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Rau Muong (Sauteed Water Spinach)

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My husband and I LOOOOVE rau muong (water spinach).  Water spinach is also known as “swamp cabbage” because it grows in ponds or damp ground in tropical climates.  Water spinach is packed full of nutrients; it’s high in B vitamins, vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, and calcium.  Water spinach actually has double the calcium found in regular spinach!  And, as icing on the cake, water spinach happens to taste really good, too!  We typically saute our rau muong, but my mother-in-law also likes to spiralize it and add it to soups, specifically bun rieu (her version is far from vegetarian!!), which is a tomato based soup with rice noodles, tofu, pork, and crab.  (I’m hoping to try out a vegetarian version of this soup in the near future.)

Anyway, when I was on Pham Fatale’s website for her bi chay recipe I recently made, I found a recipe she posted for rau muong.  She uses ginger in her rau muong (water spinach), probably to make it Buddhist friendly since Vietnamese Buddhists who follow a strict vegetarian diet do not eat garlic, shallots, etc.  I have never used ginger with my rau muong before, so I gave her recipe a try and we loved it!  I’ll definitely be making it this way again.  If you like spicy food, be sure to make the Nuoc Mam Gung recipe at the end of this post to dip your water spinach in.  This sauce is amazing!

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Ingredients

1 lb rau muong (water spinach)

1 (2 inch chunk) ginger

1 (1 inch chunk) ginger

1 Tbsp olive oil

1/8 tsp turmeric powder

3/4 tsp salt

black pepper, to taste

Directions

Bring a small pot of water to a boil.  While waiting for the water to boil, peel the chunks of ginger, grate the 2 inch chunk, and then mince the 1 inch chunk (keep them separate).  Then, wash the water spinach thoroughly and drain as much water as possible (either use a salad spinner or gently squeeze out the water and pat dry with paper towels).  Cut water spinach into 5 inch segments (you’ll eat both the leaves and the stems, so no need to do anything before cutting it other than wash).  Blanch the water spinach in the boiling water for 1 minute, drain, and immediately place in a cold water bath.

So as not to dirty too many dishes, I heated the same pot I used to blanch the water spinach over medium high heat to saute the greens.  Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in the pan, and then add the minced ginger.  Stir it around for a minute or two, then add the water spinach plus 1 Tbsp of the grated ginger.  Toss it around in the pan for 2-3 minutes.  Add the turmeric, salt, and black pepper and saute another minute to make sure all the flavors mix well.  Transfer to a platter, and if you like spicy foods, make the sauce to serve with your sauteed rau muong.

Tip:  If your local grocery store does not sell water spinach, you can almost always find it at an Asian market this time of year.  If you are in a Vietnamese market, it will say Rau Muong on the bag; if you are in a Thai market, it will say Phak Bung; if you are in a Filipino market, it will say Kangkong.  Some markets have English printed on their produce as well, in which case it may say Water Spinach, Chinese Spinach, or River Spinach.

Rau Muong

Nuoc Mam Gung

In a small bowl, dissolve 2 tsp of sugar in 1 Tbsp of hot water.  Squeeze the juice of one lime into the bowl along with 2 Tbsp of nuoc mam chay (vegetarian fish sauce) or soy sauce if you don’t have nuoc mam chay.  Finely mince 1 Thai chili pepper and add to the bowl.  Add in 1 Tbsp of the grated ginger you have leftover from the rau muong and stir the mixture together.  This sauce is very spicy and full of flavor.  Dip your rau muong in it, or drizzle a little bit of the sauce over your rau muong.

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Vietnamese Shredded “Pork” (Vegetarian)

There is a popular Vietnamese dish called thit cha bong.  It’s basically crispy shredded pork.  Well, last night I made its vegetarian counterpart: bi chay.

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I based my recipe off of Pham Fatale’s, and it turned out really delicious!  However, I already have plans for making it differently next time, because Pham Fatale’s recipe (and my slightly altered version of her recipe) took WAY too much time!  Plus, I think she uses too much oil in her recipe.  She fries a lot of the contents, so next time, I’m going to save my time and my health by cooking some parts slightly differently.  I’ll post my version of Pham Fatale’s recipe, and then I’ll give you my tips below, which is what I plan on changing in this recipe for next time.

Ingredients

1 (12 oz) package of firm tofu

1 jicama

2 oz dried bean thread noodles

fried onions

6 yukon potatoes

1/2 cup white jasmine rice

1 1/2 tsp garlic salt (or mushroom seasoning salt)

2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

salt & pepper, to taste

Directions

Dry Roasted Rice Powder:  Add rice to a small skillet over high heat on the stove and stir around until all the rice is golden brown (about 5 minutes).  Allow to cool, and then grind the grains into a fine mill, using a food processor.

