Asian bean curd rolls {gluten-free, vegan}

There’s a small vegetarian Chinese restaurant in my hometown that made me fall head over heels for tofu skin (also known as yuba). You wouldn’t know it was anything special from the menu name ‘crispy bean curd skin’ but one day my mum ordered it on a whim and after that, a trip to this restaurant wasn’t complete without a plate – or two!

You can buy dried beancurd sheets from Asian supermarkets. For this recipe, you’ll need the sheets, not dried beancurd sticks, which are also available (and also delicious – but more on that later).

You can do a lot with tofu skin, like soaking it in flavourings and deep frying, or filling it with stuffing and pan frying. My love for eating trumps my love for cooking, so nine times out of 10, I’m looking for shortcuts to spend less time in the kitchen.

Which brings me to these seriously tasty tofu skin rolls that sound a lot more complicated than they actually are. Just think of it as a new way to enjoy tofu.

Once cooked, the rolls can be sliced up and added to a buddha bowl, stir fry or even used as a pho topping. Any leftover slices can be stored in the freezer. Just reheat them in a warm pan before eating.

Asian bean curd rolls {gluten-free, vegan}
Makes approx. 2 medium rolls

1 1/2 c filtered water
1/4 c gluten-free soy sauce
1 tbsp dry sherry
1 tsp coconut sugar
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and cut into 2-3 pieces
2 cloves
1 whole dried red chilli
1 star anise
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 packet of dried bean curd sheets

Add water, soy sauce, sherry, coconut sugar, ginger, cloves, chilli, star anise and cinnamon to a small saucepan and bring to a boil.

Let simmer for 10 minutes then strain and let the sauce cool.

Unfold the bean curd sheets. Leaving the sheets on top of each other, roughly cut about 5cm off the edge right around the sheets – try to do this in one go so you have a long offcut from each sheet.

Set aside all the sheets. Group the offcuts together and tie it in a rough knot. Submerge the knot in the sauce for about five minutes to soak.

Place one sheet onto a clean damp tea towel and using tongs, pick up the knot and use it as a brush to coat the entire sheet. Repeat with remaining sheets, returning the knot to the pan as needed to soak up more sauce.

Once all the sheets have been coated, place the knot in the middle of the sheets. Fold the sides in first, then move the knot towards you, to the edge of the sheets, so it can be the centre of the roll. Then, tightly roll the sheets up to form a log.

Cut the log into two pieces (three pieces if this won’t fit in your steamer) and steam for around 15 minutes. Then, remove from steamer and pan fry each roll for three minutes on one side, and three minutes on the other side.

Let cool slightly before slicing into thin pieces. Add to a cooked stir fry, buddha bowl or use as a pho topping.

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The best vegan san choy bau {gluten-free}

I can finally see. I had LASIK last week and it truly was the best thing I’ve ever done. A few people told me I shouldn’t get it done, not because they had or had known someone who had a bad experience, but because “you suit glasses”, and “glasses are part of who you are”. It kinda shocked me a bit. Glasses are a medical device, but they shouldn’t define a person or be their identity.

So now, here I am. No more glasses, and with that, I can now open the oven and not have my glasses steam up, I can go swimming, I can exercise … properly. I was nervous in the lead up. In fact, that’s a bit of an understatement. This recipe for san choy bau was the best reward for those nerves. For a few minutes while eating this, I forgot about the procedure completely and all was right in the world.

You’ll love this san choy bau. It’s actually mushroom-free. I toyed with the idea of adding mushrooms for some meatiness but I’m not the biggest fan, and I really want to show you that there’s so much more to vegan meals than mushrooms.

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Gluten-free vegan san choy bau
Serves 3-4

250g organic non-GMO firm tofu
80g pine nuts
1 tbsp dry sherry
1 tbsp gluten-free soy sauce
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
4 tbsp gluten-free hoisin sauce (Ayam makes a good one)
1 tsp sriracha (more if you can handle heat)
1 tsp arrowroot flour
1/2 red onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 zucchinis, diced
100g green beans, diced
Gem lettuce, to serve
Thai basil, to serve

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C.

Cut the tofu into 6-8 even-sized pieces and bake in the oven for 20 minutes.

While tofu is in the oven, gently toast the pine nuts in a wide-based saucepan. Set aside.

Add dry sherry, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, hoisin sauce and sriracha into a small bowl and whisk. Add arrowroot and mix until combined. Set aside.

Remove tofu from oven and let cool. Once cooled, use your hands to break up/crumble the tofu.

Heat some oil in a saucepan and add the onions. Saute for 10 minutes before adding the garlic and ginger. Once browned and fragrant, add carrot, zucchini and green beans and cook a further 5-8 minutes.

Add the tofu crumbles and pine nuts before adding the sauce ingredients to the pan. Cook until sauce thickens – approx. 5 minutes.

Serve in lettuce leaves with fresh Thai basil.

Gluten-free vegan zucchini noodle japchae

A few years ago I came across sweet potato noodles in an Asian grocer and I bought them because they were surprisingly gluten-free. The noodles sat on a shelf in my cupboard for a good six months before I finally settled on what I would do with them: make japchae, also known as Korean glass noodles.

My brief foray into Korean food started with japchae and ended with kimchi. And when I say japchae and kimchi, I mean that I really didn’t give much else a go (in my defense, Korean food isn’t well suited to both a gluten-free and vegan diet).

