Vegetarian

Meals for the homeless – sweet Potato Noodles with Chinese mushroom and vegetables (gluten free option, vegan)

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I first enjoyed potato noodles in 1990s. I was puzzled by its rich flavors and unusual texture  – soft, firm and bouncy.  Not until many years later I realized these wonderful noodles were actually made of sweet potato starch, not potato.

I love these noodles – easy and cheap to make, yet so versatile you can add anything to it and the noodles will soak up all the beautiful flavors.

Last Saturday I made a huge batch of noodles.  We served it slightly chilled as part of a street banquet. 

Meals for the homeless - sweet Potato Noodles with Chinese mushroom and vegetables (gluten free option, vegan)
DSC03942 #1

Recipe is as follow:

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Simple Chinese mushrooms and cloud ear fungus, memories of Chinese New Year (vegan)

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Simple Chinese mushrooms and cloud ear fungus

Nearly 30 years had passed since I left China, but I still remember vividly the wonderful days around the Chinese New Years. Extended families gathered at the large dinner tables, briefly forgot about their quarrels throughout  the year. The wok chinked with an aroma of delicacies that we couldn’t afford as daily meals. The rolling pins were out for the wickedly delicious sweet peanut pastry.

The flower festival (‘huaJie’, 花街) was held about a week before the Chinese New Year. Families went to the street market packed of flower vendors to select their festival decorations. Kumquat 金橘 was an essential – ‘kum’ means gold and  ‘quat’ has a similar pronunciation as fortune. It is a plant that will bring good prosperity in the new year. A small blossoming  peach shrub was also an essential, s symbol of strength and vitality, with beautiful flowers emerged from the harshness of the winter. Also common were the chrysanthemum 菊花 and peony 牡丹, large and colorful, symbols of riches and honor.

Flower street
Memories of a street pack with people, flowers and green plants

When I was a little girl, my father worked in another city. So my second uncle took me to the flower festival each year. Our most memorable trips were the ones on the New Years Eves. We had loads of fun browsing the market and pushed through the crowd. There were so many people at the market, my uncle had to put me on his shoulders to be safe. When it was close to the midnight, we rushed home to light our fire crackers. There was one time that we were late and ran into the fire cracker storms at mid-night. The crackers and the odd firework were loud and smoky, with laughter of the children, so much joy and happiness.

Fire work
Memories of kids lighting fire crackers on the street

The next morning the streets were quiet with a red carpet of paper left behind by the fire crackers. Kids got up early to collect the odd fire crackers that did not go off the previous night, then ran around greeting their relatives ‘goon he fa choi’ 恭喜發財, in exchange for red envelopes with a little money, which they would use to buy lollies for months to come.

After the big feast on the New Year’s Eve, vegetarian meals were common on the first day of the new year.  My favorite dish was the stew Chinese mushrooms, a delicacy rarely consumed during the year. The mushrooms were cooked with different types of dry or fresh vegetables – lily buds, fungus, dry tofu sticks, hair vegetable 髮菜 and bamboo shoots. The aroma of the dish is still lingering in my mind.

Nowadays I cook Chinese mushrooms quite often – nearly everybody in our family and extended families love it.  In Sydney the Chinese mushrooms are inexpensive, a 250g bag of good quality mushrooms cost around $12. It makes a huge dish for 8-10 people to share. We are thankful for what we are able to enjoy today.

Here is a simple mushroom dish I’d like to share with you.

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Spiced potato salad with pepper, chili infused oil and white balsamic vinegar (gluten free, vegan)

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Our friends had a 20 year anniversary getaway at South Australia for a few days. We looked after their child and dog while they were away. It was easy as their beautiful son is our little boy’s best friend. Their gorgeous cavalier is the best friend of our cavoodle.

When they were back they brought us a nice bottle of white balsamic vinegar they picked up from a market at the Barossa Valley.  So I made a fusion potato salad with it.

This salad used blanched potato flavored with turmeric, coriander seeds and cardamon, a mild Sichuan style pepper-chili-garlic infused oil, sesame oil, white balsamic, pickled carrot, sliced wood ear fungus, sliced capsicum, sesame, shallot and coriander.

Spiced potato salad with pepper, chili infused oil and white balsamic vinegar (gluten free, vegan)

Recipe is as follows:

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Chinese sweet dumplings ‘tang yuan'(汤圆) – raspberry pink, in a ginger, cinnamon and honey syrup (gluten free, vegan)

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‘Tang yuan’, or the glutinous rice balls in syrup, were sometimes offered as a complementary dessert at Chinese restaurants. My husband always puzzled, why people liked these dull looking, doughy, boringly sweet and tasteless stuff.

