3 Quick and Easy Plant-Based Asian Recipes to Try at Home
Dr Linda Shiue embraces an approach to medicine that puts food and nutrition at its heart. And through this, she has helped numerous patients make simple dietary changes that have transformed their lives—improving both their health and the way they feel.
We spoke with Shiue about this approach and her debut cookbook, Spicebox Kitchen, which was launched on March 16. In it she shares vegetable-forward recipes that hail from California, Asia, the Mediterranean and Middle East, and Trinidad, and incorporate a wide range of spices chosen for their health benefits. Through her book she hopes to bring her nutrition-based approach to eating and feeling better to a new audience.
For a taste of Shiue’s vegetable-forward approach, we’ve excerpted three recipes from her Asian chapter.
Whole Wheat Scallion Pancakes
The classic version of Chinese scallion pancakes is made with white flour. To up the nutrition factor while maintaining soft layers and flakiness, I’ve replaced half the flour with white whole wheat flour. I’ve also added Sichuan peppercorns, which can be omitted for a simpler version. Pair these with freshly made soy milk for a classic Chinese breakfast. Note: If you have a thermometer, use it. If not, see instructions below for approximating the correct temperature.
Makes 4 pancakes
1 cup water
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
¼ cup toasted sesame oil
2 cups thinly sliced scallions (about 2 bunches)
½ teaspoon crushed Sichuan peppercorns (optional)
Oil, for frying
1. To heat water to the appropriate temperature, boil water and let cool until a thermometer reads 150°F, about 3 minutes. You can also approximate when your water is the right temperature, which is just below simmering. Allow simmering water to cool for 2 to 3 minutes to get to the right temperature.
2. Sift flours together in a large bowl. Make a well in centre of flour mixture, then slowly pour in hot water and mix with a wooden spoon until dough just comes together. Note that 150°F water is hot enough to burn, so you will need to let dough cool slightly before working with it—use only a spoon to incorporate water, not your hands. Do not overmix, or dough will get tough—avoid this!
3. After dough has cooled to the point where you can comfortably touch it, transfer dough to a floured work surface and knead a few times to form a smooth ball. Cover with a damp, clean towel and let rest for 30 minutes.
4. Divide rested dough into four equal pieces and roll each into a ball. Work with one ball at a time, keeping others covered. Roll out each ball into an 8-inch circle. Brush or use the back of a teaspoon to spread a thin layer of sesame oil on dough’s surface, and then roll it up into a log. Next, roll log into a spiral shape, tucking in its end underneath.
5. Flatten each spiral into an 8-inch disk. Brush with another layer of sesame oil and sprinkle with a pinch of salt, ½ cup of scallions, and ⅛ teaspoon of crushed Sichuan peppercorns (if using). Then, roll into a log, this time pinching ends so the filling doesn’t come out, and twist into a spiral, as you did the first time. Repeat with remaining dough balls.
6. Flatten each filled spiral of dough into an 8-inch disk.
7. To cook: Heat about 2 tablespoons of oil in a skillet over medium heat until hot. Cook each pancake until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels, sprinkling each with a pinch of salt before it cools.
8. Serve hot. Cut into eight wedges and serve with dipping sauce, if desired.
Kimchi Jjigae (Vegan Korean Soft Tofu and Kimchi Stew)
This warming Korean stew is perfect for a cold, rainy night. It traditionally includes pork belly or seafood, but you won’t miss it in this vegan version. Depth of flavour comes from the umami in the fermented ingredients (kimchi and gochujang), as well as the mushrooms. Traditionally, this is cooked in a stone pot, but any heavy pot (such as a Dutch oven) will work well. The finishing touch is usually a raw egg, added and stirred in to cook the bubbling stew just before serving.
Serves 4 to 6
1 tablespoon neutral oil (such as canola)
6 garlic cloves, smashed
1 cup chopped kimchi
4 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
1 ½ tablespoons gochujang (Korean hot pepper paste)
14 ounces silken tofu, sliced into 10 slabs
4 ounces enoki of bunapi mushrooms (1 standard package); or any sliced mushrooms
6 scallions, white and light green parts, sliced
Steamed rice, for serving
1 large egg (optional)
1. Heat oil in a 3-quart saucepan or small Dutch oven over medium heat. Add garlic and kimchi and cook for 1 minute.
2. In a bowl, whisk together stock and gochujang until smooth, then add to pot. Bring to a boil.
3. Once kimchi is tender and slightly translucent, carefully add tofu in a single layer (it’s delicate, so you don’t want to break it), then add mushrooms. Lower heat, cover, and simmer for 15 to 30 minutes to allow flavours to develop.
4. Just before serving, top stew with scallions. Increase heat to bring to a rapid and vigorous boil, then remove from heat and serve immediately.
5. Serve over rice and stir in raw egg, if desired.
Teriyaki Tofu Musubi
If you’ve visited the Hawaiian Islands, you’ve probably encountered Spam musubi, which might best be described as Spam sushi. Spam was a main course for the troops during WWII, and the large military presence in Hawaii led to Spam’s widespread local adoption as an inexpensive, shelf-stable form of meat. A Japanese American woman, Barbara Funamura, reportedly created Spam musubi in the 1980s, by placing teriyaki-glazed slices of Spam on top of a block of compressed rice and wrapping the whole thing in a strip of nori (the roasted seaweed used for sushi), to make a portable snack. For a similar taste and appearance, I’ve created this teriyaki-glazed tofu version for a snack that is a pretty good facsimile of the original, with much better nutrition.
Makes 8 to 10 musubi
(14-ounce) package firm tofu
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons canola oil
3 cups cooked haiga rice (preferred), brown sushi rice, or mixed rice
Special equipment: musubi maker/sushi press (available in Japanese supermarkets or online); you may also shape by hand
1. Drain tofu and wrap in two layers of paper towel. Sandwich wrapped tofu between two cutting boards, place a heavy pot on top, and press for 30 minutes. Then, slice into ¼-inch-thick pieces that are the size of your musubi maker, about 2 x 3 inches.
2. Mix together soy sauce and sugar in a small bowl and stir to dissolve.
3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat, then add oil. Add sliced tofu and cook for 2 minutes on each side. Then, pour sauce mixture over tofu. Cook for another 2 minutes on each side, or until crispy and caramelised. Remove from heat and set aside.
4. To shape with a musubi maker (if using): Cut nori sheets into 1-inch-wide strips and lay them on a flat surface, such as a cutting board. Centre musubi maker over nori strip, add about ½ cup of rice to centre, and press firmly. Remove press and sprinkle furikake on top, then add a prepared slice of tofu. Wrap nori around rice and tofu and seal ends with a dab of water, if needed. Repeat until you have used up all rice and tofu.
5. To shape by hand: Cut nori sheets into 1-inch wide strips and lay them on a flat surface, such as a cutting board. Top with about ½ cup of rice and press firmly to shape into a 2 x 3-inch rectangle. Sprinkle furikake on top, then add a prepared slice of tofu. Wrap nori around rice and tofu and seal ends with a dab of water, if needed. Repeat until you have used up all rice and tofu.
6. Eat immediately or wrap tightly in plastic wrap for a portable snack
Excerpted from Spicebox Kitchen: Eat Well and Be Healthy with Globally Inspired, Vegetable-Forward Recipes by Linda Shiue, MD. Copyright © 2021. Available from Hachette Go, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc.