Friday, April 28, 2006

International leftovers

I cook so many different cuisines from the world that sometimes they cross over and meet on the same plate (sort of like a meeting at the United Nations). The plate above consists of 3 different cuisines from 3 different countries. The rice was actually a leftover Mexican rice from last weekend and my previous post. The recipe yields so much rice that I still have some a week later. It seems that we would never see the bottom of my rice cooker bowl. The dish on the right, the yellowish one, is Malay-style Yuba(beancurd skin) and Daikon curry from Bryanna's April/May 2005 Vegan Feast newsletter. It is a delicious Malaysian curry spiced with galanga, lemon grass (from my own garden, of course, see my previous post), ginger, tamarind, garlic, onions, and a hint of coconut milk. The dish on top is Chana Masala, an Indian chickpea curry recipe that my friend Val sent me by email.

Amazingly, the 3 dishes from 3 different countries compliment each other. I used basmati rice in the Mexican rice so it worked well with the Indian Chana Masala and the Malay yuba curry. These dishes were all mildly spiced.

On top of those, for starters, we had a leftover Tabbouleh(Middle Eastern Bulgur and Parsley salad) , leftover Bryanna's Tofu "Feta" that DH loves so much, and Greek kalamata olives. DH exclaimed 'I am having Morrocan Mint Green Tea with this meal!'

For the dessert, we had a store bought American Vegan Oatmeal Chocolate Chip cookie. There you go, an international leftovers that are eaten in one meal. I wonder if people eat like this in the U.N. cafetaria. Today, dishes from different countries are having a peaceful time together in our tummies. Peace not war!

Will work for vegan food!

California has a good weather to grow lemon grass . I started my plant with one stalk that had a root on it and planted the whole thing in the ground. Then, I just wait for it to grow. I don't even water it by hand since we have an automated sprinkler system. It just keep growing and growing for all seasons, year after year.

The best use of it is for cooking Thai, Indonesian, or Vietnamese dishes. I usually just walk out to my backyard with a knife while putting on a plastic glove over one hand. I used my gloved hand to grab one or two stalks and use the other hand to cut the stalks near the root. It is that easy to get fresh lemon grass for my cooking.

Last weekend, I decided to trim down my lemon grass bush since it is overgrown. I dreaded this job because it is not a simple task and takes a long time. It is different than just cutting a stalk or two for cooking use. I needed to pull some of the plants from the root until the bush is thin enough to propagate again. Unlike, harvesting tomatoes, zuchinni, asparagus, or other vegetables, this one needs digging, pulling, cleaning, and cutting the top leaves off. Fortunately, we had a heavy rain the night before. So the digging and pulling was easy since the soil was wet and soft. The hard part was separating the stalks, cutting the top leaves off, and cleaning them. The weather was nice last Sunday. It was not too hot and not too cold.

It took me about 3 hours to do this work. The result was great. I had about 66-70 lemon grass stalks. So now, what do you do with so many lemon grass stalks? In the past, I gave some to friends and vegetarian Vietnamese restaurants. The Vietnamese restaurant really uses a lot of lemon grass. For the restaurant, in return, we received a free dinner for two. We decided to give them all to the vegetarian Vietnamese restaurant this time as we did in the past in exchange for dinner that night. I felt great that I was able to work for I thought.

Unfortunately, the vegetarian Vietnamese restaurant was not cooperating this time, not like they were used to. They didn't want to give us free dinner for two in exchange. They wanted to exchange it with a bowl of Vietnamese noodle soup that costs only $5.50. I was appalled and thought that it was not a fair exchange. The amount of lemon grass stalks I brought filled up the whole brown supermarket bag. For about 70 stalks of fresh lemon grass, I don't think you can buy it for $5.50. The lady in the restaurant said that she buys them wholesale so she can get them very cheap. After bargaining with her, she agreed to give us 50% off of our dinner bill. My husband and I usually spend US$20-$28 when we eat there. That night our bill was US$26 so we only paid $13 for our dinner. DH said that next time we just give the lemon grass to friends and pay for the dinner or the bowl of noodle soup. It wasn't worth the effort!

Monday, April 24, 2006

Vegan Drunken Beans

When Bryanna released her April-May-June 2006 newsletter, I was intriqued by one entrée she presented: Drunken Beans. I pictured drunk little pinto beans are rolling over and swaying right to left. I was chuckling by myself reading the recipe which, indeed, contains beer, and therefore; it is called drunken beans. I might have a strange imagination but the vision of drunken beans reminds me of Mexican Jumping Beans. In fact, I googled them and ended up reading the article in the Internet about these jumping beans. It is so interesting that the jumping beans are not really beans and they really don’t jump but just roll around. What really makes them roll? It is not beer, for sure, but a larva of a small grey moth that has a peculiar habit to throw itself from one wall to the other. If you want to get acquainted with this peculiar moth, you can read the article and amuse yourself.