Good point. As much ‘tang yuan’ is well loved by the Chinese community for its symbolic meaning of family and its reunion, it is not an exciting dish, not until it became a fusion dish anyway.

My ‘tang yuan’ were colored by raspberry coulis; some were filled with red bean paste and some were just small and plain. The syrup was infused with a cinnamon stick, cardamom,  ginger and orange peel, with brown sugar for color and a dash of honey for extra flavor. I really hope my husband would like them; and then he said, ‘they were okkkk’. Grrrrrrr!

Chinese sweet dumplings 'tang yuan'(汤圆) - raspberry pink, in a ginger, cinnamon and honey syrup (gluten free, vegan)

Recipe is as follows:

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Chinese New Year steamed sweet cake ‘nian gao’ (年糕) with coconut milk and ginger (gluten free, vegan)

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My old aunt loved making ‘nian gao’. My cousins called them rubber cakes, with a chewy, sticky texture and a plain sugary taste. My aunt is too old to cook now. So I started to make them myself, a not-so-authentic version with coconut milk, maple syrup and cinnamon. That’s what multi-culture is about, right?

‘Gao’ has the same pronunciation as ‘high’. ‘Nian’ means ‘year’. So ‘nian gao’ is symbolic for ‘every year a greater success’.  This puts ‘nian gao’ on the must-have list for Chinese New Year.

If you like it looking fancy, dust the cake with a mixture of peanuts, sesame seeds, sugar and desiccated coconut.

Chinese New Year steamed sweet cake 'nian gao' (年糕) with coconut milk and ginger (gluten free, vegan)

Recipe is as follows. Read the rest of this entry »

Carrot ‘noodles’ with green bean and bean sprout (low FODMAP, gluten free, vegan)

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Last week I was cooking humble carrots and wondering how may carrot dishes I could create. Here is one of them…

There are so many wonderful things about carrot, crunchy, juicy, colorful, full of goodies. Best of all, it has no carbohydrate so the FODMAPers can have as much carrot as they wish.

Carrot 'noodles' with green bean and bean sprout (low FODMAP, gluten free, vegan)

Recipe is as follow:

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Carrot with maple syrup and turmeric (low FODMAP, gluten free, vegan)

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I was helping out at Salvation Army’s community kitchen earlier this week. The kitchen uses OZ Harvest, a food rescue service that collects excess food products and provides the food to charities for free. The lady who runs the kitchen, Monica, a wonderful and cheerful woman, explained that she was not able to buy any other ingredients other than what was donated.

On the lunch menu it was Vietnamese San Choy Bao. I volunteered to cook the meal as I was comfortable with cooking large amount of food. After all I had ran an Asian food stall at our school fetes over the past three years.  The good news was that, we had pork mince and lots of vegetables. The bad news was that, there was no fish sauce, soy sauce, lemon or lime.  I found two small bottles of BBQ sauce. I cooked the meal with the BBQ sauce, a little sugar, salt and some turmeric. Although not really Vietnamese, the dish tasted pretty good. The meal was sold at $2 per serve. After that, there was no fresh meat left. So I prepared 2 trays of zucchini slices for next day’s free community lunch.  For the vegetarian option, I stir fried some diced potato, carrot, leek, capsicum, scallion and coriander with curry powder, turmeric and veggie spices. Thank goodness for all the other volunteers who chopped, diced, graded, washed and helped.

When I got home that day, I decided to learn a little more about cooking with simple ingredients. I started with the humble carrots and some left over pure maple syrup.

I diced 2 carrots, tossed the pieces with  some rice flour, maple syrup, a little oil and a pinch of salt. Then I pan fried the carrots with a little oil, tossed in some sesame seeds, turmeric and coriander.

It was the best carrot I have ever had.

Carrot with maple syrup, turmeric, sesame seeds and coriander, Low FODMAP, Gluten Free, Vegan

Recipe is a follow:

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Summer waffles with pineapple, banana and coconut (low FODMAP, vegan, gluten free)

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Winter is finally fading away in Sydney. Sun is shining and warm. The golden cane plants are back to life and the garden is looking fantastic.  This beautiful morning I made my tropicana waffles for breakfast and enjoyed them by the pool.

My tropicana waffles are some of my best waffles – super crispy on the outside, beautifully moist on the inside, and full of the goodness of banana, pineapple and coconut milk.  A little icing sugar on top makes it super handsome. Who would think vegan waffles could be so yummy..