Dried Bean Thread Noodles:  Soak noodles in cold water for 30 minutes (can leave soaking for up to one hour, so just soak while you prepare other parts of this recipe).  Drain, and chop into one inch threds.  Set aside.

Tofu:  Drain the tofu and pat dry with paper towels.  Slice into 1/2 inch thick pieces.  Heat oil in a pan (1-2 Tbsp), and cook all the tofu slices until they are golden on each side.  Transfer to a plate, and once cooled, cut tofu into long thin strips.  Set aside.

Potatoes:  Peel and shred all the potatoes, and place in a large bowl.  Fill the bowl with water along with 2 Tbsp of lemon juice.  Mix it up and allow to sit for 15 minutes.  Drain the liquid, pat dry, and then, using the same skillet you fried the tofu in, add a little bit of oil, and place a few handfuls of potato shreds in the skillet and allow to brown on one side (about 2 minutes), then flip to the other side and allow that side to brown.  Set aside on a plate.  Repeat this until all the potato shreds are cooked.

Jicama:  Peel the jicama and slice horizontally into 1/2 inch thick pieces, and then cut into strips (like fries).  Fill a sauce pan with a couple inches of oil and fry all the jicama until golden brown.  Set aside on a plate lined with paper towels to drain the oil.

Assembly:  In a large bowl, add the jicama, potatoes, tofu, dried bean thread noodles, and fried onions.  Season with garlic salt, salt, and pepper.  Toss well, and then sprinkle with the dry roasted rice powder.  Serve on a platter.

Bi chay can be eaten with rice and vegetables, on top of rice noodles with vegetables and sauce, or in a sandwich.

Tips

1.  If you aren’t sure where to get some of these ingredients, check out your local Asian market.  They should carry everything on the ingredients list.

Jicama

Jicama

Photo from detailorienteddiva.

Dried Bean Thread Noodles. Photo from detailorienteddiva.

2.  To save time and oil, I recommend baking the jicama strips rather than frying them.  Before you start prepping anything else, just preheat your oven to 400, line a baking sheet with foil, put the jicama strips on the baking sheet and drizzle with a little bit of olive oil (or toss jicama strips in about a Tbsp of olive oil in a bowl before placing them on the baking sheet), and bake for 30-40 minutes.  You’re basically making unseasoned jicama fries.

3.  If you want to save even more time, you can buy fried tofu instead of frying it yourself.  Asian markets always sell fried tofu either in the case next to the fresh tofu or in a large bag in the freezer section.  Just buy that and cut it into strips.

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I’m back! Plus, try Vietnamese Chè Chuối.

If you follow my blog, you’re probably wondering where I’ve been these past few weeks.  I must confess:  I was considering putting Eat.Pray.Heal to the side and forgetting about it.  I have a fairly successful blog about my husband and my experience with infertility–a topic I know VERY well after these past 2 years of unsuccessful fertility treatments.  My husband and I originally became vegan because we were hoping it would help cure me of my fertility issues, but then in researching the vegan diet, we learned that there is so much more to being vegan than just eating healthy.  We are still pretty new at the whole vegan thing, but we are learning and loving it more and more, which is why I started this second blog.  I wanted to share what I learn about animal cruelty, about how my Catholic faith affects my decision to be vegan, about nutrition and exercise, about homemade and/or natural products, as well as recipes I try and love.  But for some reason, the more I wrote, the more self conscious I became.  What do I know about being vegan?  We’ve only been vegan for half of a year.  Now infertility–THAT I know!  I’ve been barren for 2 years.  I’ve seen several doctors, took a gazillion different medicines, had tons of different tests run, been through intrauterine insemination a few times, tried natural remedies and alternative medicine, etc.  I can write about that with confidence, but veganism?  What do I have to share with people?  However, I’m reminded that when I first started blogging about infertility, I technically hadn’t even been diagnosed yet.  My first blog post was published the night before I was to go in for a hysterosalpinogram (HSG).  I won’t go into the details of what an HSG is or what I have been through since then, but you can feel free to check out my first blog post or look around that blog, which is called This Luminous Road I Travel.

