It has come time to say farewell to this blog.
After four years of blogging as earlymorningoats, I no longer identity with its personality. Within these span of months, I’ve changed. However I love writing and I will continue to write, on a broader range of topics, at a new site which is currently in the making. Not wanting to set deadlines, there is no guarantee when the new site will be up. But probably within the next one or two months.
Thank you, readers. It’s been a joy while this journey lasted.
Meanwhile I will still be active on my Instagram account (@livinginthepure).
So Vegan Mofo is over and it’s October already but better a late reflection than never. I must say I literally cooked my way through the alphabet. For simplicity, I’ll do my reflection Q&A style.
Why I joined Vegan Mofo
1. I was unemployed and had too much time on hand; 2. To connect with other blogs; 3. To gain publicity; 4. To expand my repertoire of vegan recipes.
On my theme
The A-Z theme is flexible yet guided so you won’t run out of recipes or things to blog about. While sometimes I had to buy a specific ingredient just for the recipe, it afforded the opportunity to work with with ingredients I never had before, such as jicama, red beans, and yams. In writing about the dishes, I also learnt a lot about the history such as how Thunder Tea Rice came about. In short, the A-Z theme is useful for the unseasoned cook.
Did Vegan Mofo meet my expectations?
Seriously, I was too busy with maintaining my own blog that I hardly had time to visit other blogs. There wasn’t any significant increase in readership (posts not interesting enough?) but I’m not too worked up over that. What’s more important is that I’m now more confident of vegan cooking, such as how to use vegan eggs, coconut whipped cream, sprouting etc. Also in the past I used to make mostly single-serving dishes but now I am more confident working with mass ingredients.
Would I join Vegan Mofo again?
Seeing that the requirement is to churn out at least 20 posts in a month, it means cooking yourself silly and blogging at a maniacal speed. It was truly fun, it pushed the borders of my creativity, but it was really time-consuming. Sure you could fall short of the 20 posts (I doubt the organizers would do anything), but I’m not one to renegade on my word. I would join Vegan Mofo next year again only if I have the time, and choose a different theme that doesn’t require so much cooking.
My favorite recipes
Below is a gallery of all the dishes created for Vegan Mofo (you can click on the individual pictures to go to the post). The hits are the Sprouted Granola, Durian Mousse Cake , Thai Quinoa Salad with Jicama and the Lentil Sunday Roast. The Chocolate Maple Pecan Butter is so good too! Disasters include the vegan cheese block and the Kuih Ondeh Ondeh.
What’s in store for Early Morning Oats?
First I’m looking to move to having my own domain and redesigning the site. I’m also looking to expand this blog beyond a recipe website, perhaps writing on health & fitness and nutrition, as well as have a “photography” tab as I want to develop my photography repertoire to just beyond food. In terms of recipes, this month I’m looking forward to expand my raw recipes because I really feel the difference and increase in appetite my eating more veggies.
So this sums up my reflection of Vegan Mofo. After this intense period of cooking myself silly, I’m looking forward to days of normalcy.
Pillows of yammy bites cloaked in a textured broccoli sauce redolent of tahini and hemp, uplifted with a touch of zesty lemon.
Singaporeans are a unique bunch. Not only do we have our own local parlance called Singlish, we name ingredients using the most confusing terminology that would baffle the rest of the world. In coming up with this dish, I learnt that what we call a yam is actually known to most as taro. And what most would know as yam is in Singapore, confusingly called the sweet potato. Furthermore the yam lexicon also includes the true yam and the purple yam or ube. The latter is often befuddled with the Japanese purple sweet potato (Okinawan purple yam). Just writing this is making my brain hurt!
To put things scientifically straight, a yam or taro is a large underground stem and is technically a tuber, while sweet potatoes are storage roots and do not have “eyes”. Apart from being totally different in shape and texture, they also differ in colour. Taros have a light purplish hue with grey undertones, while purple sweet potatoes and ube are dark purple. And finally, they taste different too. The taro is much starchier and less sweet than the sweet potatoes.
Today’s dish features yam (taro). In Chinese Hakka cuisine, it is often made into a dish called yam abacus beads, so named because they are shaped after the beads that make up the Chinese abacus. Yam abacus may be also be called the Chinese gnocchi, but being made from tapioca flour instead of wheat flour, the difference is that they have a bouncy chewy texture. They are usually stir-fried with garlic, shrimp, mushrooms and/or minced pork.
