Vegetable dumplings (No oil option)

Making dumplings is always a family affair in my parents’ house. Someone is chopping with a cleaver, someone is kneading dough and many people are wrapping dumplings. These dumplings freeze well and can be added to soups or steamed up quickly for a quick dinner that feels extra fancy. You can pick up dumpling wrappers at all Asian grocers, and some supermarkets.
Dumplings ingredients:

2 cups shredded cabbage
1 small carrots, shredded
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
4 button mushrooms, sliced
1 dried shitake mushroom, soaked in water to soften and sliced
200g firm tofu, roughly mashed
1 small can of bamboo shoots, drained and chopped
1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
500g dumpling wrappers
Dipping sauce ingredients:

1/4 cups soy sauce
1/4 cups rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1 chilli sliced
Dumplings method:

  1. Sautee onion in a non stick pan. As the onion start to caramalise, add water used to soak the shitake mushroom to prevent the onion for sticking to the pan. If you run out of the mushroom water, you can add some water.
  2. Add ginger and garlic. Then the tofu and all other vegetables except for the bamboo shoots.
  3. Sautee until cabbage softens, add soy sauce and white pepper and cook for a few more minutes. Allow the mixture to cool.
  4. Put mixture through the food processor. There is no need to push the mixture on the sides down. Some chunks is good for texture.
  5. Add the chopped bamboo shoots and stir through the mixture.
  6. Fill a dumpling wrapper with 1 teaspoon of the mixture, wet half the circumference of the wrapper, fold in half with the filling inside, so it now forms a semi-circle. Form pleats on the outside of the dumpling. See this dumpling video below to illustrate how it’s done. Credit to Delightful Vegans for this clip.
  7. Make as many dumplings as you have filling or the wrappers. It can be a difficult estimate to have the exact amount of filling for number of wrappers you have. If you have excess wrappers, they freeze well in a ziplock bag. If you have excess filling, they can be eaten on its own or with some rice.
  8. To cook the dumplings:

Oil free: place the dumplings in a steamer lined with baking paper for 10 minutes.
Non-oil free: In a hot non-stick pan, put in 1 tablespoon of oil. When oil reaches smoke point, put dumplings in the pan. Add 1/4 cups of water into the pan, it will sizzle. Cover the pan with a lid and turn the heat to its lowest plan and let the dumplings steam in the pan. Once the water is fully absorbed, turn the dumplings and put the lid on. Continue to do this until sides of the dumplings is browned.

Sauce method:

  1. Mix all ingredients together until the sugar has dissolved.
  2. Serve with slices of the chilli depending on how spicy you like your dumplings.

Miso Glazed Eggplant

I love this sweet and salty miso glazed eggplant which is another delicious addition to a buddha bowl, or just served with cooked grains.
Ingredients

2 large or 3 small eggplants
3 tablespoons miso
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons mirin
1 tablespoon sake
1 tablespoon sugar
Dash of sesame oil (optional, leave out for oil free option)
Method

  1. Halve the eggplant and sprinkle with salt to “sweat” the eggplant for 15 minutes.
  2. Rinse off salt and dry the eggplant. Cut a criss-cross pattern on the inside surface of the eggplant.
  3. Sear the eggplant on a non-stick pan, face down, until it is slightly brown. Then remove from heat.
  4. Mix all the other ingredients in a bowl into a smooth paste. Coat the seared surface of the eggplant with this mixture.
  5. Bake the eggplant in a pre-heated oven to 200C for 20 minutes or until the tops of the eggplant is glazed.

Steamed silken tofu with caramalised onion and mushrooms (No Oil, No Refined Sugar, Gluten Free)

I’ve been missing my Dad of late and trying to recreate some of the dishes that he cooks, although it’s never quite as good as how he does it. I enjoy the delicate texture of the silken tofu with the salty and umami flavours of topping. Some people serve the tofu cold with the topping hot, but I prefer steaming it first.
Ingredients

1 silken tofu
1/4 onion, sliced
1 slice ginger
1 teaspoon fermented blackbeans
2 white button mushrooms, roughly grated
2 dried shitake mushroom, soaked then sliced (reserve soaking liquid)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Chopped spring onion or corriander
Method

