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!

Okonomiyaki + Japanese Mayo (Plant-Based Japanese Recipes)

I’m starting a small series of plant-based Japanese recipes! This series is inspired by my travels in Japan and will feature my take on some of the amazing food I had there. Those who don’t take alliums or alcohol, fret not – I’ve crafted these recipes in a way where these are optional!

It’s very easy to find Japanese ingredients in Singapore from regular supermarkets like NTUC (often has a Japanese section) or speciality stores like Donki, Isetan and Meidi-ya. However, it’s not always easy to figure out what’s plant-based, as sometimes the translations aren’t accurate. I will advice to be a little more careful when buying packaged Japanese products here if you wish to avoid animal products.

Although Japan is not commonly known to be vegan-friendly, things are changing and there’s a surprising amount of accidentally plant-based foods. You can read more about my recommendations from Japan starting from here, or see my reviews of dishes and packaged foods here. The recipes in this series will mostly be of food I ate there as I have a good idea of what’s the benchmark! I don’t claim them to be authentic since I didn’t grow up eating Japanese food, but this is what worked for me. Try it out!

What is Okonomiyaki?

Okonomiyaki is a customisable savoury pancake popular all across Japan, but especially famous in 2 places – Osaka and Hiroshima. Okonomi means “as you like” and yaki means fried or stir-fried. There are 2 main styles of okonomiyaki, Osaka style (mixed) and Hiroshima style (layered). At okonomiyaki restaurants, although you can choose what you like to be mixed into the batter, the batter itself already contains eggs and very likely, fish stock. This is a plant-based take on Osaka’s version. If you’re in Osaka, I recommend Vegetable Bar Aju’s (my fav vegan restaurant there) okonomiyaki.

How the pancake looks like before dressing it up.

Ingredients introduction

There are certain ingredients that may be foreign to some. Some are important in getting the texture right.

Ingredients used for these 2 recipes.

1. Nagaimo (Chinese yam, don’t omit)

Chinese people will know this too!

A starchy root, usually available in wet markets or the refrigerated section of supermarkets. This is one amazing ingredient that I learnt about during a vegan takoyaki cooking class in Kyoto. Chinese use it in stir-fries and soups, but often in Japanese cuisine, it’s simply grated and eaten raw as a topping. It’s naturally sticky and smooth without flavour – a fantastic egg replacement in certain applications. Traditional okonomiyaki already contains nagaimo to lift the batter.

2. Aonori (topping, optional)

A type of seaweed dried and made into flakes. The one in the photo is actually aosa (a cheaper type of seaweed) not aonori, but taste is almost the same.

3. Japanese mayonnaise (topping, optional)

Tastier than Western mayo with stronger umami. Vegan mayo is quite easily available in the big cities I visited in Japan, but I haven’t seen it here yet. So I made my own, recipe below. Although optional, I highly recommend as the creamy savouriness really adds depth.

4. Dashi powder (use either this or soup stock)

If you don’t wish to make soup stock from scratch, you can buy konbu dashi powder. This is also used in my mayo recipe below. I got this one in Donki.

5. Beni Shouga (red ginger pickles, optional)

This goes into the batter. It’s gingery and slightly sweet. It’s optional but often used in okonomiyaki, so I included it. I think the main idea is to introduce something crunchy, tangy and umami for textural variation. So you can add any types of pickles you like, or add something else with umami if you don’t like pickles.

6. Okonomi sauce (topping)

Similar to BBQ sauce but thicker and slightly more tangy and sweet. You can replace with regular BBQ sauce. I got this from the Japanese section in NTUC.

7. Baking powder + vinegar+unsweetened soymilk (egg replacement, don’t omit)

Having air bubbles in the batter is necessary for a light texture.

This is to produce air bubbles in the batter so it’s light and tender, not dense or doughy. Okonomiyaki usually already have baking powder, I just added vinegar to help produce the air bubbles. You can use any types of vinegar with a light flavour, like rice, brown rice, apple cider or distilled vinegar. Soymilk helps to add protein and moisture, which also helps to achieve a light and moist texture. This particular brand of soy milk in the photo is great for cooking, from Donki. Don’t use sweetened flavoured soymilk, unless you really like chocolate flavoured okonomiyaki? 🙂

8. Dashi (don’t omit)

Dashi is the backbone of Japanese cuisine. It’s a soup stock used in most savoury foods, usually made from fish (katsuo). The ocean has blessed us with another source of briny umami from plants – kelp, a.k.a konbu. Learn how to make konbu dashi easily here. Since washing the dried konbu isn’t recommended, I prefer to use Japanese konbu (available in some NTUC and Japanese shops) as Chinese ones sometimes have sand. In this picture, the dashi hasn’t been boiled yet hence the light colour. You may use vegetable or mushroom stock to replace.

Recipe: Japanese mayonnaise (egg & dairy-free)

Makes about 500ml (The recipe is doubled because my food processor is too big, if you want to make less, half the recipe.)

