Nov 24, 2010

Korean Miso 'Fish Egg' Soup

This recipe started off as a usual stir fry and ended up with the title of a Korean Miso 'Fish Egg' Soup. The story will unfold itself eventually, I hope.

It started out with a 'what to make for dinner' thought. The family was eating out so since I had to cook only for myself, I thought why not put a few vegetables that cook real quick together. But the kitchen had other plans for me.

So I open the fridge pick out half of a Yellow Zucchini, half a pack of Mushrooms, some tofu, a Green Chilli, few florets of Cauliflower and some pieces of Yam. I steamed the cauliflower and yam, cut the rest of the vegetables and proceeded to make my usual stir fry dinner. Oil, green chilli, tofu, yam, cauliflower, soy sauce etc all in, stirring around. Suddenly I remember I have some miso (which I have been treating like it was made out of gold) bought from Auroville. Miso is a fermented soybean paste that adds a lot of flavour to soups, stews and is used in many Japanese recipes. Though it is common in almost all of South East Asian cuisine, Miso Soup is a popular Japanese appetizer. It has a sour-sweet taste and it is usually added to the dish after everything has cooked. (I am not sure where it is available in Mumbai but I will find out and update this post. Also it is totally optional to this recipe.)

So I remember that I can make my stir fry in to a miso soup and while I'm doing that I spot the 'fish eggs'. Of course they are not fish eggs, they don't smell like fish eggs, but they look slimy, gelatinous and look very much like fish eggs. More about that later.

I added water, salt and pepper to the vegetables, covered them so they could cook a bit, took it off the stove and added a teaspoon of miso. Let it all sit for a bit and served myself the soup and added a spoon of the 'fish eggs' on top. This is what it looked like...

So I thought to myself why not search if there is any such thing as a fish egg soup and there actually is a Korean fish egg soup I found online made with tofu, vegetables and fish eggs of course. It looks nothing like what I ate and I'm sure it tasted nothing like it either. My sister saw me clicking pictures of my dinner and with a lot of disgust on her face asked me what the hell I was planning to eat.

Okay, if you know your Indian dessert you probably know what my 'fish eggs' were. They were basil seeds or sabja seeds or sabza seeds, infamous for their addition to Falooda here in India. It is usually soaked till it becomes all gelatinous and then added to the dessert. It is also consumed because it is known to treat digestive problems and also bring down the pitta or heat in your body.

They have no taste, they look like little speckled eggs and have a rubbery texture. Except for the taste, colour and smell, the texture is very much like what people eat as the real fish eggs. They added nothing more than a novelty to my soup, which is what I look for in most of what I eat, even if I have eaten the very same thing gazillion times before.

Nov 16, 2010

What does a vegan eat?

This is an ever growing list of things a vegan can eat off the shelves of a store or at a restaurant in India. Most of them just happen to be accidentally vegan. Of course it might not be all healthy but it's just a list we should all be aware of.

I have this note on Facebook that keeps getting updated by people living all over India. But for those who cannot see it on Facebook, it's pasted below. I will keep updating it from time to time.

I'm not going to include fruit juices, fruits or veggies. Feel free to add restaurants from your respective cities that might have some vegan options in the comments and I will add them to the main article.
Please add stuff you know for sure that is vegan because I may not be aware of all things vegan!

This is an ever growing list of things a vegan can eat off the shelves of a store or at a restaurant in India. Most of them just happen to be accidentally vegan. Of course it might not be all healthy but it's just a list we should all be aware of.

I'm not going to include fruit juices, fruits or veggies. Feel free to add restaurants from your respective cities that might have some vegan options.

Please add stuff you know for sure that is vegan because I may not be aware of all things vegan!

