Vegetarian Ilocos-style Empanada

Vegetarian Ilocos-style Empanada

Hello Everyone! Just about 2 weeks ago, I went on a road trip with a few of my workmates for a weekend away to Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur, specifically to the cities of Pagudpud and Vigan. Even though it was a stressful and quick trip, we had a lot of fun. I say stressful because literally right after work on the Friday, we made our way into the city to catch our private van. We drove through the night and arrived at Paoay before dawn.

We had our breakfast and then started our tour sightseeing Paoay before a rough morning ahead. A morning I think some of us will never forget. A rough 4×4 journey through the Paoay Sand Dunes followed by sand boarding activities. My multiple bruises took over a week to heal!

4x4 Paoay Sand Dunes, Ilocos Sur

We arrived in Pagudpud just in time for a sumptuous boodle fight lunch by the beach. Since were too full to go for a swim right after, and it was scorching hot as well, we decided to continue with the tour first to fulfil our #forthegram shots before returning to the Blue Lagoon for a refreshing afternoon ocean swim after a super hot day! After our swim, we headed on over to our accomodation for a much needed shower before dinner. Remember how I said earlier that we headed straight into the city after work? This was the first shower I had in more or less 36 hours.

Blue Lagoon, Pagudpud, Ilocos Notre

The next day we got up early and left our accomodation after breakfast to start making our way back south to the city of Vigan, Ilocos Sur. We arrived in Vigan just before lunch and took endless amount of #forthegram photos along the famous Calle Crisologo – pre-war beauty of whitewashed walls, cobbled streets, and old Spanish houses; a town saved from destruction because of a love story. It is now home to souvenir shops and interesting lokal products. After a quick lunch and a shopping/pasalubong spree, we were back on the road for our journey home to Manila.

Vigan City, Ilocos Sur

One of the many musts when visiting the city of Vigan, or just the region of Ilocos, is the famous Ilocos Empanada. It is an orange-tinged fried dish traditionally stuffed with vegetables like unripe papaya, skinless Vigan Longganisa, and egg. Modern versions of the dish add bagnet*, mung beans, and even hotdogs into the stuffing.

So my takeaway from this trip was to recreate the famous Ilocos Empanada at home, with a twist. Those who know me personally, ever since towards the end of last year, I’ve been trying to cut down on my meat intake for various health reasons. Those of you who also know me, I can’t cut out all meat from my diet and go completely vegetarian. And so, my diet as of this moment, consists of only chicken and seafood as my main source of animal protein. Hopefully, I can completely rule out chicken by the end of this year and go pescatarian.

Vegetarian Ilocos-style Empanada

Of course, I can’t not taste the original empanada first before attempting to put a twist to the classic. So just that one time, I broke my diet and had one (maybe 2) for myself. Before we dive into tonight’s recipe, here are a few links that you should check out that helped me put this recipe together:

* Bagnet, locally also known as chicharon in Ilocano, is a Filipino dish of pork belly that has been boiled first and then deep fried until it is crispy. It is seasoned with garlic, black peppercorns, bay leaves, and salt during the boiling process.

Vegetarian Ilocos-style Empanada Ingredients

PREP TIME 1 HOUR 30 MINS** | COOKING TIME 6-8 MINS | MAKES 8 EMPANADAS

** Allow up to a minimum of 6 hours or up to 24 hours for freezing time. Freezing the empanadas beforehand helps to keep them intact and prevent them from breaking apart during the frying process.

INGREDIENTS

For the crust

  • 1 & 1/4 cups rice flour
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3 tbsp annatto oil***
  • 1 tsp salt

For the vegan longganisa mixture
(Note: This recipe makes around 16-18 small sausages)

  • 250g firm tofu, crumbled
  • 1 & 1/2 cups breadcrumbs
  • 1 & 1/2 cups dried shiitake mushroom, rehydrated and minced (or any other mushroom)
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 & 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 4 tbsp coconut sugar
  • 2 tbsp white vinegar
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp salt

For the filling

  • 8 small free range eggs
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 medium-sized unripe papaya, shredded
  • 1 medium-sized carrot, shredded
  • 1 medium-sized red onion, diced
  • Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
  • Vegan longganisa mixture
  • Cooking oil, for frying