How easy it is to get off the subject of cooking beans to a larva of a moth in a seed capsule! Going back on track, this drunken bean dish is really really delicious! I think it is the best Mexican bean dish I ever made. I served the yummy beans with molé ‘chicken’ and Mexican rice. Both recipes can be found in Bryanna’s new newsletter, too. I added a garnish of grilled flour tortilla and avocado slices.

I changed the drunken beans recipe slightly by adding epazoté as suggested by Dori from the Bakehouse. Epazoté is a Mexican herb known to ward off the side effect of eating beans. For those who eat beans, you know what I am talking about! I really know what this article is talking about. DH and I are blaming each other all the time and we used to blame our dog (that poor creature that it is now in a doggy heaven). I didn’t notice the pungent and ‘gasoline/kerosene’ smell like this article mentioned about epazoté. This article says that it is referred to as an ‘acquired taste’ like cilantro. But we both like cilantro and we are used to authentic Mexican dishes living in California for years. In fact, I thought this bean dish tastes so authentic like the beans in Mexican restaurants. I will definitely be making this dish again and again.

Bryanna’s method of cooking was slow cooking with a crock pot or slow cooker. I chose to use my pressure cooker for 16 minutes and finished it up by simmering the beans until it became a chili-like texture for less than an hour. It really doesn’t matter, I think. Just a matter of making the beans to drink the beer fast or slow, but beans are beans!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Panini! Panini! Panini! Crazy for Panini!

My dear husband(DH) buys kitchen appliances for me as xmas, anniversary, or birthday gifts. Don't laugh! That's what I ask for! YES, it is not romantic and YES, it is unusual, but so what, right? Gifts are supposed to make the ones who receive them happy and I am happy receiving this kind of gifts. My heart jumped with delight to see this Cuisinart panini grill came out of the box last Christmas. Pictures of grilled paninis, BBQed seitans, BBQed TVPs, satays, and grilled vegetables immediately filled my mind. As you can see, the kitchen appliances I asked for are not the CHEAP kinds but I usually did a thorough research in the Internet for months before hand: reading comments people made about it, asking for recommendations, and finding the style and model that is suitable to my need. It always pays off! I have been using this grill for almost everyday since I got it and DH is really eating well! It's a win-win situation.

The first thing I made on my new panini grill was a panini sandwich, of course, a Vegan Caprese Panini, with the help of Bryanna's best 'cheese' (pictured on the right) recipe from her newsletters. You can always buy Vegan Mozarella (Earth Kind is my favorite brand) from the market but it can be expensive. Vegan Caprese filling was a combination of 'cheese', fresh sliced tomatoes, fresh shredded basil leaves, balsamic vinegar, EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil), salt, and pepper. I arranged those in the middle of 2 slices of crusty artisan bread or sourdough bread brushed with EVOO on the outside. Then, I 'sandwiched' them in the panini grill. VOILA! Seven minutes later, a hot grilled panini sandwich was born. The filling was HOT! The 'cheese' was melted and warm.

Do you know how much a panini sandwich cost in a cafe called The Corner Bakery (a food chain) in my area? It's about US$6.49 for the sandwich only! After a bag of chips and a drink, your bill can go up to US$9.00. After making 16-17 paninis at your home, you will get your money back buying this grill and still can make some more. At our home, we didn't have to wait long. I made 12 panini sandwiches for 12 ladies who came to my party in February and they were loving it.

More? Yes, I made more, another type of panini, the 'Chicken' Pesto Panini. I made my own soy and seitan 'chicken' cutlet. Again, I learned it from Bryanna, and again, from her newsletters. I also made my own vegan pesto, Pesto Genovese, a recipe from Nonna's Italian Kitchen. A combination of 'chicken' cutlet, pesto, 'cheese', and sliced tomatoes or other veggies was very very good. The only veggie that was not good to put in a panini is LETTUCE. Don't ever put a lettuce in a panini sandwich. Remember, anything you put in the panini sandwich will be hot. You know, hot lettuce really tastes terrible! LOL! I learned this mistake!

I continued experimenting with other fillings for panini sandwiches such as marinated artichoke hearts, roasted bell pepper from jars, ajvar, raw baby spinach, grilled vegetables like eggplants, zucchini, carrots, mushrooms, and onions. Other than spinach, vegetables need to be grilled separately before they are assembled in the sandwich.

My wildest panini experiment was Vietnamese Style Banh Mi Panini! Is this a FUSION sandwich or what? I hope the Vietnamese and the Italians will not be angry with me for ruining their cuisine. :-) Banh Mi is a Vietnamese sandwich that is prepared in crusty French baquettes filled with meat slices, tangy marinated shredded carrots or daikon radish, cucumbers, cilantro, sliced jalapenos, moistened with mayonnaise and sprinkled with soy sauce or fish sauce. I often made the vegan versions and brought them with us when we travel. Once, someone saw us eating our vegan Banh Mi sandwiches at an airport in Jamaica. It probably looked so good that she asked me if she could find and buy the sandwiches we were eating in that airport.