However the traditional yam abacus dish can be a tad oily, though the idea of the “bead” shape was cute. So I combined the idea of a classic Italian gnocchi with the bead shape of yam abacus. I had some leftover sweet potatoes so I decided to try out a sweet potato gnocchi too. The dressing was conceived out of an overdue need to use a week’s old broccoli. And we know the combination of tahini + hemp seeds work magic!
Truthfully I never had Italian gnocchi before so I don’t have a basis for comparison to these yam gnocchis. Nevertheless, they were not exactly fantastic; the buckwheat flavour was too strong. The sweet potato gnocchis were better in taste (sweeter), but the texture was slightly too soft. I suppose this recipe would work better with other milder flours that would not mask the flavours of the yam or sweet potato.
But one thing is definitely a keeper, the broccoli sauce! If you love tahini and hemp, this one is definitely worth a try. I also loved how the broccoli florets gave some texture to the sauce. It’s a very versatile sauce that would work well for pastas and salads, or a dip for fries, or just eat it up straight.
Boy, am I relieved than Vegan Mofo is over! It was so much fun, intense and a burden all at the same time. I’ll do a proper Vegan Mofo roundup (20th post) and reflection tomorrow.
Sweetened red bean paste (anko) opens the door to East Asia, where it is used in a variety of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean desserts from soups to pancakes to ice creams. I have not worked with red beans before so I thought I’d give it a go. Note that red beans, also known as azuki or adzuki beans, should not be confused with red kidney beans, which are much larger in size.
Recently I came across a very inviting recipe for raw buckwheat cinnamon rolls which looked just like swiss rolls. Currently in a buckwheat phase, I combined the idea of a buckwheat roll with anko filling, thinking that the earthy buckwheat flavor would be a nice complement the sweet anko. In the original recipe, 100% raw groats were used, but I decided soaking and sprouting would be better on the digestive system.
Red bean paste generally comes in two consistencies: chunky (tsubu-an) and pureed (koshi-an). I went for a chunkier filling as I prefer more bite to the rolls. Most recipes call for a 1:1 ratio of beans to sugar but I drastically reduced the sugar amount, because the rolls had dates in them and I didn’t want to overdo the sugar.
But it still turned out quite a sugar-rush though. Buckwheat + dates + sweetened red beans, that makes a triple carbo-load! Also the rolls lacked textural contrast as everything was quite pasty (somewhat like energy balls). On hindsight, chop nuts such as walnuts studded on top would add a lovely crunch. Even better, use crushed pistachios for a red-and-green festive look that would be perfect for Christmas. Overall I love the concept of the buckwheat rolls but the filling needs tweaking.
Think tofu has to be made from soy? When I first came across this Japanese dish called Goma Dofu or sesame tofu, I thought it was an ingenious idea – a soy-free tofu made from sesame paste!
Tofu, in the traditional sense, is made by coagulating proteins in soy milk. Common coagulants used are magnesium chloride (nigari), calcium chloride or calcium sulphate (gypsum). (The divalent cations of these salts react with the anionic groups of the soy proteins, which destabilizes their structure and cause coagulation.) However since sesame does not contain as high levels of protein as soy, Goma Dofu is solidified using a starch, typically kuzu or kudzu starch, although arrowroot or potato starch may also be used. On the differences between the different starches, kuzu starch, which is extracted from the root of the kuzu plant, imparts a more elastic texture than arrowroot or potato starch.
I bought the Goma Dofu from a Japanese supermarket although it can be easily made from just three ingredients – sesame paste (white or black), kuzu starch and water. My first thought? Bleah, just pass me real tahini instead! It was starchier than expected but less so than tapioca balls, slightly gelatinous and wobbly, and its consistency was firmer than silken tofu not quite as firm as an agar jelly. It had a mild hint of sesame just enough to be noticed, but left you craving more, and being the ardent tahini addict, I proceeded to smother the goma dofu in a coat of tahini. Much better!
Typically, Goma Dofu is served as an appetizer or as a course in kaiseki dining. It was probably invented by Japanese Buddhist monks and is considered the most symbolic food of Shojin Ryori (vegetarian temple cuisine). Apart from excluding meat and fish, one website even says that root vegetables are excluded! It is believed that harvesting will cause the death of the vegetables, which is against their principle philosophy of “don’t kill.” As such, only grains, beans, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits are used. An in-depth article on Shojin Ryori can be found here.