*** The main purpose of using annatto oil is to provide colour to different dishes to make it more visually appealing. Since annatto oil is not always available in grocery stores, learning how to make it will surely be beneficial to you. Here are the details to get your started:

For the annatto oil

  • 1 & 1/2 tablespoons annatto seeds
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (vegetable oil, canola oil, and corn oil can also be used)

METHOD

  1. Annatto Oil: Combine the annatto seeds and olive oil in a small saucepan. Turn on the heat to medium.
  2. When bubbles start to form around the annatto seeds, turn the heat off and let the seeds soak in the oil for a minute or two. Do not overcook the seeds as this will produce a bitter taste.
  3. Use a strainer to filter-out the annatto seeds and transfer to a heat proof bowl. Set aside to cool down.
  4. Empanada Dough: Add the water, salt, and annatto oil in a medium-sized non-stick frying pan. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-high heat.
  5. Once simmering, add the rice flour all at once and mix using a wooden spoon, until all the liquid is absorbed and and dough starts to form. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
  6. Once completely cooled, knead until you get a smooth ball. Divide the dough into 8 equally-sized balls. Cover with cling wrap and set aside to rest for 30 minutes to an hour.
  7. Vegan Longganisa: In a medium-sized mixing bowl, mix all the ingredients together except for the breadcrumbs. Leave to marinate for about 30 minutes. Even though it’s not stated in the ingredients list, I ended up adding some chilli powder to the mixture for an extra kick of spice.
  8. Add the breadcrumbs to the mixture. Add more depending on the firmness you want to achieve. At this point, you can shape the mixture into sausages, but since we’ll be using them for the empanada filling, we won’t be needing to shape them.

Vegan Longganisa

  1. Empanada Filling: Add a tablespoon of coconut oil into a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Sauté the garlic until golden brown, about 30 seconds, before adding the diced onion. Cook for a further minute until soft and fragrant.
  2. Add the tofu-mushroom mixture to the pan and stir-fry until cooked through, about 10 minutes. Once done, set aside to cool down completely.
  3. Prepare the unripe papaya and carrots in a separate bowl.
  4. Assembly: Place the dough ball between two sheets of plastic cling wrap to prevent it from sticking to your counter-top and rolling pin. Roll it out nice and thinly.
  5. Fill with the shredded unripe papaya and carrots, together with the vegan longganisa. Arrange them so that they create a well in the middle. Crack one egg into the well.
  6. Fold the dough over and seal the edges by pinching it using your fingers or a fork. Transfer into a tupperware lined with parchment paper to prevent the empanadas sticking to each other.
  7. Repeat for the remaining dough. Should make about 8 small or 4 large empanadas.

Vegetarian Ilocos-style Empanada

  1. Cook & Serve: Deep fry until golden brown and crisp, about 3-4 minutes per side. Once done, transfer to a wire rack and strain any excess grease from the empanadas. You can fry the empanadas longer if you prefer your egg to be cooked more, as long as you don’t burn the empanadas. I personally like my eggs runny.
  2. Enjoy with your favourite spicy coconut vinegar or of course, with some delicious Ilocos-made vinegar.

Vegetarian Ilocos-style Empanada

Note:

  • You will most definitely end up with a lot of leftover sautéed tofu & mushroom and shredded veggies.
    • Shredded Veggies: You can make a delicious Thai Papaya Salad with it and serve it with anything fried! My choice would be to serve it with a humble portion of fried fish.
    • Sautéed Tofu & Mushroom: Shape the leftovers into sausages and freeze. Pan-fry them for 3-5 minutes before serving.
  • If you want to make this dish completely vegan, omit the egg from the recipe.

Vegetarian Ilocos-style Empanada

BON APPÉTIT

– Ally xx

myTaste.com

Crispy Sweet & Sour Tofu

Crispy Sweet & Sour Tofu

Hello Everyone and Happy Hump Day! How is it that we’re already halfway into the first month of the year? I know I’ve said this in probably 80% of my posts from last year, and I will most definitely say it again… Time sure does fly by so quickly!

