Eggplant with Chili Garlic Sauce

Have you tried it yet? Huy Fong Foods Chili Garlic Sauce.

I got a small bottle a few days ago and it’s already almost half gone. Yes, it is that good.
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The ingredient list is short: chilies, salt, garlic, vinegar,  a couple of preservatives and a thickener. The taste is nothing short of delicious. It’s not super spicy, and the garlic and vinegar gives it a depth that cannot achieved with chili peppers alone. I used it with stir fried rice noodles, and now it’s made its way into my eggplants.

This is a simple recipe, think weekday meal in a pinch. The soft eggplant is a perfect “sponge” for the chili garlic sauce. I imagine green beans, asparagus, and carrots would also do well here (although perhaps not altogether in one dish).

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Eggplant with Chili Garlic Sauce

Serves: 3-4

Ingredients

  • 2 Chinese eggplants (the long, skinny kind), sliced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp chili garlic sauce (for moderately-spicy, adjust as needed)
  • ~400 g fried tofu, cut into cubes
  • 4 Roma tomatoes, cut into 1/8th wedges
  • 2-3 tbsp water for cooking

Method

  1. In a large bowl, mix together the salt and eggplant, allow them to sit for 15 minutes while you gather the rest of the ingredients.
  2. In a wok or large saute pan, heat up the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and chili garlic sauce and cook until fragrant.
  3. Add eggplant and tofu, stir to coat in the yummy sauce. Add 2-3 spoonfuls of water to prevent burning. Cook for ~ 8-10 minutes.
  4.  Add tomatoes and cook for another 5 minutes. Taste and adjust salty/ spicy level as desired before serving.
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Green Lentil & Wheat Berry Salad

I remember the days when whole grains were the latest and greatest food trend.

First, there was an explosion of whole grain breads, the options beyond “white” and “whole wheat” multiplied overnight. Other food products soon followed suit: pasta, tortilla chips, granola bars, popcorn, and breakfast cereal all claimed to be “made with whole grains” to appeal to the health conscious consumer (regardless of their actual nutritional content).

With time, the hype around whole grains faded, and the spotlight shifted to other foods. But unlike some passing food trends, whole grains have earned a spot in my heart. They are a diverse bunch: their tastes, textures, and appearances vary greatly. Generally speaking, they’re more filling due to their higher fibre content, and contain more protein, minerals and vitamins compared to their refined counterparts.

The whole grain I picked up at the store was wheat. Yup, that’s right, the same wheat that’s used to make wheat flour. Each wheat berry is made up of the bran (outer brown shell), the germ (the part which will become the plant if the grain germinates), and the endosperm (starchy part which is often ground into white flour).

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Wheat berries! Each of them can grow into a wheat plant! 

This salad is made with wheat berries, lentils, fresh cucumbers, and tomatoes. It’s seasoned with a pomegranate dressing, and topped with spiced peanuts to garnish. This recipe is so easy to toss together, super satisfying, and tastes better the next day. Served slightly warm or cold, the tangy dressing, chewy grains, and crunchy nuts make an unforgettable meal.

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Green Lentil & Wheat Berry Salad

Serves: 3-4

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup wheat berries, soaked for 3-5 hours at room temperature, or overnight in the fridge.
  • 3/4 cup green lentils
  • 1/2 English cucumber, seeds removed (optional) and diced
  • 3-4 Roma tomatoes, seeds removed (optional) and diced
  • 1/3 cup blanched skinless peanuts, roughly chopped
  • Salt, cayenne pepper, and cumin to taste
  • 2 tbsp pomegranate molasses
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp sugar

Method

  1. In a medium sized pot, bring 3 cups of water and the wheat berries to a boil over high heat. Turn heat down to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.
  2. To the same pot, add the green lentils and cook for 20 more minutes. The wheat berries and lentils should be tender, but not mushy. Drain well, and return the lentils and wheat berries to the pot.
  3. While the lentils and wheat berries are cooking, toast the peanuts in a skillet over medium-low heat. When they are golden brown, turn off the heat. Add salt, cayenne pepper, and cumin to taste. Reserve for garnish.
  4. Add diced cucumbers and tomatoes, pomegranate molasses, olive oil, and sugar to the cooked lentils and wheat berries. Mix well, season with salt to taste (I used about 1/2 tsp of salt).
  5. Garnish with toasted peanuts on top and serve.