The filling of this sandwich was the leftover BBQ TVP slices from Vietnamese BBQ Noodle salad from my previous post. The idea came when I ran out of noodles but had artisan bread at home. I added the tangy carrots, cucumbers, cilantro, and sliced jalapenos too. I didn't use vegan mayonnaise since DH doesn't like mayonnaise. Instead of EVOO, I used Earth Balance brushed on the outside to add the 'buttery' flavor to the bread. It was delicious and unique!

It is so cheap to make panini at home. Each sandwich probably costs me only US$2.00. That is if you make your own 'cheese', Pesto, 'chicken', and BBQ TVP slices. It will be less if you make your own bread (Bryanna's sourdough bread) and grow your own basil or other veggies, too.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Vegan Easter Breakfast and Dinner

For Easter Breakfast, I made Tofu Frittata accompanied by Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Pecans and Dried Cranberries. The Tofu Frittata recipe can be found in Nonna's Italian Kitchen by Bryanna Clark Grogan. I added 1 tablespoon Bill's Best Chicknish in the frittata and sprinkled the top with Smoked Spanish Paprika. In the frittata were slices of leftover steamed potatoes, broccoli flowerettes, chopped carrots, sliced onions, chopped Seitan 'Pork Tenderloin'(from Bryanna's Newsletter, Jan-Feb-Mar 2006), and chopped leeks. It was quite delicious. My husband gave me 2 thumbs up.

I really didn't make the cinnamon rolls that morning or the night before. They were actually frozen in my freezer for months. I made the rolls last Fall after Bryanna's Fall Newsletter(Oct-Nov-Dec 2005) was published. I wrapped the roll individually with Press N Seal and put them in a freezer ziplock bag. I love this cinnamon roll a lot because the filling is so delicious with mashed pumpkin, Earth Balance, brown sugar, chopped toasted pecans, and dried cranberries. I just took them out Easter Sunday morning and reheat them in a 400 F oven for 15 minutes. Surprisingly, the rolls were still delicious like it was freshly made. Whoever knew that I was going to enjoy this cinnamon roll on Easter when I baked them last Fall.

The bright orange sauce in the picture above is store-bought Ajvar or Bulgarian Sweet Pepper Relish(Zergut brand). I am actually addicted to this condiment. It is good with scrambled tofu, tofu omelet, sandwiches, or tofu frittata. I suppose I can try to make it at home but I can buy it easily in the market near me so why bother. The price is not bad either and the time consumed to make it will not be worth it for me.

For Easter dinner, I served Soy and Seitan 'Pork Tenderloin' with Garlic and Herb Crust from Bryanna's Jan-Feb-March 2006 newsletter accompanied by roasted red, white, and purple potatoes, sauteed kale and chards, and low-fat vegan rich brown gravy. The Soy and Seitan 'Pork Tenderloin' was coated with brown dijon mustard first and then it was covered with a combination of minced garlic, thyme, marjoram, and fresh bread crumbs. Then, it was baked in the oven to perfection. My husband really likes this seitan and he likes it better than veggie 'ham' for Easter.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Vietnamese Salads: Vegan BBQ Noodle Salad and Young Jackfruit Salad

Vietnamese BBQ Noodle Salad
 These Vietnamese salads are excellent for hot weather meals. No, summer is not here yet, we have a bright and sunny spring weather for a change, but I wanted to make them since they are low in fat but delicious. To help me loosing weight, I eat Vietnamese vegan dishes such as Vietnamese Salad Rolls (spring rolls), Vietnamese Pho, and these salads: Vietnamese BBQ Noodle Salad and Young Jackfruit salad(the 2nd picture below). They are yummy and refreshing!

