Homemade Tofu (Medium Firm)

When you are on a plant-based and low-carb  diet, tofu can be your best friend. I love everything about tofu – how versatile, nutritious, and tasty it is, not to mention being super low in carbohydrate. I also love how wallet-friendly and easy it is to make your own organic tofu.crispy friend tofu

Make your own tofu, you ask? Oh yes I do – and so can you!  It’s easy – just one little step away from making your own soy milk – and today, I’ll show you exactly how, step by step, with photos.

Homemade tofu is a revelation – so sweet and delicious straight out of the pot, with nothing but a tiny drizzle of soy sauce. You also will have two lovely tofu byproducts, the soy pulp (“okara”) and liquid whey. They are both nutritious and versatile (like tofu itself), so please don’t throw them away.

Did I mention how economical it is to make your own tofu? One cup of organic soy beans cost me about $1. From that, you can make 300-400g of  organic tofu, about 1.5 cups of okara, and 700g of whey. Now, isn’t that the best use of $1 ever?

Now are you convinced to give tofu making a go? I hope so!

Ingredients: First, let’s gather the ingredients – which are just two:

bulk soy beans

(1) organic soy beans (non-organic might be genetically modified, so avoid that if you can): I buy soy beans in bulk from this shop, which I think delivers Australia-wide. But to start out, try your local food co-op or health food shop.

(2) nigari  (magnesium chloride) flakes to coagulate tofu.. You can get nigari online. Nigari comes in either liquid form or as flakes. I much prefer the flakes. You never know how diluted nigari is in liquid, so flakes are easier to control the amount you use. A 100g bag of nigari flakes will last for years, if you don’t make tofu that often.

nigari flakes

Equipments: You don’t need any special equipments. But you’ll need these (which you probably already have in your kitchen):

(1) a blender (does not have to be high speed)

(2)  a BIG pot (the biggest pot you have, like a stock pot – the bigger the better)

(3) a wooden spoon

(4) a large metal strainer or colander

(5) a clean tea towel

That’s it – now you are ready to make your own tofu. The recipe and step-by-step instruction are below. You can double or triple the batch if you like, but I find it hard to squeeze more than one cup of beans at a time. So start with 1 cup and see how you go. Happy tofu making!

homemade tofu
homemade tofu

Tofu (Medium-Firm)

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December 5, 2017

Homemade "momen" tofu using a metal strainer - with step-by-step photos and instructions. It's easier than you think! The tofu made with a round strainer may not look as pretty as the store-bought ones, but much tastier. Plus, you can enjoy the bonus products of soy pulp and whey.

  • Yields: about 350g of tofu, 1.5 cups of soy pulp, and 700mil of whey

Ingredients

1 cup organic soy beans

1 tsp nigari flakes

1 3/5 liter filtered water for cooking, plus more for soaking

1/4 cup filtered water, for dissolving nigari flakes in

Directions

1Soak the soy beans in filtered water for 12-24 hours.

soaking soy beans

2Throw away the soaking water. Give the beans a quick wash. Drain, and put them in a blender. Add about 1 litre of the filtered water, and keep the rest in a jug. This is just because most blenders can't hold all 1.6 liters of water at one time.

blending soy beans

3Blend the beans and water. It takes about 30 seconds in my high-speed blender. You don't need the beans to liquify though.

blending soy beans

4Empty the blended soy beans/water into the largest pot you have. Use the remaining water (that didn't fit into the blender) to rinse out the blender, and add it to the pot. Put a lid on the pot (to speed up the cooking time). Set your timer to about 8 minutes (in case you walk away from the kitchen), and start heating the pot at medium-high heat.

cooking soy beans

5While the soy mixture is heating up, prepare for the next step. Place your metal strainer over a deep bowl. Line the strainer with a piece of clean cloth, like a tea towel or muslin. Get a container ready nearby to store soy pulp.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

6After about 8 minutes, the bean mixture should be close to boiling. Turn the heat down a bit, and stir with a wooden spoon, scraping the bottom so burned bits don't stick to the bottom of the pot. Don't walk away at this point, and keep heating and stirring till the soy mix reaches a boiling point. You can tell immediately because the whole thing starts to rise up the pot, threatening to overlfow (and it will, if you let it!)

cooking soy beans

7Turn the heat down to low. Re-set the timer to 5 minutes. Then keep stirring/scraping with the wooden spoon, to prevent overflowing (and if it does, well, you are not alone. I've done this so many times. Just continue with the recipe and clean up without despairing - you'll still have some yummy tofu). You need to cook the beans here because raw beans are indigestible.

cooking the soy beans

8When the timer goes off, pour the soy mixture over the cloth-covered strainer. Leave it to cool a bit, so you can squeeze the pulp out. This takes about 20 -30 minutes. You want the soy mix not too hot (it'll burn your hands), and not too cold (it'll be more difficult to squeeze when cold).

straining soy milk

9Wash the pot meanwhile. But since you'll be using the same pot again to heat up soy milk soon, it doesn't have to spotless clean at this point.