  1. Place silken tofu in a bowl and drain it as much as you can then place into a steamer. This is the serving bowl as the silken tofu is delicate and cannot be moved around too much or it will break. Steam for 10-15 minutes.
  2. As the tofu is steaming, in a non-stick pan, sautee the onion, ginger, black beans and mushrooms. Add some of the mushroom liquid as the onion starts to brown to prevent it from sticking to the pan.
  3. As the onion and mushrooms start to caramalise, add 1/2 tablespoon of the soy sauce.
  4. Remove the tofu bowl from the steamer carefully as it will be hot. Drain as much of the liquid as you can.
  5. Place onion and mushroom topping on the tofu, pour remaining 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce over topping. Garnish with chopped spring onion or corriander. Ready to serve.

Alfredo (No Oil, No Refined Sugar)

This is a beautiful creamy pasta without the queasy feeling after eating a rich and greasy meal.
Ingredients

250 grams fettuccini
1 cup peas

Alfredo Sauce
1/4 cups cashews soaked for 6 hours and drained
1/2 white onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 cup cooked cauliflower
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1/4 teaspoon mustard
1/2 cup broth
Salt and pepper
Method

  1. Cook fettuccini following instructions on package.
  2. Whilst fettuccini is cooking, sautee onion in a non-stick pan. Add a small amount of water as onion starts to caramalise to prevent sticking. Add garlic.
  3. Put all ingredients into a food processor and blend until a smooth sauce.
  4. One minute before fettucini is cooked, add peas.
  5. Complete cooking pasta and drain pasta and peas.
  6. Return pasta and peas back into pot, toss alfredo sauce through pasta.
  7. Top with chopped chives. Ready to serve!

Pea, Celery and Potato Soup (No Oil, No Refined Sugar, Gluten Free)

I was so inspired by the pea, celery and potato soup I had at Table8 in Tokyo that I had to recreate this. This soup can be portioned and freezes well for a quick, healthy and heart warming meal.
Ingredients

1/2 onion, diced
1 garlic, minced
3 stalks celery, diced
3 cups peas
2 potatoes, cut into big cubes
5 cups broth
Small bunch of thyme and handful of parsley chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Method

  1. Sautee onion in a stock pot, add a little water as the onion start to caramalise to prevent sticking. Add garlic.
  2. Add celery, potatoes, stock and bring to boil. Then reduce to a simmer. Add herbs and seasoning.
  3. Simmer for half hour or until potatoes have soften.
  4. Add peas and simmer for a minute. Turn off heat.
  5. Using a handheld blender, puree the soup until it has a smooth consistency. Ready to serve!

Pancakes (No Refined Sugar, No Oil)

Chilly mornings call for pancakes. This is a pancakes for one recipe which you can multiply for number of people you’re sharing the love with. Full of oats that have the superpower of cleaning out your arteries. Delicious at the same time!

Ingredients

1 ripe banana
100ml plant milk
3/4 cups rolled oats
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground flaxseed
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Topping ingredients

1/3 cup frozen berries
1/4 teaspoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon maple syrup

Method

  1. Blend all pancake ingredients in a blender until smooth
  2. Drop batter on medium heat pan to gently cook. Once pancake bubbles on top, flip over to cook and brown the other side. There is no need to use oil of you are cooking on a non-stick ceremic pan.
  3. Whilst pancake is cooking, microwave or cook over the stove all pancake toppings for a minute. Watch the fruit of cooking in a microwave that the fruit doesn’t bubble over.
  4. Serve pancake stacked with fruit compote as a topping with a doll so of nut butter.

Vegan in Kyoto

Kyoto was one of the cities I visited in my trip to Japan. It was a super quick train ride from Tokyo to Kyoto on the Shinkasen. I picked up a few onigri from the convenience store to snack on the trip and left a Tokyo that was pelting down with rain.

By the time I got to Kyoto, I was craving my vegetables and fresh fruit. A quick stop at the local supermarket got me this dinner feast. I have found it helpful to learn to read a few words for ingredients I don’t eat, such as meat, fish, egg, milk, bonito and dashi.

