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 14: O is for Oats! Oatmeal 101 and More

Given the name of my blog, it would be an offense to write on anything apart from oats. There are hundreds of oatmeal tutorials and recipes out there that provide an ocean of information. So in my Oatmeal 101, I share my personal journey with oats in addition to oat facts and trivia.

My first bowl of oats back in 2009: quick oats from Marks & Spencer. Very specifically this was what I wrote (taken from my old blog):

I would describe my first attempt as a failure: the oats were burnt and stuck to the bottom of the pan. I should have stirred more quickly. The blueberries also bled, giving the oats a sickly bluish hue. Having used less than the recommeded 180ml of fluid, my oat porridge turned out thick and lumpy.

 
It’s all quite amusing to read this now! I can’t really remember what was the fillip that sparked my interest in oats; perhaps it was the big bright and beautiful bowls of oats over at Kath Eats that invoked a curiosity. Before that my breakfasts were made of Gardenia bread or boxed cereal, but am I glad I’ve never touched those stuff again!

OAT HISTORY
Oats were not important to man as early as wheat or barley, but were in fact considered as a weed by ancient Greeks and Romans. They were used primarily for medicinal purposes rather than food.

Oats were introduced to North America by Scottish settlers in the 17th century. They gradually became a major crop until the 20th century. The first oat flakes (rolled oats) were produced by the Quaker Mill Company in 1876. Today, with the advance of knowledge about nutrition, oats are recognized as a healthy food and is a highly popular breakfast staple.

TYPES OF OATS

Whole Oat Groats
Whole oat kernels with the inedible hull removed; bran, endosperm and germ remain. Takes the longest to cook, about 1 hour on stove-top. Nutty flavour with chewy texture. Nutritional stats (1/4 cup dry): 170 calories, 3g fat, 29g carbs, 5g fiber, 7g protein. (Probably the only type of oats I’ve yet to try!)

Steel Cut (Irish) Oats
Groats cut into a few pieces using sharp metal blades. Cooks in about 30-40 mins on the stove-top. Nutty flavour, especially when toasted before cooking. Nutritional stats (1/4 cup dry): 170 calories, 3g fat, 29g carbs, 5g fiber, 7g protein. (My personal favourite.)

Scottish Oats
Groats that are stone-ground, rather than cut with a steel blade, giving a coarse meal of irregularly broken bits. This method originated in Scotland centuries ago. Cooks 15-20 mins on the stove-top. Creamier than steel cut oats. Nutritional stats (1/4 cup dry): 140 calories, 2.5g fat, 23g carbs, 4g fiber, 6g protein.

Rolled (Old-Fashioned/Regular) Oats
Oat groats that are steamed to soften, then rolled into flakes. The steaming and increased surface area means that these cook in just 10 mins on the stove-top. Soft porridge-like texture. Nutritional stats (1/2 cup dry): 190 calories, 3.5g fat, 32g carbs, 5g fiber, 7g protein. (Not a personal favourite, but works for breakfast in a jiffy, or in baked oatmeal.)

Quick or Instant Rolled Oats
Groats that are steamed longer and rolled thinner than regular oats. Cooks quickly in less than 5 mins. Nutritional stats (1/2 cup dry): 180 calories, 3g fat, 29g carbs, 5g fiber, 7g protein.

Oat Bran
The finely ground meal of oat groats’ outer (bran) layer. Though not technically a whole grain, it still has the health benefits of one with its high soluble fiber (the oat bran contains almost all of the fiber in the oat kernel). Cooks quickly in under 5 mins, with a creamy texture. Nutritional stats (1/3 cup dry): 150 calories, 2g fat, 27g carbs, 7g fiber, 7g protein.

Oat Flour
A whole grain flour made from whole oats ground into a fine powder. Used for baking or thickening soups and stews. You can easily make your own oat flour by grinding rolled oats in the food processor or blender. Nutritional stats (1/3 cup): 60 calories, 3g fat, 26g carbs, 4g fiber, 7g protein.

Nutrition showdown: steel-cut vs rolled vs quick/instant oats
Perhaps you may hold the mantra “the less processed, the better,” and think that steel-cut oats is the most nutritious of all. But as you can see from the nutritional content above, the differences are minor. Rolled oats may be steamed, but the steaming doesn’t compromise their nutrition significantly (in fact it stabilizes the fatty acids which helps increase the shelf-life.)

What about the glycemic index? Steel-cut, rolled and quick oats have a glycemic index of 42, 50 and and 66 respectively. This means that quick oats are digested much faster and the sugars released into the bloodstream more rapidly than rolled or steel-cut oats, and may not keep you feeling satisfied as long as the latter. As a guide, foods below 60 on the GI index are considered low. Thus, instant oats may be considered low/moderate glycemic carbohydrates and you need not feel guilty for grabbing a packet of quick oats if you’re pressed for time.