Channa Bateta (Chickpeas with Potato)

This recipe comes from Yasmin Alibhai-Brown’s book, The Settler’s Cookbook– a memoir of love, migration and food.

Born in Uganda, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is of East-Indian descent. Her book shares the stories of East-Indians in Uganda, along with the foods and recipes that accompanied these experiences. From celebrating birthdays and marriages, to the lunches of railway workers, it is a vivid compilation of East-Indians’ lives in Uganda.

To provide context for these personal experiences, Alibhai-Brown discusses the collective histories of East-Indian Ugandans. Answering questions like, “How did Indians end up in Uganda?” she talks about being an ethnic minority in a British colony during the 19th and 20th centuries, as well as the impacts of East-Indians on the physical, social, and economic fabric of their country.

Being an immigrant to a colonized land myself, I felt a certain connection to the author. As I read the book, it became clear to me that that we shared the belief that food is more than just food– it’s culture, it’s comfort, it’s connection to the past, present, and future. It’s amazing how much a bowl of chickpeas and potatoes can say if we listen.

Chickpeas with potatoesSome recipes in this book are a fusion of Indian and Ugandan cuisines. However, I think this dish stayed true to its Indian roots. The tamarind and date paste provides a sweet and sour backdrop and the chili gives just enough heat to warm you up on a cold day. The garnish on top is Bombay mix, a salty, sour, and spicy mixture of fried peas, peanuts, lentils, and chickpea flour noodles typically eaten as a snack, or as part of a meal. I got mine from the Real Canadian Superstore in Vancouver. 

Masi’s Channa Babeta

From: The Settler’s Cookbook– a memoir of love, migration and food by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 3 tins chickpeas
  • 2 tbsp dried tamarind
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 1 large dried red chili
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 lb potatoes
  • 6 dried dates
  • Red chili powder to taste
  • 2 tsp channa flour (besan– chickpea flour)
  • ½ tsp sugar

Method

  1. Pour boiling water over dates and tamarind, and soak overnight.
  2. Heat oil in a pan with whole chili and mustard seeds until they crackle.
  3. Add turmeric and chili powder and cook for a minute, stirring all the time.
  4. Add 1 pint of water and salt to taste. Bring to a boil.
  5. Now add diced potatoes and cook until nearly soft.
  6. Chuck in chickpeas and simmer.
  7. Meanwhile crush tamarind and dates with your fingers, then strain into the pot with the sugar.
  8. Stir the besan into a little water to make a paste, then stir into the simmering pot to thicken the mixture a little.
  9. Cook for another five minutes.
  10. Serve in bowls topped with Bombay Mix if you like

Chickpeas with potato

Ful Medames (Slow Cooked Fava Beans)

I’m a proud kitchen traveler.

Cooking from countries across the world, I learn about their histories, climates, and geographies. While I may not have been to these places in real life, I feel like I’m connecting with a tiny part of their culture. And when I do travel, I find that I can instantly bond with anyone over food.

Ful medames (Egyptian fava beans)
Ful medames: just as good the next day too!

Ful medames, also known as ful, took me to Egypt. The history of ful can be traced back to the Middle Ages (at least!). During this time, to maximize fuel efficiency, ful was cooked overnight using heat from dying embers which warmed bathwater in public bathhouses. Hence, the small, round of fava beans earned its name– bath beans (fūl hammām), and the merchants near the bath houses gained a near monopoly on ful. [1]

I searched long and hard in Vancouver for dried small fava beans– I visited my beloved Persia Foods and Donald’s Market, large grocery chains, and even Indian markets– but I was out of luck everywhere. Eventually, I settled for dry broad fava beans instead.