I woke up feeling energized (go plant power!) and decided to take a 30 minute local train ride to Arashiyama. I arrived early in the morning and the beauty of Arashimaya was breathtaking. I took a walk in the bamboo forest which was gorgeous and peaceful at that time of day. I enjoyed walking through the Tenryu-jin Shrine which has a beautiful garden and where my lunch spot was located. Shigetsu is a Zen Buddhist restaurant acknowledged by the Michelin Guide for serving exceptionally good food. You can select set meals from a menu if you make a reservation but only one meal is available if you show up without a reservation

The photo above really doesn’t do it the justice. The flavors are delicate and food is enjoyed in a zen environment whilst sitting on tatami. It costs ¥3,000 for a 5 course meal plus. ¥500 for the entry into the garden.

Walking around Arashimaya, I found these unique mochi which comes from the area. They come served with matcha or ground roasted soybeans. The mochi was tender and delicate, unlike any other mochi I have ever had, and possibly the best mochi I have ever had.

Since I was told that Kyoto has excellent matcha, I couldn’t resist going to Ain Soph which recently opened a branch in Kyoto. They offer a white chocolate matcha pancake which was delicious but super rich. I should have shared it…maybe next time!

For my last dinner in Kyoto, I headed to Togaden which is a tofu restaurant upstairs and downstairs is a tofu shop. They offer a wide variety of tofu and have a vegan menu.

Kyoto is a smaller city than Tokyo and easy to navigate. There are quite a few vegan places to eat and with a little research they are easy to find.

If you are travelling to Tokyo, check out the Vegan in Tokyo post.

Vegan in Tokyo

Tokyo can be an easy place for vegans with a little bit of research. Once you have places mapped out, people are kind, helpful and accomodating. I ate at several vegan places and was amazed at the quality of food, how delicious it is and how busy the places are. There is a good demand for vegan food in Tokyo!

My first meal after landing in Tokyo was T’s Tan Tan. Google maps was able to guide me there really well, and the biggest confusion was working out transport tickets when I learned that my 72 hour subway ticket does not work on JR train stations. It costs ¥140 to gain entry into the station where this restaurant is located. I was surprised to see a small queue which was my first introduction to the popularity of vegan food in Tokyo. I ordered the golden sesame ramen and it was good. The rich and salty broth brought home the umami for a bargain of ¥900.

Farmer’s Market at the UNU is open on the weekend. It was an eye opener to to see some goods marked as vegan at the market, helping me realise that vegan food is not that unusual in Tokyo! I picked up a orange and ginger cake from Cafe/Guesthouse Fete.

A short walk to 8ablish was my first introduction to higher end vegan food in Tokyo. I went all out and got the 4 course lunch for ¥2,700. Kick starting with the fresh burdock confit and chick pea purple sweet potato cake. The tomato sugo was one of the best I’ve had.

Next came the pea, celery and potato soup with salad on the side. What a delicate and delicious soup! This will be inspiring some creations in my kitchen.

Oh my goodness this whole soy tempeh katsu with tatare sauce! I was so happy to be having katsu, a dish I acquaint with Japanese cuisine.

When I walked past Kyushu Jangara Harajuku and saw that the long line had subsided, I felt obliged to stop dor ramen. They have one vegan ramen on their menu which takes on a shoyu style ramen. It was full of flavor including oil on top of the broth that mimicks the fat of a meat broth. The soy pieces had a good chewy texture like char shew but with a soy flavor.

I tried heading to Ain Soph in Shinkuju for brunch but it was already booked out at 11:30am. Although blinded by hunger, the vegan gods were guiding me to find Vege Stand inside Isetan that serves up several vegan salads and smoothies. My body was very grateful for the first whole food plant based meal I was eating in days. I really enjoyed the kale, celery, spinach, chia, apple and pineapple smoothie.

I didn’t give up on Ain Soph though. A short subway ride took me to Ain Soph in Ginza where I was rewarded with the best pancakes ever. Warm and fluffy served with ice cream, cashew cream and chopped nuts; topped with agave syrup. Now I know what the craze for Japanese pancakes is about. This was the best pancake I have ever had.

Whenever I needed a snack, convenience stores such as 7-11 were great for snack options. Like this barley and bean onigri. Onigri can be made of rice also. Stick to the seaweed, kelp, mustard greens or plum options. I also randomly found a bean and gherkin salad which was delicious.