Waffles with pineapple, banana and coconut (low FODMAP, vegan, gluten free)

Waffles with pineapple, banana and coconut (low FODMAP, vegan, gluten free)

Recipe is as follow:

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Homemade buckwheat noodles with soy sauce and sesame oil (low FODMAP, gluten free, vegan)

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A few weeks ago I made a really nice dashi soup base with shaved katsuobushi (preserved fermented skipjack tuna) and kombu (kelp). I looked in the cupboard for some soba noodles and noticed that they all contained wheat. That weekend I did a special trip to my favorite Asian supermarket at Chinatown to search for a gluten free soba, yet none could be found.

Never mind, I will just have to make my own buckwheat noodles. To make it light and bouncy, I used a combination of buckwheat (1/2), rice flour (1/4) and tapioca starch (1/4).

Homemade buckwheat noodles with soy sauce and sesame oil (low FODMAP, gluten free, vegan)

Recipe is as follow:

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Rice paper rolls with tofu, bamboo shoot, bean sprout and sesame (low FODMAP, gluten free, vegan)

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FODMAP vegan can be delicious too – tofu recipe #5.

A couple weeks ago I set out to see how many tummy friendly tofu recipes I could made. So far I have a rice noodle soup, an entree (pan fried tofu with chili & tomato salsa), a main (tofu chop suey) and a dessert (with ginger, pumpkin & tapioca). Perhaps the next dish would be a healthy snack that can be packed into a lunch box?

Vegetables can be quite plain, so the bamboo shoot will give the dish a kick of flavor.

Rice paper rolls with tofu, bamboo shoot, bean sprout and sesame (low FODMAP, gluten free, vegan)

The filling: tofu with bamboo shoot, bean sprout, potato, carrot, capsicum, sesame and coriander
The filling: tofu with bamboo shoot, bean sprout, potato, carrot, capsicum, sesame and coriander

Recipe is as follow:

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Tofu and noodle soup (low FODMAP, gluten free, vegan)

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FODMAP vegan can be delicious too – tofu recipe #3.

Try this hot rice noodle soup with tofu, radish, carrot, spinach, chili, coriander, ginger, soy and sesame oil.

Tofu and noodle soup (low FODMAP, gluten free, vegan)

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Tofu chop suey with okra, eggplant and radish (low FODMAP, gluten free, vegan)

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FODMAP vegan can be delicious too – tofu recipe #1.

This weekend I am working on tofu dishes. I bought 2 different type of plain tofu (soft and extra firm) from the Asian grocery store and keen to find out how many dishes I can create from this rather plain ingredient.

Here is a chop suey with pan fried tofu, enhanced by selected vegetables with interesting and gentle textures – okra, eggplant, radish, red capsicum; complimented by ginger, chili and coriander.

Tofu chop suey with okra, eggplant and radish (low FODMAP, gluten free, vegan)

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Quinoa potato hash (low FODMAP, gluten free)

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This yummy little snack has quinoa, shredded potato, capsicum, tasty cheese, coriander, marjoram, tarragon and rosemary – you can make them into balls, or flat hash browns.

Glutinous rice balls with beef and potato, spiced with cumin and turmeric (low FODMAP, Gluten Free)

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Steamed banana and pumpkin rice cake with coconut milk (low FODMAP, gluten free, vegan)

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When I was a little girl in China, I often had white steamed sugar sponge cakes for breakfast – the cakes were cheap, warm and comforting, although the the cakes had little nutrition value.

The steamed cakes in this recipe are also warm and comforting – and gentle for your tummy.

 

Steamed banana and pumpkin rice cake with coconut milk (low FODMAP, gluten free, vegan)
Recipe is as follow: Read the rest of this entry »

Parmesan eggplant with cayenne pepper and panko

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My husband likes most food except for tomatoes and eggplants. So I was determined to try out a few more eggplant dishes – may be he will change his mind?

This following eggplant dish was moderately successful as the eggplant was firm, crunchy and full of flavor. It is really simple to make – diced eggplant coated with olive oil, Parmesan cheese and cayenne pepper;  add a lightly beaten egg and coat the pieces well; then coat the pieces with panko and season with salt and pepper;  grill under a hot grill for 10-15 minutes, turn over a few times.

My hubby ate only a few pieces which was fantastic –  it means more for me. I really enjoyed it.

Parmesan eggplant with cayenne pepper and panko

 

 

Simple green banana curry (low FODMAP, gluten free, vegan)

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I bought this big bunch of green bananas from the supermarket a week ago – the bananas didn’t fully ripe after all these hot weather!  Well, we shall not waste them…

This banana curry is quite simple once you have invested in a few spices. If you can find a low FODMAP curry power, great.  Otherwise the spice mix I adopted was a few spices laying in cupboard and a few thing from my freezer (tamarind paste, frozen ginger & frozen chili). If you don’t have some of these spices (except for turmeric), feel free to skip a few.

