Friday, September 30, 2005

IMBB 19 - I Can't Believe I Ate Vegan

For this month's IMBB, we have been challenged by Sam from Becks and Posh to cook and trick someone to eat a complete vegan meal without them knowing about it. Gee, that is a tough challenge as I rarely cook complete vegan meals since my food always has some eggs, cheese, milk and garlic elements. I was a bit worried too as it is not easy to trick Splashie Boy to eating something new but I am happy to report that I managed to do so last night. The only bummer was he ate everything except the couscous inari as that was not ready yet when he came over for dinner. As he had to rush off, I decided to make it later but serve the other dishes first. I had also made some vegan cabbage rolls which I served him but I did not take any pictures since I rushing to serve dinner.

In Malaysia, eating vegetarian meals are quite common nowadays and is driven by religious beliefs. The Buddhists abstain from eating meats on certain dates such as the holy first and the fifteenth of each lunar month. The Hindus also don't eat meat on certain days but I am not too sure the exact dates but I do remember my Indian friend was always vegetarian on Fridays.

The Chinese restaurants serve "chai" dishes that chefs have created using "mock meats" made from ingredients like gluten, a soy bean derivative. These dishes is cooked to taste, smell and look like meat dishes. I hate those dishes as I don't like how they try to imitate the taste of meat and some purists condemn this practice as unholy. I prefer the Indian interpretation of vegetarian dishes as they serve the rice or flatbreads like chapati with lentil or onion curries and a selection of vegetables and chutneys. For Malay cuisine, there is no specific vegetarian dish so you will have to eat vegetable dishes instead. However as the cuisine uses a lot of sambal which is made from fermented fish/prawns, one must be careful in choosing the dish too.

Couscous Inari

Inspiration for this sushi came from a book called the
Complete Book of Sushi which I am currently thumbing through. The book is an excellent guide to all the different kinds of sushi you can make and this type is known as Inari-zushi or tofu pouch sushi. I was drawn to this type of sushi since it was pretty unusual as it used couscous compared to the usual rice filling which is so much heavier.

To cook this sushi, first you need to prepare the tofu pouch and season it or else it has no taste. You can use abura-age, the Japanese deep fried tofu that comes in square or rectangle pieces. I have adapted the recipe to suit the vegan tastes and used a vegetarian stock instead of the dashi and omitted the sake to be added in. For the couscous filling, vegetarian stock was used to soak it that was topped only with chopped chives and a shimeji mushroom cap. As I was the only one sampling this, it was a bit hard to trick myself to thinking it is not vegan. However, I love the flavours of the seasoned inari (unlike the tasteless ones in restaurants) and the couscous filling was light and tasty.

Seasoned Tofu Pouches (Makes 10 pieces)

5 pieces of 2 x 4 inch thin deep fried tofu (abura-age)
250 ml number one dashi stock or vegetarian stock
2 tablespoons caster sugar
2 teaspoons sake (omit if vegan)
2 tablespoons Japanese sauce

Put the abura-age into a saucepan of boiling water and boil to remove the excess oil, about two minutes. Drain and gently squeeze out the water. Be careful when you squeeze to ensure no damage to the pouches.

In a saucepan, combine the dashi/stock, suagr, sake and soya sauce. Add the drained abura-age. Poke a few holes in a sheet of foil and shape it to fit inside a saucepan so it rests on top of the liquid. The drop lid allows the steam to escape but keeps the tofu submerged while cooking. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for fifteen minutes. Remove from heat and cool in liquid.

Drain, squeezing out excess liquid. Gently roll over each piece of tofu with a rolling pin to loosen the center. Cut each piece in half and gently ease open the cut end of the piece with your fingers to form a pouch. They can now be filled with sushi rice or couscous.

Couscous Inari (Makes 4 pouches)

250 ml warm water
1 chicken boullion cube (replace water and cube with 250ml vegetarian stock if vegan)
1 cup/185g couscous
4 shitake mushrooms, stemmed (I used the shimeji mushroom caps instead)
1 tablespoon Japanese sauce
1 tablespoon mirin
2 tablespoons water
4 seasoned tofu/inari pouches
4 garlic chives for tying and 4 garlic chives, finely chopped
4 nori strips
4 teaspoons tobiko (omit if vegan)

In a small saucepan, bring the water to a simmer and add the bouillion cube. Stir to dissolve cube. Bring to a boil. (If using vegetarian stock, bring it to boil in a saucepan) Add the stock over the couscous in a bowl, stirring with a fork. Cover and set aside for five minutes. Fluff with a fork.

In a saucepan, combine mushrooms, soy sauce, mirin and water. Bring to a simmer and cook for five minutes. Open inari from the cut side and use a teaspoon to fill it with couscous. Wrap a garlic chive around each inari and secure with a nori strip. Sprinkle chopped chives and tobiko(if using) on top of each inari, Remove mushrooms from liquid and squeeze to remove excess liquid and arrange on top of coucous.

Monkey Head Mushrooms and Sauteed Spinach

For the second dish, I decided to get vegetarian inspiration from the book New Chinese Cuisine by
Tung Lok Group who runs Lingzhi, a restaurant in Singapore that serves some wonderful dishes. I love the way they explained how the vegetarian cuisine grew in China when farmers forayed for food in the forests during the famine. This has led to them inventing dishes from various mushrooms and fungis they have found.