Biscuits and Other Junk:
Hide & Seek by Parle with choc chips, nuts, orange and coffee flavours
Hide & Seek Fab with vanilla chocolate and strawberry cream centers
Parle's Golden Arcs available with Chocolate, Apple, Strawberry and Orange fillings
Pickwick Biscuits - Chocolate, Strawberry, Vanilla
Parle's Coconut Biscuits
Parle Bourbon Biscuits
Oreo's Cream Biscuits (now made in India)
Sunfeast Snacky
McVities Hobnobs (almost all other McVities biscuits are also vegan ONLY THE IMPORTED ONES the Indian ones are not vegan).
Britannia biscuits that are vegan: 
  - Pure Magic Praline Creme
  - Mango cream
  - Pineapple cream
  - Good day chocolate chips
  - Timepass Nimkee
  - 50 - 50
  - Brita High count
  - Time Pass - Mindless Masala & Topori Tomato variants

Dr Oetkar's Eggless Diet Mayonnaise (please make sure it says 'Eggless' and 'Diet' because they have other varieties which are not vegan
Kissan's Creamy Spreads (all flavours are vegan, but a little sweet)

Haldiram's Bhujiyas and other fried stuff
Haldiram's Soanpapdi
All local fried chips - potato, jackfruit, sweet potato, banana,....
Most Khakras (unless it mentions 'pure ghee')

Kellogs Chocos and some other cereals
Coconut Milk Powders - Beware of the powders because most of them (like Nestle) have milk powder added. Coconut Milk in tetra packs by Dabur and Godrej are good.
Nestle's "Nestum" - Baby Cereal Food 
Britannia's "Healthy Start": "Multigrain Porridge", "Tomato Spinach Upma".

Staetta Soy Milk in all flavours
Sofit Soy Milk in all flavours
A few new imported brands of Soy Milk are now availabe at Haiko,Powai and Hypercity outlets in Mumbai
Imported Rice Milk is available in Dolce Vita, Lower Parel, Mumbai
Vegan Shake and Irish Coffee at Cafe Coffee Day
Soyvita - is a soy protein isolate powder available sweetened and one non sweetened for diabetics
Oat Milk and Quinoa Milk is available at Garden Fresh, King Circle, Matunga East

(Im not going to list the sodas because they are way too unhealthy for this list!) :)

Morde's Dark Compound
Amul's Dark Chocolate
Heidi's Dark Chocolate & Hazelnut

Frozen Food:
All stuff by Fry's - Fry's Veggie Burgers, Veggie Polony, Schnitzel, Hot Dogs and Veggie Sausages... (Currently not distributing in India)

Street Junk:
Paani Puri
Bhel Puri
Sev Puri
Ragda Pattice (A growing trend I have noticed is to fry the pattice in ghee, so it might not always be vegan)
Samosa Chole
Chole Bature
Vada Pav
Samosa Pav
Misal pav

Jalebis (Always check if they have added yogurt to the batter and/or fried it in ghee)
Kaju Katli (Again ask if milk or ghee has been added)
Dhoklas (Ask if curd has been added to the batter. Most shops don't do it to increase the shelf life of the dhokla.)
Khandvi is not vegan, contains yogurt.

Restaurants in Bombay with Vegan Stuff:
Ray's Pizzeria, Bandra - Has a vegan menu with a different vegan options.
Swati Snacks, Tardeo - Has some good gujarati snacks most of which are vegan
Bagelwala and Bagelshop both in Bandra west have vegan bagel options

The Green Stove in Mumbai for vegan cakes, cookies, breads, cheesecakes, chocolates and appetizers. Only on order.

Vegn Bites has healthy vegan tiffin service in Mumbai for everyone who wants their lunch delivered to their doorsteps or offices.

Indian cuisine is easily vegan if you know what to avoid - paneer, ghee, butter, cheese, curd.Barbeque Nation always has a vegan mousse in the desserts section and the dal is not always vegan. The complimentary green chutneys at most north indian places has curds and also Naan almost always has eggs.

All Udipi restaurants have vegan options. So this means all Dosas (except the ghee spcials), Idlis, Vadas, Rice Dishes, Sambhar, Coconut Chutney...Madras Cafe in Matunga will also make your dosas oil free.

All Italian Restaurants (Except Mia Cucina, Bandra) will avoid the cheese on your Red Sauce Pastas (or make stuff for you without cheese or butter) which include LittleItaly outlets,  Spaghetti Kitchen outlets, Botticino at BKC, Quattro in Lower Parel, Woodside Inn in Colaba, Cafe Mangii in Powai.

