If you like spicy food, these recipes will satisfy your hunger for something different
Some people become vegetarians because they love animals.
Some, as comedian A. Whitney Brown put it, because they hate plants.
But vegans are committed. Not only do they not eat food that harms or kills animals, some don’t even want food that inconveniences animals.
Like honey. Hardcore vegans will not eat honey because, as Noah Lewis of vegetus.org puts it, “the simple fact is that the bees are enslaved.”
Similarly, some vegans will not eat sugar because, while it comes entirely from a plant, some sugar is whitened by using bone char, which comes from animals.
Although the vegan diet lacks in meat, dairy and egg products — or because of it — the diet can be better for you than what the standard North American eats. In 2009, the American Dietetic Association took the position that vegetarian and vegan diets reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes, and lead to lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
It can be healthy, but there are some things to watch out for when on a vegan diet: you have to make sure to get enough protein and vitamin B-12 — and calcium, iodine, vitamin D, iron, zinc and n-3 fatty acids.
Fortunately, a well-balanced vegan diet provides all of these essential nutrients, though you may want to take vitamin B-12 supplements, just in case.
Still, cooking a well-balanced vegan diet can be difficult, at least if you want to stick to what most North Americans think of as normal ingredients. Many vegan recipes attempt to re-create meatless versions of familiar meat-based dishes, and to do so they rely on potentially off-putting ingredients such as vegan chicken, egg replacers and non-dairy cheese.
Other recipes use soy products such as tofu and tempeh for their protein, and it is one of these that I tried first in cooking a vegan diet for a day.
Mee Goreng, which is a type of stir-fried noodles, is popular street fare in the Philippines. When I have had it before, it always had meat in it, usually chicken or shrimp or both. But then I came upon a vegan recipe for it using tofu, and tofu fans are sure to be instantly hooked.
If they like spicy food, that is. As with a lot of street food, Mee Goreng usually packs a kick. If you want it milder, simply trim down or eliminate the amount you use of sambal oelek: the all-purpose Indonesian and Malaysian ground chili paste.
Also as is the case with much street food, Mee Goreng tends to be a little oily. The recipe calls for 5 tablespoons of oil for four to six servings; I got by with four tablespoons, but that is still a quarter cup of oil.
Do you need it? Yes. The oil brings the dish together, from the spicy sambal to the faintly bitter bok choy to the sweet sauce made from equal parts of soy sauce, brown sugar and molasses.
The tofu, which has the amazing ability to soak up all the flavours in which it is cooked, serves as a protein-rich punctuation to the meal.
For my next dish, I dispensed with the tofu and received my protein in the form of garbanzo beans, which are also known as chickpeas.
Indian-style Vegetable Curry with Potatoes and Cauliflower is another spicy dish. I like spices; sue me. If less fiery food is more your style, you can use a mild curry powder (but I wouldn’t use much less) and leave out the serrano chili.
This dish benefits greatly from the mutually complementary flavours of potato, cauliflower, garbanzo beans and curry. A bit of tomato paste and a cup of coconut milk make it deeply satisfying, yet it is so healthful that you’ll practically pat yourself on the back for eating it.
It is the kind of dish that calls out for basmati rice; if you have it, use it.
Finally, I made a vegan version of one of the least vegan dishes I could think of: pancakes.
Pancakes pretty much need eggs, milk and butter. If you try to make them from just flour, water, sugar, salt, baking powder and a little oil, you’ll wind up with paste.
Or so I thought. But then a colleague passed me a recipe for Vegan Pancakes that she swore was excellent. And she was right.
I don’t know how this works. I don’t understand how they hold together without becoming slightly sweetened hardtack. I’m guessing the oil has something to do with it, but we are only talking about a single tablespoon for 10 smallish pancakes.
These vegan pancakes are fine the way they are, but I incorporated a couple of additions suggested by my colleague: I added two tablespoons of soy milk (almond milk would also do) and a teaspoon of vanilla, just to make the pancakes even better.
They are a perfect foil for maple syrup. And maple syrup doesn’t inconvenience any animal.
Note: Sambal oelek can be found in the international aisle of grocery stores.
1. Bring 4 quarts water to boil in a large pot. Add noodles and cook, stirring often, until tender. Drain noodles and set aside.
2. Whisk sugar, molasses and soy sauce together in bowl. In a separate bowl, combine minced shallots, garlic and sambal oelek.
3. Spread tofu on a paper towellined baking sheet and let drain for 20 minutes. Gently pat tofu dry with paper towels, season with salt and pepper, then toss with cornstarch in bowl. Transfer coated tofu to a strainer and shake gently over bowl to remove excess cornstarch.
Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in 12inch non-stick skillet over mediumhigh heat until just smoking. Add tofu and cook, turning as needed, until crisp and browned on all sides, 8 to 10 minutes; transfer to bowl.
4. Add 1 tablespoon oil to nowempty skillet and heat until shimmering. Add sliced shallots and cook until golden, about five minutes; transfer to paper towel-lined plate.
5. If necessary, add remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to now-empty skillet and heat until shimmering. Add bok choy stalks and cook until crisp-tender, about three minutes. Clear centre of skillet, add garlic mixture and cook, mashing mixture into skillet until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir into vegetables.
6. Stir in noodles, tofu, bok choy leaves and scallions. Whisk sauce to recombine, add to skillet and cook, stirring constantly, until sauce is thickened, one or two minutes. Sprinkle fried shallots on top. Serve with lime wedges.
Per serving (based on 6): 665 calories; 26 grams fat; 11 g saturated fat; no cholesterol; 18 g protein; 91 g carbohydrate; 29 g sugar; 6 g fibre; 1,624 milligrams sodium; 264 mg calcium
From “The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook,” by America’s Test Kitchen.
Note: Garam masala can be found at international food stores and the spice aisles of well-stocked grocery stores.
1. Pulse diced tomatoes with their juice in a food processor until nearly smooth, with some ¼-inch pieces visible, about three pulses.
2. Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering.
Add curry powder and garam masala and cook until fragrant, about 10 seconds. Stir in onions, potatoes and ¼ teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are browned and potatoes are golden brown at edges, about 10 minutes.
3. Reduce heat to medium. Stir in garlic, chili, ginger and tomato paste and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add cauliflower florets and cook, stirring constantly, until florets are coated with spices, about two minutes.
4. Gradually stir in water, scraping up any browned bits. Stir in chickpeas and processed tomatoes and bring to simmer. Cover, reduce to gentle simmer and cook until vegetables are tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
5. Uncover, stir in peas and coconut milk, and continue to cook until peas are heated through, one or two minutes. Off heat, stir in cilantro, season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve over rice.
Per serving (based on 4): 429 calories; 21 grams fat; 8 g saturated fat; no cholesterol; 15 g protein; 53 g carbohydrate; 17g sugar; 17 g fibre; 367 milligrams sodium; 161 mg calcium
From “The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook” by America’s Test Kitchen.
Mee Goreng is a type of stir-fried noodle dish that is popular street fare in the Philippines.
This dish benefits greatly from the mutually complementary flavours of potato, cauliflower, garbanzo beans and curry.