Veganic To Go in Roppongi is a tiny place but I had the whole place to myself when I popped in after lunchtime to hide from the rain. I was happy to partake in yakitori whilst in Japan. Veganic To Go serves this as part of their brown rice bowl.

I was too stuffed to have the soft serve but enjoyed a slice of cheesecake.

On my last day in Japan, I squished in one more meal at Narita airport. Vegan options are scant here but I managed to find vegan Japanese curry at Le Toque.

I also had to fit in one last matcha thing before I leave the country. An iced matcha latte from Excelsior Café. As they were making it, I saw them pour the soy milk from a jug (instead of from a carton), could it be fresh soy milk? They also gave it a generous sprinkling of matcha at the top of the beverage. There is even a tag on the lid so there is no confusion. Oh my goodness, this matcha latte was so good! Actually, it might be the best matcha latte I have ever had. My only regret is to not have found it at the beginning of my trip so I could have had one every day.

And that was my culinary adventure in Tokyo. Japan is a country with a rich culture, wonderful people and beauty everywhere I see. Finding vegan food in Tokyo has not been an issue with a little bit of research and I hope that this post will help you with some of your culinary research of this city. Happy travels!

For Kyoto adventures, see my post on Vegan in Kyoto.

Hazelnut Chocolate Slice

I am a huge fan of hazelnut chocolate anything. Naturally, I had to come up with a hazelnut chocolate recipe that is as whole food plant based as possible. This is a super delicious slice that I make for special people in my life. You will find it a winner to bring to parties or batch and freeze in small portions to add as a lunch box treat.
Ingredients:

Slice

1/4 cup peanut butter
1 cup dates (soaked and drained to soften)
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon flaxeed
3 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 cup raw hazelnuts
1 1/2 cups oats
1/4 teaspoon vanilla essence
3-4 tablespoons water

Topping (optional)

50g melted dark chocolate
Handful hazelnuts, chopped
1 teaspoon goji berries
Method:

  1. Toast hazelnuts in a pan until slightly browned. You can use roasted hazelnuts and skip this step, but I have found freshly toasted hazelnuts make the slice even more aromatic.
  2. Place dates in food processor and blend. Add remaining slice ingredients and continue to blend.
  3. Add the water teaspoon by teaspoon and stop once the ingredients come into a dough consistency.
  4. Line a square 20cm x 20cm cake tin with baking paper.
  5. Place slice ingredients into tray and press down with the back of a spoon until mostly level. Place in fridge for at least an hour.
  6. For the topping, melt the chocolate in a microwave oven for 30 seconds, or in a bowl placed over a saucepan of boiling water. If you are using the microwave, make sure you watch the chocolate so it doesn’t burn.
  7. Drizzle melted chocolate over slice. Sprinkle with nuts and goji berries.
    Return to the fridge for another 30 minutes before slicing and serving. If you are observing a strict while food plant based diet, you can leave this step out.

Five Spice Tofu (No Oil, Gluten Free)

I love having friends who love to cook. Apart from admiring their delicious looking Instagram accounts, it has given me an appreciation at the accents of Asian inspired meals I create. This week, I was inspired to explore the use of 5-spice. It has a strong aroma, marked by the inclusion of ground star anise, and is used in Chinese and Taiwanese cooking. Traditionally, it has been used mostly to season meats. In the next few weeks, I will be inspired to create plant based meals that uses this spice mix creatively, starting with this 5-spice tofu. The marinated tofu brings a warm and comforting aroma, finished with a sticky and garlicky sauce. It’s a great addition in any buddha bowl.
Ingredients:

Marinate
1 block firm tofu, well drained
1/2 teaspoon ground 5-spice
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup soy sauce

Sauce
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Method:

  1. Cut tofu into large pieces and arrange in a container where they can all lie flat.
  2. Mix 5-spice, water and soy sauce and pour over tofu. Marinate for several hours. During this time, flip the tofu on its other side so both sides are marinated.
  3. Place tofu in a hot pan, then turn the heat down. If you use a ceramic pan, there is no need to use any oil.
  4. Brown tofu on all sides then remove from pan.
  5. Pour remaining marinate into the pan with the garlic and sugar and slowly reduce until it has a stickier consistency.
  6. Return tofu to the pan and coat with the sauce.
  7. Serve with sprinkles of sesame seeds.