To enhance the BBQ noodle salad to be more nutritious, I use Japanese Zaru Soba which I found in the Korean market near our house to replace the white rice noodle. The Zaru Soba is thin like vermicelli but it is made of wheat flour, buckwheat flour, yam, salt, and water. In fact, I thought it will be good for Pho or any pasta dish that uses white pasta. Zaru means a draining basket made of bamboo which can be used as cooking and presentation according to (click here for more information).
For the Vietnamese BBQ noodle salad, I served the cooked and well drained soba in a bowl topped with fresh vegetables such as thin strips of carrots, thin strips of cucumber, fresh bean sprouts, and fresh mint leaves from our garden. Then, I topped it with grilled marinated Vietnamese BBQ slices made from ‘beefy’ TVP which were grilled on our Cuisinart indoor grill. At the end of the BBQing process, I sprinkled the BBQ slices with roasted rice powder which makes them so tasty.
Roasted rice powder is commonly used in Vietnamese dishes and very easy to make. I pan fried dry (without oi) uncooked rice on a frying pan until they are golden brown. Let it cool and then grind into a powder in a mini blender. This dish is served with sweet and sour dressing on the side. The last topping is chopped roasted peanuts. Pour the salad dressing over the noodle dish just before eating, mix them all up, and enjoy. It is usually served at room temperature which is perfect as a picnic or lunch in the office or travelling dish.
Vietnamese noodle salad is usually served with deep fried Vietnamese eggrolls. It is very yummy but also has more oil and fat content so, at home, I opt to serve without them. In vegetarian Vietnamese restaurants, you can order a combination of eggrolls and BBQ TVP slices on top, a common way to serve it. The salad dressing in restaurants is generally too sweet for my husband’s taste so he usually don’t use much of the dressing. My recipe uses less sugar (I actually use Agave Nectar). It is a matter of taste, you can add more sugar if you want.
Young Jackfruit salad is unusual for us here in the US. I actually didn’t know about this salad until I became a vegan and explored the vegetarian restaurants near us. Of course, I cannot get fresh young jackfruit here since it is a Southeast Asian fruit but I can buy them in cans soaked in brine at the Asian market. It is the YOUNG jackfruit that I used here and not the RIPE yellow jackfruit which is totally different in smell and taste.
This salad is served room temperature and is sour and refreshing, similar to Thai Som Tum (young papaya salad). It is topped with roasted chopped peanuts, chopped cilantro, and drizzle of fresh squeezed lime juice and Sriracha hot sauce. It is served with Vietnamese sesame rice crackers on the side which are used to scoop the salad with (sort of like eating Mexican Nachos).

The Vietnamese Sesame Rice Crackers or Chips are also unique and available only in Vietnamese markets. It is called Banh Da and is made of tapioca flour, rice flour, salt, and sprinkled with black sesame seeds. It is toasted or roasted which causes it to puff up and become crispy like chips. This time I bought them ready made from the market.

Other times I buy the raw ones in a plastic container which looks like rice papers used for Vietnamese spring rolls. I usually roast these on an open fire or a hot grill. Although this cracker does not look that appetizing on the picture, it is yummy with the salad. If Banh Da is not available, you can substitute it with Indian papadum, Mexican tortilla chips, or Japanese rice crackers.

Vegan Vietnamese BBQ Noodle Salad
I often order this dish in a vegetarian Vietnamese restaurant near my house. The dish is low fat but full of flavor (from the lemon grass and five spice powder). I usually pour all the sweet and sour dressings over the noodles and mix them all together. This is a cold noodle dish and can be eaten at a room temperature which is perfect as a picnic or travelling dish. What makes the BBQ TVP slices taste savory is the dry roasted rice powder which is a common use in Vietnamese cuisine.
Servings: 6
Printable Recipe

2 1/2 cups dry vegetarian protein meat slices (TVP) or Soy Curls
16 oz Rice noodles (same one use in Vietnamese Pho noodle) or zaru soba
2 carrots, cut into thin strips
1 cup mint leaves, shred into individual leaves
1 cucumber, cut into thin strips
1 cup bean sprouts or shredded lettuce leaves
3 Tbsp roasted rice powder (see tip)
2 tsp canola oil
3 Tbsp roasted peanuts, chopped
Seasonings for marinade:
1/3 cup soy sauce or 2 1/2 Tbsp dark mushroom soy sauce mixed with 2 1/2 Tbsp water
3 tsp sugar or 1 1/2 Tbsp Agave Nectar
1 tsp onion or or 'chicken' or mushroom broth powder
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp good quality 5 spice powder
1 tsp sesame oil
1 stalk fresh lemongrass, chopped
Sweet and Sour Salad dressing:
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup fresh lemon/lime juice
3 to 4 Tbsp vegetarian fish sauce or Bragg's Liquid Amino
3 Tbsp Agave Nectar or 3 tsp sugar, or to taste
Notes: my husband don't like the sauce too sweet like in the restaurants so I made this sauce more in the sour taste.
1 tsp chili garlic sauce, sambal oelek or Korean red pepper powder, or less for less spicy
  1. If using dry TVP slices, simmer the dried veg protein in warm water for 20 to 30 minutes. Then, squeeze all the water out. Or, an alternative method which I like is to pressure cook the dry TVP slices in 3 or 4 cups water on high for 2 minutes. Then, use the quick release method. The TVP slices will be very soft. Let it cool and then squeeze the water out.
  2. If using soy curls, reconstitute them with 2 1/4 cups of hot water for 10 minutes. Then, squeeze the water out.
  3. Combine seasonings for marinade in a blender including the chopped fresh lemon grass stalk. Blend the sauce until well blended and the lemon grass is pulverized into very small bits.
  4. Mix the seasoning sauce with the veg protein (reconstituted tvp or soy cutlets) to marinade for at least 1 hour.
  5. Meanwhile, cook the rice noodles in a hot boiling water for 1 minute (or soba for 4 minutes). Take it off heat and soak for a few more minutes. Test if the noodle is soft. When the noodles are soft, drain it over a colander and rinse it with cold tap water so it will stop the cooking process.
  6. Heat your indoor bbq grill or a heavy skillet like a cast iron, high heat.
  7. Saute the marinated protein slices. Drizzle canola oil to prevent sticking. Cook until they are brown and looked like they have been barbequed. I use an indoor BBQ grill with less oil.
  8. Remove from heat. Add 3 Tbsp of roasted rice powder and mix well. Serve in a bowl on top of the drained rice noodle or soba and vegetables with Sweet and Sour dressing on the side. Sprinkle the roasted chopped peanuts on top
Nutrition Facts
Nutrition (per serving): 460.1 calories; 11% calories from fat; 5.9g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 1499.5mg sodium; 475.2mg potassium; 84.3g carbohydrates; 2.3g fiber; 13.9g sugar; 82.0g net carbs; 25.4g protein; 9.2 points.
Cooking Tips for Roasted Rice Powder: Dry fry rice on cast iron pan in medium heat until rice became opaque and light brown, about 5 minutes. Let it cool. Grind in a mini blender or a spice grinder until it becomes a powder.