Tofu, or also known as bean curd, is made by curdling fresh soy milk, pressing it into a solid block, and then cooling it – the same traditional way in which dairy cheese is made. It is a good source of plant-based protein and contains all nine essential amino acids. It is also a valuable plant source of iron, calcium, and minerals such as manganese and phosphorus. In addition to this, it also contains magnesium, copper, zinc, and vitamin B1.

Sadly, tofu sometimes get a bad reputation from omnivores, and it’s probably because they are eating tofu that wasn’t cooked or seasoned well in the first place! Tofu is a popular staple ingredient in Thai and Chinese cuisines where it can be cooked in different ways to change its texture from smooth and soft, to crisp and crunchy.

Crispy Sweet & Sour Tofu

Given its neutral taste and range of consistency, tofu has an amazing ability to work with almost all types of flavours and foods. Extra firm tofu is best for baking, grilling, and stir-fries. On the other hand, soft tofu is suitable for sauces, desserts, shakes, and salad dressings. The possibilities are endless and of course, it’s all down to you and your creativity to see where your adventures and experiments take you with tofu!

Tonight I’ll be sharing a super delicious vegetarian dish that’s super simple and quick to put together. You can also easily make this dish vegan by substituting the wild honey for white granulated sugar or maple syrup in the irresistible sweet and sour sauce that will coat the crispy tofu. The trick to getting it nice and crispy? Get rid of the excess moisture and fry it up real nice! No one likes soggy tofu! As always, do head on over to Hot For Food by Lauren Toyota for the original recipe where I drew my inspiration from.

Crispy Sweet & Sour Tofu Ingredients

PREP TIME 20 MINS | COOKING TIME 20 MINS | SERVES 4

INGREDIENTS

For the sweet and sour sauce

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup wild honey*
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tsp cornstarch, mixed with 2 tsp water
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp freshly grated ginger
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes/ground, or fresh chilli
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the tofu batter

  • 1 block of medium-firm tofu
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup cold soda water
  • 1 tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame seeds
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups vegetable oil, for frying
  • Thinly sliced green onions, to garnish
  • Toasted sesame seeds, to garnish

* Substitute wild honey for white granulated sugar or maple syrup for a vegan option.

METHOD

  1. Preparing the Tofu: If using tofu from a package, drain and cut into bite-sized cubes. Allow the cubes to sit on a clean tea towel or paper towel to get rid of any excess water. Set aside and in the meantime, prepare the sauce.
  2. Sweet & Sour Sauce: Mix the cornstarch and water in a small bowl. Set aside. Whisk all the sauce ingredients together (except for the garlic, ginger, and chilli), in a small mixing bowl as set aside.
  3. In a small saucepan, heat the vegetable oil over medium-low. Add the minced garlic, grated ginger, and chilli. Sauté for about 30 seconds, until golden and fragrant, being careful not to burn the garlic and ginger.
  4. Add the sauce mixture to the saucepan and whisk together until just bubbling. Once bubbling, whisk in the cornstarch and water mixture to the sauce. Continue to whisk frequently for 10 to 12 minutes until the sauce has thickened and reduced. Once done, remove from the heat and set aside while preparing the crispy tofu.
  5. Crispy Tofu: In a heavy-bottomed pot, heat the 3 cups of vegetable oil to about 180C to 185C (or 355F to 365F).
  6. Prepare the batter by whisking the flour, cornstarch, sea salt, garlic powder, sesame seeds, and black pepper in a large mixing bowl. Do not add the cold soda water until your frying oil is ready. When you’re ready to fry, stir in the cold soda water to the flour mixture and mix well. If the mixture is too thin, add a little bit more flour and combine. The batter should have a smooth and slightly thick consistency – like pancake batter. You want it to stick and coat the cubes of tofu.
  7. Place the tofu cubes in the batter and toss to coat evenly. Delicately drop each cube one at a time into the frying oil. Fry in batches of 5 to 6 pieces (more or less depending on the size of your pot), just be careful to not overcrowd the pot. Fry for 2 to 2.5 minutes, until golden. If some stick together, your can gently separate them in the frying oil using a slotted fryer spoon. Once done, let them sit on a paper towel to absorb the excess oil. Continue this process with the remaining tofu cubes.
  8. Serve: Heat up the sauce again if needed before serving. In 2 to 3 batches, you can evenly coat the crispy tofu with the sauce by tossing them together in a large bowl. Plate up, drizzle with a touch of sesame oil, and garnish with spring onion.
  9. Serve and enjoy immediately over steamed rice or any vegetables of your choice!