Anyway, all that to say, if you actually enjoyed reading Eat.Pray.Heal and maybe even learned a thing or two, then I am sorry I let my anxiety get the best of me.  I do that sometimes…  But I’m back and looking forward to sharing more with you!  I hope you’ll keep reading.  Here’s a quick preview of this upcoming week:  In honor of my husband’s aunt who just had a baby (and asked us to be the baby’s godparents!!), I’m planning to write about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in infant formula (you may have been hearing some talk about this lately because the nonprofit group, As You Sow, asked Abbott Laboratory shareholders to remove GMOs from their Similac products, which is a very popular brand of baby formula), and I’ll be trying 2 new recipes this week–a traditional Vietnamese dish made vegan and a pasta dish.  If they both turn out as delicious as I’m hoping they will, then I’ll post the recipes with pictures. 

Speaking of recipes, I made a really yummy Vietnamese dessert over the weekend.  I didn’t take pictures, but I’ll share the recipe.  It’s very simple.  Vietnamese people eat a lot of something called chè.  Chè refers to any sweet beverage or pudding, which is the most common type of dessert eaten by Vietnamese people.  There are many kinds of chè, and I have too many favorites to list!  The nice thing about chè is it’s always vegan friendly, because most people don’t have access to dairy products in Vietnam, so people typically use coconut milk instead.  Also, Vietnamese desserts are not as sweet as Western desserts tend to be.  This recipe is for Chè Chuối.  (Chuối means banana.)  Here is the recipe:

 

Ingredients

2 cups water

1/2 cup small tapioca pearls

1 cup unsweetened coconut milk (the kind in a can)

1/3 cup sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp vanilla

5 ripe bananas, pealed and cut into 4 parts per banana

2 Tbsp roasted, chopped peanuts to garnish (optional)

 

Directions

Bring the 2 cups water to a boil in a small saucepan.  Add the tapioca pearls and allow to simmer for 5-7 minutes, or until the tapioca pearls turn clear.  Be sure to stir often so the tapioca doesn’t stick to the bottom and burn.  Stir in the coconut milk, sugar, salt, and vanilla.  Then, add the bananas and cook for another 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and pour into small dessert bowls (we use rice bowls, if you happen to have those) and if you like peanuts, you can sprinkle some on top of each bowl of dessert.  Serve warm or cold. 

Tip:  You won’t use the whole can of coconut milk, but unless you serve all of the chè at once, you’ll want to save the coconut milk in the fridge, because if you serve yourself a bowl of leftover chè later on, you’ll want to add 1-2 tsp of coconut milk to help soften it back up (even if you reheat it, which is how I like to have it).

 

 

 


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Canh Chua (Vietnamese Sour Soup)

My husband LOVES canh chua!  I dare say it’s his favorite food.  I happen to like it a lot myself, so I want to share my recipe with you.  I’ll admit that Western taste buds are not really used to the sour flavor found in this soup, but I highly encourage you to be adventurous and give it a try, because it is so good (and packed full of healthy fruits/veggies)!  Not to mention this is an authentic Vietnamese recipe (except for the fact that my recipe leaves out the usual fish or shrimp and replaces it with red lentils).

Canh Chua 3

Ingredients

1 cup red lentils

2-3 stalks bac ha (I believe this is called taro stems in English; if you can’t find this, you can just use regular celery.)

15 okra, sliced into 1 inch pieces

2 tomatoes, chopped

2 cups fresh pineapple, chopped

2 stalks lemongrass, bruised and cut into 3 inch pieces

1 cup bean sprouts

1 shallot, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

several leaves of rau ram (Vietnamese coriander; if you can’t find this, you can use Thai basil.)

2 Tbsp fresh tamarind OR several spoonfuls of canh chua soup mix

nuoc mam chay (vegetarian “fish” sauce), to taste

You can buy bac ha, rau ram, nuoc mam chay, tamarind and/or canh chua soup mix, and lemongrass at most Asian markets.

Bac Ha

Bac Ha (taro stems)

Rau Ram

Rau Ram (Vietnamese coriander)

Canh Chua 1 Canh Chua 2

Canh Chua Soup Mix (This is mine that I use.)

Directions

Heat up about 1 Tbsp of oil in a 5 quart pot.  Saute shallots, garlic, and lemongrass until fragrant (if using fresh tamarind, add that now, too).  Add in 3 Tbsp of canh chua soup mix and stir for about a minute.

Add 1 cup red lentils, 4 cups of vegetable broth, and 5 cups of water.  Bring to a boil, and then turn heat down to medium low so it can simmer for 10 minutes.

At this point, you can either use a slated spoon to scoop out all of the lemongrass pieces, or you can leave them for the added flavor and remove them from individual serving bowls as they are not eaten in this soup.