Finding sweet potato noodles can sometimes be like finding a needle in a haystack. Without them I could have gone for regular rice noodles, or even pasta but I decided to push myself towards something even healthier and landed on zucchini noodles.

Full disclosure, zucchini noodles really don’t do it for me. I’ll eat them from time to time, in the spirit of being healthy, and when I crave something light. Nothing is ever going to tear me away from my beloved carbs.

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Gluten-free vegan zucchini noodle japchae
Serves 2

1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 brown onion, sliced
2 spring onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 carrot, julienned
1/2 cup shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 tbsp gluten-free soy sauce
2 tsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp coconut sugar
1 cup spinach leaves
3 zucchinis, spiralised
1 tbsp white sesame seeds, to serve
Small handful of chives, to serve

Heat sesame oil over a medium heat and add onion, spring onion, garlic, carrot and mushrooms. Cook for five minutes.

Add soy sauce, rice wine vinegar and coconut sugar to the pan, followed by the spinach. Cook for one minute before adding the zucchini noodles, then cook a further two-three minutes until zucchini is heated through.

Divide into two bowls and sprinkle sesame seeds and chopped chives.

The best gluten-free vegan pad Thai

The day I perfected my recipe for pad Thai was the day I stopped ordering it from Thai restaurants. So, my favourite guilty pleasure is actually pad kee mao although I’ve not managed to replicate that one at home yet. I’ll get there eventually.

It can be really frustrating ordering a pad Thai without egg at Thai restaurants. It’s usually quite oily because the chef doesn’t factor in that less oil is required when egg is omitted.

Another way I describe this recipe is ‘better-than-Thai-restaurant pad Thai’ and when something has a name like that, why would you order in? OK, I know why, because you have nothing in the fridge or pantry, and/or you’ve had a rough day and just can’t. I get it, I’ve been there.

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The best gluten-free vegan pad Thai
Serves 4

1/2 cup coconut sugar
3/4 cup gluten-free soy sauce
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 lime, juiced
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp garlic powder
1 brown onion, cut into slices
1/2 head broccoli, cut into small pieces
1 1/2 cup baby spinach
2 carrots, cut on an angle
200g rice noodles (I like brown rice noodles), cooked
250g organic non-GMO tofu, cut into pieces and baked
Coriander, to serve
Peanuts, to serve
Spring onion, to serve
Chives, to serve
Lime wedges, to serve

Add coconut sugar, gluten-free soy sauce, tomato paste, rice wine vinegar, lime juice, sesame oil and garlic to a bowl and whisk until combined.

Heat some coconut oil in a wok and add the brown onion. Cook until soft then add the vegetables, noodles, tofu and sauce ingredients.

Keep the burner on a high heat and gently stir the ingredients to ensure the sauce is coating everything. When the sauce starts bubbling around the sides of the pan, mix ingredients through. Let sit a minute or two longer, until the noodles start to catch on the bottom of the pan.

Remove from the heat and add coriander, peanuts, spring onion and chives. Plate with lime wedges.

Gluten-free vegan dumplings (take two) | Rice paper pockets

Remember when I told you about my love of dumplings? Well, I’m back to profess my love once more. Life isn’t the same without them; I miss them terribly and think about them daily. That’s why I’m back with another batch – although these ones are very different from the last.

These bad boys are filled with what you might expect from a vegetarian dumpling but best of all, they are allergy and tummy friendly. Essentially, you’ll be transported to intolerance-friendly Chinatown at first bite. Closing your eyes might help if you’re anything like me and haven’t quite mastered the art of folding rice paper rounds to make dumplings look like dumplings.

You can steam these dumplings before eating them or skip that step completely. It’s been a hot summer so I’ve been choosing cold dumplings over piping hot ones.

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Rice paper pockets
Serves 4-6

1 packet frozen edamame beans, cooked and shelled
1 leek, halved and finely sliced
1/2 wombok, finely sliced
125g organic non-GMO tofu, crumbled
1 carrot, julienned
1 thumb size ginger, finely chopped
Small handful of coriander, chopped
Small handful sliced spring onion
100g fine bean vermicelli, cooked and cooled
1 tbsp coconut oil
1/4 cup gluten-free soy sauce or tamari
1/4 cup dry sherry
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp sesame oil
As many small rice paper rounds as you want dumplings (this mix will make about 20, but you can freeze what you don’t use for later)

Add the edamame beans, leek, wombok, tofu, carrot, ginger, coriander and spring onion to a bowl and mix to combine.

Put the cooked and cooled bean vermicelli onto a chopping board and slice into small pieces, then mix the vermicelli into the bowl of vegetables and tofu until combined.

Heat coconut oil in a large saucepan on the stove and add the vegetable mix. Cook until ingredients soften, then add soy sauce, sherry, garlic powder and sesame oil. Cook on a low-medium heat for 5-10 more minutes or until all the liquid is combined, then let cool.

Organise your workstation and get your first rice paper round ready by dipping it in some water and placing on a damp teatowel – just as you would if you were making rice paper rolls. Place a small spoonful of dumpling mix into the middle of each rice paper round, then fold in two opposite sides tightly around the filling, before bringing in the other opposite sides.

OPTIONAL: Steam dumplings for 2-4 minutes.

Serve about 5 dumplings in a bowl and drizzle with some gluten-free soy sauce or tamari and sesame oil.