I spend way too much money on Chinese take-out, so I've made a resolution to do my very best to actually cook Chinese food myself when I get the craving. Once again I turned to "The Key to Chinese Cooking." But really, vegetable fried rice is pretty easy, and there are tons of recipes for it online. Just do a google search and you're set.
Like most stir-fried dishes, it helps to have everything chopped and assembled for smooth and easy preparation.
Here's a simple mung bean dish with three of the key flavors of South India: curry leaves, tamarind, and mustard seed.
Group A 1 cup split and hulled mung beans 1 tsp turmeric powder (optional) 1 inch x 1 inch sliver of ginger (optional) 4 cups of water (may need to add more later as beans cook)
Group B 1 Tbsp mustard seeds 1 Tbsp cumin seeds 1 tsp hing (asafoetida) 1 stalk of curry leaves (nothing to do with curry powder!) 2 Tbsp oil or butter
Group C 1 tsp cumin powder 1 tsp cayenne
Group D 2 tsp tamarind concentrate dissolved in 1/2 cup of water salt to taste
Bring Group A to a boil, then turn down and simmer for one hour. To help control any foaming, add a few drops of oil from Group B. Set aside half of the curry leaves, then lightly fry Group B in a separate pot. Once the mustard seeds begin to pop, turn off the heat and add Group C. Quickly stir the contents to mix evenly, then add Group D. Simmer for about 5 minutes, then add everything to Group A. Salt to taste, then garnish with the reserved curry leaves.
This story began in a field of 120 different gem sweaters. With so much shimmer and so much shine it was only a matter of time before music simply must capture some of their magical and mystical powers.
The summer of 2004 Boston art student Leslie Hall went home to Ames, Iowa. She brought her apple computer and 6 of her favorite Gem Sweaters to comfort her. After only 2 weeks of GarageBand (Apple's music production software) under her belt she began to write and compose songs for all the lonely and starved people of the world to enjoy. She asked two elementary school chums, Emily and Kelly, to join her in this quest and Leslie & the Ly's was born.
This unique band and their unusual sound was created for the Ames open mic scene, a weekly event when a local crowd of young and old performers have 15 minutes to achieve fame. But what happened June 14, 2004 changed Boheme's Open Mic forever. At 10:15p.m., dressed in Gem Sweaters and gold pants, Leslie & the Ly's exploded onto the scene with beats from another land, outfits to blind the eyes, lyrics to enlighten the soul, and dance moves never before witnessed. What happened on stage that night started an uncontrollable sea of fans, and the band's continued journey to give the gift of the jams to whomever seeketh their great glory.
One of the best cookbooks I've read is Irene Kuo's "The Key to Chinese Cooking." Mrs. Kuo presents the culinary history of China as an integral part of learning this fine cuisine, rather than the tangent in lesser cookbooks. Her explanations are quite clear and her anecdotes sometimes hilarious. And like all of my favorite cookbook authors, she gives you the basic tools for a good meal along with the confidence to experiment and improvise. It isn't a vegetarian cookbook, but it gives a firm foundation in Chinese cuisine to branch off from.
I have yet to replenish my basic Chinese staples, so there wasn't a lot I could choose from while thumbing through the cookbook. And then I saw "Tea Eggs." The last time I had these was TEN years ago in college, so I knew I had to make them!
Cracked and slow-simmered in a solution of tea and soy sauce, these aren't everyday hard-boiled eggs!
I almost forgot about the beets I left in the fridge from the night I used the beet greens. The original plan was to use these in a roasted root veggie medley, but I was too tired to go to the grocery store. When in doubt, I just make a dal.
This dish of buckwheat noodles and egg reminds me of the ramen with egg I used to eat a LOT as a kid, minus the partially hydrogenated fat and MSG.
There are several types of traditional "dashi" or stock for soba. The two most common vegetarian stocks are kombu dashi and shiitake dashi. I was actually in the mood for shiitake dashi, but the corner store offered a handful for 2.99 when I could get 10x as much in Chinatown for the same price.
Kombu is a natural flavor enhancer. It contains glutamic acid, and was the first source for industrial MSG. However, *unlike* pure MSG, the flavor-enhancing properties of simmered kombu are not associated with any adverse reactions from people sensitive to MSG. This is attributed to the fact that the glutamic acid in kombu is not chemically isolated and is digested more slowly. One analogy would be the different effect that equal amounts of sugar in different forms has on the body, for instance fruit versus pure cane sugar.
The eggs are mixed with soy sauce, a bit of the dashi, toasted sesame oil, and black sesame seeds (my personal variation).
The addition of the eggs to the dashi reminds me Egg Drop Soup.
