Vegan Mofo 19: Y is for Yam Abacus Gnocchi with Broccoli Tahini Hemp Sauce

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.

Yam Abacus Gnocchi with Broccoli Tahini Hemp Sauce
Vegan. Gluten-Free.

Ingredients
For Yam Gnocchi (makes about 18 gnocchi)

  • 1 cup (165g) yam (taro), peeled and chopped
  • 4 tbsp buckwheat flour
  • 1 tbsp glutinous rice flour (can sub with tapioca flour or use all buckwheat flour)
  • 1/4 tsp dried basil
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/8 tsp ground cumin

For Sweet Potato Gnocchi (makes about 6 gnocchi)

  • 1/3 cup (55g) sweet potato, peeled and chopped
  • 1 1/2 tbsp buckwheat flour
  • 3/4 tbsp glutinous rice flour (can sub with tapioca flour or use all buckwheat flour)

Broccoli Tahini Hemp Sauce

  • 1 1/4 cups broccoli, cut into large florets
  • 1 tbsp tahini
  • 1 tbsp hemp seeds
  • 1/2 tsp garlic olive oil (or use garlic powder)
  • 5 tbsp water (can use reserved water from boiling the yams or sweet potato)

Directions

  1. Make the gnocchi. Clean, peel and chop the yam. Place about an inch of water in a saucepan and bring to boil. Place the chopped yam pieces into the boiling water and steam for about 5-10 mins until tender. Drain the yams (you may reserve the cooking liquid for the dressing).
  2. Using a potato masher, mash the yams until smooth. Then add in the buckwheat flour and glutinous rice flour (if using) and fold in until a dough forms. The dough should be moist but not sticky.
  3. To make abacus gnocchi, pinch our a small piece of dough and roll into a small ball. With your thumb and index finger, make a slight depression in the centre so that it will look like a abacus bead. Do try to make all the beads in the same size so that they will cooked evenly.
  4. Bring a pot of water to the boil and drop the dough rounds in a few at a time. Do not crowd the pot. Once they bob to the surface (about 5 mins), remove with a slotted spoon and place on a plate to cool.
  5. (Repeat the above process to make sweet potato gnocchi. As sweet potato is “wetter,” you may choose to dab dry the sweet potato pieces after boiling or the gnocchi may be too moist.)
  6. Make the sauce. Blanch the broccoli florets in boiling water for about 3 mins until bright green. Then place with broccoli with the remaining ingredients into a blender and blend on high until a smooth sauce forms. Instead of water, you may use the reserved yam or sweet potato cooking liquid for a sweeter and tastier dressing.
  7. Serve (or drench) the gnoochi with the broccoli sauce. Enjoy!

 

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.

Vegan Mofo 18: R is for raw buckwheat rolls with Red Bean filling

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.

Raw Buckwheat Rolls with Red Bean Filling (recipe-in-progress)
Makes 10 small rolls.
Vegan.
Buckwheat Rolls adapted from Vegan Fusion; Red Bean (Anko) Paste adapted from Just Hungry.

Ingredients
Raw & Sprouted Buckwheat Rolls

  • 2/3 cup raw buckwheat groats
  • 2/3 cup Medjool dates (about 8 dates), coarsely chopped

Red Bean Paste (will make extra paste)