Vegan Vietnamese Young Jackfruit Salad
This young jackfruit salad is served at a vegetarian Vietnamese restaurant near my house. It is sour, a bit sweet, and spicy like Thai Somtum (young papaya salad). It is served on top of Vietnamese sesame chips that are available in Vietnamese markets but it can be substituted with Indian pappadums. Originally, it is made with fish sauce but I am able to substitute is with vegetarian fish sauce. Bragg's Liquid Amino tastes similar to vegetarian fish sauce and can be used for this dish. With drizzles of Sriracha hot sauce, roasted peanuts, squeezed lime wedges, and chopped cilantro, this dish is crunchy, delicious, and refreshing.
Servings: 6
Printable Recipe

2 cans young jackfruit in brine (each can is 8 oz drained weight, total = 1lb.), drained,rinse in water, squeeze out the water and cut into strips (vertically according to its grain)
2 tsp. canola oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup shallots or green onions, chopped
1 cup Thai/Vietnamese basil, loosely packed, chopped
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 Tbsp. vegan sugar
2 1/2 Tbsp. Vegetarian Fish Sauce or Bragg's Liquid Amino
1 to 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp dulse granules
Serve with:
1/4 cup roasted peanuts, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup Thai/Vietnamese basil, chopped, optional
Fresh lime wedges, Sriracha hot sauce, Vietnamese sesame chips or Indian Pappadum
  1. Preheat wok. When the wok is hot, add oil, garlic, and onion. Stir fry until fragrant. Add young jackfruit strips, salt, sugar, black pepper, and vegetarian fish sauce or liquid amino. Mix and stir-fry in high heat for 10 minutes until spices are absorbed to the jackfruit. Add water to the wok to prevent sticking.
  2. Add 1tsp. dulse granules, mix well. Stir fry for 2 minutes.
  3. Add lemon juice and Thai/Vietnamese basil. Mix well for 1 minute.
  4. Turn off heat. Set aside jackfruit in a bowl and let it cool.
  5. Serve the salad room temperature on a plate with chopped roasted peanut and chopped cilantro/basil sprinkled on top.
  6. Dot it with Sriracha hot sauce on top and all over the salad. Each person can use the sesame crackers/pappadum to scoop the salad, dot with fresh squeezed lime juice and more vegetarian fish sauce.
Nutrition Facts (without sesame crackers): (per serving): 157.3 calories; 26% calories from fat; 4.9g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 484.9mg sodium; 424.8mg potassium; 28.3g carbohydrates; 2.6g fiber; 2.8g sugar; 25.7g net carbs; 4.0g protein; 3.0 points.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Vegan Indonesian 'Chicken' Soup (Soto 'Ayam') in less than 30 minutes!

Last night, driving home from work, I was craving for a hot bowl of soup. It was raining hard all day. Who says that it never rains in California? We had rain, rain, and rain for the past couple weeks that we started to think that we live in Oregon. It was cold, too, at least for us, the sunshine lovers, Californians. I was not sure that I have all the ingredients but I was determined to make this Indonesian 'chicken' soup no matter what. Sometimes I don't have plans for dinner and end up planning to make 'something' in my car as I drive home from work. Dangerous, huh? Well, we women are always multitasking.
I also had a dilemma. It was a Tuesday night, American Idol night! I know, I know, I am hooked (shouldn't have started watching it in the first place). It was already approaching 5:30 pm by the time I arrived home from work. That means that I have to be finished cooking, cleaning up, eating, showering, and sorting the mail before 8 pm. No problem! My Kuhn Rikon pressure cooker had come to the rescue.
I chopped and pounded garlic and shallots in my mortar and pestle about 3 minutes. Yes, I am an old fashion but I love pounding spices using a mortar and pestle instead of a mini food processor. I am used to my mortar and pestle by now. I went out to the garden to pull a stalk of lemongrass, cleaned and sliced it in 2 minutes. I soaked soy curls in warm water for 1 minute. I made the 'chicken' broth with warm water in 1 minute ( I have this hot water pot that keeps the water warm all day, a great investment for cooking). I sliced and cleaned fresh ginger and galanga for 2 minute. I took my pressure cooker out and started sauteing the garlic and shallots paste for 5 minutes. Then, I put all ingredients and seasonings for the soup in my PC, just turned it high and pressure cooked for 8 minutes. I then released the pressure quickly (my PC has a turn top valve to release the pressure on the stove, neat!). Voila! The 'chicken' soup is ready in less than 30 minutes. Move over, Rachel Ray!