To mimic the effects of simmering the beans overnight, I pressure cooked these beans to help soften the skin and physically break them down. I also simmered them for a few hours to get it to the desired (uber soft) consistency. When boiling beans, it’s important to never add salt to the water. The salt causes the skins of beans to harden, which is undesirable. Salt can be added to the dish once the beans are fully cooked.

Researching this recipe, I came across quite a few seasonings and accompaniments that can go with ful: clarified butter, lemon juice, cumin, olive oil, eggs (fried or boiled), chili powder, bechamel sauce, tomato sauce, onions, pepper sauce, tahini and parsley. I added thinly sliced red onions, lemon juice, cumin, olive oil, and salt.

Here’s a version made with red lentils:

Ful Medames (Slow Cooked Fava Beans)

Yield: ~2 L (a lot)

Ingredients

  • 1 lb dry fava beans (small, round variety preferred, I used broad fava beans)
  • Water
  • Salt to taste (~1 tsp)
  • Lemon juice to taste (~1/4 cup)
  • Ground cumin to taste (~1-2 tsp)
  • Olive oil to taste (~1/4 cup)
  • Red onion, thinly sliced (to garnish)

Method

  1. Soak the fava beans in water for at least 8 hours at room temperature. Or in the fridge for 1-2 days. Drain the soaking water and rinse.
  2. In a pressure cooker, cover beans with 2 inches of water and cook for 30 minutes.
  3. Transfer everything (including the liquid) to a pot, and simmer for 2-3 hours, make sure the beans are mostly submerged, add more water as needed. My beans turned into a homogeneous brown mass as they simmered, I think that’s a good sign. I also cooked mine with the lid off for to evaporate excess water and help the ful to thicken up.
  4. When the bean mixture is thick and soft, season with salt (~1 tsp), lemon juice (1-2 lemons), ground cumin (1-2 tsp), and olive oil (~1/4 cup). Mix well. Garnish with thinly sliced red onions and serve with Middle Eastern bread and lemon wedges.

[1] Wright, C. (n.d.). Did You Know: Food History – Ful — The Egyptian National Dish. Retrieved September 14, 2015.

Water Spinach with Sesame (芝麻空心菜)

Water spinach was on sale last week, a whole bunch for less than $2!

Water spinach is a popular vegetable in Asia. According to Wikipedia, it is known by many different names, including phak bung, ong choy, rau muống, kangkong, trokuon, kolmou xak, kalmi shak, kangkung, and hayoyo. The name for water spinach I am most familiar with is in Mandarin: 空心菜 (pinyin: kōngxīncài), which literally translates into “empty-hearted vegetable”, a reference to its hollow stem.
Water spinach with tahini and sesame seeds

I used a traditional Asian technique to stir-fry water spinach, although with some non-traditional ingredients. I like experimenting, and this one was tasty!

Being a mild tasting vegetable, I imagine it would go well with a variety of seasonings, including ginger, chilies, hoisin sauce, or oyster sauce. As with most dark green vegetables, it contains vitamin A (for night vision, among other things) and folate (for making blood cells, among other things).

Water spinach with tahini

Water Spinach with Tahini and Sesame Seeds  (芝麻空心菜)

Serves: 2-4 as a side dish

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
  • 1 large bunch of water spinach, leaves and stems separated, washed and cut into ~ 1 inch pieces
  • 1 tbsp sesame paste (tahini)
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tsp white sesame seeds, toasted

Method

  1. Add oil in large pan (wok) over high heat. When oil is hot, add garlic and cook until fragrant.
  2. Add water spinach stems, stir-fry for 1-2 minutes. Add the leaves and cook until wilted.
  3. Add sesame paste and salt to taste. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds.

Sprouted Mung Bean Wrap

I love beans. They’re a nutritional powerhouse full of protein, fibre, iron, B-vitamins, and carbohydrates. Replacing meat with beans can contribute to a healthier diet overall, and help reduce the ecological costs of animal farming.

Sprouted Mung Bean Wrap

Beans are the seeds of plants. Given some moisture, they will readily sprout roots and shoots. During the sprouting process, enzymes change the nutritional  composition of mung beans– iron and phosphorus in the beans are more readily absorbed, vitamin C and folic acid content increases, and digestibility of protein is improved.

