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Celebrating the Year of the Rat the Vegan Way

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Millions of people of Chinese descent unite with their friends and family every Lunar New Year to wish each other prosperity and good health. Yet, we pig out, feasting on Chinese delicacies chock full of fat, sugar and rich cuts of meat. We reason that it’s a once-a-year occasion, and we will take our new year resolution of eating clean and exercising regularly seriously this time around.

Obviously, good health isn’t something that happens because your superstitious grand-aunt wished for it. Instead, it is a lifelong commitment one must work towards. Some health nuts have gone so far as to give up eggs, dairy and meat, in hopes of longer life and better well-being.

Veganism has its upsides, according to the scientific community. It has been linked to lower risks of heart disease, certain types of cancer and diabetes. It also promotes weight loss.

Fortunately, many Chinese dishes can be easily modified for vegan and vegetarian diets. Asian cuisine has long been steeped in meatless philosophies. Some schools of Buddhism practice vegetarianism, firmly believing that a life without harming others brings you closer to enlightenment.

If veganism is what you gravitate towards, here are some Chinese vegan recipes, so you can start on the path towards better health this Year of the Rat.

Vegan Yusheng

Raw foodie Dominique Allmon is behind this raw vegan version of this auspicious dish. It replaces raw fish with slices of pomelo or grapefruit. Think of it as an Asian citrus salad, neatly presented on an oversized plate for your guests to make a mess out of. Grab a pair of chopsticks, tuck in, and have fun tossing.

Ingredients:

  • 1 daikon radish
  • 2 large carrots
  • 1 beet
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 pink grapefruit or pomelo
  • 1 hot chilli pepper, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup chopped raw peanuts or macadamia nuts
  • ½ cup Chinese plum sauce

Instructions:

1. Wash and peel vegetables. Using a mandoline slicer, shred the veggies into long thin strips.

2. Arrange the vegetables in a large plate (spacious enough for the tossing ceremony) and set aside.

3. Use a sharp knife to supreme the grapefruit or pomelo. You can follow this tutorial to learn how to supreme a citrus fruit.

4. Arrange grapefruit or pomelo slices on the julienne and squeeze out the juice of the leftover fruit into the salad mix.

5. Pour plum sauce into a small bowl and add sliced chilli. Pour peanuts into a separate bowl.

6. Lay the salad bowl, sauce and peanuts on the table. Add sauce and peanuts into the salad bowl. Begin tossing with long chopsticks as high as you can for good luck and prosperity!

Vegan dumplings

Dumplings are loved the world over and are synonymous with Asian cuisine. Here is a simple vegan recipe from The Spruce Eats. It uses tofu, shiitake mushrooms and napa cabbage. You can steam it or pan-fry it. Serve with black vinegar and thinly-sliced ginger.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 block of tofu, well pressed and crumbled
  • ½ cup shiitake mushrooms, finely diced
  • ½ cup Napa cabbage, finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 scallions, diced
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • Optional: Dash red pepper flakes
  • Optional: 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro (chopped)

Instructions:

1. Heat frying pan and add vegetable oil. Saute tofu, mushrooms, cabbage, ginger and garlic for a few minutes until cooked.

2. Add soy sauce, sesame oil, scallions and red pepper flakes. Stir well and continue cooking for a minute.

3. Remove from heat and let cool. Stir in cilantro.

4. Place about 1 tablespoon of the tofu and mushroom mixture into each wonton wrapper or gyoza wrapper. Moisten the edges of the wrapper with a bit of water, then fold in half and press to seal. Make a couple of pinches or folds to create a fan-like shape. Practice a few times to get the technique right.

5. Pan-fry or steam the dumpling. Serve with dipping sauce.

Comforting hot and sour soup

A classic Chinese dish, this hot and sour soup from Omnivores Cookbook is adaptable to vegan diets. Use water or vegetable stock instead of chicken broth and do away with the eggs.

Ingredients:

Rehydrate the following ingredients to make the soup base.

  • ⅓ cup dried shiitake mushroom
  • ¼ cup dried wood ear mushrooms
  • ¼ cup dried lily flowers

Soup ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons minced ginger
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper powder
  • 6 cups water or vegetable stock
  • ½ block firm tofu, sliced into cubes
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons of cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil

Instructions:

1. Gently rinse dried shiitake mushrooms, dried wood ear mushrooms, and lily flowers with tap water. Soak each of them with 1.5 to 2 cups warm water in three big bowls. Rehydrate for 30 minutes to 1 hour, until tender.

2. Slice mushrooms into strips. Snip off the tough ends of lily flowers and discard. Remove tough ends of wood ear mushrooms, then chop into bite-sized pieces. Reserve 2 cups of the marinating water from lily flower and shiitake mushrooms.

3. Mix Chinese black vinegar and white pepper in a small bowl until completely dissolved.

4. Add water or vegetable stock, ginger, and green onion into a pot and heat over medium-high heat. If you reserved the marinating liquid from step one, you can add it plus 4 cups water or vegetable stock.

5. Add rehydrated wood ear mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, lily flowers, and tofu to the pot. Cook and bring to a simmer. Add soy sauce and turn to medium-low heat.

6. Mix the cornstarch with 1/4 cup of water in a bowl until cornstarch is fully dissolved. Slowly swirl the cornstarch slurry into the soup. Stir to thicken the soup.

7. Remove the pot from the stove. Add the vinegar and pepper mixture and stir to mix well.

8. Garnish with cilantro and drizzle with sesame oil. Give it a final stir. Taste the soup and add more salt if needed. Serve hot.

Vegan kway teow goreng

Let’s face it – vegan dishes can be boring. And as a host, you want your guests leaving happy and satisfied. Why not add some spicy Malaysian influence into the mix? An aromatic kway teow goreng will be the burst of flavour and variety your Chinese New Year menu needs. Here is a vegan version by Rasa Malaysia that is easy to whip up for a last-minute gathering.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons cooking oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 3 pieces of dried bean curd, cut into small pieces
  • 1 potato, boiled, peeled and cubes
  • 1 big tomato, cut into wedges
  • 1 handful of fresh bean sprouts
  • 1 pound fresh yellow noodles, rinsed
  • Chopped scallions, red chilli and fried shallots for garnishing
  • 1 lime, sliced into quarters
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sweet soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons tomato ketchup
  • Sugar and salt to taste

Instructions:

1. Heat up the wok and cooking oil. Add garlic and fry until fragrant.

2. Then add beancurd, potato and tomato wedges. Stir quickly and add yellow noodles, sweet soy sauce and soy sauce, and ketchup. Combine everything well. Then add sugar and salt to taste.

3. Add bean sprouts and stir it in until sprouts are softened. Turn off heat and dish out onto a large plate.

4. Garnish with scallions, red chilli and fried shallots. Squeeze lime juice over noodles before eating.

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