South East Asian Vegetarian dishes are vegan, but by popular demand (!) have started adding paneer. So ask them to avoid paneer and the MSG - The Bowl House at Ghatkopar, China One at Dadar, Joss at Fort, 5 Spice outlets, Shiro's at Lower Parel, Flavors of spices (earlier known as Peter Wang) on Ghodbunder Road, Thane has many vegan options and they also customize your dishes if you specify that you want them dairy free.

Mediterranean and Fusion Cuisine - Blue Frog, Lower Parel (even made a non vegetarian dish vegan for me), Cafe Basilico at Bandra, Falafel's outlets, Bistro Grill outlets. It's important to know that in almost all falafel dishes, the tahini has been invaded by mayonnaise, so ask them not to add that. Kajun spice potatoes on most restaurant menus are vegan, but please check always. At Moshe's you get an amazing Balinese curry that is vegan but you must let the table attendant know that tofu is ok because they avoid tofu if you ask for vegan curries. Moshe also has a unique roasted fruit smoothie that is vegan.

Bangalore Brownies and Cakes:-
Bagels and Bakes brand chocolate brownies and chocolate muffins (available at all Namdharis).-
Carnival Bakery has a separate vegan menu filled with delicious cakes, pies, puddings, mousses, breads, donuts and cookies. They're a delivery only bakery.

Bangalore Restaurants (specialty global cuisines):
Bangalore now has a vegan restaurant called Carrots
Soo Ra Sang on Wind Tunnel Road (off old Airport Road) - Korean - nearly all the vegetarian dishes (including all the little kim chees, veggies, beans, pancakes etc... that they serve on the side) happen to be vegan by default.
Fava at UB City - Mediterranean - a lot of the vegetarian dishes can be veganized. Just make sure you specify many times that you do not have dairy products and cross check the dips (they have a habit of sneaking a yogurt based dip into some foods so ensure that isn't there).
Monsoon at The Park Hotel - all cuisines - call them in advance and they will prepare a special vegan meal just for you, including a deliciously decadent vegan pastry.
Shiro at UB City - Japanese, Balinese, Chinese (the authentic kind) - limited vegetarian and vegan choices but whatever is available is very tasty.
Tasty Tangles-vegetarian dishes on their menu are vegan except for the dessert section.
E-inn near electronic city in Bangalore serves complete vegan from starters to desserts.Call them in advance.

Nov 15, 2010

My Freckled Stir Fry Dinner

This is one was tonight's impromptu dinner stir fried by my brother. I just put together a bunch of ingredients, nothing special, just whatever I found around the kitchen and in the fridge that I thought would go well together.

I was looking for black sesame seeds instead of the white ones but found Nigella Seeds (on left)
instead (Nigella sounds like a person!). These seeds are commonly used in Indian cooking. They are also called Onion seeds or Kalonji. To me they taste like Ajwain (Carom Seeds) but lots of people think otherwise.

Why did I add them? For some colour actually. It adds some nice looking black freckles and some nice flavour too.

I used:

1/2 a pack of Button Mushrooms (about ten of them)
1 Green Pepper (Capsicum) chopped in to chunks
1/2 a pack of tofu (about 100 gms)
2 stalks of Celery
1 Onion sliced in thin strips
Sesame Seeds
Nigella Seeds (Also called Onion seeds or Kalonji in Hindi)
1 tsp Rice Bran Oil
Pepper or a Red Chilli

Heat the oil in a wok. Add the Red Chilli, Sesame and Nigella Seeds. Add the tofu and stir it for a bit till the tofu starts getting light brown. Add in the onions and let them cook a bit (I'm not a big fan of raw onions) After a couple of minutes add the mushrooms, capsicum and celery. I used the entire stalk of celery, with the leaves. Cover it for about 4 minutes. Add salt and pepper. Eat!

How easy was that?!

You can put it on top of some toasted bread, add some cooked noodles or rice to it, or just have it as is. Makes a nice, light and healthy dinner.

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