Allium-free Shouyu Ramen with Tempeh Char Siu

Ramen was an import from China that evolved in a uniquely Japanese way. It’s likely the most common and popular dish in Japan among both locals and travellers. Being inexpensive, piping hot, full of umami, it’s very satisfying especially on a cold day! There are 4 main types of ramen you can find in almost any ramen shop, differentiated by the soup base – shio (salt), shouyu (soy sauce), miso (fermented bean paste) and tonkotsu (pork bone). Out of all the bowls of ramen I ate in Japan, my favourite was a vegan tonkotsu ramen from Yokohama’s Ramen Museum. But that seems tricky to make, so I chose to make my second favourite, shouyu ramen.

Making ramen is a highly skilled job, so home cooked ramen may not taste intense as what you get from ramen shops. This recipe took me 2 hours to make, which is nothing compared to the hours ramen shops put into one bowl. Still, it’s fun to make your own version! If you have dietary requirements like vegan + no alliums/gluten-free, there aren’t much choices in Japan. So if you’re craving for a good bowl of ramen that’s close enough, homely and comforting, this is the recipe for you.

Shouyu ramen from Kyushu Jangara Ramen; soup is allium-free. I loved the clear soy sauce taste that wasn’t terribly salty. The one from T’s Tan Tan was way to salty for me.

As someone who grew up eating noodles, I LOVED the amazing and familiar umami in every bowl, but overall almost all the ramen I had in Japan were really salty. That’s considering I’m someone who love savoury foods! I soon learnt that it’s just the way ramen is. Since it was a food historically eaten by labourers, it always had a high sodium content. Also, salt helps to bring out umami. Thus, this recipe may taste saltier than what you expect.

The Shin Yokohama Ramen Museum is a good place to visit and educate yourself about the beauty of ramen.

This recipe is made allium-free, because I hope more people can try ramen. In Japan, with the exception of traditional shoujin ryori, almost all savoury foods contain some type of allium. It was quite tricky getting the soup to taste complex enough without alliums, MSG or other instant seasonings.

A good bowl of ramen means an intense umami. It is a result of a good soup base, quality noodles, a variety of toppings, suitable oils and seasonings.

Here are some important notes that will help you succeed in making a good bowl of ramen:

1. Use a sieve.

There’ll be lots of straining and draining out things, so at least one big sieve is a must. You can get one from NTUC or general stores.

2. Soup base:

– Kelp and dried shiitake

These 2 will be the backbone of the soup, do not replace. Due to their high glutamine acid content, the soup base will be high in umami. I recommend getting high quality kelp, like this one from Hidaka, Hokkaido, that’s specially meant for soup. Available in some NTUC Finests. It comes with instructions on how to use, make sure you follow them carefully to preserve the flavour. I believe in using the highest quality ingredients you can get, since you’re going to put in effort making this from scratch. For shiitake, go for Japanese dried shiitake, also available from NTUC.

Dried shiitake is readily available in supermarkets and wet markets, this particular brand of kelp was from NTUC Finest.

– Potato, corn, carrot, celery stalk and lentils.

I turned to a tried-and-tested formula that makes the backbone of many traditional Chinese vegetarian soups. The starch in potato helps enhance flavour and texture. Corn and carrot adds depth by giving a natural sweet aftertaste that makes one wants more. Celery adds another layer of depth. Most important part is adding protein; it’s protein that gives the most umami. Traditionally, soybeans are used, but I find that they take very long to cook, so I took inspiration from Indian cuisine and used red lentils.

– Ginger

Since this recipe does not use alliums, I turn to my favourite ingredient, ginger. Here I used quite a bit of ginger in different steps. Ginger is incredibly powerful, it brings out umami and adds complexity while being able to hide itself. Rest assured, there’s no strong ginger taste in the end result.

– Bean paste

This is a Chinese condiment used in Hokkien mee and other dishes. I used both regular bean paste and spicy bean paste. Available in NTUC. Do not omit as this is another important contributor of umami.

My 2 favourite brands of fermented bean paste. Left one is from NTUC. The right one is from a vegetarian grocery shop, extremely spicy!

– Rice wine (or sake, optional)

Just a bit of alcohol can increase the intensity of umami. Highly recommended, but feel free to omit. Available from supermarkets.

