version.


Nyonya Kaya recipe

Takes 2-3 hours. Makes 300ml.

  • 300g silken tofu (I prefer non-organic tofu. Organic tofu tends to have a stronger soy taste.)
  • 200g raw sugar
  • 200ml coconut milk (Not every brand of coconut milk works, some give an overly strong coconut taste. You have to experiment.)
  • 8 pandan leaves cut into strips
  • 2 knotted pandan leaves
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Blend the silken tofu and pour into steel mixing bowl. Blend pandan leaves with coconut milk and strain into the bowl. Add in sugar and salt. Place mixing bowl over a pot of boiling water simmering over low heat. Stir every 5-10mins for 15 -20 mins till mixture thickens slightly. Sieve into another bowl to remove lumps. Return to heat and cook for 20-30mins, stirring every 5-10 mins till mixture becomes slightly thinner than desired consistency (it sets and thickens in fridge). Let cool, transfer into clean container.

Homemade kaya’s shelf life is not as long as store bought ones. It can be kept in an air tight container up for 1 week in the fridge. Always scoop out with clean utensils. Never store anything homemade with coconut milk at room temperature for long, eg for more than 3 hours.


Nutritional Comments

By nutritionist Krystle Koh.

Kaya is not a health food but you definitely can make it healthier! Homemade Kaya is so much healthier than the usual kaya spread sold in groceries stores — made without preservatives, chemicals or other colourings.  Since this kaya recipe is free from animal ingredients, it is completely cholesterol-free. A great option for those watching calories or cholesterol levels.

This recipe is lower in fat compared to the conventional kaya. Kaya spread can be quite high in sugar nonetheless therefore use it sparingly if you are watching your sugar intake. Raw sugar is less refined and has slightly more minerals than white sugar. Using pandan leaves is better than artificial pandan flavouring, health and taste wise!

This recipe uses silken tofu as an egg substitute. Not only it helps to give the spread a smooth texture, tofu is also a great source of plant-based protein, complex carbohydrates and calcium. Compared to eggs, it is much lower in saturated fat and is cholesterol-free.

Coconut milk in this recipe is an essential ingredient to create fragrance and gives a creamy texture. Although coconut milk is a high saturated fat food, it is not a good reason to avoid it like the plague. Eating fats at moderate amounts is good for balancing hormones (especially among women), keep your skin soft, supple and provides you with satiation (prevents you from getting too peckish in between meals). You are less likely to snack and therefore could help in weight management.

The saturated fatty acids present in the coconut meat is made up of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs); which is unlike the long-chain triglycerides usually found in certain processed plant oils and animal fats. Some studies suggests that this type of MCTs can be easily metabolized by the body to become energy or ketones in the liver— so it is less likely to be stored as fat in the body. However, over-consumption of any high-calorie food will result in fat accumulation. Coconut milk also contains a type of fatty acids called lauric acids, which has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral properties and could therefore potentially prevent infection. So we do not need to fear fats if they are consumed in healthy amounts!

Hope you find this how-to video useful! If you enjoyed it, please subscribe to my channel.

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.

 

Three Easy & Fast Tempeh Recipes – No Marination Needed

Since the market near my house has cheap and fresh tempeh, it’s a staple in my diet. Tempeh is fermented whole soybeans in a block – it’s easier to digest, with higher protein and fibre than tofu. In Singapore you can get tempeh cheaply (few cents to $1+) from heartland supermarkets and wet markets usually in these forms. Note that city supermarkets are not likely to carry these.

A good, fresh slab of tempeh should NOT be sourish-smelling and you should be able to see more white than beans from outside. I prefer the type that’s wrapped in leaf and paper as that’s the traditional way to make tempeh. I find it more tender than the plastic packaged one. If you buy from a wet market, it is so fresh that it’s still warm – a sign of active fermentation. If it’s wet and cold, that’s the leftover unsold ones from yesterday – but still edible. After buying tempeh, try to use it up within a day or two as the good bacteria is still active, even in the fridge. Tempeh over ferments (turns sour or spoils) quite fast.

Usually found at: Refrigerated daily section near tofu and noodles (supermarkets) or stalls selling a mix of items like young tau foo, tofu, dried goods (at wet markets).
The fresh tempeh sold wrapped in leaves will have black spots around the edges. That’s perfectly normal and can be removed before cooking. I usually pinch or pull them off.

Tempeh can be tricky to prepare. It has a strong bean taste due to the fermentation process. It also has no moisture on its own and can turn out very dry. I always pair it with strong flavours to mask the beany taste and add a form of liquid when frying it. Here’s 3 of the easiest recipes of tempeh in my library. I prepare them as part of my weekly food prep as they are fuss-free, using ready-made sauces. These are not traditional Asian foods, just a way to put familiar flavours into a practical weekly routine.