10When the soy mix is cool enough, squeeze it to get as much soy milk out of it as you can. Think of it as a good workout!

squeezing tofu pulp

11Now you have rich, creamy soy milk, and a chunk of pulp ("okara") left in the cloth. Store okara in a container, and keep that in the fridge for another dish. Pour the soy milk back into the (clean) pot. Wash your hands and give the cloth a quick rinse (you'll be using the cloth again soon).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

12Heat up the soy milk at medium heat. It won't take long this time to heat up, so don't walk away from the kitchen. You want the milk to nearly reach the boiling point. You can tell by the tiny bubbles forming up around the edges, and then the surface of the milk start to move.

squeezing tofu pulp

13While waiting for the soy milk to heat up, dissolve a scant 2/3 teaspoon of nigari flakes in about 1/4 cup of filtered water. Put the strainer and cloth over the bowl again. You are nearly at the end!

nigari flakes in water

14When the soy milk is nearly at the boil, turn off the heat. Pour the nigari water into the pot, and give it a very quick stir with a spoon or spatula. Now leave it alone for 15-30 minutes, without stirring or moving the pot. You can leave it like this for an hour or more if you like.

nigari

15Magic happens while you wait - nigari coagulates the tofu, just like when you make ricotta cheese. After about 15 minutes, you can see gorgeous white tofu floating in a clear, yellowish liquid (whey).

tofu nearly ready

16Gently pour the tofu/whey combo into the strainer lined with cloth. Let it strain naturally, without disturbing it, for 15-30 minutes. Or if you are impatient, you can give the cloth a gentle squeeze to help strain the tofu a bit faster. The longer you let it naturally strain or squeeze the whey out of the tofu, the firmer it gets. So you can adjust the consistency of your tofu to an extent here, depending on what you plan to use it for.

tofu nearly ready

17Ta-da! This is your tofu. It may not look like a pretty rectangle tofu you get at shops (having used a round metal strainer for shaping), but it is way tastier. I now use a rectangle metal strainer that I found in Japan to make rectangle tofu - so experiment with what you have around your kitchen next time.

homemade tofu

18If you are not eating or using the tofu right away, gently store it in a container, and cover with a bit of water to keep it from drying out. Store in the fridge till needed. It'll keep for up to 5 days or so.

mome dofu

19Finally... don't throw out the whey! You can use it as soup stock - for miso soup, curry, vegetable soup, sauces, etc. Whey is tasty and nutritious. Also, I love using it in lieu of water when making bread. It makes the most fluffy, wonderful bread dough.

tofu whey

If the whey looks a little milky, and not clear, don't worry about it. You still have most of the tofu there. Next time though, make sure the soy milk is nearly at the boil before adding nigari water. You can try using a bit more nigari flakes as well, but nigari tastes bitter, so if you use too much, you'll end up with a bitter-tasting tofu and whey.

I make tofu while cooking breakfast or dinner - or while doing other food preps, just so I can keep an eye on the initial cooking process and avoid unfortunate overflowing accidents.

Also, you don't have to make tofu in one go. Do it in stages. Blend up the soaked beans in the morning, cook it at lunchtime, and finish it at dinnertime, etc. You can even keep the soy milk in the fridge (and drink a bit of it for your coffee) overnight, and use the remaining milk to make tofu the next day.

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Wraps! Part 4 – Sesame Flatbread with Recipe (Vegan, GF, Soy Free)

I hope you have enjoyed my series on low-carb sandwich alternatives, and hopefully tried one or more of them? If not check out Part 1 (Mountain Bread), Part 2 (nori sheets), Part 3 (raw chard leaves).

But here is one more, and I saved the best for last. This one is closest to actual bread-based sandwiches that I crave often. It’s so good I’ve been eating this for many days in a row for breakfast.
low carb flatbread toastie

Homemade flatbread toasted sandwiches! This comes together in about 20 minutes, all from pretty basic pantry items. Plus each bread only has about 4g of net carbs – now that’s a good (carb) bargain, I say. Here are the pros and cons:

Pros:

(a) Super low-carb. Based on my recipe below, each flatbread has about 4g of carbohydrate. You can easily have two per meal, with all kinds of fillings you desire, and you are likely to go well below the 30g-carb goal.

(b) Gluten free, soy free, and oil free (well, the dough itself is oil free – cooking oil is optional).

(c) Quick and easy to make at home. The dough only takes a few minutes to assemble and roll. And you can roll it out and cook them right away. No resting or rising necessary.

Rolling out the bread is pain-free and mess-free as well, because you’ll be rolling it between two sheets of baking paper. Just don’t skip the arrowroot starch.

If you are feeding a few people, just double or triple the batch, and put multiple frying pans on for quick production.

(d) The ingredients are readily available at most supermarkets -and while I haven’t done the cost analysis, they are all inexpensive. Craving a hot, cheesy toasted sandwich in the middle of the night? No need to drive to the shops and spend money on stale bread.

(e) Full of nutritious goodness and no nasties added – flaxseeds, almond meal, and sesame seeds are packed with nutrients. Use organic when possible, and you’d feel much better than eating anything wrapped in plastic in supermarkets.

(f) Incredibly delicious. Seriously. The flavour of toasted sesame seeds and almond meal is amazing. Most importantly, the bread has just the right amount of fluffy, bread-like texture (thanks to the baking powder).