– Quality soy sauce

A good soy sauce should only have 4 ingredients – soy beans, wheat, salt and water. It should not have MSG and preservatives. Since shouyu is the main flavour here, go for high quality ones. Kikkoman is my go-to brand. For gluten-free, go for quality tamari.

3. Noodles

The noodles make a different. Ramen noodles are usually QQ, means having a good bite. Many recipes online suggests you to undercook the noodles as the hot soup will continue cooking them. Do not use instant noodles, as they get soggy incredibly fast (unless that’s what you prefer).

– Quality wheat noodles

It’s best to use noodles specially made for ramen, but I realised many of them are only available in Japanese supermarkets. I used Prima Taste La Mian from NTUC, which remained chewy and toothy after sitting in the hot soup for 10 minutes (the time I took to photograph this). For gluten-free, go for thick rice noodles as thin ones also may get too soft quite fast.

4. Toppings

You can technically top with anything you like, but here’s some that are commonly used for shouyu ramen.

– Char siu (or chashu in Japanese)

Char siu refers to the cooking method, not the pork. Thus I used the same method on tempeh. I posted a Chinese version before. It is not the authentic recipe for Japanese chashu as it depends on a lot of leek for flavour, which I can’t figure out a replacement yet for those who avoid alliums. Try it with seitan, it might work even better!

Recipe here.

– Menma (preserved bamboo shoots)

Crunchy and delicious, highly recommended! Got this from Donki. A standard topping for shouyu ramen.

Note: This is not the red chilli oil bamboo shoots!

– La-yu (Chilli oil)

Adds spice. Who doesn’t love a bit of spice! I realised Japanese brands of chilli oil isn’t very spicy, so I used a bit of oil from my (very) spicy bean paste.

– Shiraga Negi, green onions (optional)

Adds some pungency. I’ve noticed that many Japanese dishes are topped with julienned raw onions. Here, I didn’t use it as I wanted to make everything completely allium-free.

– Nori sheet (seaweed)

A piece of dried seaweed adds a slight ocean flavour and colour. I used the type meant for sushi which you can find in most NTUC’s Japanese section.

– Konjac (konnyaku)

All Chinese mock seafoods are made from this. Available in Donki. Not a traditional ramen topping, but I used it in place of narutomaki (fish cake). I lightly boiled, then scored and marinated each piece in black vinegar, soy sauce and sesame oil as it doesn’t have much flavour on it’s own.

Konjac, or konnyaku in Japanese, is a springy block made from the starch of the konjac plant.

Allium-free Shouyu Ramen

Serves 1

Soup stock:

  • 2 – 3 pcs dried konbu, cleaned according to packet instructions
  • 4 – 5 pcs dried shiitake mushrooms, rinsed slightly to clean
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/3 cup lentils, soaked for at least 1 hour in warm water or overnight in room temp water.
  • 1/2 carrot, chopped into 1 cm long pcs
  • 1/2 corn, chopped into 3 parts
  • 1 potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped into 5cm long pcs
  • 1 cm ginger, sliced
  • 1 tsp salt

After cleaning kombu and shiitake, soak them water for at least 30 minutes. Pour everything into a pot, turn on medium low heat. Bring to almost a boil and remove kombu before water boils. While keeping medium low heat, add lentils, carrot, corn, potato, celery and ginger. Top up enough water to immerse everything completely with about 5 cm room at the top. Increase to medium high heat, bring to a boil and simmer half covered for at least 30 minutes. Add 1 tsp salt and strain out. If storing in fridge, let cool completely. Can be kept up to a week in fridge.

For ramen’s soup base:

  • 1 serving of ramen noodles
  • 0.5 tbsp fermented bean paste (or to taste)
  • 1 tsp spicy fermented bean paste (or to taste)
  • 1 cm ginger, minced
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil (using another oil will reduce fragrance)
  • 1 tbsp rice wine (optional)
  • 1.5 tbsp soy sauce (or to taste)
  • 1 pinch of black salt (or to taste)
  • White pepper, to taste

In another pot, sauté ginger and bean pastes till fragrant. Add rice wine to deglaze. Add 4-5 cups of soup stock, bring to a boil and keep simmered over low heat. Meanwhile, cook ramen noodles according to packet instructions. Reduce the cooking time given on the packet by 1 minute. Drain out by flicking it slightly in a big sieve. Taste the soup and add other seasonings to your preference. Remove from heat and strain out the soup.