I like to add 2 Tbsp of canh chua base at this point along with the bac ha, okra, tomatoes, and pineapple.  Add in nuoc mam chay to taste.  Stir and leave to simmer for another 10 minutes.

At the end of the 10 minutes, the lentils should be cooked and the vegetables softened.  You may like the soup as is, in which case, you can now add in the bean sprouts and rau ram and it’s ready to serve.  However, if you are like us and enjoy strong flavors, we normally add in 1-3 Tbsp more of canh chua soup mix before adding in the bean sprouts and rau ram.

Typically, this soup is served with a separate bowl of rice to go with it, and Vietnamese people often spoon some of the soup over their rice.

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Once you stir everything in, it should look like this.

One more thing.  I know it’s kind of late, but Happy Memorial Day from our family to yours.  Since we do not personally know any fallen soldiers and neither of us have close relatives buried nearby, we walked through a local cemetery praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet and asking God to bring peace to those families who have lost loved ones this year.  What did you do for Memorial Day?

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Vegan Vietnamese Curry Stew (Cà Ri Đậu)

One of my favorite foods is Vietnamese curry!  My husband is from Vietnam, and my mother-in-law taught me how to cook, so throughout our marriage (up until we became vegan), I cooked exclusively Vietnamese meals.  I’m trying to work my way back to that, but when we became vegan, I wasn’t familiar with what kind of flavor combinations to use or how to replace meat protein with other forms of protein without having to use tofu in everything, so now that I’m more familiar with vegan cuisine, I’m working on improving my old Vietnamese recipes to make them vegan.  First up:  Viet Curry Stew.

Vietnamese curry is different from many other Asian curries in that it is a stew rather than a sauce that covers veggies or meat.  Typically it contains chicken, but I have replaced the chicken with chickpeas and a small amount of vegetable broth (to make up for the chicken juice that normally adds to the flavor).  That is why I’m calling this “Cà Ri Đậu”–it means bean curry, or curry with beans.

Curry 1

Ingredients

1 can chickpeas, drained

1/2 cup vegetable broth

2  14 oz. cans coconut milk

1/2 large red onion, diced

1  2 in. knob ginger, minced

1 shallot, minced

2-3 Korean sweet potatoes (The store I went to was out of Korean potatoes, so I used jewel yams this time–what you see in the photos–and it turned out just as well.), 2 chopped into bite-sized chunks; about 1/2 of a potato cut into thinner 1 inch pieces–This will fall apart while the curry cooks, helping to thicken the stew.

5 carrots, peeled and chopped

2 Tbsp Madras curry powder (I use a Vietnamese brand, but any madras curry powder would work fine.)

2 Thai chili peppers, minced

1 stalk lemongrass, bruised

vegetarian fish sauce (nước mắm chay), to taste (You can buy this at Asian markets, and I think I saw some at Whole Foods once.)

black pepper, to taste

French bread or rice to serve with the curry stew.

 

Directions

Prep all the veggies, placing the onion, garlic, shallots, and ginger in a small bowl together, and the carrots and potatoes in a medium bowl together.

In a large stock pot on medium heat, drizzle about 1 Tbsp of extra virgin olive oil and saute the onion, garlic, shallots, and ginger until the onion sweats.  Then, add 1 Tbsp of curry powder to release the fragrance.  Mix well, and then add in the chickpeas.  Stir around for a few minutes, and then add the vegetable broth.

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Add in 1 can of coconut milk plus 1 can of water (using the same can).  Stir, and then add 1 more heaping Tbsp of curry powder, 1 more can of coconut milk, and 1 more can of water.  Add in the minced Thai chili peppers at this time and stir.

Turn the heat to high, and add in the potatoes and carrots.  Bring to a boil.  While you are waiting for it to boil, bruise the stalk of lemongrass (just place it on a cutting board and use the handle end of a large knife to hit and bruise up and down the stalk), tie it in a knot, and place it in the center of the pot.

lemongrass for curry

Once the stew is boiling, turn the heat down to low or medium-low, put a lid on the pot, and allow to simmer for 45 minutes.  About halfway through the time, add in some nước mắm chay to taste.  At the end of the 45 minutes, remove the lemongrass, do a taste test, and add in nước mắm chay and black pepper until you like the flavor.

Serve the curry in a bowl with a side of rice or French bread.  I prefer eating it with bread because it tastes so good dipped in the curry!

Curry 2

This recipe will make a large pot of curry, and it tastes great reheated (although it’s usually spicier after it’s been the fridge because the flavors have more time to mingle).  It will last 3-4 days in the fridge.