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!

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!

Kimchi jjigae

Korean food is extremely popular now due to the Kpop wave. Any type of Asian cuisine that’s mercilessly spicy will definitely appeal to Singaporeans! Boneless Kitchen is our go-to for vegan Korean food made without alliums. Sadly Boneless is too far for me, so when cravings hit, here’s a rather straightforward recipe for a comforting, hearty stew for monsoon season.

Kimchi usually has fish sauce, but luckily for us, NTUC has one brand that is 100% vegan (has alliums) and very tasty. If you like to make your own, check out my (not the most authentic but easy) recipe here. It’s fun, full of active probiotics and you can customise it to your liking!

I didn’t have gochugaru so I used Mofo Gun Powder from Souley Green. Remember to use MORETHANVEGGIES for 15% off before 9 Dec when you shop there!
My trusty old stock pot. Vegan belacan gives the fishy pungency.

kimchi-jjigae (Kimchi Stew)

Ingredients (serves 1)

  • 1/2 cup kimchi, cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1/8 cup kimchi brine
  • 4 pcs shiitake mushroom, cut into half, stems removed (keep for stock)
  • ½ block of firm tofu, sliced into bite size pieces
  • 3 green onions (chopped)
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 1 tbsp gochugaru (Korean hot pepper flakes, available from Korean supermarkets, try chilli powder if you don’t have)
  • 1 – 2 tbsp gochujang (Korean red pepper paste, available at NTUC)
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2-3 cups of stock (see below)

For stock (makes about 2-3 cups):

  • 1/2 tbsp vegan belacan (from neighbourhood vegetarian grocery shops)
  • 3-4 pcs shiitake stems
  • 15x3cm dried kelp (from dried goods shops in market/neighbourhood areas)
  • 3 thin slices of ginger
  • 3 green onion white stems, cleaned
  • 3 cloves garlic, roots removed, crushed slightly
  • 4-5 cups water

Directions:

  1. Make stock:

Put all ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20mins over low-medium heat till liquid is reduced to 1/3 or half. Remove from heat and strain.

2. Make stew:

In a pot, sautee ginger and kimchi till kimchi softens. Add gochugaru, gochujang, mushrooms, kimchi brine and stir till ingredients are evenly coated red. Add stock and bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 mins. Add sesame oil and cut tofu on top. Simmer covered over low heat for 5 mins. Remove from heat. Garnish with spring onions. Serve hot with rice.


Notes:

  • For variety, try adding seitan, other soft soy items like tau pok, tau kee, other mushrooms like enoki, oyster, king oyster, shimeji etc.
  • For my friends who can’t take alliums – unfortunately this recipe needs gochujang, I have not seen any brand that is allium-free. Thus this recipe I didn’t omit alliums as onion & garlic are quite essential in Korean cuisine. If you ever find allium-free gochujang, please let me know and I can try a new recipe without alliums.

Wholewheat Masala Chai Muffins

Happy Deepavali!

I’m not an expert on Indian cooking, have attempted a few dishes but they never taste as good as the restaurants. A friend recently gave me a bag of masala chai blend (Black tea spiced with cinnamon, cardamom, fennel, clove). So I combined it with something I’m more confident at – baking! I also have a masala chai recipe using soymilk. That was approved by two Indian friends, so I’m pretty sure it’s good.

masalachaimuffins

This is my first muffin recipe using 100% wholewheat. I used Pillsbury Gold Atta flour, which is meant to make rotis. I find that generally atta meant for chapati or similar Indian breads works excellent in baking. Texture is slightly denser than my usual muffin recipe using white flour, but still soft and moist. Also has a more rustic and hearty flavour that complements the spiced tea taste well.

masalachaisteep
Steep the tea in non-dairy milk first.
wettodry
Add wet to dry ingredients.
muffinbatter
Batter will be thicker than ones made with white flour.

 

wholewheat masala chai muffins

Dry ingredients:

  • 2 cups wholewheat atta flour (available from Indian grocery shops)
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup raw sugar
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

Wet ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp quality masala chai blend (use more if you want a stronger chai taste)
  • 2 cups coconut milk (also works with oatmilk)
  • 2/3 cup grapeseed oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste

Preheat oven to 175C. Bring the coconut milk and tea blend to a light simmer over low heat. Remove from heat, cover and let steep for 20mins. Strain out the tea mixture with a sieve. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk tea mixture with other wet ingredients in a smaller bowl. Make a hole in dry ingredients, add wet mixture and stir with spatula until just combined. Scoop batter into muffin cups till 2/3 filled. Bake at 175C for 15-20mins until a toothpick inserted into each cup comes out clean. Rotate pan halfway for even heating. Remove from oven and transfer to cooling rack. Let cool before serving or storing.