Assembly & Toppings:

  • 1 block of Char Siu Tempeh, sliced to your preferred thickness (traditionally char shu is thin, but I like it slightly thicker for better bite.)
  • 5 pcs menma (bamboo shoots)
  • 2 pcs seaweed
  • Bean sprouts, blanched (fastest way to cook is put in a sieve and immerse into the same pot when the noodles are cooking)
  • 2 pcs marinated konjac

Place drained ramen noodles into a large serving bowl. Pour hot soup over the noodles. Top with char siu tempeh, menma, bean sprouts and konjac. You can also use some of the soup stock ingredients (carrot, corn) as toppings. Enjoy it while hot!

This recipe usually takes me 2 hours to make from scratch! But I’m extremely happy with the end result, so it’s worth it.

If you want more vegan ramen recipes, check out these recipes: Tan Tan Men, Hakodate style ramen, Sapporo style ramen.

Next up – plant-based karaage! Stay tuned!

Tempeh Bak Kwa – Updated Recipe + Channel 8 Feature

Hope everyone’s 2019 has been good so far! 2019 so far has given me some new opportunities and positive changes. I hope that things are finally looking up and all the hard work I did in 2018 will pay off. My closest friends will know that 2018 was tough in certain aspects. I really want to thank all the amazing friends that supported, listened and gave me advice – couldn’t have made it without you!

In late December 2018, I received an email from a Channel 8 producer, asking to feature my old tempeh bak kwa recipe on the Hello Singapore show. She had found the recipe on this blog as she was searching for one that is healthier and isn’t conventional meat bak kwa. As an introvert who isn’t comfortable being filmed or photographed (I really prefer being behind camera!), I struggled at first on whether to accept it. But this is a great chance for the masses to learn that our favourite traditional foods can also be made with plants. So I decided to step out of my comfort zone and put my discomfort aside.

It was a fun and interesting shoot with Youyi 有懿 thanks to Channel 8’s amazing crew! I was very nervous and awkward because it’s my first time being filmed. Everyone was very patient and nice during the shoot and wrapped everything up in the most professional manner I’ve ever seen on a set (I’ve worked on sets before as assistants). The show will be aired on Hello Singapore 狮城有约 on 28 Jan 2019, 7.15pm and will be available online on Toggle. Also really glad that the crew enjoyed the bak kwa (and tapao-ed everything back)!

you yi
You Yi and the crew were amazing and so professional!

Recipe is based on the one I posted 3 years ago, but simplified. Here’s the updated detailed recipe which is easier, slightly shorter with ingredients that are rather easy to find. I chose tempeh as the base protein as it’s a more digestible alternative to processed mock meat. Flaxseed powder is used as the binder, the other ingredients contribute to taste.

This is a slightly tricky recipe to make as temperature and time control is crucial, usually some pieces (especially those at the edges) will be burnt.

Tempeh Bak Kwa (makes 12-15 bite sized pieces):

For base:

  • 400g tempeh
  • ½ cup neutral flavour plant oil (don’t use olive or unrefined coconut)

For marinade:

  • 1 block of fermented red beancurd
  • 2 tbsp ground flaxseed powder (for binding, cannot omit, found in organic section in NTUC)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tbsp red rice yeast (optional, for colour, from TCM shops)
  • 90g raw sugar (or use regular sugar)
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • ½ tbsp rice wine (optional)
  • 1 tbsp maltose (can be bought from Chinese goods shops in market)
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • ½ tsp of each: five-spice powder, ginger powder, chilli powder, white pepper powder, black pepper
  • 1 tsp liquid smoke (optional but highly recommended, can be found in bigger Cold Storage outlets)
  • 1/2 tbsp white miso (optional, improves umami)
  • 1 tsp marmite (optional, improves umami)

For glaze:

