Monday, April 30, 2012

Indian Kale-Cabbage Thoran & Balinese Soy Fish

Continuing my Indian cuisine blog, this one is a South Indian cuisine.  It is a common dish in Kerala (South Indian region).  Thoran is a dry vegetable dish cooked with grated coconut, black mustard seeds, cumin seeds,  turmeric, curry leaves, shallots, chillies, and salt (see my masala dabba).  A thoran dish can have any other combination of vegetables such as spinach, young jackfruit, collard, green beans, etc. cooked with the ingredients or spices I just mentioned.  This time I used the combination of cabbage, kale, and carrots.  I've been told to eat more kale, eat more kale, eat more here it is.  This dish is so delicious and nutritious.  It is a good way to cook kale and collard or any other nutritious green vegetable and a good way to get green vegetables into my system.

I found a great way to cook thoran without water at this blog.  I increased and changed the amount of spices since I like them stronger.  It is so EASY and QUICK to make.  The hard work is in cutting up the vegetables.  The kale, cabbage, and carrots need to be cut up thinly (as pictured below).  The hard ingredients to find for most people are the grated fresh coconut and curry leaves.  Unfortunately, they are pertinent to the dish.  Dry unsweetened grated coconut can be used.  I have also seen dry curry leaves being used.   I found the ingredients and spices at a small South Indian market near me.  The small market always has fresh curry leaves (lucky me).  I found the grated coconut in their frozen section.

Thoran ingredients (clockwise from top left):  kale, cabbage, shallots, grated coconut, carrots, red chili, green chili, curry leaves.

Kale and Cabbage Thoran
Serve 4-6
Note: try it with any other kind of vegetables

Vegetables and spices:
1 bunch kale, about 13-15 stalks, remove the ribs and cut thinly, 1/4 inch thick
     Note: about 4-5 cups cut kale, lightly packed
1/2 medium cabbage, shred or cut thinly, 1/4 inch thick
     Note: about 4-5 cups shredded cabbage, lightly packed
1 cup shredded carrots
1 green chili, slice thinly (or more to add spicyness)
1 red chili, slice thinly
1 cup grated fresh coconut (can use dry unsweetened grated coconut)
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp salt

Saute ingredients:
1/2 cup chopped shallots or onions
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric
15 curry leaves
1 tablespoon vegetable or coconut oil
More salt to taste

A large vessel such as a pot or pan with a tight lid.

  1. Take out the masala dabba.  Combine the ingredients under Vegetable and spices section above in a very large bowl (such as a large salad bowl).  I use my clean hands to mix them well and distribute the spices and grated coconut among the vegetables.
  2. In a very large pot or pan, add oil onto the pan on a medium high heat flame.  When the oil is hot add the black mustard seeds.  Wait until they start to pop and splutter.
    Note: this method in cooking South Indian is important.  It is important to temper the spices in hot oil to bring out the aroma of the spices.
  3. Add the shallots or onions, saute for 3 minutes until they are brown.
  4. Add curry leaves, saute for 1 minute.
  5. Add turmeric powder, mix with the shallots/onions and curry leaves.
  6. Add the vegetable and spices mixture (from no.1).  Mix well with the sauted spices.
  7. Set a timer for 2 minutes, put on the lid tightly.
  8. When the timer goes off, stir the vegetables, set the timer for another 2 minutes, put on the lid tightly again.
  9. When the timer goes off again, do no.8  one more time.  Taste for more salt.
  10. When the timer goes off again, check if vegetables is done.  Usually it is.   I think 6 minutes are good enough. I don't usually wait until they are completely done because, the vegetables still continue being cooked when they are still hot.  However, if you like them very done, you can add another 2 minutes with another tight lid cooking.  Serve with steamed basmati or brown brown rice.
Now, I also found that Thoran is a great accompanion of a soy fish dish and steamed rice.  Therefore, I present my Balinese Soy Fish recipe below.  The combination of thoran, soy fish dish, and steamed rice is hhmm...hhmm...hhmm....good.

I can get Vegan Fish Steak from my local health food store in the frozen section.  There are a few on-line Asian soy meat suppliers such as VegeKingMayWah Veggie World, or Veggie World who sell vegan soy fish steaks.  The vegan fish steak usually looks like the picture below, comes in a box in frozen section:

Balinese Soy Fish is not an Indian dish.  It is an Indonesian dish from the island of Bali.  However, Hindusm is a huge influence in this island.  I suspect that there is an influence of Indian cooking in this island.  Being surrounded by ocean, Balinese eats a lot of fish.  I veganized this dish by using soy fish steaks.

What's good about this dish is that it is sweet, spicy hot, and lemony.  It has the addition of galangal or blue ginger (or lengkuas or laos) which is a spice root like ginger.  This root makes this dish tastes really unique.  I can find fresh galangal at a nearby Asian market.  I usually buy a whole 4-5 inches long and slice them thinly and freeze them, sliced.  When I am ready to use  them I just picked a few slices and defrost them.  It works well this way.  Galangal permiates strong flavor.  A few slices go a long way. 

I understand that it will be hard to find galangal in western hemisphere.  Even if it is omitted, this dish is still delicious.

