VEGAN CRISPY BEANCURD ROLLS W TARO | 脆皮芋头素腐皮卷

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Presenting these beancurd rolls in this unpredictable gloomy weather.

Presenting these beancurd rolls in this unpredictable gloomy weather.

Hello November!

In the last few days of October, broad daylight merely lasted till 1pm. Dazzling sun rays were obscured by the murky, menacing dark clouds. It’s an omen for an unproductive day.

Before I finished putting away the groceries and getting ready to cook, the perpetual rain pelted the balcony window. My shoulders dropped. I knew it would be a promising downpour to conclude the entire day.

I was in a gloomy living room, feeling flustered and exhausted, knowing that my plans for the week have to change, and I could not possibly trust the weather forecast app anymore. The only solution left was to prepare these Vegan Cripsy Beancurd Rolls w Taro, refrigerate them overnight and wake up early to photograph them.

On the next day, my eyes were wide opened at 7am. I sprung off the bed immediately to seize the daylight. It was very unlike my usual self haha.

To my utmost relief and content, I dragged out a ripping hot tray of glossy skinned rolls out from the oven. I picked one up, blew off the steam a couple of times and took a first bite.

“Crack!”

The skin crackled in my mouth and I almost scalded my tongue. “Hurrr…hot”!

My impulse to munch was worth it🤭. Shortly after, I started snapping them as swift as I could!

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You may have seen these beancurd rolls in a dim sum restaurant, where they are stuffed with shrimp’s paste, and diced shrimps. But this version of mine comprises of Lion’s Mane mushroom for the meaty texture, and also kelp for a hint of fishy-ness (in a good way)! It is also the first vegetarian/vegan dim sum I made so that Ryan can savour too:D

I always believe in less oily food =less guilt and disgust.

Unlike the commercial crispy deep fried beancurd rolls, I drizzle some good quality extra virgin olive oil over the rolls before popping them into the oven. You get the same quality of crisp and texture, but not a pair of greasy lips!

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What are Lion’s Mane mushrooms?

  • Lion’s Mane Mushrooms are also known as Monkey’s Head mushroom (猴头菇) in Chinese or Yamabushitake in Japanese.

  • They are reputed natural nootropics, with medical properties commonly used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

  • Given their white, shaggy appearance that may seem dubious, they taste very similar to meat and seafood for its firm, and springy texture. They are widely used in Asian curries, stir-fry, rendang or even dim sum to serve the vegan/vegetarian individuals.

  • You can purchase them in local vegetarian stores!

What are the nutritional benefits?

  • Increase Nerve Growth Factor levels in the human brain, improves cognitive function and memory.

  • Combat Depression and Anxiety. Lion’s Mane compound helps to decrease inflammation. Inflammation plays a significant role in depression.

  • Improves cardiovascular health and metabolism. Lion’s Mane is thought to reduce total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and increase HDL cholesterol.

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VEGAN CRISPY BEANCURD ROLLS (Makes 12 pcs)

VEGAN | GLUTEN-FREE

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 1hr 15 mins 

Ingredients

Dipping sauce

  • 4 tbsp Sriracha chilli

  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

Preparation 

  • Thaw lion’s mane mushrooms and soak them in a boil of hot water to remove excess oil (if they are marinated in a pack).

  • Use a cleaver, chop both ends of taro head. Take a piece of kitchen towel to hold on to taro while peeling skin off with a vegetable peeler. Alternatively, you can also wear a disposable kitchen glove. Any skin contact with taro flesh may cause skin irritation and itchiness.

  • Chop taro into half, and slice them into 8 pieces, about 2 cm thickness.

  • Soak both sides of beancurd sheets in a bowl of warm water for 5 seconds to remove excess salt. 

  • Whisk together ingredients of the dipping sauce, set aside. 

To cook the filling

  • Boil 500ml water in a steamer over medium high heat, lay taro slices on a steamer tray. Put lid on and steam for 25 minutes till soft. Set aside for 10 minutes to cool.