The takeaway? Nutrition-wise, steel-cut or rolled is pretty much similar. It all depends on your preference of texture – chewy or creamy.

OATY BENEFITS
Oats are an excellent source of dietary fiber, protein, iron, and the B vitamin thiamine. In fact, they have the most soluble fibre of all grains. Oats are also low-GI foods. These nutrients may deliver health benefits such as:

Lower cholesterol
The cholesterol-lowering effects of oat β-glucan (a type of soluble fiber) is well-documented. Meta-analyses of studies have concluded that oat consumption is associated with 5% and 7% reductions in total and LDL cholesterol levels respectively in both normocholesterolemic or hypercholesterolemic subjects.

Stabilize blood sugar levels
Oats are considered low GI food.

Good bowel health
The high fibre content helps in bowel movement.

Better sleep!
Oats contain the hormone melatonin, which is involved in the control of the circadian rhythm, and specifically, helps induces sleep. Should we be having oats for dinner instead of breakfast, then?

OATMEAL PORRIDGE PREPARATION AND TIPS
Soak oats overnight to reduce phytic acid and promote absorption of nutrients.

Ratio. For steel-cut oats I use 5:1 fluid-to-oat ratio. I cook the oats in 1 cup water until most of the water boils off, then add in 1/4 cup non-dairy milk and reduce until the desired consistency. This gives a very creamy texture. For rolled oats I use 2:1 ratio.

Stirring. Especially for rolled oats, do not stir too much or it tends to become a soggy lump.

Add-ins. Add mashed banana or other starchy purees only towards the end (after the addition of the milk) and “whip” it in with a fork or whisk, like you are whipping egg whites. This incorporates air into the oats and gives a really fluffy texture.

Layering. I like to hide nuggets of “treasures” within the oats. So I pour out the oatmeal into the bowl in layers, adding a spoonful of nut butter, a square of dark chocolate, chopped nuts or fruits between each layer. It’s almost the same concept as making a chilled oatmeal parfait. However the heat from the just-cooked oatmeal will help to melt the nut butter/chocolate and soften the fruit, so you’d get to dig into a pool of awesomeness now and then. (And why hot oatmeal is so much nicer than overnight oats!)

DELICIOUS WAYS TO ENJOY OATS
Breakfast
Oatmeal Porridge; Overnight Oats-in-a-Jar (OIAJ); Smoothie-in-a-Bowl (SIAB); Baked Oatmeal; Granola; Oat Pancakes & Waffles; Oat Muffins; Oat Breads; Oat Scones.

Entrees
Oat Burgers; Oat Flour Pizza Crust; Oat Falafels; Savoury Oat Porridge; In Salads (using Oat Groats); Oatmeal Risotto; Oatmeal Soup.

Desserts
In Crumbles & Clafloutis. As a Crust for Pies and Tarts. Oat Milk Ice Cream; Oat Milk Panna Cotta.

Snacks
Energy Oatie Bars; Flapjacks; Scottish Oat Cakes; Baked Cookies; No-Bake Cookie Dough Bites; Oat Brownies.

OATSPIRATIONS
Here are some blogs that pay a loyal dedication to oatmeal, with creative recipes that will surely inspire you:
Chocolate Covered Katie
Edible Perspective
Kath Eats Real Food
Oatgasm
The Oatmeal Artist
Oh She Glows

OAT ART
If you follow me on Instagram (@earlymorningoats), you will have seen that I often post pictures of my oatmeal breakfasts with the hash-tag #oatart. Sometimes I do wonder why I do this seemingly pointless thing – after all a bowl of oats is still yummy whether served in a pretty form or haphazard form.

I suppose Oat Art it is an outlet for creative expression as well as my feelings, just like how some people prepare cute bento boxes, or artists and painters express themselves through their drawings and paintings. I can’t draw for anyone’s sake, but playing around with shapes, colours, and ingredients – that’s easier and you get to eat your art too!

Supefood Oats | PBJ Oats | Peach Pie Oats | Mango Flower Oats | Donut Peach Baked Donut Oats | Coconut Tree Pina Colada Oats | Blueberry Cheesecake Oats | Melon Oats in Lotus Bowl | National Day Oats

My designs are inspired from a variety of sources, such as the ingredients on hand, the weather, the season, holidays and festivities, my feelings and nature. Sometimes I plan the designs ahead the night before; and other times the idea would just occur spontaneously at the last minute. More often than not, the design would come off less pretty than envisioned, but nevertheless it is an effort made.

Candy Corn Oatmeal: (from bottom) yellow corn oats, orange sweet potato oats, white chia pudding in hazelnut milk, topped with chocolate maple pecan butter.