This recipe is inspired by The Settler’s Cookbook– A Memoir of Love, Migration, and Food  by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. The novel documents the histories of East Indian settlers in Uganda and East Africa. These stories are interlaced with recipes for delicious Indian-African dishes; a true testament to the significance of food in her culture, as well as her life as a woman of the Indian diaspora.

The most addictive part of this dish would have to be the sour-salty-spicy taste from the lime, salt, and chilies. I ate it wrapped in some store-bought roti, which made a delightful lunch.

Sprouted Mung Bean Wrap

Serves: 3

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dry whole mung beans
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 3/4 tsp whole brown mustard seeds
  • 3/4 tsp whole cumin seeds
  • 3/4 tsp ground dried turmeric
  • 1 tsp ginger, minced
  • 1 tsp garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp green chili, minced
  • 1 dried red chili, broken in half
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 tomatoes, diced
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • Salt to taste
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • 6 cooked rotis

Method

  1. In a bowl, soak the mung beans in water for 24 hours at room temperature. Beans will expand to about twice their size during the sprouting process, so using a larger bowl is wise.
  2. Rinse mung beans, add some water (not enough to completely cover, but about half of the beans should be submerged). Place a damp cloth on top. Allow to sit for 12-24 hours. The beans should have tiny shoots by now. Rinse and drain before using.
  3. In a large pot over medium-high heat, add oil. When hot, add mustard and cumin seeds. When the popping slows down, add turmeric, ginger, garlic, and chilies. Cook until aromatic but not burnt.
  4. Add water and diced tomatoes. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.
  5. Add sprouted mung beans, cook over medium heat until almost all the water is absorbed/ evaporated, about 10-15 minutes.
  6. Season with ground coriander, cumin, salt, and lime juice. Serve with warmed rotis.

Coconut Chickpea Curry

Some things in life are beyond description, like the shades of sky at sunset, smell of air after rain, or my first taste of coconut cream. Thicker than coconut milk, coconut cream is sensual, luxurious, and deeply satisfying.

Make this curry as spicy as you can take it, or keep it mild to let the other flavours shine through. Let your taste buds guide your exploration of this dish and many more.

Don’t be intimidated by the long list of ingredients. Most are spices and require only measuring. You can also substitute garam masala for the spices. If you do not have dried mango powder, I suggest trying lemon/ lime juice.
Chickpeas in Coconut Curry

Coconut Chickpea Curry

Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight then boiled
  • 4 tbsp oil, divided
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 russet potato, diced (about 1.5 cm cubes)
  • 2 cups water, divided
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 black cardamom pods
  • 1.5 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1.5 tsp whole coriander seeds
  • 2 tsp whole cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp grated/ minced fresh ginger
  • 2 whole dried red chilies
  • 1/2 tsp ground chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground fennel seed
  • 1 tsp dried mango powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 200 mL canned coconut cream
  • 2 small or 1 large tomato, diced

Method

  1. In a large pot, heat 1 tbsp oil and saute onion over medium heat until golden brown, add garlic and cook for 1 more minute.
  2. Add diced potatoes, 1 cup water, and some salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, then simmer until potatoes are soft. Add more water to prevent burning if necessary.
  3. Add chickpeas to potatoes and continue to cook.
  4. Meanwhile, in a small sauce pan with a lid, heat remaining oil (3 tbsp) over medium-high heat. Add whole cardamom, mustard, coriander, and cumin seeds. Put a lid on the pan and let the spices splutter and pop. When the spluttering slows down, add ginger and whole chilies, stir for 15 seconds. Next, add the ground spices and cook for 15 seconds.
  5. To the spices, add coconut cream and the remaining 1 cup water.
  6. Pour the coconut and spice mixture into the pot with the chickpeas, add tomato(es). Simmer for 5-10 minutes to allow flavours to blend. Taste and adjust seasonings. Remove whole cardamom pods and chilies before serving with rice or a bread of your choosing.