  • Peel skin off garlic cloves. Drain the mushrooms, give them a quick rinse, and dice them separately. 

  • Heat a non stick frying pan over medium heat, add 2 tbsp olive oil and cook garlic for 2 minutes till lightly browned. Add lion’s mane mushroom, and dried kelp strips. Toss and mix for 5 minutes till kelp bulbs expand and soften. Add toasted sesame oil and white pepper, and combine the ingredients for 2 minutes till fragrant. 

  • Pour the mixture into a mixing bowl. Add taro slices, and mash them with a potato masher to combine evenly. Taste, and season with more pepper till desired. 

To assemble beancurd roll

  • Lay out a moist beancurd sheet on your work surface. Add 1½ tbsp of filling on the edge of the sheet closest to you.

  • Gently pull away the edge of the sheet from work surface and roll over the filling.

  • Tuck the filling tight, use your fingers to press both sides to secure and shape the roll. 

  • Fold in the sides, and continue to roll. Dab more water on the beancurd sheet to make them stick. 

  • Take a seaweed strip, dab both ends with water, and wrap over the beancurd roll. 

To cook the beancurd rolls

  • Preheat oven at 200°C. Lay a baking sheet on a tray, arrange beancurd rolls. Drizzle 2 tbsp olive oil over the rolls.

  • Cook for 20 minutes till golden brown and crispy. 

  • Serve beancurd rolls with spicy dipping sauce. 

Notes

  • You may prepare the beancurd rolls a night before and refrigerate them for extra firmness. 

  • Store these beancurd rolls in an air tight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Or store them in a freezer for up to 5 days.  

  • Slice taro in pieces instead of in chunks. A wider surface area ensures the entire piece is cooked evenly.

  • Insert a fork through the taro slices to check whether they are cooked through

Enjoy! Xx

-Ally



BUTTERNUT SQUASH QUINOA RISOTTO

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Fall is here! Well, not in Singapore but evidently depicted on the Instagram universe amirite? The season is trending with fall squashes; a great opportunity to explore more unfamiliar recipes apart from pumpkin soups and pies. Even if we can’t experience fall, that doesn’t stop us from bringing seasonal fall fare to our meals for sustenance.

To ride on this squash fever, I’ve put together a hearty Butternut Squash Quinoa Risotto! All you need is 7 ingredients to make this creamy, deep umami (pleasant savoury taste) flavoured risotto a secret weapon for simple dinners.

On a “my time is precious” day, let’s be realistic. I keep my stress level low by steaming squash within 10 minutes and mashing them with a fork. Avoid roasting them, it takes 40 minutes, seriously. It will save you a round of grief, extra mediation session and sweaty pits.

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“Umami” is the fifth basic taste found in most broths, fermented soy products, and aged cheeses. Miso paste and nutritional yeast are two of my staple umami quick fix of all time. They are nutritious, versatile to cook, great soup bases and deemed as discerning elements that give foods a “wow” factor.

Two months ago, I discovered the taste of nutritional yeast to be unexpectedly cheesy! You may have came across this ingredient in many vegan/ plant-based recipes and assume it is tasteless, but no. It is the long lost sibling of parmesan cheese. I call it the “Magic Cheese Dust”, due to its nature of being dairy-free, gluten-free, sugar-free and soy-free!

What’s nutritional yeast?

  • Nutritional yeast is an inactive yeast that undergoes heating and drying process. They are different from brewer’s yeast so don’t get them both mixed up.

What’s are the benefits of nutritional yeast?

  • It combats brittle nails, acne, hair loss. Improves overall skin, hair, and nails growth.

  • It supports overall immune system with its anti-inflammatory properties

  • It is an excellent source of Vitamin B-12, only in those that have been fortified by manufacturers. So be mindful to check the food packaging before purchasing it. Vitamin B-12 is an important water-soluble vitamin that helps develop red blood cells and DNA functioning. A lack of Vitamin B-12 leads to weakness, fatigue, pale skin, mood changes etc. Our bodies can’t make by itself, we obtain them from animal products. It is important for vegetarians and vegans to consume this.