(g) If you make a toasted sandwich, you can make it right there in the same pan you cook the flatbread (see below).

(h) The recipe is versatile. You can use it as a pizza base, or for sweeter fillings like peanut butter. You can also cook it in the oven till a bit crunchy, and use it like a cracker to scoop up hummus and other dips.

Cons

(a) Although quick and easy to make, you’ll still have to make it yourself.

(b) Being homemade, and gluten free, my flatbreads tend to end up looking a little, well, “rustic” around the edges. But is this a problem? Not in my aesthetic realm.

(c) The bread won’t last forever. It’s best to eat it straight away, though it’ll probably keep for a few days in the fridge, and longer in the freezer.

low carb sesame flatbread toastie

How to: Melty Cheesy One-Pan Toasted Sandwich

(1) Make the flatbread dough from the recipe below. Heat up a frying pan, and when hot, spread a little olive oil (olive oil adds so much to the flavour and texture of the sandwich, but you can use a nonstick pan without oil if you like).

(2) When the oil is hot, cook a flatbread for about a minute or two. Flip to the other side, and on one half of the bread, place your fillings. Here, I used vegan cheese, mustard/mayo, and spinach and radish leaves.

(3) Fold up the bread in half with a spatula, so the filling is covered up inside like a sandwich. Turn down the heat to low, cover the pan with a lid, and gently cook the sandwich until the cheese melts and greens wilted.

low carb sesame flatbread toastie

low carb sesame flatbread toastie

Enjoy right away – perhaps with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and/or hot sauce.

low carb flatbread toastie
low carb flatbread toastie

Quick Sesame Flatbread (GF, Low Carb, Vegan)

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October 25, 2017

Quick and easy, low-carb flat bread that is super tasty! Great for satisfying your bread cravings without the guilt (and high blood sugar). Great on its own, as a toasted sandwich, or as a pizza base. Don't skip the arrowroot starch here - despite the high carb content of the starch, you only need a tiny bit, and it helps to make the dough more workable.

  • Yields: 2 flatbreads

Ingredients

2 tbsp almond meal

2 tbsp flax meal (linseed meal)

1 tbsp coconut flour

1 tbsp sesame seeds, plus more for rolling

1/2 tbsp baking powder

1/4 cup water

pinch salt (to taste)

1 tsp olive oil, for fying

Directions

I love the flavour of toasted sesame seeds, but experiment with other seeds and nuts - like hemp seeds, fennel / cumin / coriander seeds, coarsely ground hazelnuts and walnuts, pine nuts, and so on. Also try adding herbs and spices for variety!

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Wraps! Part 3 – Raw Rainbow Chard

Did you have a chance to make wraps with Nori sheets? I still eat nori wraps all the time, but here is my current favourite: rainbow chard wraps! I first learned to use it as a raw wrap by watching a Laura Miller video, and it changed my life.

Raw rainbow chard / lettuce (gluten free naturally)

rainbow chard

See how and flat these leaves are? They are just made to be wraps. I chop the stem off and keep them for other dishes.

Pros:

(a) Rainbow chard is super tasty and beautiful to look at – I particularly love the pink and yellow ones.

rainbow chard wraps

Chard (at least the kind I find here in Sydney), like celery, also has a naturally salty flavour. So if you are on a low-sodium diet, you’ll love the “free” salty taste. I often just munch on these leaves as is as snacks for this reason.

(b) Chard has next to zero carbs, like nori. Have as many as you like, all guilt free!

(c) It is inexpensive and widely available. If you can’t find rainbow chard in a shop near you, try silverbeet or kale (though a bit tougher to chew raw, and the leaves are not as big and flat as rainbow chard). Iceberg and cos lettuce are also good options. So is napa cabbage and pak choi (all delicious raw).

(d) Rainbow chard leaves are so large, flat, and pliable – it makes a superb wrap for a large amount of filling.

(e) You can go organic.

(f) They are super nutritious. You can check “leafy greens” off your daily healthy-food list while eating delicious wraps. (g) relatively mess free to eat! See how neat these wraps make? You can eat while reading a book and not worry about things dripping onto the pages.
chard wrap

chard wrap

What are in these wraps, you ask? They are (1) walnut and sun-dried tomato taco meat (per Laura Miller) with tofu sour cream, (2) Cajun barbecue jackfruit on cauliflower rice, an (3) tofu hummus, yellow capsicum, with homemade sauerkraut.

chard wrap with chickpeas

This one has the same walnut taco meat, with cooked chickpeas, fennels, and raw broccoli.

Cons:

I can’t think of any cons. Seriously.

If you haven’t tried any of these wraps, give them a go. Happy low-carb wrapping, everyone.

 

Wraps! Part 2 – Nori Wraps (Not Just for Sushi)

 

If you think nori sheets are just for sushi – it’s time to think outside the bento box. Nori make tasty, nutritious wraps for just about any filling – well, so long as it’s not too wet.

Here’s my pros vs cons list:

Nori sheets (gluten free, vegan)

nori rolls

Pros:

(a) Nori sheets have nearly ZERO net carb and extremely low in calories. What a bargain! You can eat as many as you like, and save all your carb allowance for more fun fillings.