  • 2/3 cup (125g) red beans (adzuki beans)
  • Water
  • 2 tbsp sugar

Directions

  1. Day 1: soak buckwheat. Two days before making the rolls, soak the buckwheat overnight in water.
  2. Day 2: sprout buckwheat & soak red beans. The next day, drain the buckwheat and rinse well under running water to remove the slime. Once the water runs clear, leave the groats in the sieve and place it away from direct sunlight. Allow the groats to sprout for one day. Also, soak the red beans overnight in water.
  3. Day 3: make the rolls.
  4. First prepare the red bean paste. Drain the beans and put them in a saucepan with water to cover. Bring the water to a boil, boil for a minute then drain the beans. Repeat the boiling and rinsing three times. (Apparently this helps to get rid of the impurities and give a cleaner taste). Then add water again, just enough to cover the beans, and boil for about one hour until the beans can be squashed easily with the back of a spoon. Drain the beans, reserving the cooking liquid. Add sugar and mix well. If it is too dry, add a little of the reserved cooking liquid back in. Once sugar has completely mixed in, pour into a container to cool down.
  5. Meanwhile as the red beans are boiling, prepare the buckwheat paste. Place sprouted buckwheat and dates into the food processor and pulse until slightly crumbled and doughy, but with some bits of buckwheat groats still visible (I may have overprocessed mine!). Then spread dough out onto a parchment paper and press the dough into a square/rectangle that is roughly ¼-inch thick.
  6. Spread the red bean paste over all of the dough except for about 1/2-inch along the far long edge.
  7. Roll the dough up by making a small fold along the near edge, pressing it down, peeling back the parchment, and continuing to roll in the same way, making sure to press the whole thing together as you go so that you have a tight roll. Refrigerate for a few hours to harden.
  8. For a clean slice, use a thread to cut into 1-inch pieces.

 

Vegan Mofo 16: Q is for pretty pink breakfast Quinoa in pink guava soup

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.

Pretty Pink Breakfast Quinoa in Pink Guava Soup
Serves one.
Vegan.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup uncooked red quinoa
  • Flesh of 1 pink guava (about 1/2 cup), seeds removed
  • 1/4 cup non-dairy milk (I used hazelnut milk)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/8 tsp pectin powder (optional – for thickening)
  • Splash of vanilla extract (optional)
  • Dash of ground cinnamon (optional)
  • 1/2 scoop protein powder (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp maca powder (optional)
  • Your choice of toppings (I used fresh figs and desiccated coconut)

Directions

  1. Soak the quinoa overnight in a bowl of water. The next morning, place the quinoa in a sieve and rinse well under running water.
  2. Cook quinoa. Place the drained quinoa into a saucepan. Add about 1/2 cup water, bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 20 mins until the water is absorbed and you can see the white curly rings of the quinoa. Fluff and set aside.
  3. Make the guava puree. Place the guava flesh into the saucepan and add the milk and water. Bring to boil, and simmer for about 5-10 mins or until the guava flesh becomes soft.
  4. Add in the vanilla, cinnamon and other powders (if using). Stir well.
  5. Pour the mix into a blender and blend (for less clean up use immersion blender).
  6. To serve, place quinoa into a ramekin and using a spoon, press down to make the quinoa stick together. Invert the ramekin onto a plate, then pour the guava soup over. Garnish with fresh figs or other fruits and nuts.

 

Vegan Mofo 15: T is for Thunder Tea Rice

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!

Thunder Tea Rice (Lei Cha Fan)
Serves 4.
Vegan.
Refer to Annelicious for a very comprehensive guide.

Ingredients (You may also refer to the visual guide above)
Rice or other carbs

  • Cooked brown/white rice or carbs of preference (I used buckwheat)

Vegetables and Other Toppings

  • 100g or 1/2 pack long beans, chopped into large sticks
  • 140g or 1/4 of a large savoy cabbage, shredded
  • 200g or 1 pack of kai lan (Chinese broccoli), leaves and stems separated
  • 9 small dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 2 tsp tamari
  • 220g or 1/2 medium jicama, diced into small cubes
  • 200g or 1/2 pack firm tofu, drained, dried and diced into small cubes
  • Nori, shredded
  • 40g toasted peanuts, toasted

Thunder Tea Soup

  • 8g Thai Basil Leaves (stems removed before weighing; I used home-grown Thai Basil!)
  • 8g Mint Leaves (stems removed before weighing)
  • 5g superior-grade tea leaves (I used Pu-Er)
  • 25g old ginger, grated into large chunks
  • 5g or 1/2 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
  • 10g toasted peanuts
  • 1/2 tsp matcha powder