How can I add nutritional yeast into cooking?

  • Think of it as a substitute for parmesan cheese! Whether you’re making pasta, toasties, stews, pizzas, or even korean kimchi ramyeon, use a teaspoon each day to meet your recommended intake.

Nutritional yeast enhances the nutty taste of the tricolour quinoa, and goes very well with butternut squash and deep-fried sage. Every time Ryan takes this for lunch at work, he demands for an extra teaspoon of nutritional yeast. He is quite obsessed with it now that I have to hide the packet in a safe place.

Lastly, before writing this post, I played with different squashes for this recipe within a month, and here’s my conclusion on how each squash determines the sweetness level in this risotto.

Very sweet: Japanese Pumpkin (Kabocha)/ Australian Pumpkin

Sweet: Butternut Squash

Moderately Sweet: Malaysian Pumpkin

Let me know if you’ve tried this recipe! I’ll be glad to hear your preferences:D

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BUTTERNUT SQUASH QUINOA RISOTTO (serves 4)

VEGAN | GLUTEN-FREE | DAIRY-FREE

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 500g butternut squash

  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped

  • ½ organic tricolour quinoa, rinsed thoroughly 

  • 1 heaping tsp organic red miso

  • 2 heaping tbsp nutritional yeast (fortified with B-12)

  • 8 fresh sage leaves, for garnish

  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Directions

  • Use a tablespoon to scoop out seeds from butternut squash. Leave skin on, and chop them in large chunks (about 5 cm) using a cleaver. Arrange them, skin side down, on a steamer rack. 

  • Boil 500ml water in a steamer, stack the steamer rack on top, put lid on and cook butternut squash for 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat, let it cool for 10 minutes. 

  • Heat a medium saucepan with olive oil over medium high heat. Deep fry sage leaves for 2 minutes until crispy. Drain them on a kitchen towel. Set aside. 

  • Pour away ½  portion of olive oil, and add yellow onion into the same sauce pan. Cook onion for 3 minutes until lightly browned. 

  • Pour 350ml boiling water into sauce pan, stir in red miso for a minute until it dissolves. Add quinoa and cook for 15 minutes over medium high heat. 

  • Meanwhile, remove skin from butternut squash and mash them with a fork. 

  • When quinoa is puffed and tender, reduce heat to low. Add ½ portion of mashed butternut squash and mix in completely before adding the remaining portion. 

  • Sprinkle nutritional yeast over risotto and stir quickly for 20 seconds. 

  • Divide risotto between plates and serve with 2 pieces crispy sage leaves on top. 

Notes

  • Insert a fork into butternut squash to check if its cooked through. 

  • You can steam butternut squash, and mash them the night before preparing risotto. Make sure they are stored in an air-tight container and refrigerate. 

  • Use a food processor to chop yellow onion (without skin on) finely

  • To have a runny consistency and texture, you can add 2 tbsp water each time and stir in until desired. 

Enjoy!Xx

-Ally

PUMPKIN SOUP WITH DRIED LILY BULBS| VEGAN BEAUTY SOUP

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This month, I'm rolling out a "Bless my hair, skin and nails" mini recipe series, starting with this pumpkin soup with dried lily bulbs. If you're on a mission to go meatless on Mondays, this one sweet pot of earthy soup will fit the bill!

Initiating this mini series is my call to action for a natural glow and better physical appearance, who doesn't want that? As we age, the condition of our hair, skin and nails are the most apparent components that reflect how hard we battle through a busy, stressful lifestyle every single day. With all that maintenance and moolah 💸💸💸from our visits to the hair salon, beautician and manicurist to be at tip-top version, (psst...I visit them when I'm feeling rich), the most essential and cost-effective method we can practice is through what we consume.

I was born with fine hair that bothers me every morning when I look into the mirror. My heart sank on a bad, and flatter hair day. When visiting the dentist is your nightmare, well for me is the hair stylist. Every time I visit a new hair salon, a harmless comment like "Why is your hair so fine, thin and dry? Did you do something crazy before?" affects me.