  • 1/2 cup aquafaba (the water from a can of chickpeas)
  • 2 tsp mustard powder
  • 1 tsp black salt
  • 3 tsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 cups grape seed oil
  • 2 tsp konbu dashi powder 
  • 4 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • Pinch of turmeric (optional, for colour)
  1. Process aquafaba and mustard in a food processor.
  2. While the food processor is running, drizzle a third of the oil slowly into mixture. Do not pour all at once.
  3. Add salt, sugar and dashi powder.
  4. Drizzle a third of the oil again while the food processor is running.
  5. Add rice vinegar, lemon juice and drizzle the remaining oil. Process the mixture for extra 10 seconds after everything is mixed.
  6. Taste and adjust by adding more sugar, dashi or black salt to your taste. Try not to add more of the liquid ingredients to avoid diluting it. If it’s too thin, drizzle more oil while machine is running to thicken. Store in clean bottles, can be kept in fridge for a week.

Recipe: Okonomiyaki (egg-free)

Makes 3 medium-sized pancakes. Recipe adapted from Just One Cookbook – look at the step-by-step photos here before attempting.

Okonomiyaki is hard to photograph ;__;

Batter

  • 1 cup flour, sifted (also works with whole wheat flour)
  • 1/2 tsp black salt (or sea salt, to enhance flavour)
  • 1/2 tsp soy sauce (because we are omitting animal products, it’ll be best to add more flavour to the batter)
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp rice vinegar (or any light flavoured vinegar)
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened soymilk
  • 3 inch nagaimo, grated
  • 3/4 cup plant-based dashi (Or 1 tsp dashi powder dissolved in 3/4 cup water)

These ingredients can be replaced with anything you like:

  • 1/2 of a medium sized cabbage, chopped finely
  • 1 tomato, chopped finely
  • 4 shiitake mushrooms, chopped finely
  • 1/4 cup chopped pickles (or anything with umami that you like, eg: other pickles, kimchi, preserved black beans, achar, Chinese preserved mustard, etc)
  • Green onions, chopped finely (those who can’t take alliums, try chopped chilli, ginger or toon sauce, etc.)
  • Slices of marinated tofu or tempeh, or any sliced protein, mushroom or veggie that you prefer.

Toppings (as much or as little as you like)

  • Japanese mayonnaise
  • Okonomi sauce
  • Chopped spring onions (optional)
  • Vegan dried squid (can buy from vegetarian grocery shops, optional, to replace bonito flakes)
  • Aonori or aosa (or similar seaweed flakes)
  • Other topping ideas: Chilli sauce, fried onions, soy floss, black pepper, chilli flakes, sesame seeds, furikake
  1. Mix flour, salt and sugar in a big bowl.
  2. Add grated nagaimo and dashi stock. Mix.
  3. Add vinegar, soy milk and pickles. Mix till just combined.
  4. Add chopped vegetables and mushrooms a third at a time. Mix before adding the next batch. Batter should be sticky and thick with visible air bubbles.
  5. Heat oil in a non-stick pan.
  6. Pour a third of the batter into the pan. Use spatulas to press the batter into a round shape. Reduce to low medium heat, cook for couple of minutes till browned.
  7. Press slices of tempeh/tofu on top of the batter.
  8. Using 2 spatulas, flip the pancake to cook the side with sliced tofu/tempeh.
  9. Cook till browned, remove from heat and transfer to plate. Spread okonomi sauce on top.
  10. Top with mayo, aonori, spring onions and other toppings you like.
  11. Repeat until you use up all batter. Serve hot!
Because you can add anything you like, your’s may look different – don’t worry! The texture should come out tender, light, slightly gooey, soft, not runny or dense and doughy.

Notes:

1. Do not over mix the batter to avoid pressing out air bubbles. Stop when everything is just combined.

2. A good okonomiyaki has one more ingredient – tempura bits. It’s helps to make the batter fluffier. However, my parents wish to avoid deep fried foods so I didn’t buy it. Those are available in the okonomiyaki section in Donki. Note that not all types are plant-based.

3. If you’re cooking this for the first time, start by making smaller pancakes so it’s easier to flip. Don’t hesitate when you flip and do it with one quick action.

I can’t take full credit for developing this recipe. There’s plenty of Japanese recipes online but I prefer to learn from ones that are written by Japanese people. I learnt a lot from Just One Cookbook and my favourite, A Japanese Vegan’s Kitchen. Highly recommend their pages for precious, time-saving tips! Next up, ramen. 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!

Slow Cooked Soy Sauce Beans & Nuts

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

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

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

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

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

Spices used

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

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

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

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

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

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


Recipe

Spices & Seasoning:

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

Beans & Nuts:

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

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


Note:

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

Nutritional Comments

Contributed by KrystleCo.

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

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

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

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

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

Make soaking a habit in your food prep today!

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

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

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

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

Ingredients


NO COOK KIMCHI UDON

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

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

 

Nutritional Analysis

Provided by nutritionist Krystle.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ingredients that can be “cooked” with boiling water.

Ingredients used

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

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

NO-COOK TOM YUM RICE NOODLES

Base ingredients:

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

Add last:

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

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


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

Nutritional Analysis

Nutritional breakdown by nutritionist Krystle:

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

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

Krystle’s comments:

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

The key ingredients used has several health promoting factors.