So overall, I didn’t quite take to Sesame Tofu, although some has gone so far as to describe it as giving melt-in-your mouth experience. Sesame Tofu is not only the faux tofu; this can also be made with ground peanuts (peanut tofu), or also check out Shan tofu, a Burmese staple made from chickpea flour.
A nutritious breakfast with a girlish charm.
Perhaps you saw this coming; I mean I racked my brains for other ‘Q’ ingredients but Quinoa is all I could think of. Nevertheless working with quinoa is fun since it’s so versatile and can be used in practically any dish from sweets to savouries. In a double stroke of luck, pink guavas and fresh figs were on sale this week and so I thought of combining these exotic fruits with red quinoa to create a pretty breakfast.
Quinoa is riding a popularity resurgence and much has been written about it (in fact I wrote about it in my Superfood Series which sadly has failed to take off) so there’s no need to delve too much into explanation. A gluten-free pseudo-grain, it is often highlighted for its complete amino acid profile (including lysine and isoleucine – the limiting amino acids in other grains) and highly concentrated nutritive value such as calcium and flavaoids (quercetin and kaempferol). Did you know that 2013 is also officially recognized by the United Nations as the International Year of the Quinoa? In fact, it is the only food ingredient to make this list apart from the humble potato.
Between red and white quinoa, I prefer the former for its more intense nutty flavour and visual impact. Apart from breakfast quinoa porridges and granola, which I enjoy occasionally as a departure from oats, some quinoa recipes I’ve got my eyes on include the famouus Life Changing Loaf of Bread (My New Roots), and a quinoa quiche or pizza. Quinoa flour is also something I want to experiment with, but probably not anytime soon, given the growing number of half-opened bags ingredients in the kitchen.
If guavas are not available, I suppose you may use guava paste of another intense-colored fruit of choice, like mangoes or strawberries. The main idea is to have a nice thick pool of fruity smoothie for the quinoa to swim in. I also added protein powder and pectin to the soup, which added a nutritional boost as well as help to thicken it.
The Chinese may not be known for their salads, but one that you have to know is Thunder Tea Rice (Lei Cha Fan), which I would laud the honour as King of Asian Salads. Essentially this dish is served in two parts: a rice bowl filled with a bedazzling medley of chopped Asian vegetables such as long beans, cabbage, leafy greens and radish as well as diced tofu and peanuts; and a side bowl best akin to a slightly astringent herbal pesto soup, made from ground tea leaves and Asian herbs such as mint and basil. It is the tea soup that harbours the strong and unique flavor of Thunder Tea Rice which you either love or hate. It is obvious which side of the camp I am on!
The best part comes when you douse the rice bowl in the green tea soup, so that each spoonful of veggies comes coated in the minty soup. This is the traditional way to eat the dish although there are some who find the soup too overpowering and choose eat the individual elements separately. Whatever the method, the beauty of Thunder Tea Rice is the smug sense of virtuousness and well-being that lingers on for hours.
As always, I like to write a little on the history of the dish. Thunder Tea Rice is a traditional Hakka dish originally created as a medicinal dish for soldiers to ward of plague and illnesses during the tumultuous times of war in the Qin Dynasty (221 – 207AD). During the mass migration from central China to the southern provinces, the Hakka brought along and preserved the traditional preparation of Thunder Tea Rice. The “thunder” (Lei in Chinese) in the dish refers to the racket made from pounding (Lei in Hakka) all the tea ingredients. Thus there is actually a double meaning to the name depending on the language you view it from. It’s kind of confusing but interesting to learn the etymology of words.
With so many veggies, preparing thunder rice tea at home can be a tedious endeavor; it requires the separate preparation of each ingredient so as to maintain each of their flavor profile. But I assure you the results are rewarding and extremely satisfying. A big batch may last a couple of meals, which you will never tire of.
The original dish contains dried anchovies which help impart a umami or savoury flavour. I easily replicated its flavours by using tamari-simmered mushrooms and shredded nori strips. Also I used Pu-Er (普洱) tea leaves instead of the recommended ones green tea and some obscure liu bao cha (六宝茶) or jiu cheng ta (九層塔) because that was the only tea leaves I had on hand. Also I blended the tea leaves into the paste which may not have been the best idea. My soup came out blackish rather than the expected pale green, probably because of insufficient basil and mint leaves (their taste was rather weak too). Overall the tea blend still needs a little tweaking but was still pretty good. And look who loves Thunder Tea Rice too!