I like to save kombu for at least one more dashi simmer. Next to the kombu is shredded nori for the garnish.
Tamago Toji Soba
This was a modified version of the original recipe found here.
Sunday was a night of substitutions. Instead of true split channa (mini-chickpeas), I used yellow split peas. The two are pretty interchangeable and the substitution is well-known for Indian cooks living in North America. For the swiss chard, I used beet greens. You'll notice that except for size, beet greens look incredibly similar to swiss chard. It's because they're two varieties of the same species. One was bred for the bulbs, the other for the leaves.
I cut the beet bulbs off and stored them away for another day (probably roasted root veggies).
I used to throw chard stems away, but these days I dice and add them in with the leaves. They impart a slightly sweet, beet flavor and reddish tone to a dish.
The fried spice topping (aka tarka/chaunk/tempering) was a bit more red than usual due to a large amount of coursely ground red chili flakes.
Black beans and rice is a common dish in Cuba and is known there as "Moros y Cristianos." The name symbolizes the Moors (black beans) and Christians (white rice) of Spain's past and present.
The following recipe is from the American Dry Bean Board. Since I had peppers earlier in the week, I replaced the green pepper in the recipe with yellow squash and zucchini.
2/3 cup chopped onion 2/3 cup chopped green bell pepper 1-1/4 tsp. chopped garlic 1 tsp. ground cumin 3/4 tsp. dried thyme leaves 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper 3/4 bay leaf 2 tsp. olive oil 2/3 cup rice 10 ounces canned diced tomatoes\raw, with green chilies 10 ounces canned black beans, rinsed and drained 1-1/3 cups water 2 tsp. apple cider vinegar 3/4 tsp. salt (optional) 1/4 tsp. black pepper
Sauté onion, bell pepper, garlic, cumin, thyme, crushed red pepper, and bay leaf in olive oil until onion is tender, about 5 minutes (I sautéed the onions and bay leaves for a minute first before adding the spices. Unless you're using a lot of oil, ground spices can interfere by absorbing too much of the oil before the onions have a chance to properly cook).
Stir in remaining ingredients. Heat to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until rice is tender, about 20 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.
My original plan for dinner was vegetarian bin dae duk (Korean mung bean pancakes), but I didn't soak the beans overnight, and I didn't have any kimchi. Sorry Mom! Mung beans are used even more extensively in Indian cuisine, so I switched gears and went for a dal (surprise).
Mung beans (moong dal) are packed with protein. For comparison, 1/4 cup of dried mung beans has about the same amount of protein and calories as 2 large eggs (approx. 12g pro/170 cals). Though I now consume animal protein in the form of eggs and dairy, legumes help keep vegetable protein the predominant form in my diet.
The lack of characteristic green color for the mung beans is because the hulled and split variety is often used in dal.
The whole spices (cumin, fennel, mustard seed, and bay leaves) are sautéed until the mustard seeds just start to pop. Then the diced onion is added, and then a few minutes after that the peppers. Mustard seeds are such a great timing device. I often put just a few in a dish that normally doesn't contain them just so I know when main spices have been sautéed just right. The ground spices (coriander seed and chili flakes) are added last.
The following was a response of mine to a Veggie Boards thread entitled "Could you eat meat?"
I could eat meat if the circumstances were right. I personally don't think meat-eating is inherently wrong. What I think is wrong is raising animals in captivity with no other purpose in life other than food. The diet of many indigenous people around the world is better for the environment as a whole than industrialized-nation vegetarianism. They don't eat as much meat as our dominant mainstream cultures, but they also don't eschew meat like we do.
Even as vegetarians or vegans, all of us are complicit in systems of violence toward other living beings. We have various privileges of species, race, class, education, national identity, etc. that each and every one of us take advantage of, both consciously and subconsciously every day. I prefer to live in a city, even though cities represent the complete bending of nature to humanity's will, regardless of all the non-human animals that once lived within the borders. I often choose to ignore homeless people. I sometimes make snap judgments of other people due to ethnicity. If I had to choose on a Saturday night between organizing an action for Darfur, Sudan and a night of dancing at a gay bar, the gay bar would win hands down. I am more apt to walk stray dogs at the local animal shelter than spend time tutoring disadvantaged youth in my community.
I see vegetarianism as a compromise for living in the US. It's one way I try to lessen my overall ecological "footprint", rather than a complete personal doctrine. This is also why I've been car-free for over a decade and support cycling and other alternative modes of transportation. However these serve as a counterbalance to the aforementioned selfishness in my life, rather than a negation of it. This is why I don't label my life as "cruelty-free."