(b) Nori is super tasty on its own, unlike Mountain Bread. My kids love to devour them as is for snacks. Nori also has a very satisfying crunchy texture.

(c) Made from sea vegetable, nori is nutritious.

(d) Nori goes with all kinds of fillings and flavours, not just Asian stuff. Go for vegan sausages and schnitzel slices, veggie sticks, sauerkraut, tofu scramble, baked beans, cauliflower rice… Be creative, because the possibilities are endless.

Nori wrapsOf course, you can make traditional sushi rolls, too. To make the rolls hold together though, you’ll need to use some rice replacement. I mean, there is nothing wrong with rice at all if you are not diabetic, but for those of us on a low-carb diet, rice is sadly too extravagant.

cauliflower sushi cauliflower sushi

Here I made these rolls with cauliflower rice (steamed and moisture squeezed out), okara (soy pulp) scramble, avocado, cashew miso dip, and oven-roasted sweet potato. Delicious, fun, and veeery low-carb.

(e) Nori sheets are widely available in most metropolitan supermarkets or Asian shops.

(f) Nori lasts pretty much forever. Store original packages in your pantry, and once opened, tightly seal them and store in the fridge or freezer.

(g) Nori is gluten free.

Cons:

(a) Nori can be on the expensive side, like Mountain Bread. At big supermarkets in Australia, you can get a packet of 10 sheets for $3-4. High-quality nori are more expensive, however.

(b) If you live in the country, you may not have access to nori locally – though there is always online shopping.

(c) Nori does not have the similar bread-like chewy texture or taste.

(d) Nori sheets are rather fragile. It also doesn’t like moisture (it’ll get soggy), so it’s best to eat nori wraps straight away. Which makes a great sushi party idea!

Make a stack of mini nori sheets (cut one large sheet into 4 square-ish sheets with scissors), and serve with various fillings. Your guests or family can choose their own filling combination, wrap them in nori, and eat immediately. Can’t be easier!

Nori wraps

 

 

Wraps! Part 1 – Mountain Bread

I don’t miss sugar much anymore, but I do miss bread. And by “bread” I don’t mean almond croissants dusted with powdered sugar – I’m not that unreasonable at this stage in my diabetic journey. It’s the humble sandwiches I miss the most.

Well, I used to miss toast in the morning, too, until I found this fantastic seedy bread recipe, which I make on a regular basis. This bread, however, is not really suitable for sandwiches unfortunately.

Why are sandwiches so… desirable? Well, I thought about it. It’s the softness of the bread, the joy of eating with your hands, and the “surprise” of tasty filling inside, all melding together in your mouth in one happy bite…. Most bread is too carb-rich for me, but is there a guilt-free alternative?

Enter wraps. Wraps are great! Here is the most bread-like commercial (i.e. most low-carb per square cm) wrap I found, after searching high and low through supermarket aisles. Here’s my low-down “pro vs con” analysis:

Mountain Bread (or similar, super-thin wrap bread)

mountain bread wrapPros:

(a) Relatively low-carb (13.6g per wrap for Mountain Bread rye version) and low calorie.

(b) Each wrap is large, and can hold a decent amount of fillings. If you fill it with low or zero-carb veggies and other food, you can have two wraps per meal and be on track at nearly 30g per meal. That’s not bad at all. I usually have just one though, with salad or soup on the side, or with more substantial and fun (read: high-carb) fillings like beans and vegetarian sausages.

(c) Mountain Bread is conveniently available at most Australian supermarkets.

(d) They last for a week or more in the plastic bag it comes in. Great for camping trips!

(e) I haven’t tried it, but you can make a toasty version of it – oozy vegan cheese and tomato, anyone?

Cons:

(a) It is a bit pricey. In stores in Sydney, they cost 50c per wrap.

(b) The wrap dries out quickly if left in the open. At a picnic on a sunny day, I left the wrap on my plate for a few minutes while attending to my kids, and the wrap had gone all brittle and cracker like. What a disappointment.

(c) Mountain Bread itself has very little flavour in my opinion.

(d) 13.6g is still a chunk of carbs. If you eat two wraps, that’s it for your carb “allowance” – no room for much else, like dessert.

(e) It’s not gluten free, and it’s not organic.

mountain bread wrap

Oops, this was too much filling! See what I mean? But see black thingy hiding behind my Mountain Bread? Could it be a back-up wrap for the spilled food? That’s for the next post.

 

Cashew Miso Tofu Dip (Vegan, GF, Oil-free, Low-Carb)

Cashew is magical. It can morph into anything, it seems. Milk, butter, white sauce, sour cream, and of course cheese. All nuts and seeds are amazing in their shape-shifting abilities actually (and godsend to people on vegan, plant-based and/or raw food diets). But cashew? Cashew is the reigning Queen of Creaminess. Plus it’s more affordable than, say, macadamia nuts or pine nuts.

Cashew miso dip

Here’s a quick cashew miso dip recipe that’s one of my current favorites. Miso makes it extra tasty, and tofu adds more creaminess, substance, and balance. Without tofu, the combination of cashew, miso and garlic create way too much flavor in my opinion – umami overload. Tofu brings the whole thing together.

The dip is diabetes friendly, but cashew does have a rather high carbohydrate content, and high calories, so it’s best to watch your portion size even if you are tempted to eat it by the spoonful.

cashew miso dip

Try the dip also as a sandwich or wrap spread, in lieu of mayo, as a salad dressing with a bit of thinning, or on (zucchini?) pasta, fritters, vegan schnitzels… anything really. I hope you give the recipe a go, and let me know how you like it!

cashew miso dip

cashew miso dip
cashew miso dip

Cashew Miso and Tofu Dip

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October 2, 2017

A quick, creamy, and addictive cashew dip with a subtle Asian flavor.

  • Yields: about 1 cup

Ingredients

1 cup dry cashew, soaked for 2-3 hours or overnight

1/2 cup momen or medium-firm tofu (not hard tofu)

1 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1 tsp fresh ginger, chopped (optional)

1 tbsp tahini (optional)

1 tbsp miso (brown or white)

1/2 cup vegetable soup stock or water

Directions

1Put all the ingredients in a blender or food processor, and process until very, very smooth. I have a high-speed blender and it takes 1-3 minutes.

2Taste, and adjust seasoning.

Garnish with chopped coriander, green onion, or chives for a pretty presentation.

If you are avoiding soy, try using vegan yogurt instead of tofu. I tried it with Nudie coconut yogurt (natural), but I wasn't crazy about the noticeable coconut flavor. But a different brand might be okay.

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The Breakfast Conundrum – and Sichuan Mushroom Sauce Recipe (Vegan, GF, Low-Carb)

Sichuan mushroom sauce

Breakfast is often a tough decision for me. What do I want to eat this morning, or rather, what can I eat this morning? Being diabetic, I gave up on sweet breakfast a long time ago, and high-carb items like wheat bread, cereal, rice, or even porridge are out. Fruit is also out (too much sugar), except maybe berries. Meat, fish, and dairy are also out because I’m trying to stick to a plant-based diet. Well, except I do eat occasional eggs from our happy backyard chooks.

What does that leave me with? Well, vegetables, beans, seeds and nuts of course! And thank goodness there are so many delicious things you can make with these.

Here’s what I eat these days when I’m pressed for time, like getting the kids ready for school: a couple of slices of low-carb seedy bread with avocado. Plus a big mug of real coffee with homemade almond milk – because, friends, coffee is happiness. If I’m still hungry, I’ll munch on raw veggies or have a big spoonful of peanut butter. Yum.

seedy bread breakfast

On weekends though, I make something more elaborate. Last weekend, I made this Asian portobello mushroom sauce with garlic, ginger, chilli, and Sichuan peppercorns. I poured it over homemade tofu and devoured it. It was utterly delicious. It’s actually pretty simple to prepare, too, if you want to give it a try.

portobello mushroom sauce ingredients

The basic recipe is below. The key flavor here is Sichuan peppercorns. You can omit the chilli if you like but please give Sichuan peppercorns a try. It adds a distinct, strong and fresh flavor kind of like coriander or fennel seeds – but not really. It’s hard to explain but I love it. Using whole peppercorns also adds a nice crunchy texture to the dish.

You can use whatever mushrooms you have lying around, or in any combination. Portobello or shiitake would be great though, because of their meaty texture that can match the strong flavor combination. But if not, white button mushrooms would work just fine.

If you want to make the sauce but are avoiding soy, try pouring the sauce over lightly steamed broccoli, spinach, kale, carrots, etc. If you are okay with carbohydrate, the sauce would be delicious over noodles, rice (cauliflower rice would also be fantastic for a low-carb option), quinoa, etc. Enjoy and, if you happen to make this dish, please let me know how you go!

Sichuan mushroom sauce
Sichuan mushroom sauce

Spicy Sichuan Mushroom Sauce (Vegan, Low-Carb, GF)

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September 27, 2017

Kickstart your morning with this spicy and scrumptious (and low-carb of course) Asian mushroom sauce with tofu!

  • Yields: 1 serving

Ingredients

1 cup portobello or other mushrooms, sliced

1 tbsp sesame, olive, or coconut oil for cooking mushrooms

2 cloves garlic

1 tbsp ginger

1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns

1 tsp dried chilli flakes (or to taste)

1 tbsp soy sauce (use gluten free if you like)

1 tbsp cornstarch or arrowroot, for thickening

1 cup water or vegetable soup stock

1 cup momen or silken tofu

Directions

1Slice or chop the mushrooms. You want relatively chunky bits - not too small, not too large. Mince garlic and ginger together.

2Preheat a frying pan over medium-high heat (I love my Lodge cast-iron pan). Spread whatever oil you are using, and when the pan and oil are nice and hot, carefully lay the mushroom bits in a single layer. You want the mushrooms to brown, so don't overcrowd the pan. Leave the mushroom alone (don't stir) for 3-4 minutes till one side has browned and shrunk a bit. Flip the mushrooms over with a spatula, and let the other side brown for 2-3 minutes.