Kecap manis is also used in this dish.   It is Indonesian sweet soy sauce can be found in Asian market.  We use a lot of kecap manis in our cooking.  For a substitution, combine soy sauce and brown sugar/pam sugar, 1 to 1 ratio.  However, a few spices were added in making kecap manis so it is unique.

Balinese Soy Fish
Serve 4-6
Printable Recipe

6-10 slices vegan soy fish steak (see the above picture), cut into halves
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 medium onions, finely chopped
1/2 cup shallots, finely chopped
1-2 teaspoons Chili Garlic Sauce or Sambal Oelek
         Note: use less for less spicy
2 tablespoons Kecap Manis
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (from 1/2 large lemon)
2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon rind (from 1 large lemon)
2-3 slices galangal
water or vegetable broth(1/2 -1 cup)

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
canola oil spray
  1. Turn oven to 400 F. Spray soy fish with canola oil and layer onto a foiled baking pan.  Bake for 10 minutes, turn them over and bake for another 10 minutes.  This is to brown them with less oil.  Deep frying them in hot oil is also another good way to make them crispy and brown.  However, I prefer the bake method.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a hot wok or frying pan on a medium high heat.  Add garlic and ginger, stir fry for 1-2 minutes until brown and fragrant.
  3. Add onions and shallots, stir fry for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add chili garlic sauce or sambal oelek, kecap manis, lemon juice, grated lemon rind, and galangal, stir fry and combine for 1 minute.
  5. Add baked soy fish slices and 1/2 cup water/broth or just enough to cover the entire fish slices.  Lower the heat to simmer.
  6. Let it simmer and combine for 15-20 minutes until the water/broth evaporates.  This dish should have a lot of liquid but enough spices and sambal coats the soy fish slices.  Serve with steamed rice.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Indian Tofu/Tempeh/Soy Curls Masala

It's time for me to blog about vegan Indian dishes.  I have done some experiments in the last year or two cooking strong-flavor Indian dishes.  I aimed to make them as good as authentic Indian cooking that Indian house wives make at home or Indian chefs cook at restaurants.  This means lots of spices added to the dish. This means 1-2 tablespoons and not just 1 to 2 teaspoons of spices or even less than a teaspoon.  No siree!  This recipe is for those who love spices like me.  I guess this kind of a warning to those who don't really like too much spices. This recipe may not be for you.

I learned cooking Indian dishes from cookbooks and TV shows.  After searching and trying recipes, I discover that I love Bal Arneson's recipes.  She has a TV cooking show called Spice Goddess in the Cooking Channel.   With a name such as Spice Goddess, she really does put a lot of spices in her cooking.  I like that!  Unfortunately, she doesn't cook all vegetarian or vegan meals so I decided to veganize her recipe.  The recipe below is originally for chicken, named Chicken Masala.  However, I substitute the chicken with tofu, tempeh, or soy curls.  I made it several times now and was never disappointed with the result.

I would also like to share about a cute spice dabba or masala dabba I bought.  It comes with a lid and a tiny spoon (1/4 teaspoon measurement).

My Indian Masala Dabba (from left hand corner, clockwise):  coriander, cumin seeds, chili powder, garam masala, amchur power, black mustard seeds, turmeric
   At first I bought it as a novelty but it turned out that I use it every time I cook Indian dishes.  It is so easy just to take the dabba out and spoon out the spices without searching for all my spice bottles.  It is very handy.

Indian cuisine is my husband's favorite cuisine.  I love Indian dishes too but I still prefer Thai or Vietnamese.  We also love Indian classical music and dance.  Last week was an Indian Culture week for us. Not only I cooked Indian vegan dishes, we also had tickets to attend Anoushka Shankar concert at UC Irvine, promoting her new CD, Traveller.  The first time we were introduced to Anoushka was when we watched Concert For George DVDs.  We were so mesmerized by her sitar skills.  When we learned that she will be playing nearby, we bought our tickets months in advance.  It was a FANTASTIC concert!

Indian Tofu/Tempeh/Soy Curls Masala
Serve 4-6
Veganized version of Bal Arneson's recipe


2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely minced garlic
2 tablespoons finely minced fresh ginger
1 green chili, finely chopped
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
   Note:  I don't like these seeds whole so I crushed them a bit with a rolling pin. 

1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
    Note: fenugreek seeds are pretty strong, a little goes a long way.
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 teaspoon Spanish paprika
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 to 2.5 cups extra firm tofu or tempeh, cubed  OR 2 cups reconstituted Soy Curls
2 cups chopped  fresh tomatoes
2 cups chopped organic yukon gold potatoes, leave skins intact
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves
enough non-salty vegetable broth to cover the entire ingredients (about 2 cups)


Put oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, ginger, and chile, and saute for 3 minutes, or until the onions are softened. Add the coriander seeds, garam masala, paprika, turmeric, and salt and toast for 10 seconds and then add the tomato paste. Stir well and then add the cubed tofu or tempeh or soy curls, combined with all the spices thoroughly.  Add the tomatoes, potatoes, cilantro, and vegetable broth and mix well. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover with a lid and let cook for about 20 to 25 minutes, or until potatoes are cooked but not mushy. Serve the curry with white or brown rice.  Note: the curry is even better taste the next day when all the spices are absorbed to all the ingredients.

Stay tune for more Indian recipes!