Crispy Sweet & Sour Tofu

Notes:
If you’d rather bake the tofu instead of frying for a healthier alternative, toss the cubes in about 2 tablespoons of cornstarch in a large bowl. Lay them out evenly on a large parchment-lined baking sheet and bake in a preheated oven (425F, 220C or gas mark 7), for 30 to 40 minutes, until crispy and golden brown. Finish by coating in warm sweet and sour sauce right before serving.

Crispy Sweet & Sour Tofu

BON APPÉTIT

– Ally xx

myTaste.com

Spicy Chipotle Vegetarian Mafalde Soup

Spicy Chipotle Vegetarian Mafalde Soup

Hello Everyone! Unfortunately it’s snap back to reality, (oh there goes gravity) for all (some?) of us. I hope everyone enjoyed their Christmas and New Year break, and y’all are ready to tackle what 2020 has in store for you! I’m going to keep the introduction short only because I saved a little something for last in this post for tonight. It has become a tradition that I do every beginning of year on the blog, for you guys to get the chance to know more about me on a personal level. So if you want to go ahead and read it, continue scrolling after you’ve had a read through the recipe of course!

Since towards the end of 2019, I have been slowly cutting down on my meat intake, specifically beef and pork (with very rare cheat/naughty days). I still ate chicken and seafood though and this year I am going to attempt to, if not completely cut out then, at least reduce my intake of chicken. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to fully go vegetarian, ever, but I think I can survive a couple of days a week of being completely vegetarian.

Spicy Chipotle Vegetarian Mafalde Soup

The original recipe by Rachael Ray over on Rachael Ray Mag, that inspired me to make and share this dish with you tonight is far from being vegetarian. I painfully ditched the ground beef and Italian sausages from the recipe and instead loaded the dish up with hearty and flavourful vegetables such as portobello or swiss brown mushrooms, eggplant, celery, and carrots. Just as delicious as Italian sausages *cries internally*! Of course, don’t forget to substitute the chicken stock out for veggie stock instead. However, if you’re a meat lover, then by all means go ahead and follow Rachael Ray’s recipe.

(Apologies, the intro ended up being much longer than I had anticipated when I said that I’d keep it short *cheeky grin*)

Spicy Chipotle Vegetarian Mafalde Soup Ingredients

PREP TIME 15 MINS | COOKING TIME 30 MINS | SERVES 4*

* Serves 4 as a main, 8 as a side dish or starter.

INGREDIENTS

For the soup

  • 250g Mafalde pasta**
  • 250g portobello or swiss brown mushrooms, sliced
  • 1L vegetable stock
  • 1 can (400g) whole tomatoes
  • 2 cups passata or tomato purée
  • 3 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, sliced or minced
  • 2-3 dried bay leaves
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 celery stalk, sliced
  • 1 large Lebanese eggplant, diced
  • 1 small carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 small red onion, sliced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the cheese mixture

  • 1 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream, or crème fraîche
  • Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

To garnish & serve with

  • Handful of fresh basil leaves, torn
  • Garlic bread, on the side

** Mafaldine, also known as Reginette or simply Mafalda or Mafalde, is a type of ribbon-shaped pasta. It is flat and wide, usually about 1cm in width, with wavy edges on both sides. It is prepared similarly to other ribbon-based pasta such as linguine and fettuccine. If not available in your local grocers, then by all means you can use lasagna sheets as stated in the original recipe, or any other shaped pasta.