3Add chilli flakes, Sichuan peppercorns, minced garlic and ginger to the pan, and cook for a minute or so. Add soy sauce and stir for a few seconds (it should sizzle), until it all starts to smell amazing.

4Dissolve cornstarch or arrowroot in water or stock, and pour it in the pan. Mix, until the water has boiled (shouldn't take long), and the sauce thickened. Reduce heat to a simmer, and let the sauce cook gently for a few minutes. If the liquid evaporates too much, just add more water or stock to bring it back to a nice saucy consistency. Adjust seasoning to your taste.

5Pour the sauce over a good chunk of tofu and any other vegetables you have around. Scatter a few leaves of cilantro / coriander or chopped scallions if you have any.

The sauce is great over homemade tofu. If you are buying tofu, organic "momen" (or medium firm) or silken tofu is best. I don't recommend hard-firmness tofu - it's a bit too tough to eat raw in my opinion. But you can cook slices of hard tofu until crispy in the oven or in another frying pan. That'll be delicious with the sauce. And of course, this will make a lovely lunch or dinner dish as well.

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Adzuki Bean Hummus (Vegan)

adzuki bean hommus

Did you know that you can make hummus from any beans? Adzuki beans, for one.

adzuki beans

In Japan (where I grew up), cooked adzuki beans are often mixed with sugar to make fillings for sweet treats like mochi and buns. Adzuki inherently tastes sweet, even without added sugar. So I was a little skeptical at first of making savoury dishes with adzuki beans.

adzuki bean hommusUntil I tried this hummus. Totally delicious! Adzuki beans are one of the most nutritious and diabetes-friendly beans around, apparently. It has lots of protein, fibre, antioxidants, and potassium, for starters.

Making adzuki hummus is simple, except you need to cook the beans from scratch. Unlike chickpea or other more common beans, it’s hard to find canned (and unsweetened) adzuki beans in supermarkets. But don’t let that stop you. Adzuki is one of the easiest, fastest beans to cook from scratch.

And the hummus is so pretty! It has a beautiful light purple colour. Enjoy it as a dip for all sorts of veggies (raw bok choi is so delicious, and conveniently shaped like a spoon for scooping up hummus).

I hope you enjoy the recipe.

adzuki bean hommus

adzuki bean hommus
adzuki bean hommus

Adzuki Bean Hummus

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September 23, 2017

Move over, chickpeas! Make this tasty, nutritious, and pretty-in-purple adzuki bean hummus for a change. I guarantee you'll fall in love.

  • Yields: about 3 cups

Ingredients

1 cup uncooked adzuki beans

4 tbsp tanihi

1 tsp salt

2-3 garlic cloves

Directions

1Soak the adzuki beans overnight in filtered water.

2Cook the soaked beans until tender. I cook all beans in my beloved Instant Pot – an electric pressure cooker – and it takes about 5 minutes of pressure with natural release. Not long at all, unlike black turtle beans that take whopping 35 minutes in the pressure cooker. You can also cook the beans in a pot of simmering water on stovetop – just add a little more water several times as the water evaporates. You'll have about 3 cups of cooked adzuki beans.

3Drain the beans well. In a food processor fitted with an S blade, process the beans, garlic, tahini, lemon juice and salt until smooth (or with a bit of texture if you like it that way). Adzuki beans are pretty juicy when cooked well, so there is no need to add extra water or oil (as you would when making chickpea hummus).

4Taste, and adjust seasoning / lemon juice / tahini to your liking.

Try different flavour additives. Reduce salt, and try adding a litltle soy sauce, miso, or vegan fish sauce. Add a drizzle of toasted sesame oil for a more intense flavour. You can also try adding cumin and/or paprika for a more Mediterranean flavour, but keep it simple because you don't want to overwhelm the delicate, subtle flavour of adzuki beans.

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Tokyo Vegan Eatery Review No. 1 – T’s Tantan Vegan Ramen

Woohoo, I’m back in Tokyo, for the first time in 11 years! Actually, I’m staying at my aunt’s house in Chiba, which is technically not Tokyo but is the next prefecture – about one hour away from central Tokyo. I have two weeks in Japan, and I have so much to do and see.

Included in my to-visit-list are a whole bunch of craft shops, kitchenware shops, food shops, stationary shops, book stores, department stores, an organic farm, and of course, vegan / vegetarian restaurants and cafes. Oh and I’ll be helping my aunt and my mother cook amazing festive food for the New Year’s Day. And in between all these activities I’d like to squeeze in some exercise and relaxation time as well. Does it sound too much? Impossible? Probably. We shall see.

Today was my first trip to Tokyo. And my first goal was to have lunch at a vegan ramen place called “T’s Tantan” – which is located inside Tokyo Station (i.e. you have to buy a train ticket or one of prepaid train passes like this, and then get inside the station first). If you’ve never been to Tokyo Station, it’ll shock you. It’s a huge, multi-level monster of a station, complete with hundreds of shops, restaurants, cafes, gift shops, bento shops, takeaway shops – and of course dozens of different train platforms and subway stations scattered every which way. It’s scary.

I always get lost here, and wasn’t sure if I’d ever find this magical vegan ramen place – but miraculously I managed.