Directions
For the vegetables and toppings

  1. Rehydrate the dried shiitake mushrooms in water for at least 2 hours, or better, overnight.
  2. Trim long beans and cut into large pieces. Blanch in boiling water for about 3-5 mins, drain, then chop into small pieces. Set aside.
  3. In a large skillet, saute cabbage in olive oil until softened, about 10-15 mins. Set aside.
  4. In the same skillet, saute the kai lan leaves in olive oil until slightly wilted, about 3-5 mins. Set aside.
  5. Blanch the kai lan stems in boiling water until bright green, about 3 mins, drain, and set aside.
  6. Once the msuhrooms are rehydrated, squeeze them dry, slice into small pieces. Then simmer the mushrooms in the tamari and some water for about 10-15 mins, until the mushrooms have softened and absorbed the tamari.
  7. Meanwhile, chop the jicama and firm tofu, and shred the nori. Set aside.
  8. Toast peanuts and sesame seeds (for the tea paste) in a skillet over high heat if using untoasted. Set aside.

For the tea paste

  1. Place all the ingredients for the tea soup into a food processor and blend until a paste forms. Scrape out the paste and place into a small bowl.

Serving

  1. Place rice of choice of carbs into a bowl, then scoop desired amounts of each topping over.
  2. Take about 1-2 tbsp of the tea paste and place into a small bowl. Pour boiling water over to infuse for 3-5 mins.
  3. Douse the rice with the tea soup and inhale its minty aromas!

 

Vegan Mofo 13: P is for chocolate maple Pecan butter

Another vegan version of nutella, made with the flavours of fall.

Hazelnuts are a tough find in Singapore, but with an irresistible urge for Nutella, I thought pecans make the best surrogate. To go with the fall season, I decided a touch of maple flavour would be lovely. What makes this nut butter extra special personally is that it is the first batch of nut butter to be churned out of my new food processor!

Pecans conjure up thoughts of decadent treats like pies, pralines and candies, but there’s no reason to shy away from these tasty nuts. It is in fact the nut with the most antioxidants! This is measured according to a method called Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) – a fluorescence-based assay for reactive oxygen species. Pecans are also high in other nutrients and minerals including vitamin A, vitamin E, folic acid, calcium and magnesium. But alas every good thing has a dark side; it is also the nut with the highest (good) fat. So as always, the moral is moderation.

But moderation is hard when it comes to this pecan nutella. You’d want to spoon it on everything, from oatmeals to toast or heck, just eat it straight out from the spoon. Truthfully its texture is more of a soft cookie dough than a drippy nut butter, but that doesn’t stop it from being any less tasty.

The pecan nut is also the state tree of Texas. You’d probably know that if you are American, but I was amazed to find out that each state of the U.S.A has an official tree. Apart from the pecan tree, the sugar maple tree – representing the states of New York, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin, would be another favorite.

Here a date you may want to bookmark too – April 14, which is National Pecan Day celebrated since 1996. I think a more appropriate date should be closer to Thanksgiving, or at least coincide with the fall season? On hindsight, maybe it is better to spread out the dates as an excuse for more pecan parties!

For fellow Singaporeans, you can get really cheap pecans (and other nuts) from Albert Centre Food Complex L3. I can’t really remember the exact price, but it’s way cheaper than buying from the supermarket.

Chocolate Maple Pecan Butter
Makes about 1/2 cup. (You can double or triple the recipe if desired).
Vegan. Raw.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup raw pecans
  • 4 tsp raw cacao powder
  • 1 tsp maple syrup (or more for a stronger maple flavour)
  • Ground cinnamon (optional)

Directions

  1. Place pecans into the food processor and blend. Stop to scrape down the sides with a spatula, as many times as needed. At first the mixture becomes mealy, but then moistens and melts into a velvety smooth and delicious nut butter. It took me about 10 mins.
  2. Then add the cocoa powder and maple syrup and blend again to combine.
  3. Store in an air-tight container and refrigerate.