  1. SOY SAuce and ginger tempeh

  • 150g tempeh, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 2 tbsp quality soy sauce
  • 0.5cm thick ginger, sliced and cut into thin matchsticks
  • 0.5-1 tbsp oil
  • 1/4 cup water or stock

Mix soy sauce in water/stock. Heat oil in a non-stick pan over medium heat. Add ginger matchsticks and sauté till slightly browned. Add tempeh, sauté till lightly browned on both sides. Add soy sauce mixture, lower heat and simmer till liquid is gone, flipping tempeh halfway. Remove from heat and serve hot, or transfer to a container and let cool before refrigerating.

2. TOM YAM tempeh

  • 150g tempeh, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 tbsp Vegetarian Tom Yam Paste (available at vegetarian grocery shops)
  • 0.5-1 tbsp oil (can use less oil if your pan is non-stick)
  • 1/4 cup water or stock
  • 0.5 tbsp lemon/lime juice

Mix tom yam paste in water/stock. Heat oil in a pan (non-stick preferably) over medium heat. Add tempeh and sauté till lightly browned on both sides. Add tom yam mixture, lower heat and simmer till liquid is gone, flipping tempeh halfway. Remove from heat, add lemon/lime juice and mix well. Serve hot, or transfer to a container and let cool before refrigerating.

3. GOCHUJANG tempeh

  • 150g tempeh, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 tbsp Gochujang (Korean red pepper paste, available at NTUC)
  • 0.5 tbsp quality soy sauce
  • 0.5-1 tbsp oil
  • 1/4 cup water or stock
  • Spring onions as garnish (optional)

Mix gochujang and soy sauce in water/stock. Heat oil in a non-stick pan over medium heat. Add tempeh and sauté till lightly browned on both sides. Add gochujang+soy sauce mixture, lower heat and simmer till liquid is gone, flipping tempeh halfway. Remove from heat and garnish (optional). Serve hot, or transfer to a container and let cool before refrigerating.


Tempeh loses moisture easily in the fridge. To reheat without much loss in moisture, I prefer steaming, pan-frying them again or topping them on hot soups. Keeps well up to 5-7 days (depending on how cold your fridge is). Can also be made in large batches and kept frozen if you wish to keep for long.

Flavour ideas can include garlic and pepper, kicap manis, sambal, chilli sauces, curry powder, sweet+sour sauces and BBQ sauces. Anything that is strong, tangy and spicy will work well. Adding a bit of sugar can balance out more savoury flavours while adding a nice glaze to retain moisture. Adding citruses can help tenderise the tempeh. If you have the time, you can marinate tempeh in the sauces or liquids overnight before cooking, for an even tastier version.

More tempeh recipes here.

Vegan Malay Food Tasting Event – SAPAO

Malay food is well-loved in Singapore for it’s robust spices, creamy gravies and crisp deep fried fritters – but also known for it’s lack of veg*n-friendliness. Good news is, vegan Malay food may soon be a reality as my bodybuilder friend Hilmi is preparing to start up a food business. The venture is named Sapao, and they hosted their first pre-launch food tasting event last weekend.

Sapao’s tagline is “Mama’s Meatless”. The head chef is none other than Hilmi’s mother, who is also vegan thanks to Hilmi’s influence. Hilmi has been vegan for more than a year and his mother was also inspired by the benefits, especially health-wise. Once from a Malaysian kampong (village), the dishes she cooks has that homely kampong taste that’s a gem in our world of fast food and ready-made-meals.

Here’s a short interview of Hilmi on Sapao, his inspiration and goals:

What made you want to start Sapao?

There’s a general misconception that vegan food is tasteless and food that has meat tastes better. Here at Sapao we want to change that and reintroduce plant-based foods to Singapore.

We believe it’s not about the meat that makes food tastes good but a robust mix of spices or rempah (spice paste) that cause the dish to stand out.

As for the replacement of meat it doesn’t matter if it’s soy, pulled jackfruit, or whole foods. What’s important is the dishes taste great as a whole and everyone loves them.

How long has your mom been cooking these dishes?

She has been making the meat versions all her life since the kampong days till she turned vegan and started experimenting with plant-based alternatives. I went for 4 vegan potlucks with her cooking and the feedback we got were always great, that’s why we want to start this venture.

When will Sapao be launching?

Tentatively early next year, either a stall or delivery format.