I am embarrassed 😳, and responded, "It is hereditary" with a dry laugh 😁.

I was actually crestfallen😔 Additionally, this imperfection of mine eats me when the media frames beauty standards of woman with thick, shiny and luscious hair I knew I will never own it. 

Until recent months, I was inspired by women of power and confidence, sharing about their imperfections and how they flourish with them. Their voices shape the way I look at myself now. This time, I scrutinise what I love about my features and my imperfections concurrently in front of the same mirror. I slowly learn to embrace who I am, value what my mama has given me and be unique in my own way. Since I am blessed with this amount of hair that I can blow dry them in a jiffy, I should hella cherish this hair supply with foods that boost the growth and condition. You make the best out of what you have, amirite?

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This Chinese pumpkin soup with dried lily bulbs has its purported cooling effect and was served for dinner four times in the month of July due to the immense heat. The soup is vegan, meat free and seasoning free. 

What is dried lily bulb (百合, bai he)?

Dried lily bulb are cleaned and sun dried from the fresh ones. They are part of the edible root vegetable family which are commonly used as herbal remedies, more highlighted in Traditional Chinese Medicine for making soups, stir fries, and desserts.

The light sweetness and cooling properties of the lily bulbs help to 

  • relieve sore throat

  • moisturise lungs

  • relieve heart burns

  • tranquillise the mind

  • relieve dry coughs. They are ineffective against wet coughs with phlegms.

  • promote better sleep at night, especially if you're experiencing insomnia

Veggiebeast and my family loved it! Therefore, meat is certainly not necessary to enhance the flavour when pumpkin, daikon and carrot and red dates did a splendid job!  Whilst preparing the soup, I prefer to chop them all in large chunks. They will reduced in size by a quarter over the cooking time. Having them chopped in bite sized pieces will lead them to crumble into odd shapes, especially for pumpkin. 

To prepare such Chinese herbal soups, it is advisable to own a linen filter soup bag for your convenience. With the soup bag to contain the herbs or spices, it saves the hassle to separate residue from the soup before serving.  

If you're planning a light dinner, this soup can feed you to your heart's content. Alternatively, I will recommend serving it with your choice of carbs in the soup, or as a side on a hungry day. For me, I love slurping these eggless pumpkin yee mee (noodles) with the soup. 

Let me know once you've tried this recipe! I'll love to see your version and you can tag me on Instagram @poutchow or #poutandchow. 

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PUMPKIN SOUP WITH DRIED LILY BULBS (serves 4)

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 400g pumpkin

  • 200g daikon (white radish)

  • 60g medium sized carrot

  • 4 dried red dates

  • 3 tbsp dried lily buds (from Hock Hua Tonic)

  • 1 large yellow onion

  • 1 can button mushrooms (425g)

  • 3 tbsp whole white peppercorns

  • 4 Pumpkin Yee Mee Noodles Cake, (optional)

  • A handful of chopped fresh coriander for garnish, optional

Directions

  • Fill 20ml room temperature water into a bowl to soak dried red dates and dried lily bulbs for 5 minutes.

  • Scoop pumpkin seeds and fibres, and discard them. Next cut away pumpkin skin using a cleaver and cut them in large chunks.

  • Chop both ends of daikon and carrot. Peel skin off and chop them in thick circles, about 1.5cm thickness. Cut both ends of yellow onion, peel skin off and cut them in large wedges.

  • Fill whole white peppercorns in a linen cotton filter soup bag and tie a tight knot.

  • Boil 10 cups water in a deep sauce pan over medium high heat. Gently lay soup bag, soaked red dates and lily bulbs (without the water in the bowl), and vegetables at a low height to avoid water splashing. Cook for 45 minutes.

  • OPTIONAL STEP: While soup is boiling at 20 minute mark, remove pumpkin chunks if you prefer to eat them in whole before it dissolves into the soup. Cook the rest for another 25 minutes.

  • Wash canned button mushrooms and add them into soup. Put lid on and simmer at medium heat for 30 minutes.