What does it taste like?  – give it a try.

Simple green banana curry (low FODMAP, gluten free, vegan)

Method is as follows:

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Celery salad with black fungus and peanuts (Liang Ban 涼拌) (vegan)

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Here is another cool Asian salad for a hot Sydney day – lightly blanched celery, cooked salted peanuts, crunchy black fungus and green bean vermicelli. Great for lunch, dinner, or as a side dish.

Celery salad with black fungus and peanuts (Liang Ban 涼拌) (vegan)

Recipe is as follows: Read the rest of this entry »

Home made steamed buns ‘man tou’ (馒头)

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This is a heart warming plain steamed bun that is soft and fluffy when served warm or at room temperature. Great for sandwiching spicy twice cooked pork, or any meaty dishes with strong flavors.

Home made steamed buns 'man tou' (馒头)

Recipe is as follow: Read the rest of this entry »

Simple lunch – quinoa with roasted pumpkin and herbs (FODMAP friendly, vegan, gluten free)

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Some days I just crave for a very simple meal that is refreshing and tasty. After holidaying with kid at Fiji with buffet breakfasts and buffet dinners for 7 days, I am ready for one of these days.  A cup of quinoa soaked and cooked per instruction + roasted Jap pumpkin + from the garden some parsley, sage, rosemary and mint + a dash of lemon juice and sesame oil + pinch of salt..  hmmm…..yum.

Simple lunch - quinoa with roasted pumpkin and herbs (FODMAP friendly, vegan, gluten free)

 

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Soba noodles with pearl mushrooms (vegan)

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I walked pass an Asian grocery store today and saw some beautiful pearl mushrooms at the front. I could not help myself – I had a visual of a bowl of juicy noodles with deep dark soy & sesame flavor. And here it is…

Soba noodles with pearl mushrooms (vegan)

Recipe is as follow: Read the rest of this entry »

Chocolate, coconut, sesame and dates balls (gluten free, vegan)

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As a part time working mum dashing between workplace and school drop offs & pick ups, some days I don’t time for breakfast or lunch. This is a tasty treat that can really enhance energy level.

So simple – you can add your other favorite dried fruits; and make a large batch and freeze them.

Chocolate, coconut, sesame and dates balls   (gluten free, vegan)

Recipe is as follow: Read the rest of this entry »

Bean sprout salad with spicy Korean radish (gluten free, Vegan)

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As a Cantonese grown up in southern China in the 70s, bean sprout dishes were a regular on the dinner table because it was very cheap.  My grandmother grew the bean sprouts herself in a large brown urn under the stairs. My childhood memory of bean sprouts was always a stir fry watery dish with very little flavor. It was not until I arrived in Australian and had the opportunity to taste Korean food, to learn that it could be spiced up and taste so wonderful !

Bean sprout salad with spicy Korean radish  (gluten free, Vegan)

Recipe is as follows: Read the rest of this entry »

Soy bok choy, memories of my grandmother’s chicken coop (Low FODMAP, gluten free, vegan)

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Vegetables & melons are popular food in China – bok choy, choy sum & cabbage are some of the most common vegetables.

While I was a little child, we lived in a terrace house with my extended family including uncles & aunties. My grandmother was responsible for cooking dinners for the whole family. To supplement the food coupons, my grandmother raised a coop of chickens on the roof top terrace. Before I was old enough to go to school, every afternoon I went to the market with my grandmother to collect left over green vegetables. We brought the vegetables home, chopped them up on a huge wooden chopping board, and fed to the chickens. While she was chopping, grandmother told me stories, so many stories. One of the stories was about me – while I was still a crawling baby, I crawled up to the roof top terrace, helped myself to the egg storage urn, cracked every single egg and smeared the eggs on the stairs.

That was not the only time that I was naughty – I remember when I was little, bored and feeling mischievous, I put some rice behind the door to the roof top terrace. I peeked through the gaps, waited till the chickens started pecking on the grains, suddenly opened the door – chickens were flying everywhere!  The naughty little girl laughed and laughed.  My grandmother was always very kind to me and never punished me.

Some days we were lucky enough to collect some good vegetables, and grandma cooked them for dinner with a little oil, a dash of soy sauce and nothing else. Soy sauce was always cheap and no coupon needed.

Here is my version of a simple soy bok choy, with fond memory of my wonderful grandmother.

Soy bok choy (Low FODMAP, gluten free, vegan)

Easy method is as follows: Read the rest of this entry »