 


I am in the process of revamping my blog and I thought an FAQ page will be useful. Feel free to ask any questions from food to lifestyle in the comment box or you can email me at sab-06@hotmail. Whatever your questions, I’d be happy to hear.

Vegan Mofo 11: M is for Mooncake

Today is the 15th day of the eight month of the lunar calendar, which marks Mid-Autumn Festival. Walking lanterns, donning papier mâché masks and offering foods to the gods are all part of the festivities, but let’s be honest, most of us associate this holiday with the indispensable delicacy called mooncakes.

Traditionally, mooncakes are palm-sized Chinese pastries with an egg yolk center that is embraced by a sweet rich paste made from lotus seed, red bean or jujube and a variety of nuts and seeds. The sweet/salty contrast is what makes mooncakes so irresistibly good. Additionally, crusts can vary from being thin and glossy (Cantonese-style), flaky (Suzhou and Taiwan-style) or chewy (modern snowskin varieties). As far as symbolism goes, its round-shape signifies the completeness and unity of the family while the bright golden yolk represents the full moon and also wealth.

I was surprised to learn a few years ago that lard is commonly used in traditional mooncakes to achieve a smooth texture and impart fragrance. For vegans/vegetarians, snowskin mooncakes are a safer bet because the skin is made from cooked glutinous rice flour and vegetable oil (although you may want to check the ingredients first). Although my family is not big on mooncakes, this year I got to enjoy some heavenly nuggets – either gifted/bought from restaurants or friends, as well as a rather inauthentic version that I invented at a last minute.

Mao Shan Wang Durian Mooncake, Peony Jade

Source

Generous chunks of 100% pure premium bittersweet Mao Shan Wang durian in organic pandan snowskin. I didn’t really care for the skin, which I found too sweet and lacking bite, but the durian… delicious, divine, decadent or heavenly, but truly, no words can do justice to describe it. Just so good! They were swiped clean in a matter of a few days hence the borrowed picture.

Pandan Lotus Paste with Brown Rice Snowskin (left) and Red Bean Paste with Glutinous Rice Snowskin (right) from Chen Xi (@peabrainner on Instagram). Both mooncakes are vegan.

I got to know Chen Xi through Instagram. Her pictures, mainly of food but also of street shots and architecture in Singapore, are colorful and varied and I was drawn to her account immediately. Moreover how often to you “meet” a fellow vegan friend in Singapore? Anyway her mother was having a mooncake sale and just the descriptions of the mooncakes alone was enough to entice me into buying. The skin of snowskin mooncakes are usually made with cooked glutinous rice flour (koh fun/gao fen), so a brown rice snowskin was novel and certainly worth a try.

Both mooncakes impressed with their not too sweet paste. There was none of the cloying oiliness that can sometimes be present in commercial mooncakes, but instead had a clean natural mouthfeel. The texture of the snowskin was the highlight – springy and thick, and infused with a gentle hint of pandan or red bean. Usually I’m a fillings person and abandon the skin (too sweet/doughy), but for the first time I actually found a snowskin that was palatable! The brown rice (pandan) snowskin was also noticeably softer than the glutinous rice (red bean) one – an interesting observation worthy of experimentation. Of the two, I preferred the pandan which came filling came studded with bits of brown rice, imparting the mooncake with a unique texture different from the usual crunchy nuts/seeds.

Matcha Buckwheat Mooncakes with Peanut Butter Sweet Potato Yolk, a creation by earlymorningoats.

Essentially, you may consider this a buckwheat peanut butter cup masquerading as a mooncake. I initially planned on making traditional/snowskin mooncakes, but eventually had to abandon the idea because of the lack of time and resources. Then last night a spark of inspiration hit; why not a buckwheat mooncake?