  • Remove lid, use a chopstick to poke through daikon and carrot to check whether they have softened (not crumbly). Remove soup from heat.

  • In a separate pot, boil 1.2 litres water to cook pumpkin yee mee (noodles) for 2 minutes. Divide noodles between four bowls.

  • Ladle soup and vegetables over noodles, and garnish with fresh coriander.

Enjoy!Xx

-Ally

AVOCADO CASHEW NO BAKE CHEESECAKE

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It has been exactly one month since I put my body into a Green vs Red challenge. Committing a promise to myself to go red meat-free is a game changer to my mind and body. I'm welcoming more greens, legumes, mushrooms, and seafood in my meal preparation, Asian style. Some were tested and approved by many, watch this little space to recreate them easily at home!  

This Avocado Cashew No Bake Cheesecake that I'm sharing with you is a celebratory treat. If avocado and peanut butter rules your life just like mine, these pretty green squares will blow your mind. Psst...its a dairy-free cheesecake, so there ain't no cheese in here if you're wondering😝

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They contain all the vital good fats that possibly offer you some motivation to make better intentions for a balanced life! Check out how do make them in my video above!

To create the "cheese" filling, I combined 3 healthy good fats: cashew butter (tastes like peanut better, but better in nutritional value), raw cashews and an avocado. And no, they are not going to make us "fat" by growing widthways. Healthy fat lingers in our body a little longer, it helps to control our hunger, and lower our temptation to snack subconsciously, yay! 

For a long time, fat in food has been vilified by the media. We perceive all foods that are high in fat as "bad" for us, and we choose those foods labelled as low-fat and no-fat. Unfortunately, little do we know that only fruits and vegetables are naturally low in fat. Processed low-fat foods like cereals and yogurt are high in sugar *jaws dropped*.

Why do we need healthy good fats?

Having good fats can promote healthy weight, good cholesterol levels and give you that gorgeous shiny hair, nails, and skin. Our bodies need good fats to support cell growth, and to form a protective layer to our vital organs. Most importantly, fats assist our body in absorbing nutrients, transporting vitamins, all that good stuff we need to stay warm, steady and strong.  

Hmm..what are the bad fats (saturated fats and trans fats)?

  • Red meats (beef, pork, duck, lamb)

  • Processed meats (bacon, sausages, luncheon meat, salami, pepperoni)

  • Fries

  • Ice-cream

  • Margarine

Coming back to this Red vs Green challenge I mentioned above, some of you might know that Ryan (aka veggiebeast aka my fiance) turned vegetarian 2 years ago. Throughout our relationship, he enlightens me on the environmental cost of consuming red meat, and with Dr Greger's Nutritionfacts Youtube videos on the adversity of red meat in our body systems. Back then, I was not ready to cut down my meat portions and be a killjoy to say "I don't take red meat" at times in making lunch/dinner plans with family and friends. 

Up till last month, I felt that my body was flashing a big yellow warning sign, alerting me to cut down on meat. I was having abdominal cramps, constipation, and nausea at the sight of seeing pork😷. Everything was "clogged". These were repercussions of eating red meat (duck and pork) almost every meal during that fateful week of my late grandma's passing. A day after the wake, I listened to these signs. At that instant, I felt determined and ready to stay away from red meat.

It's true that we are what we eat, and undeniably, we feel what we eat. Making small changes, choices, actions outside of what's familiar in my family dinners, and in my diet require tons of willpower, self discipline and practice on giving polite "no, thank you, I'm abstaining from red meat" smiles. But the reasons behind going red meat-free are enough to motivate myself further.  

My reasons for going red meat-free

  • Better hormone balance, particularly estrogen.

    • Grain-fed, hormone-injected meat slows down our digestion, making us feel bloated, constipated, and raises our estrogen levels. A high meat intake diet is resulted to higher body mass index (BMI), and having harmful meat sources will slowly lead to estrogen dominance symptoms.