 

T's Tantan Vegan Ramen Tokyo

To get here, you have to first get inside the Tokyo station, and go towards “Yaesu Minami Guchi” (South Yaesu Exit / 八重洲南口), but not out to the street. You can also follow the sign for “Keiyo Sen” (Keiyo line / 京葉線). And just before the exit, on your right side, there is a little row of eateries and shops called “Keiyo Street.” The ramen joint is at the end of Keiyo Street, on your right hand side.

Here it is. Vegan ramen!

T's Tantan Vegan Ramen Tokyo

There was a little line of people waiting to get inside the ramen place. It was lunch time though, and today was a public holiday, so I wasn’t surprised. The wait was only about 5 minutes thankfully. The place is open from 7am till 11pm.

T's Tantan Vegan Ramen Tokyo

Inside the restaurant was simple but clean, tastefully decorated with vegan messages on the walls, and surprisingly spacious. There were tables for multiple people, but you’d feel completely comfortable eating on your own. The wait staff were all friendly, kind, and efficient (they were very good at refilling your glass of cold water). Despite the line of people waiting, nobody rushed you into ordering or eating. Once inside, everyone seemed relaxed and happy. I heard relaxed chattering in several languages, as well as lots of audible slurping sounds as you’d expect in a ramen joint.

T's Tantan Vegan Ramen Tokyo

The menu isn’t very long. There were 5 main ramen dishes -ramen with white sesame, black sesame, golden sesame with peanut sauce, soy ramen, and something called “Su-Ra Tanmen” which has vinegar and chilli sauce in it. You can also order extra veggies, which I did. There were also a couple of side dishes, like dumplings, mini curry-and-rice dish, and mock fried chicken nuggets. For the drink menu, there was coffee, tea, orange juice, and (wow) beer, organic red wine and organic white wine.

I ordered the most expensive “golden sesame” ramen (with peanut sauce) with extra veggies and a side of mock chicken nuggets. What can I say, I was starving. All their mock meats are all made from a high-quality soy product brand called “daizu marugoto” (whole soy). I’ve had these before, and they are pretty great.

T's Tantan Vegan Ramen Tokyo

Here’s my meal! How exciting. And it was yummy! I’d say 8.5 out of 10. The soup was amazing, with rich peanut sauce, satisfyingly salty, oily enough but not too oily, and with deep rich sesame flavour. My setup came with a little jar of homemade chilli pepper mix, and I put a generous amount of it in my soup. I recommend ordering extra veggies, because there weren’t much veggies in the bowl by default.

T's Tantan Vegan Ramen Tokyo

The potions size was sufficient for a normal hungry woman. I felt like I over-ate with the deep-fried nuggets. I’d skip that next time.

The only negative thing I could find about the ramen was that the noodle seemed just slightly overcooked – lacking in al dente texture. But that could be because I was too busy taking photos before actually eating.

T's Tantan Vegan Ramen Tokyo

The “chicken” nuggets were a little on the sweet side for my taste buds, but still very tasty. I threw them into the bowl of noodles and ate them all together. So yum.

As for the pricing, considering I ordered two extras, the total cost was still very reasonable at 1450 yen (about AU$16). Compared to the high cost of lunch in Sydney, it was quite reasonable, I thought.

T's Tantan Vegan Ramen Tokyo

I’d love to go back there another time to try other ramen dishes – particularly the white sesame one, which most everybody else was ordering.

PS. On the other hand… ramen is not very diabetes friendly… The noodles probably shocked my blood sugar into a soaring high! But I’m on vacation – and on a mission to find vegan-friendly eateries in a sea of mostly non-vegan places in Tokyo, so it was okay. After all, I’m still alive and ready for my next adventure! Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

How to convert a recipe to be diabetic friendly (plus a carrot muffin recipe)

If you follow a plant-based diet, you have probably heard of the term “veganise.” It means converting a conventional recipe into a vegan one. For example, if a recipe calls for an egg, you omit the egg and use flax meal or chia seeds instead.

If you are diabetic and follow a plant-based diet, the conversion becomes a bit more complicated two-step process. One: veganise it. Two: make the recipe more diabetic friendly (I’ve been looking for a snappy term for this process – but sadly can’t find one yet. “Diabetise”?

Of course, you can start with a vegan recipe to begin with, and make it just a one-step process of “diabetising” it – and there are plenty of amazing vegan recipes available these days.

So how do you make a recipe more diabetic friendly, you ask? Here’s what I do when making sweet treats.

(1) reduce the amount of sugar – sometimes a recipe calls for a ridiculous amount of sugar, I can halve the amount and it still tastes sweet enough to me. I normally start with less sugar, and taste the mixture as I make it. If I want more sweetness, I gradually add more sugar until I’m happy.

Keep in mind that baked sweets taste less sweet than uncooked dough or batter. In other words, when tasting unbaked batter/dough, make it a little sweeter than you’d like.

(2) replace refined sugar with low-GI, low-carbohydrate sugar, like maple syrup, coconut sugar, or sometimes, even fake sugar (though too much of that might upset your tummy).