Notes to ensure a good rise and moist texture:

  • Make sure your baking soda and powder is still active.
  • Do not overmix, stop immediately when you see no more flour.
  • Do not over bake, start checking at the 15min mark for doneness with the toothpick test.

Check out my chocolate chip pecan muffin recipe too.

masalachaimuffin

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!

Chinese Curry with Veggies, Tempeh & Tofu

In Southeast Asia, curry has a special place in our hearts and comes in endless forms. On at least two occasions, it has even stirred up passionate nationwide debates and uproar. Allow me to clarify this to international readers who aren’t familiar: curry is a type of dish, not a dish!

I’ve heard this question from foreigners many times, “Why eat something so spicy when the weather is so hot?” From a traditional Chinese medicine perspective, the high humidity of our climate may cause our bodies to become saturated with the water element. Spices help to dispel excess moisture. They also have plenty of other health benefits proven by modern science. Eating a piping hot bowl of curry at a bustling hawker centre in 33C weather is my definition of shiok!

As a third culture kid who grew up mostly with family meals from a different part of the world, the Singaporean in me is determined to make a good Chinese curry. I can’t claim that this recipe is 100% authentic, but it is tasty at least to me. I was aiming for flavours similar to those from vegetarian economic rice stalls, where aunties would spoon curry gravy over your rice if you ask for “kali zhi“.  I made some adaptations to a meat-based Malaysian-Chinese recipe.


CHINESE STYLE CURRY (SERVES 1)

Proteins:

  • 3 slices each of firm tofu and tempeh
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp vegan sambal belacan
  • 1/2 cup water/stock
  • Pinch of salt

Mix curry powder, sambal and water in a bowl. Add tofu and tempeh slices to marinade, ensure they are covered by the liquid, leave aside for 15mins, then pan fry them just enough to form a light brown crusting.

marinate
Since tofu and tempeh aren’t flavourful on their own, marinating helps add taste.

Paste ingredients:

  • 1 tsp vegan belacan paste, best heated/toasted for 1 min
  • 1 tbsp curry powder (Prefereably Chinese, but any can work)
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, white parts chopped finely (green part keep for later)
  • 2 candlenuts, halved (I like a thicker gravy, use 1 if thinner is preferred)
  • 1 dried red chilli, seeds removed
  • Half cm ginger
  • ½ shallot (sub with more ginger, lemongrass or belacan if allium-free is preferred.)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tbsp oil

base-spices

Pound paste ingredients in a pestle and mortar the dry ingredients, then stir in the oil. Or pulse all in a blender.

paste
A blender can give a smoother paste. If you want a solution without pounding/blending, use pre-made vegan curry pastes available from vegetarian/indian grocery shops.

Main ingredients:

  • 1/2 medium potato, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
  • ½ eggplant, cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 2 long beans, cut into ~3cm length
  • ¼ carrot, sliced
  • 1/3 medium sized onion, diced (for allium-free, use more curry leaves/ginger/lemongrass/belacan)
  • 1 bunch curry leaves
  • Lemongrass stalk (green part from earlier)
  • 1 and 1/2 cup water/stock (more for thinner curry)
  • ¼ cup + 1 tbsp coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • Salt, to taste
DSC01673
My curry leaves were frozen that’s why they look weird!

In a pot, heat 1 tbsp oil over medium-high heat. Add paste and fry till fragrant or oil separates from it, keep stirring to prevent burning. Add onion, eggplant and potato, stir till onion is slightly translucent. Add water/stock, bring to a boil. Add lemongrass, curry leaves, long beans, carrots, pan-fried tofu and tempeh, and ¼ cup coconut milk. Bring heat to low-medium and simmer for 10-15mins or until potatoes are soft enough to be mashed. Stir in the last 1 tbsp coconut milk and season with salt to taste. Serve hot with warm rice or breads.

curry-with-rice


 

Notes:

  • Tempeh isn’t common in Chinese curries but it absorbs gravies so well that I felt it had to be included 🙂
  • I couldn’t achieve the “oil split” effect from my paste while frying it – if any curry pro has tips kindly let me know.
  • Adding noodles or lontong (pressed rice cakes) will make it a complete and satisfying one-pot meal.
  • Most veggies can be used for this recipe – just experiment! I personally don’t fancy those cabbage-y curries from some vegetarian stalls so I used firm veggies.
  • Pan-frying tofu/tempeh before cooking in curry helps them to lock in more flavour. Other proteins can include legumes like tau pok (tofu puffs), soaked tau kee (beancurd skin), seitan, canned chickpeas for faster cooking.
  • I don’t press firm tofu before using them – we Chinese actually don’t do that except for some cold dishes. I find that there’s no difference in taste and in fact makes it more dry after cooking.