This Candy Corn Oat Parfait was inspired by Halloween. Although the yellow-orange-white colors may not have turned out to be as intense as desired, just appreciating the beauty of natural candy corn (zinnia flowers) more than made up for it. (Zinnias are easy-to-grow flowers that come in a rainbow colour palette. A safe and pretty choice for beginners to gardening.)

NON-FOOD USES FOR OATS
Oatmeal Face Masks. The most basic mask uses just water and rolled oats, which is then spread on the face. Sounds so easy I might just try this out!

Collodial Oatmeal Baths. Colloidal oats are oats ground into an extremely fine powder, even finer than oat flour. The powder is sprinkled into bath water, and the resulting milky dispersion helps to soothe and moisterize the skin. Colloidal baths are commonly used to treat skin conditions such as itch and eczema.

Neutralize Odors. Simply leave a bowl of oats out anywhere you want to suck in smells.

OTHER OATMEAL TRIVIA
National Oatmeal Month. Celebrated in January.

My most memorable bowl of oats. Of course, in none other than the Land of Oatmeal, Scotland.

This was at a bed and breakfast in Edinburgh two years ago when I was doing a semester exchange. The oats were really simple, served plain with just a side of peaches and raisins, but they had the best texture ever. I can’t fanthom whether it was Scottish or rolled oats, but it was so soft and creamy, yet with a chewy bite. And that bowl is so pretty too!

Phew! This was quite a comprehensive post although it was quite fun writing about it. I hope you have learnt something about oatmeal!

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 12: N is for buckwheat Nori rolls

I did not intend on posting about these Nori rolls because they were unphotogenic and falling apart, or simply put, not “blog-worthy.” Then I caught myself; this blog was started first and foremost as a record of my kitchen experiments. Although it’s great to have a readership, it is no longer meaningful when you write for the audience rather than for yourself. At the very least, sharing my mistakes may help others to. And so this post was resurrected.

You probably need no introduction to nori. Apart from being the nickname of Kim Kardashian and Kayne West’s baby, it is the umami paper-like stuff that holds your sushi together. More scientifically, it is red algae fronds (P. yezoensis and P. tenera) harvested from the inter- and sub-tidal ocean zones, then pressed into thin sheets and dried with a machine that resembles a paper-making machine. In addition to being used as sushi wrappers, they can be also be deep-fried or baked and enjoyed as an addictive crispy snack.

But back to basics. As a sushi lover, it only makes sense to learn how to make sushi rolls. Not only can you save money, you can customize the fillings to your hearts content. There are many good videos sushi-rolling tutorials on youtube including this (includes both normal and inside-out rolls), or if you prefer a step-by-step guide you can check this out (note that ingredients used are not vegan).

For the fillings I went with buckwheat, carrot, jicama and tofu. Making sushi rolls is not the time to be greedy; I had too much of the fillings and the rolls wouldn’t stick at the seams. They fell apart completely and eventually I had to turn the sushi rolls into a sushi bowl. Still tasty though!

Using buckwheat in place of sushi rice may or may not be a good idea. It has a natural slime so which helps the groats stick together just like sticky sushi rice. However the groats itself are quite large so which reduces the amount of other fillings that can be put into the sushi. The solution? These rolls made with Sticky Quinoa Rice sounds like the answer.

Meanwhile, these are some fantastic Tofu Rolls I had at New Green Pastures Cafe a few weeks ago. The veggies were lightly cooked so that they retained some crunch, and were accompanied with a very tasty shallot sauce reminiscent of that used in popiahs. I was actually inspired by these rolls hence the similar ingredients used in my version.

New Green Pastures Cafe
Address: #04-22, Fortune Centre, 190 Middle Road, Singapore 188979


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 10: L is for Lentil Sunday Roast

A flavourful roulade packed with meaty mushrooms, toothsome lentils and nutritious spinach. Perfect for Thanksgiving, Christmas or just a normal night’s dinner.

I stumbled upon this savoury roulade recipe by the Mouthwatering Vegan when I was actually searching for a vegan dessert roulade. But what an accidental fortuitous find! It looked absolutely scrumptious that I bookmarked it immediately. Furthermore it gave an opportunity to work with phyllo for the first time. Phyllo has a fussy reputation – a delicate and messy dough that requires tedious buttering and layering. But I’m always up to a challenge and so down to work it was!

But back to lentils (the post should be about lentils after all). Lentils are another favorite pantry staple; they are tasty, cook in a cinch and its uses highly versatile, from bulking up a simple salad to becoming a creamy base for soups and stews. Furthermore, the nutritional value of lentils is well-established. For example did you know that lentils pack the third highest level of protein of all legumes and nuts, trailing after soybeans and hemp only? There’s much to love about lentils!