Well, ok, it didn't take me 30 minutes to prepare ALL needed for dinner. Indonesian ‘chicken’ soup is served with side vegetables and condiments that eventually end up in the soup bowl during serving and eating time. I spent another 15 minutes steaming the potatoes, kale, carrots, cauliflower, and broccoli. I steamed the potatoes in my PC for only 7 minutes and the other vegetables in my steamer, at the same time. By the way, the items that I used this time are not traditional side dishes for this soup. Traditionally, we serve this soup with steamed potatoes, cabbage, beansprouts, bean thread noodles, emping, Indonesian Perkedel, and boiled egg(but I omit the eggs, of course). I didn't have those ingredients so I substituted with kale, carrots, caulifower, and broccoli which in a way were healthier.
All in all, it was done in less than 1 hour including taking pictures for the blog. Nowadays my cooking preparations include photography for the Internet. Is this the 21st century or what? I was able to finish the cleaning up, eating, showering, and sorting the mail in time for the 21st century entertainment: American Idol!

Vegan Indonesian 'Chicken' Soup (Soto ‘Ayam’)
Servings: 4
Printable Recipe

3 Tbsp 'chicken' broth powder or 2 Tbsp. bouillon paste
8 cups warm water
2 cups soy curls
6 clove garlic
4-5 clove shallots
3-5 kemiri or candlenuts, optional
1/8 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp canola oil
2 Tbsp vegetarian fish sauce or soy sauce
2 slices ginger
2 slices galanga or 1/4 tsp galanga powder
1 stalk lemongrass or 1/2 tsp dry lemongrass powder
1/2 tsp salt or to taste
1/8 tsp ground white pepper

3 small potatoes, steamed
1 1/2 cups bean sprouts, steamed
1 1/2 cups cabbage, shredded, steamed
4 oz bean thread noodles, optional
Kecap Manis
Chili Garlic Sauce
Celery or cilantro or parsley, chopped
Lime wedges
Store bought brambang goreng or Indonesian fried shallots
  1. Combine 'chicken' broth powder or paste and 6 cups warm water. Combine soy curls and 2 cups warm water. Set aside.
  2. Using a mini processor, grind garlic, shallots, and candlenut (kemiri), if using. Alternatively, use a mortar and pestle, pound the garlic, shallots, and candlenuts, if using, into a paste mixture. Add 1/8 tsp ground turmeric and combine.
  3. Heat 2 tsp oil in a heavy pot or soup pot. Add the garlic, shallots, and candlenuts paste. Saute the paste mixture for 5 minutes. Add some broth to prevent sticking. Add sliced ginger and galanga, saute for another 2 minutes. Add broth, soy curls, vegetarian fish sauce or soy sauce, and lemon grass. Simmer for 30 minutes. Alternatively, use a pressure cooker, cook on high for 8 minutes, quick release the pressure.
  4. While the soup is cooking, steam potatoes (with peeling), bean sprouts, and cabbage. Soak bean thread noodles (if using) in hot water until soft, then drain.
  5. Serving the soup:Take out the ginger, lemongrass, and galanga slices from the soup. The soup should be boiling hot. The steamed vegetables and noodles are arranged in a bowl, then, ladle in the hot soup to include the soy curls. Serve the condiments on the side. Each person, if necessary, adds kecap manis, chili garlic sauce, chopped celery or cilantro, fried shallots , emping, and squeezed lime juice into the soup while eating.
Nutrition Facts (without candlenuts):
Nutrition (per serving): 459.7 calories; 5% calories from fat; 2.9g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 778.6mg sodium; 2173.2mg potassium; 101.1g carbohydrates; 4.9g fiber; 4.0g sugar; 96.2g net carbs; 15.4g protein; 8.6 points.
Cooking Tips:
I use Bill's Best Chiknish broth powder or Better than Bouillon No Chicken Base paste for the broth. It's delicious!