Sapao’s Dishes – Starters:

currypuff
Handmade potato curry puff by Hilmi’s grandmother. I’ve never had homemade curry puff before, felt so blessed 🙂
gorengpisang
Pisang goreng – Banana fritters. Very crisp, not too sweet and oily.

Main dishes:

ikanassam
Ikan 3 Rasa – 3 flavours soy fish pieces. Sweet, sour and spicy sauce on mock fish. Usually I’m not a fan of mock meats, but this is crisp, soft inside with a good umami from the seaweed.
sambalgoreng
Sambal goreng pengantin – The meat version is usually made with beef, here tempeh and fried tofu were used instead.
lemakchillipadi
Lemak chilli padi – My favourite because the gravy was full of coconut and lemongrass fragrance. Stewed with mock chicken chunks and beancurd skin.
rendang
Rendang – A classic Malay dish, robust and intense due to the use of over 10 spices and coconut. Was cooked with mock beef chunks that day, but Sapao said they are planning to make a pulled jackfruit version for next tasting!

Sapao’s dishes are:

  1. Halal – Made with love by Malay Muslims.
  2. Very spicy – that’s the authentic way!
  3. Contains onions/garlic – A pity for religious vegetarians but I guess authentic Malay food, like Shandong food, can’t do without alliums.

Keep updated at their facebook and instagram, they may have another food tasting this month. They will be the first 100% vegan Malay food in Singapore and that’s a huge milestone for the local vegan scene!

Vegan Kaya

Kaya, a Southeast Asian coconut egg jam , is a breakfast staple on many Singaporeans’ dining tables. Before supermarkets, many households had their own kaya formula, often cooked over a charcoal stove for hours. Current vegan versions on the market use pumpkin or sweet potato as base texture – a creative reinvention, but nonetheless not the same as the traditional silky smooth, velvety kaya with rich coconut-y notes and sweet aroma of pandan. The following recipes covers both types of kaya popular in Singapore – Hainanese, which is richly caramel, and Nonya, which is refreshingly pandan. You can’t tell it’s not made from eggs! Both processes are similar so if you master one, the other will be a breeze! (Photos here show the making of Nonya kaya)

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The egg replacer might be sitting in you fridge now – silken tofu! Blended silken tofu is already used in many Western vegan recipes like quiche and creme brulee, where eggs give texture and bulk. Apparently its proteins coagulate under heat similar to eggs.

If you have a preferred recipe from grandma (lucky you!) feel free to use that. Just replace the eggs with equal volumes of blended tofu. The following recipes were adapted from Singapore Hawker Classics Unveiled book and rasamalaysia with sugar slightly reduced.

Hainanese Kaya
300g silken tofu (I used suitable for frying type)

200g sugar

50g raw sugar (to give brown colour)

100ml coconut cream

200ml coconut milk

2-4 knotted pandan leaves

¼ tsp salt (optional, helps to preserve)

Blend the silken tofu in a blender. Pour into a steel mixing bowl, whisk in coconut milk, coconut cream, salt and sugar. Place mixing bowl over a pot of boiling water simmering over low heat. Stir continuously for 15 min till mixture thickens slightly. Sieve into another bowl to remove lumps. Return to heat and add in pandan leaves. In another small pan, melt the raw sugar and add the caramel into the mixture. Cook for 20-30mins, stirring every 5 mins till mixture becomes slightly thinner than desired consistency (It hardens in fridge). Let cool, transfer into clean container.

Nonya Kaya

300g silken tofu

200g sugar

200ml coconut milk

8 pandan leaves cut into strips

¼ tsp salt

Blend the silken tofu and pour into steel mixing bowl. Blend pandan leaves with coconut milk and strain into the bowl. Add in sugar and salt. Place mixing bowl over a pot of boiling water simmering over low heat. Stir continuously for 15 -20 mins till mixture thickens slightly. Sieve into another bowl to remove lumps. Return to heat and cook for 20-30mins, stirring every 5 mins till mixture becomes slightly thinner than desired consistency (It hardens in fridge). Let cool, transfer into clean container.

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Notes: Traditional recipe uses mainly white sugar (SIS brand is vegan), you may experiment with all raw sugar or palm/coconut sugar for a richer coconut flavour. Ultimately, kaya, like most of our Southeast Asian foods, have no recipe set in stone. If an eggy hint is preferred, a pinch of black salt (kala namak) does the trick. Yes, you won’t miss foods you love after going vegan 🙂

Garlic Tempeh Crumbles

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

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

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

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Garlic Tempeh Crumbles


You’ll need:

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

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


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

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

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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 🙂