  • Lowers risk of colon, breast cancers, and cardiovascular diseases

  • Lowers mortality rate

    • Substituting 1 serving per day of other foods—like fish, poultry, nuts, legumes, low-fat dairy and whole grains—for red meat could lower the risk of mortality by 7% to 19%. (Source: Harrison Wein, Ph.D, National Institute of Health)

  • Animal cruelty

    • Factory farming methods are unbelievably cruel. Pigs for instance, are genetically selected to grow so obese and so fast. They are butchered with no pain relief, when they are capable of feeling pain and suffering. Pigs are smarter, and trainable than other domestic animals like dogs and cats. Yes, they are bred for human consumption but it does not change an animal’s capacity to feel pain, fear, or sorrow😞

I'm halfway there to cultivate this new habit, when on average, it takes 66 days before a new habit becomes automatic, according to Phillippa Lally's study on "How long it actually it takes to form habit". Certainly, red meats supply lemen iron and vitamin B12, which can be easily absorbed by our bodies, especially women. Hence, I am taking iron pills during and after my period, and vitamin B12 everyday. 

So I'm celebrating this change that makes me feel good and sharper with all that high vibes stuff I'm having. It's a slow, long process to embrace. My advice to you is that you can make better selections and portions of red meat you eat, learn the source of your food and choose grass-fed beef than grain-fed, they are leaner which makes it lower in total fat and saturated fat. 

To end this post, I would want to leave you with this impactful quote from my last read "A Tribe Called Bliss":

Look at each choice and ask how it will make you feel. What emotion does it feed and nurture? The more we bring our awareness to our food the more we will know what to eat to feel the way we want to feel.
— Lori Harder
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AVOCADO CASHEW NO BAKE CHEESECAKE (serves 8 squares)

VEGAN | GLUTEN-FREE | DAIRY-FREE

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Refrigerate: 4 hours

Crust

  • 7 Medjool dates, pitted

  • 1/4 cup raw pistachios

  • 1 tsp raw cacao powder

  • 1 tsp chia seeds

  • Pinch of pink himalayan sea salt

  • 1 tsp Brain dust by moon juice (optional)

“Cheese” Filling

  • 1 ripe avocado, pitted

  • 1/4 cup raw cashews

  • 1 tbsp raw honey

  • 4 tbsp cashew butter

  • 4 tbsp almond milk

  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

  • 1 tsp green barley (optional)

Toppings

  • Drops of lemon juice

  • 2 tbsp desiccated coconut

  • A handful of washed edible flower petals, i used chrysanthemum flowers

Bakingwares

  • 2 pcs 18cm x 27cm non-stick baking paper

  • 1 pc 11cm x 21.5 cm aluminium foil tray

Directions

  • Add all crust ingredients into a food processor and blend them for 30 seconds at high speed, or untill they become crumbs. Pinch the crumbs using your thumb and index finger, they should be sticky. Add another pitted date if its too dry.

  • Lay one 18cm x 27cm non-stick baking paper on a 11cm x 21.5 cm aluminium foil tray. Roll the crust into 2 huge balls, and press them into the tray evenly. Set aside.

  • To make the cheese filling, wash your food processor and blend all filling ingredients with it at high speed till they are smooth and creamy. If the filling is too thick, add a splash of nut milk (approx 1 tsp) and blend again.

  • Pour the filling over to the crust and spread evenly. Add a few drops of lemon on the surface (to delay browning), and sprinkle desiccated coconut over.

  • Cover the cheesecake with another baking sheet and refrigerate for 4 hours. If you’re in a hurry to make this, put it in a freezer.

  • Slice the cheesecake into 8 squares, and sprinkle petals over to serve and enjoy!

Notes

  • This is a dairy-free, gluten-free with no refined sugars added.

  • If dates are not in season, you can substitute them with 8 dried figs or prunes.

  • I am using barley grass powder to enhance the green tone of the cheesecake! This green booster is high in alkaline, and actually helps to neutralise the acidity of our bodies.

  • Braindust is a blend of adaptogens of superherbs and supermushrooms to help promote focus, mental clarity and concentration.

Enjoy!Xx

Ally