An ashen brown, the colour of buckwheat flour makes the perfect mimic for lotus paste. The buckwheat bake is made with a banana-flax base and stippled with pumpkin and sunflower seeds for a satisfying crunch. For the yolk, I went with a ball of sweet potato, rolled oats and peanut butter. Not only does it resemble the golden egg yolk/moon, the peanut butter adds a savoury touch similar to the salted duck egg yolk in traditional mooncakes. Finally for the “skin”, I went with a green tea cashew frosting. Green tea is a popular flavour in mooncakes because its bitter notes help balance out the sweet filling. Initially I was afraid that the earthy buckwheat and bitter matcha might be too overwhelming, but the flavours all worked out beautifully in the end.

I had some leftover sweet potato “yolks” which I baked alongside with the mooncake. This might just be the best snack ever.

Matcha Buckwheat Mooncakes with Peanut Butter Sweet Potato Yolk
1 3.5″ mooncake.
Vegan. Gluten-Free.
Buckwheat Bake adapted from Edible Perspective. See Ashley’s blog for a wonderful collection of buckwheat bakes.

Ingredients
For the Sweet Potato Peanut Butter Yolk

  • 1 1/2 tbsp sweet potato puree (preferably from a yellow sweet potato which is starchier than the orange ones)
  • 2 tsp rolled oats
  • 1 tsp natural peanut butter

For the Banana Buckwheat Lotus Paste

  • 5 tbsp buckwheat flour
  • 1 tbsp raw buckwheat groats
  • 2 tsp cacao powder (optional; added for a darker colour)
  • 1-2 tbsp protein powder (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 flax egg (1 tbsp flax meal + 3 tbsp water)
  • 1/2 medium banana, mashed (about 3-4 tbsp puree)
  • Non-dairy milk, as needed
  • 1 tsp sunflower seeds
  • 1 tsp pumpkin seeds

For the Matcha Cashew Frosting

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350F°/175°C. Lightly oil a 3.5″ mini casserole or ramekin and set aside.
  2. First make the flax egg. In a small bowl, mix the flax meal with water, whisk and let stand for 15 mins to thicken.
  3. Make the sweet potato yolk. Steam a (yellow) sweet potato and mash a few slices to get about 1 1/2 tbsp of puree. Add in the rolled oats and peanut butter, then roll the mix to form a ball about 1.2-inch/3 cm in diameter. Press down gently to flatten slightly. Set aside.
  4. In a medium-size bowl, mix all the dry ingredients for the buckwheat bake. In another bowl, mash the banana then add in the flax egg, which should have thickened. Then create a well in the dry ingredients and fold in the banana-flax mixture. The batter should be thick and sticky. Add non-dairy milk to the batter if necessary. Then, fold in the pumpkin and/or sunflower seeds.
  5. Pour half the batter into the mini-casserole, place the sweet potato yolk in the center, then add the remaining batter around it. Bake the mooncake at 350F°/175°C for 30 mins or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
  6. Meanwhile as the mooncake is baking, prepare the matcha frosting. Add the matcha powder to the cashew frosting, then refrigerate until needed.
  7. Once the buckwheat mooncake has finished baking, remove from oven and let cool 5 mins then slide a knife around the edge to release. Let cool another 10 mins.
  8. If the top of the buckwheat bake is domed, you may want to slice the top mound off. Then frost with the matcha cashew frosting.

This is probably the only mooncake which you can devour whole and not feel the least bit guilty! And you can enjoy it at any time of the year too!

Vegan Mofo 9: K is for Kuih Ondeh Ondeh

Kuihs are Southeast Asian snacks especially popular in Singapore and Malaysia. It is an umbrella term, encompassing both sweet desserts and savoury bites. Dessert kuihs come in a thousand different shapes, colours, texture and designs, yet they are share a common set of base ingredients: coconut milk, grated coconut, pandan leaves, gula melaka (coconut palm syrup), rice flour, glutinous rice flour, tapioca and/or mung bean flour. The combination of these ingredients is responsible for the kuih’s delightful chewy texture and wonderful fragrance. They are naturally vegan too!