Lentils come in a myriad of colors including brown, green, yellow, red. The difference between them is the cooking time and texture. Red and yellow lentils cook in about 30 mins and tend to break apart when cooked; hence they are often used in soups, stews and Indian daals or curries. On the other hand, green (or French/Puy) lentils are sturdier and retain their shape when cooked, which make them a better choice for salads. I also find that green lentils have a stronger, more earthy taste than the other varieties, which I adore. In case you were wondering, green lentils are also called Puy after their origin in the Puy region of France.


And for a final lentil tidbit – lentils have been eaten since antiquity and actually appears in the Bible four times (Genesis 25:34; 2 Samuel 17:28 and 23:11; Ezekiel 4:9). The most famous account is in Genesis 25:34, in which Esau exchanged his birthright to Jacob, his younger brother, for a bowl of lentil stew. Either Esau had been truly starving, or that must have been some serious stew!


For the lentil roulade I used green lentils for a more toothsome bite and extra flavour. I’m sure yellow or brown lentils would work too although it may turn out more mushy. Apart from lentils, the filling contains mushrooms and spinach. The trio are seasoned with Middle Eastern spices and reduced to a delicious stewy mix before spreading onto phyllo, then topped with a nutty mix. In fact if you are pressed for time, the filling itself makes a pretty good dish on its own!

The roulade came out fantastic. There were playful textures and flavours for the palate to take pleasure in – a fragile frame of crispy phyllo that shattered into a million delicious pieces upon stabbing with a fork. Then there is the filling – meaty and earthy mushrooms and lentils with the nuttiness of crunchy nuts in between. To balance out the savouriness, I served this with some crisp-steamed broccoli and fresh cherry tomatoes. This is a crowd-pleaser that will warm the hearts of both vegan and non-vegan friends.

Lentil Sunday Roast
Makes one roulade, about 10 1-inch slices.
Vegan.
Adapted from The Mouthwatering Vegan.

Ingredients
Lentil, Spinach & Mushroom Stuffing

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 4 cups mushrooms, chopped into small pieces (I used a mix of portobellos and shiitake)
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 250g cooked green puy lentils (can prepared from 125g dry or 1 400g can)
  • 6 oz (170g) spinach, roughly chopped
  • 3 whole sundried tomato, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • Juice of 1 slice of lemon (about 2 tsp)
  • Zest of half lemon

Nut Topping

  • 3/4 cup nuts, finely chopped (I used a blend of almonds, walnuts and brazil nuts; you can process them in a food processor, but don’t make powder of them, they still need to be in small pieces)

Puff Pastry

  • 5 sheets of vegan phyllo pastry, thawed (I used Fillo Factory Organic Whole Wheat Filo Dough)
  • Non-dairy milk to brush onto pastry

Directions

  1. If using dry lentils, cook the lentils. Place lentils in a saucepan and cover with cold water to cover. Simmer for 25-30 mins until tender. Set aside. If using canned lentils, drain and rinse. Set aside.
  2. In a large skillet, sweat onions in about 1 tbsp of olive oil until they turn soft and translucent, about 10 mins.
  3. Add garlic, mushrooms and 3 tbsp olive oil. Cook until mushrooms release their juices and become soft, stirring often. This will take about 10-15 mins.
  4. Then add in the tomato paste and spices and mix well to combine. Cook on medium-high for about 2 mins until the spices release their aromas.
  5. Finally, add in the cooked lentils and stir, then the spinach and remaining ingredients for the stuffing. Cook on low for about 10-15 mins until the spinach has wilted and the mixture is thick, rich and aromatic. Remove from heat and allow to cool to lukewarm temperature.
  6. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C. Then prepare the pastry sheets. On a floured surface, fold the pastry sheets together in such a way that you create one sheet approximately 10″ x 7″ (25 cm x 18 cm).
  7. Spoon the thick lentil stuffing onto the pastry sheet. Flatten and evenly distribute it using the back of a large spoon, leaving a 1/2″ (1.3 cm) gap all round. Then top with the chopped nuts. Roll along the length to make log. If any bits fall out of the side, just push them back into place.
  8. Brush the roulade with non-dairy milk, then make horizontal cuts at 1-inch (2.5 cm) intervals on the surface of the dough. These will be your markers for each slice once cooked.
  9. Transfer the roulade onto a parchment-lined baking tray and bake at 400°F/200°C for 25-30 mins until golden brown.
  10. As the roulade is baking, you may want to prepare some steamed veggies (eg broccoli or carrots), potatoes or a salad to go with the roulade.
  11. Remove roulade from oven and let cool slightly before slicing (it will be very flaky). Impress your non-vegan friends!

Also, check out this interesting post about how to sprout lentils, and a sprouted lentil vegetable stew.

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.