In this dish, I use this highly unusual mushroom called
monkey head or bear's head. It has been recently introduced to Malaysia but you don't see many places serving it. It looks like a small cauliflower with a mild seafood taste. The mushroom is said to be good to stimulate blood circulation and prevent cancer. Splashie Boy said this dish didn't taste like mushrooms and was quite unusual. I liked the mushrooms and felt it had a bit of a nutty taste to it.

Monkey Head Mushrooms with Sauteed Spinach (Serves 2)

150g monkey head mushrooms
10g shredded ginger
4 tsp vegetarian stock
50g spinach
salt to taste

2 tsp vegetarian oyster sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
2 tsp potato flour

Deep fry the mushrooms until crispy. Drain the excess oil by putting it on top of absorbent paper. Fry the shredded ginger in sesame oil until fragrant. Mix the seasoning ingredients with the vegetarian stock and bring to the boil. Add the mushrooms and toss well. Saute the spinach in 1 tbsp of oil and sprinkle salt to taste. Stack the spinach in a ring mould topped with the deep fried mushrooms and the ginger garnish.

Deep-fried Shitake Mushroom

Another mushroom dish from New Chinese Cuisine by
Tung Lok and this one fooled Splashie Boy totally. He thought it was sliced chicken tossed in a soya sauce and was amazed when I told him it was just mushrooms. I also liked the taste of this dish and it was pretty simple to make too. In the original recipe, they saute shredded snow peas and bean sprouts but I used asparagus instead. Integral to these two mushroom dishes is the vegetarian stock which is full of flavour and made from boiling bean sprouts, chopped carrot, red dates, tangerine peel, luo han guo and white peppercorns.

Deep-fried Shitake Mushroom (Serves 2)

200g dried chinese mushrooms, soaked and cut into strips
Potato flour for dusting
125 ml vegetarian stock

1 tsp sugar
2 tsp light soya sauce
1 tsp dark soya sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp cornflour paste

Dust the mushroom strips with potato flour and deep fry them until crispy and golden brown in colour. Remove and drain excess oil. Combine the vegetarian stock and seasoning ingredients in a wok and bring to a boil. Toss the deep fried mushrooms in sauce until it is well coated. Place on top of sauteed asparagus spears.

Aloe Vera Cubes with Passion Fruit

For dessert, we had something organically grown: aloe vera cubes from the garden and some organic local passion fruit I found. The
recipe is actually from a lady who has an organic farm at Tanarimba, Janda Baik. You can add any fruit you wish but I added passion fruit which came from their gardens. By the way, the Tanarimba place is simply fantastic, although I have not been there, I have seen the pictures and it is so impressive.

We found this dessert to be very refreshing but slightly tart because of the passion fruit. Just be a bit careful when you cut the aloe vera as it gets quite sticky and can leave stains if not washed off properly.

This time around, IMBB has gone high tech, with it's own Technorati Tag, so visit it's own
Technorati page for the automatic updates.

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susan said...

wow your dishes are so beautiful! and great photography too!

Babe_KL said...

boo, u r so creative! loved the way u styled yr food. i can never do that hehehe lazy and rush were the two big element in me plus my boiboi lups to disturb me! kaypoh boiboi hehehe

Helen (AugustusGloop) said...

What a feast!

I love your presentation of the couscous inari. Monkey head mushrooms? Cool! And the deep-fried shiitake does look meaty!

The aloe vera sounds refreshing too. Nice way to end your banquet!

boo_licious said...

yoony - Thanks so much and I love your Korean entry.

babe - Next time when you do an entry, ask hubby to take boiboi out for a walkie so you can take the pixs in peace.

AG - thanks so much and I love your cookies with strawberries! Yummy stuff.

Ruth Daniels said...

Absolutely stunning photos - especially the tofu pouches.

The deep fried mushrooms really do look like they'd fool the most die hard meat eater.

Great job!!!

Joycelyn said...

hey boolicious, everything looks totally awesome...i especially like the tofu pockets

Stef said...

never knew you could use aloe vera in food! wow, this is what i love about food blogging -- you learn something new everyday!

boo_licious said...

ruth - thanks and I can't wait to see pixs of your entry.

J - thanks and I love your coconut cakes and panna cotta, as those are my fav flavours.

stefoodie - I never knew too until the lady in the organic shop told me so I took some from my mother's garden.

Nic said...

Boo - I didn't know you could eat aloe vera either. Neat! Your IMBB dishes look great.

Sam said...

wow! All this food looks so decadent and not at all vegan. All that deep fried loveliness and how unique (at least to me and my western ways).

thank you for taking part in IMBB 19 and for being an inspiration. Fantastic stuff!


Anonymous said...

I'd eat everything you've presented here! ;-)

boo_licious said...

nic - aloe vera is quite a big health thing in Malaysia, there are even canned drinks with aloe bits inside it.

sam - thanks for hosting and great theme. Made me more aware of vegan food.

paz - thanks paz. Wish I could send some over to you.

Joshua said...


Unknown said...

Can I know where can I get the tofu pouches in malaysia?

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