(3) replace plain flour with low GI, low-carbohydrate flour, such as besan flour, almond meal, peanut flour, buckwheat flour, rye flour, and wholemeal wheat flour. These flours are generally interchangeable with plain flour. I stay away from coconut flour and flax meal, because they are not interchangeable with regular flour – and requires significant modifications elsewhere in the recipe.

(4) use more nuts and seeds, and less dried fruit. Or omit dried fruit.

(5) use more vegetables, rather than fruit or other high-carbohydrate ingredients.

(6) replace oil or fat with apple sauce, mushed banana, pumpkin puree, or vegan yoghurt.

Sometimes I do all these things for one recipe, and sometimes I only do one or two modifications. Sometimes the result is just delicious! Sometimes I go too far into the “healthy” realm and my family and friends reject the modified creations (for not being rich or sweet enough, or for having the wrong kind of texture) – in which case will have to polish them off all by myself in order to avoid wastage. How tragic! Very rarely do stuff go in the compost bin though. I think it happened only once or twice.

Yes there is a bit of guesswork involved when making these modifications, but with trial and error and an adventurous spirit, you’ll soon get a hang of it. Just remember, it’s okay to fail sometimes! I fail all the time actually, but even failures can be quite tasty.

Carrot muffins (diabetic friendly)

Take these carrot muffins, for example. The original recipe is from a book called “Vegans with a Vengeance” by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. It’s a fantastic book on vegan cooking, but the recipes do often call for plenty of sugar, oil, and high-carbohydrate ingredients – things that wave red flags for diabetics.

Even though this particular recipe was pretty healthy to begin with, I still made a few modifications.

(1) I swapped the plain flour with a mixture of gluten free, lower-GI flours. I used a combination of buckwheat, brown rice flour, and oat flour (make sure you use gluten-free oat flour – not all oat flour is gluten free, apparently).

(2) Because the gluten-free flours tend to make muffins more crumbly, I added a tablespoon of flax meal to give more binding power.

(3) Instead of canola oil, I used apple sauce.

(4) Instead of regular sugar, I used coconut sugar.

(5) To add more kiddy appeal to the otherwise very brown, plain, and hippy-looking muffins, I decorated the muffin tops with blueberries, bananas and walnuts.

And the result? Very tasty muffins! Not too sweet, but just sweet enough for breakfast or for school lunch box. They also have a perfect structure – neither crumbly nor mushy. My kids gobbled them up, with a bit of vegan butter on top.

diabetic friendly carrot muffins

Here’s my modified, more diabetic-friendly carrot muffins. You can of course play with it anyway you like! You don’t have apple sauce? Try mushed banana or coconut yoghurt. Don’t have carrots? Use grated zucchini or sweet potato instead. Omit the raisins and use nuts and seeds instead (if I were making these muffins just for me, I would have omitted the raisins – but I made these mostly for my kids, so I left them in). Add more spices like vanilla, cloves, or orange zest. Have fun and remember, it’s okay to fail!

Carrot muffins (diabetic friendly)

 

Carrot muffins (diabetic friendly)
Carrot muffins (diabetic friendly)

Carrot Muffins (Gluten Free and Diabetic Friendly)

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October 21, 2016

This recipe is adapted from a carrot breakfast muffin recipe by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, from her Vegan with a Vengeance book.

  • Yields: 12 muffins

Ingredients

1 1/2 cup gluten-free flour mixture (I used brown rice flour, oat flour, and buckwheat flour, in equal amounts) - if using oat flour, and if gluten-free is important to you, please make sure you are using gluten-free kind of oat flour!

1 tbsp flax meal

1/4 cup coconut sugar (or fake sugar, if you prefer)

2 cups finely grated carrots (about 2 and a half smallish carrots)

1/2 cup raisins (optional)

1/4 cup apple sauce

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 cup blueberries, chopped bananas, or other fruit or nuts for topping

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup oat milk, soy milk, or nut milk of your choice (I used homemade oat milk)

Directions

1Preheat your oven to about 200 degree Celsius (400 Fahrenheit).

2Soak the raisins (if using) in hot water to plump them up - for about 10 minutes. Then drain.

3Mix all the dry ingredients in a big bowl - flours, baking powder, baking soda, spices, flax meal, salt, and sugar.

4Add grated carrots and raisins to the dry mixture and mix them with a spatula.

5Pour apple sauce and non-dairy milk into the flour/carrot mixture, and mix well with a spatula. The dough shouldn't be too dry or too wet - the batter should gently drip off your spatula. Add a bit more milk if it's too dry. Add a bit more flour if it's too wet.

6Prepare your muffin moulds. You can either use a non-stick mould and brush or spray it with oil, or use store-bought paper muffin liners, or just cut up little squares of baking paper and line the moulds with them (like I did in the photos).

7Bake for about 20 minutes, or until cooked through. You can gently press the top of the muffins with your hands, and if it feels firm and springy, they are baked. Or you can insert a bamboo stick into the muffins, and if it comes out clean, it's baked. Take the muffins out of the oven and let them cool for a bit before devouring them.

Instead of carrots, grated sweet potatoes is tasty, too (though slightly higher in carbohydrate).

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