  • 1 tbsp maltose
  • 1tbsp water/red water (see step 2)
  1. Steam tempeh for 5-10mins and let cool. In a food processor, blend with the oil to a thick, smooth paste. This step is important in removing the fermented taste from tempeh.
  2. Mix or boil 1/2 cup hot water and red rice yeast in a bowl. The water will be reddish, strain and let cool.
  3. Add all marinade ingredients into food processor on top of blended tempeh and oil. Blend till combined and well mixed.
  4. Transfer paste to a bowl. Cover bowl and leave overnight in fridge, or for at least 6 hours.
  5. Preheat oven to 180C. Spread paste on baking paper on a large baking tray. Spread out the paste with spatula to about 0.3 cm thick. Sides will be thinner so gently push back the sides to minimise burning while baking.
  6. Bake in oven for ~25 mins till paste is dry to touch and able to lift slightly in one piece. Remove from oven. 
  7. Let the paste cool slightly before cutting. Meanwhile, increase oven temperature to 230C. Mix 1 tbsp maltose with 1 tbsp red water to make the glaze.
  8. Using a pizza cutter, cut into bite sized pieces. Brush one side with glaze.
  9. Bake for 7-10mins then remove tray from oven, flip each slice over and glaze the other side. Return to oven and grill for 5 mins or until sides are slightly charred. Watch the oven carefully here, at this point it burns easily!
  10. Remove and let cool, minimize touching when hot, as it breaks easily. The slices will harden when cooled. Brush with the remaining glaze (optional, it will look shinier) Can be kept in airtight container in fridge for up to 1-2 weeks.

Due to time constraints and the amount of labour needed to make this, I won’t be able to sell them. If you want good vegan bak kwa, I can recommend the one from Yes Natural brand. 🙂

Thank you for reading my posts as always! This happened because of your amazing support. I hope to continue producing good, plant-based content to help fellow Asians who want to eat healthier/vegan. Due to my new responsibilities, the posts may not be as frequent as they were in 2018 but I will keep them coming 🙂

PS: On a side note, I made a short travel film of my Japan trip here. Enjoy!

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!

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!

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.

Marmite tempeh

I like Marmite – only in certain applications. My favourite is with thickly spread vegan butter. This recipe was inspired by Eight Treasure’s Marmite Ribs, a dish my family had during Chinese New Year and everyone (even the omnis) loved it. And because Eight Treasures is so far from my place and I can’t digest mock meats well, I came up with this recipe. Also because I bought a huge jar of Marmite on impulse and needed to find ways to use it!

Savoury, moist and high protein.

Marmite on it’s own, has a terrifying bitterness to my taste. Like their slogan “Love it or hate it”, I love it when used in dishes but hate it on it’s own. It’s got a unique concentrated umami flavour as a result of yeast fermentation that does not occur in other condiments. But the bitterness can be overwhelming when used too much, so I usually add sour and sweet flavours to cushion it. When used correctly, it gives the most lip-smacking savouriness to proteins with some tang and sweet aftertaste.

Tempeh can be found in Singapore at wet markets (at stalls selling mixed goods) or heartland supermarkets like Giant or NTUC (usually in refrigerated section near the tofu). This recipe has 4 main ingredients, is quick and easy to make and keeps well in fridge or freezer. Great protein item to make in advance for lunch boxes.

Remember to flip to cook both sides.

Marmite tempeh

  • 2 slices ginger, cut into thin matchsticks
  • 1 block tempeh, cut to square pieces (I used the 200g block from NTUC).
  • 2/3 tbsp Marmite (or Vegemite)
  • 1 heaping tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp of Chinese cooking wine (or other cooking wines, optional)
  • 1/3 cup stock/water
  • 1 tbsp lemon/lime juice, or to taste

Mix Marmite, sugar, cooking wine, water in a bowl till Marmite is dissolved. Heat the oil in a non-stick pan over medium heat, add ginger. Sautee till fragrant. Add tempeh and flip to coat evenly with oil. Lower heat to low-medium, pour liquid mixture in and mix to coat tempeh. Simmer till liquid is thickened and reduced, flipping halfway to ensure even cooking. Removed from heat, squeeze lemon/lime juice to taste and mix well before serving. Let cool before storing.


Perfect in a sandwich with vegan butter from Peace of Cheese and some chilli sauce!

Notes:

  • I personally prefer to cut tempeh thin as I find it holds flavour better.
  • Cooking wine helps to boost umami flavours in protein dishes, if you don’t have or don’t take alcohol, simply omit. Ginger here also has the same role.
  • If you’re really averse to Marmite, use soy sauce/curry paste/tom yam paste or any strong flavoured condiment of your choice instead.
  • This tempeh will be quite salty if you eat it on its own, as I made it to be a sandwich filler. Reduce Marmite amount or increase tempeh if you want less salt.
  • I find cooked tempeh can dry out in the fridge, so I usually reheat it by frying lightly on both sides with a bit of liquid (oil or water).

Check out more tempeh recipes here.

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.

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(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.

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

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(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.

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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.

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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.

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).

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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.