Red Cargo Rice Vermicelli

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

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

Tempeh

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

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

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

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

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

Chickpeas

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

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

Cooking method

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

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

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

Veganuary Recipes: No-Cook One-Pot Noodles Series

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

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

Making an “instant’ meal

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

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

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

Pros:

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

Cons:

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

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

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

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

Carbs:

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

Plants:

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

Protein:

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

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

Ingredients list

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

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

 

RECIPE: NO COOK MISO NOODLES

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

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

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

 

Nutritional Information

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

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

Nutritional comments:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.

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.

Black rice noodles cold dish

A Chinese recipe will be appropriate for the coming Lunar New Year, as this refreshing and umami-rich dish will be a healthy addition to reunion meals. When we think of Chinese cuisine we will automatically think of stir fries, rice and soups served piping hot. There is a class of Chinese dishes known as cold dishes or liangban cai (凉拌菜, literally “cold tossed dish”) from Northern China that defies this perception.

Cold dishes are similar to Western salads only in the sense that they are served slightly chilled or at room temperature, but never cold (unlike the name). Otherwise, they are often not fully raw for the sake of taste (eg, green leafies are always blanched) and the dressings are much simpler – usually just soy sauce, plant oils and Chinese vinegar. No dairy is used and thus they are often vegan unless meat or seafood is a main ingredient. If a cold dish is eaten as a meal, it will definitely contain carbohydrates in the form of various noodles (we think that a meal is not a meal without carbs!). They are easy to make, some even require no cooking at all. Thanks to the non-dairy, savoury-sour sauces, they can keep well and thus are a good make-ahead food prep and lunch box meal!

DSC00538-copy

DSC00489-copy

Recipe (makes 2 servings)

Main ingredients:

2 servings of black rice noodles, cooked to package instructions (You can use almost any noodles you prefer, I got them from Yes Natural store.)

Half medium-sized carrots, shredded or julienned (use the largest holes of a grater or a julienne peeler, or simply use a knife.)

Half a medium-sized young cucumber, shredded or julienned.

Half cup of mung bean sprouts

Half a pack of baiye tofu, cut into strips and roughly peel the layers apart (don’t worry about peeling them perfectly as they will come apart during cooking).

Sauce:

1.5 tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsp Chinese vinegar

0.5 tbsp sesame oil

1 chilli padi, chopped

Garnishes:

Spring onion, chopped (optional if abstaining from pungent roots)

Coriander leaves

Chopped chilli

Mix all dressing ingredients in a small bowl and let it sit for 5 minutes. Cook mung bean sprouts in a sieve in boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove and immerse in cold or tap water to cool it down. Cook baiye tofu in boiling water for 1 minute. Remove and immerse in cool water. Drain excess water from both by letting them sit in the sieve over a bowl for a minute. Combine all main ingredients with sauce together in a large bowl and mix well, adding more sauces to taste if preferred. If you do not prefer too spicy flavours, remove chilli padi before adding the dressing. Lastly, garnish and serve.

DSC00516-copy

Notes:

  • A large sieve and julienne peeler will make preparation much easier, both can be bought cheaply at provision shops or supermarkets.
  • The traditional cold noodles use chilli oil which is not that available in Singapore, I used chilli padi to infuse the sauce for spiciness. If no spice is preferred, simply omit it. If you have no chilli padi but still want a merciless spiciness, use Tabasco, vegan sambal, sriracha or any chilli sauce available in your country.
  • If you want a 100% gluten-free version, use tamari, coconut aminos and bragg’s instead of soy sauce. Replace Chinese vinegar with lime/lemon juice, rice vinegar, balsamic vinegar or apple cider, and mix dried ready-to-eat seaweed into the sauce for extra umami – it will taste different, but still should be good!
  • For an oil-free version, use 1 tsp tahini instead of sesame oil.
  • For a soy-free version, use coconut aminos instead of soy sauce. Instead of tofu, use large, thick-skinned cooked legumes like navy beans, kidney beans, sweet peas as protein for a complete meal. Although using beans in cold dishes isn’t quite traditional, it should still be tasty when mixed with a good sauce 🙂
  • Unlike Western salads where the dressing should be added only before serving, generally for Chinese cold dishes, the longer it sits with its sauce, the tastier it will be. Only exception is for leafy green veggies. They should not be mixed in too early as the acid from the vinegar will turn them yellow.
  • Almost every type of noodles can be used. Udon, soba, tung hoon, sweet potato noodles and wheat noodles will all work great in this recipe. But I don’t advice using rice noodles, instant or quick-cook wheat noodles, they are very absorbent and might turn soggy after sitting in the sauce for a while.
  • Other traditional cold dish sauces can include wasabi, Szechuan peppercorn oil, fermented bean pastes and minced raw garlic or ginger. Feel free to experiment to your taste!

DSC00533-copy

DSC00559-copy

Here’s wishing everyone a prosperous and happy Year of the Rooster 🙂 Thanks for reading, have a good holiday and reunion for all those who celebrate!