It’s hard to choose, but my favorite kuih has to be Kuih Ondeh Ondeh. These are essentially the Asian equivalent of a molten lava cake; a heavenly pool of melted gula melaka would squirt out as you bite into the chewy sweet potato skin that is infused with the essence of pandan. If anything, coconut + pandan + gula melaka makes the holy trinity of dessert kuihs!

I found several recipes online and it looked pretty easy to make (see links in recipe below). I could not be more wrong. First, I didn’t expect the difficulty in extracting fresh pandan juice from pandan leaves; 1 cup of pandan leaves only yielded a measly tablespoon of the precious green juice! Then I made another mistake by adding too much water when forming the dough. I had to rectify that by adding more glutinous rice flour, which screwed up the proportions of sweet potato-to-flour ratio (ideally it should be about 1:1). Finally, as I molded the balls, some of the gula melaka started melting and oozed out of the pre-boiled balls. The final outcome was, expectedly, disastrous. No oozing filling (it probably all leaked out into the water) and thick doughy skin that ironically, was limp and seemed to tear apart easily too.

From my disastrous experience, here are some pointers you may wish to keep in mind when making ondeh-ondeh:

  • Use pandan essence as a quick solution to pandan juice. Unless you have a lot of time to squeeze the juice from the leaves and are willing clean up the blender.
  • Add water to the dough little by little, until it resembles the texture of play-dough. It should not be sticky.
  • Grate the gula melaka finely so that it melts easily.
  • Use about 10g dough for each ball (I used 15g and it turned out huge as it actually expanded upon boiling.)
  • Some recipes call for tapioca flour in the dough. Not sure how that would affect the texture of the dough.

Although the kuih ondeh-ondeh didn’t turned out well, I’ve learnt quite alot from this disaster and now appreciate the skill needed to make those balls of deliciousness. It’s also my first time working with pandan and glutionous rice flour, so it was quite an experience.

Kuih Ondeh Ondeh (Sweet Potato Glutinous Rice Balls) (Recipe-in-progress)
24 balls.
Vegan.
Adapted from Atkokken and Christine’s Recipes.

Ingredients

  • 6 pandan leaves, chopped into small pieces; and 2 additional pandan leaves
  • 2 tbsp + 2 tsp water
  • 120g sweet potato, skins removed (use different coloured sweet potatoes if preferred; I used 60g each of Australian orange sweet potato and Vietnamese yellow sweet potato, and then divided the rest of the ingredients into two batches)
  • 4 tbsp coconut milk
  • 120g glutinous rice flour
  • 50g gula melaka, finely grated
  • Dessicated coconut, as needed

Directions

  1. Cut 6 panadan Leaves into small pieces and blend it with the water. Squeeze to get about 2 tbsp of dark green pandan juice. Divide into two portions if using two different coloured sweet potatoes.
  2. Steam sweet potato in a saucepan with a little water. Let cool down, then mash.
  3. Mix mashed sweet potato with the pandan juice and coconut milk.
  4. Add in glutinous rice flour and incorporate until the dough comes together.
  5. Portion dough out into 10-15g pieces and flatten into circles. Place about half teaspoon of grated gula melaka into the center of the circle, roll into a ball and seal. Place the ball in a shallow plate of glutinous rice flour to prevent them from sticking together.
  6. Place the remaining 2 pandan leaves into a pot of water and bring to boil a pot of water. Drop the balls into the boiling water. Cook until the Ondeh Ondeh floats to the surface of the boiling water.
  7. Remove the Ondeh Ondeh with a slotted spoon and leave it to cool for 2 mins.
  8. Roll the Ondeh Ondeh in grated coconut and serve.

 
Surprisingly, both my Mum and sister actually liked the Ondeh Ondeh despite it lacking the squirty effect. So try the recipe at your own risk.