Monday, April 03, 2006

Vegan Mini Rijstafel

Rijstafel is a Dutch word meaning 'Rice Table.' Rijs is pronounced just like 'rice' and tafel rhymes with 'waffle'. It is an elaborate meal of Indonesian side dishes served with steamed rice in a grand buffet style. It is not like any buffet I have ever seen since this meal can be consumed for hours. Yes, hours, that is if you have the time to go through each item in a GRAND buffet of 20 – 40 side dishes. Really, those are the numbers of dishes served in a Rijstafel. It's much grander than Las Vegas buffet, isn't it?
Rijstafel was originated in Indonesia under the Dutch colonial ruling. The idea was to demonstrate a variety of Indonesian dishes using all kind of spices that were grown in Indonesia such as coriander, cumin, cloves, turmeric, pepper, cinnamon, etc. Indonesia was known as the ‘spice islands’ during this era. The Dutch exported these spices to Europe and other areas, so they want to boast the abundance of exotic spices and dishes to the visitors by serving them an elaborate meal with many samples of how the spices were used. Due to the long history of many traders from other countries who came and bought spices from the islands, the dishes have some influences from variety of cuisines such as Indian, Chinese, Portuguese, Arab, and the Dutch itself.
The Dutch ruled Indonesia for 350 years so they brought back rijstafel to the Netherland when the Japanese won the war in 1942 and occupied Indonesia. The people who moved back to the Netherland at that time also brought the tradition, cuisines, and culture of Indonesia with them. Therefore, rijstafel is much more popular in Amsterdam now than any where else in the world. Rijstafel is usually one of the most populer items in the menu at Indonesian restaurants in Amsterdam, a few of many: Puri Mas Rijstafel and Menu of Djawa Restaurant.
However, rijstafel is not popular in Indonesia. The tradition died down after so many years. Yeah, who wants to cook 20-40 dishes? You will not find it in restaurants in Indonesia. What I know is the mini rijstafel that we called Nasi Rames (pictured) that my family serves during a gathering or birthday party. It is actually a miniscule version of a rijstafel on a plate. Instead of 20-40 side dishes, I only cooked 5-6 dishes. Ok, ok, you may call it a micro rijstafel. The dishes are served on top of steamed white rice on a plate for one person. Although, any Indonesian dish is good to be served with steamed rice, it is best if the dishes compliment each other. For example, the plate should contain at least one spicy dish, one on the sweeter side, one curry type (coconuty), one that is sour and refreshing, one that is ‘seafoody', one or two condiments, and something crunchy.
I veganized the Indonesian dishes with TVPs and tempeh or tofu to replace the meat and seafood. The most difficult to detect in Indonesian dishes in restaurants is the use of shrimp paste, which is called trasi in Indonesian language. Although, the restaurants in Netherland serve vegetarian rijstafel, I am not sure if they are excluding trasi in their dishes. You will have to ask them specifically when you order.
On the plate above, I served steamed rice with Javanese Stir Fried Tempeh, Sambal “Udang”(“Shrimp” Chili Paste) ,Perkedel Jawa(Javanese Potato Patties) , Sambal Goreng(Vegetables in Chili Paste and Coconut Sauce), Acar Kuning(Indonesian Vegetables Pickles), Serundeng(Roasted and Spiced Grated Coconut) and Emping(not shown) as something crunchy.
Javanese Stir Fried Tempeh
Javanese Stir Fried Tempeh
Serve 8
Printable Recipe

2 large pieces tempeh, cut in cubes, about 12 - 14 oz.
1/2 cup edamame
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup shallots, sliced thin
1 slice galanga or ginger
1 red or green bell pepper, seeded, sliced thin
3 red/green serano chilies, seeded, sliced thin
2 tsp canola oil
2/3 cup Tamarind water (I used a walnut size of tamarind pulp soaked in a 2/3 cup warm water)
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Sugar
3 tbsp Kecap Manis or Substitution
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F while you are preparing the rest of ingredients. Spray a non-stick baking pan with oil and baked tempeh pieces for 15 minutes. The tempeh will become dry and brown. Set aside.
  2. Heat oil in a wok. Stir fry garlic and shallots for 2 minutes in medium high heat.
  3. Add laos/ginger, green or red bell pepper and green chillies for 3 minutes. Add fried tofu or tempeh, kecap manis, and 1/3 cup water, stir fry for 3 minutes. Add salt, sugar, and tamarind water and mix well. Continue to cook for 15 minutes until the sauce soaked to the tofu or tempeh. Add more water if necessary but not too much. The dish shoud be moist but not watery. Finally add the edamame and mix well for 3 to 5 minutes.
Nutrition Facts:
Nutrition (per serving): 139.6 calories; 39% calories from fat; 6.5g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 551.6mg sodium; 396.6mg potassium; 12.5g carbohydrates; 1.3g fiber; 3.0g sugar; 11.3g net carbs; 10.6g protein; 3.1 points.
Sambal "Udang"
Vegan Sambal "Udang" ("Shrimp" Chili Paste)
Servings: 8
Printable Recipe