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

 

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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 😉

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Happy Lunar New Year – Bak Kwa Recipe

Less than a day to the new Monkey Year! Here’s a perfect excuse to escape from nosy visiting aunties pressuring you to get attached/married/reproduce, to the safe sanctuary of your kitchen.

Bak Kwa is a well-loved local Chinese New Year snack originating from Fujian in South China, usually made by smoking and preserving pork pigs. The mainstream media has been abuzz since last year over World Health Organisation’s processed meat warning. So I’ve R&D-ed a non mock meat version as an even healthier alternative to the highly processed soy-based vegetarian bak kwa. Sweet crispness on the surface, moist, savoury and chewy insides. All the ingredients are usually found in supermarkets and pasars. Also, do the mixing with chopsticks if you wanna experience how our grandmothers did 🙂

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For base:
400g tempeh
½ cup neutral flavour plant oil (don’t use olive or unrefined coconut)

For marinade:
30g vegetarian belacan, toasted and crumbled (from vegetarian grocery shops, or try pasar dried goods stalls. Or sub with red/black miso and omit salt)
1 block of fermented red beancurd
1 tbsp ground flaxseed powder (NTUC health food section)
½ cup water
1 tbsp red rice yeast (optional, gives red hue. Found in TCM shops)
100g raw sugar
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
½ tbsp rice wine (optional)
1 tbsp vegetarian oyster sauce or ¼ tsp vegmite
2 tbsp maltose (pasar dried goods stall confirm have)
2tbsp sesame oil
½ tsp five-spice powder
½ tsp black salt (from Indian grocery shops/Mustafa, or use regular salt)
¼ tsp white pepper powder

For glaze:
1 tbsp maltose
1tbsp water/red water (see step 2)

1 – Steam tempeh for 5mins and let cool. In a food processor, blend with the oil to a thick paste.
2 – Bring the water and red rice yeast to a boil in a pot. The water will be reddish, strain and let cool. (Optional step to give colour)  Mix 2 tbsp of water/red water with flaxseed and set aside.
3 – In a large mixing bowl, combine marinade ingredients. Place bowl over a basin of hot water to melt maltose and make mixing easier. Mix till a smooth syrupy texture.
4 – Add in tempeh paste and mix in one direction to a sticky, gooey paste. Cover bowl and leave overnight in fridge.
5 – The next day, preheat oven to 160C. Spread paste on baking paper on a large baking tray. Place cling wrap on the paste and roll a rolling pin over to flatten to about 0.4 cm thick. Sides will be thinner so use a spatula or similar tool, gently push back the sides to minimize burning while grilling.
6 – Bake in oven for ~25 mins till paste is dry to touch and able to lift slightly in one piece. Remove from oven. Increase temperature to 220C. Mix 1 tbsp maltose with 1 tbsp water to make the glaze.
7 – Let the paste cool slightly before cutting to desired shape and size. Brush one side with glaze, transfer pieces (handle gently!) to a new baking paper.
8 – Bake for 7-10mins then remove tray, flip each slice over and glaze the other side. Return to oven and grill for 5 mins or until sides are slightly charred. Watch the oven carefully here, at this point it burns easily!
9 – Remove and let cool, minimize touching when hot, it breaks easily. The slices will harden when cooled. Brush with the remaining glaze (optional, it looks shinier!) Can be kept in airtight container in fridge for up to 2 weeks.

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Recipe notes:

1) Steaming tempeh is to rid the beany taste and introduce moisture. Unlike meat, tempeh has very low fat and water content so we need oil to ‘fatten’ it. Thus Step 1 is very important to achieve a moist and rich texture.
2) Flaxseed powder is vital too as the proteins are able to bind everything so your bak kwa won’t become bacon crumbles upon touching (actually, good idea)! Luckily we can get them from NTUC.
3) It’s thicker than regular bak kwa because anything rolled thinner than 0.3/0.4cm burns quite easily. Timing control at the last step is really important – remove immediately if you start to see smoke. If any part is black but tastes fine, enjoy it! If it’s black and bitter, it’s too burnt to eat.
4) As the slices tend to stick, store each slice between greased or baking paper.
5) A drop of liquid smoke will bring the flavour to another smoky dimension. Sadly I’ve either rarely seen them here or they are too expensive!
6) Experiment with flavours – chilli bak kwa sounds awesome 🙂

Wishing all a prosperous, healthy and happy year ahead!