2 cups dry ground TVP
1 tbsp low-salt 'chicken' broth powder or seasonings (Bill's Best Chik'nish)
1 tbsp dulse granules
2 tsp canola oil
1 large Nori sheet, cut into small pieces or flakes
2 tsp brown sugar or sugar
3 tbsp Tamarind water
1 tsp Salt or 1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp vegetarian fish sauce or soy sauce
1/2 tsp salt or to taste, optional
Sambal Ingredients:
6 cloves garlic
6 cloves shallots
1/2 cup onions, chopped
1 tbsp fresh ginger, chopped
3 dry red chilies, stemmed, seeded
1 large dry California or New Mexico Chili, stemmed, seeded
Tips: the use of California or New Mexico chili reduces the heat/spiciness of the dish. If you don't like hot and spicy food, you can replace the 3 dry red chilies with a New Mexico chili. The dish will be red and looks hot but it won't be.
  1. Soak the ground TVP in a 1 3/4 cup warm water to reconstitute it. Add 1 tbsp. dulse granules and 'chicken' broth powder, mix it well. Set aside for at least 20 minutes while you are preparing the other ingredients.
  2. Soak dry chilies in warm water for 10-15 minutes. Use a mini food processor, grind garlic, shallots, ginger, and chilies(sambal ingredients) into a paste. Alternatively, use a mortar and pestle to pound the sambal ingredients into a paste.
  3. Preheat wok into a high heat. Lower heat to medium, add canola oil. Stir fry sambal paste in oil for 5 minutes. 
  4. Add soaked TVP ground mixture. Mix well for 1 minute. Add nori flakes, brown sugar or sugar, tamarind water or lemon juice, and vegetarian fish sauce or soy sauce. Mix well for 5 minutes. Taste for saltiness and add salt if necessary. 
Nutrition Facts:Nutrition (per serving): 283.9 calories; 6% calories from fat; 2.0g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 352.1mg sodium; 1070.1mg potassium; 57.2g carbohydrates; 0.3g fiber; 2.6g sugar; 56.9g net carbs; 14.7g protein; 5.8 points.

Vegan Javanese Potato Patties (Perkedel Jawa)
Servings: 8

Printable Recipe

These potato patties are adaptation of Dutch Frikadels. The original recipe uses eggs but I managed to use chickpea flour to glue the potatoes and other ingredients together. Some people make these patties spicy, Javanese style, and use full flavor spices like chillies, coriander and cumin. These spices can be omitted to resemble the original recipe. It is a matter of taste.
I also pan fry the patties instead of deep frying to maintain my lower fat diet. The picture above is the result of pan frying. Of course, these patties are better deep fried.


1 lb Russet potatoes 2 clove garlic
6 clove shallots
1/2 cup dry ground TVP
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1 tbsp Kecap Manis
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt
2 tsp brown sugar or palm sugar (gula jawa)
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup chickpea flour (garbanzo flour)
oil for deep frying or oven frying

Javanese Style (optional):  2 tsp ground coriander seed
1 tsp ground cumin seed
3 dried red chillies or 1 teaspoon sambal oelek
  1. Soak the 3/4 cup dry ground TVP in a 3/4 cup hot water to reconstitute it. Soak the dry red chillies, if using, in hot water. Let both sit for at least 10 minutes.
  2. Steam the potatoes (unpeeled) until tender (about 40 minutes in a steamer) or steam it in a microwave (follow the timetable from manufacturer's instructions). I used my pressure cooker for 7 minutes on high and then quickly release the pressure. Carefully, remove the peel from the hot steamed potatoes. The peel should come off very easily. Let it cool slightly but make sure that they are still somewhat warm when they are mashed.
  3. While the potato is steaming, using a mortar and pestle or a mini food processor, pound the peeled garlic and shallots until it become a paste (process in the food processor for a minute). For Javanese style, add red chillies or sambal oelek and continue pounding or mixing it to a paste.  
  4. Stir fry the paste in 2 tsp. oil in a wok or non-stick frying pan for about 5 minutes on a medium heat.
  5. In a large bowl, mash the potato with a potato masher or pestle until smooth like making mashed potato. Add the reconstituted ground TVP, the garlic, shallots, and chili paste, ground nutmeg, sugar, and salt. Add the chopped celery. Combine the lemon juice and kecap manis, then, add it to the bowl. For Javanese style, add the ground coriander and cumin seeds also.
  6. With your clean hand, mix everything thoroughly making sure there is no more potato chunks.
  7. Add the chickpea flour to the bowl, mix to form a dough. The mixture will start to firm up and will stick to your hand. You can put a little oil on your hand so the dough will not stick. Form a ball the size of a golf ball and then flatten it between your hands. The recipe makes about 24 flattened balls.
  8. Heat oil about 1-inch deep in a deep frying pan until it reaches 350 F. Deep fry the patties until golden brown. Alternative method for low fat: Pan fry patties on a non-stick frying pan sprayed with oil.

Nutrition Facts (pan fried):Nutrition (per serving): 113.0 calories; 8% calories from fat; 1.1g total fat; 0.0mg cholesterol; 394.1mg sodium; 433.1mg potassium; 21.3g carbohydrates; 2.4g fiber; 3.7g sugar; 18.9g net carbs; 5.6g protein; 1.9 points.
Tips: For a short cuts, I sometimes use store bought Indonesian fried onions (brambang goreng) instead of shallots but this will add the fat content too.