METHOD

  1. Pasta: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook until a few minutes shy of the package directions. In my case, package states 13 minutes, so I cooked them for 10 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water, and then set aside.
  2. Cheese Mixture: In a medium-sized mixing bowl, mix the mascarpone, parm, and cream together. Season with a touch of salt and then set aside.
  3. Soup: In a soup pot or heavy duty Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium-high. Sauté the minced garlic until golden brown and fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the sliced onions and cook until soft, a further 30 to 45 seconds. Add the chopped celery stalks and carrots, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for a further 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and eggplant in together with the dried thyme, dried bay leaves, and chipotle peppers. Cook for a further minute.
  4. Pour the canned tomatoes, passata, and vegetable stock over the sautéd vegetables, and give it a good stir. Reduce the heat down to medium-low. Cover and leave to simmer for about 15 minutes to allow the flavours to meld. Check and stir occasionally. After about 15 minutes, add the cooked Mafalde pasta to the pot and cook until al dente, about 3 minutes.
  5. Serve: Once done transfer to individual soup bowls. Top each serving with a fat dollop of the cheese mixture and garnish with basil leaves.
  6. Serve with hot, steamy, and crusty garlic bread on the side. I used leftover wholemeal bread slices that was sitting in our pantry and made a garlic-malunggay butter spread for it. Enjoy!

Spicy Chipotle Vegetarian Mafalde Soup

Spicy Chipotle Vegetarian Mafalde Soup

BON APPÉTIT

Now as promised at the beginning of this post:

Most people make resolutions and either keep them or forget about them after the first month. I personally have never made any resolutions ever only because, knowing myself, I’d never stick to them. It was only until recently (two years ago to be exact), that I started living by an intention in mind on how I would go about to tackle the year ahead. Last year, it was to:

Go with the flow. Force nothing. Let it happen.
Trusting that whichever way it goes, it’s for the best.

Sometimes I scare myself for how true my intention played out for the year. I entered 2019 with challenges I hadn’t overcome from the previous year, and in time, with this intention I had set, I overcame those challenges. It may not have turned out the way I had originally planned, but I believe that it was for the best.

You see, when I left my job in Brunei, it was because I had a job waiting for me in Australia. Unfortunately I fell short when it came to acquiring a visa to go and work there. With that, I gave up my opportunity to go to Australia. I decided to just go with the flow and see where I’d go next; maybe Australia wasn’t meant for me. Just yet.

I decided to find work here in the Philippines. It wasn’t easy. I was unemployed for 7-8 months and running on the little savings that I had to support not only myself, but my Mom and my sister. It was hard because we were basically starting from scratch having just moved away for good from Brunei. I was starting to fall into a bad place, mentally. I questioned myself and my abilities. I questioned why I couldn’t land a job. Every interview I went to had such promising things to say, not only about my skills and abilities, but my personality as well. But I always fell short in the end. There was always the better candidate. But by God’s grace, I finally landed a job after more than a hundred applications. Finally someone who believed in my capabilities rather than being threatened by them.

I was finally back on my feet. But nothing, nothing. Nothing could have prepared me for the ultimate challenge that was unexpectedly thrown at me. The heavens gained a warm and kind-hearted angel. That angel is Mother. I’m not going to get into much detail on this topic, but all I can say is that it wasn’t until this that I realised why I ended up not going to Australia for work and landed a job here instead. It was so that I could spend the remaining time my Mom had left in this world with her, by her side, up to her last breath.

Towards the end of 2019 (actually just about 2 weeks ago), I was scrolling through Facebook one day and came across this post that my cousin shared:

2020

It really resonated with me. God did make me strong for the challenges I faced this 2019. Even though losing a loved one, especially a mother, comes with so much pain, He has already blessed me with a very unexpected gift before 2019 ended. So I believe and trust that He will push through with His plans for me, to make me happy for 2020.

And now I also truly believe that ending up here in the Philippines instead of going to Australia, was the for the best.

My goal for 2020 is to be happy, no matter what.

– Ally xx

myTaste.com

Auguest 2019: Ferreli Virtudazo

Vegetarian “Pulled Pork”

I’m Ferreli, the woman behind @acupofjasminerice. I started my account in 2016 as a form of creative outlet. I needed to do something different besides my corporate job. I can’t remember if I came up with that handle because acupofjasminetea was already taken or I was in a phase where I ate ONLY jasmine rice. Haha! For others I only post pictures of food; for me it’s a form of self-expression. It’s also putting myself out there as I reveal bits and pieces of me in the captions and engage with people who comment on my posts.

I started my love for cooking when I was very little. I could think back to the time I made pancakes with my grandmother and fried shrimp crackers with my mom. Those were my early memories of cooking. I think I was 5 years old then! As a child, it was all play. Now that I’m an adult, my perspective of cooking has evolved and so has my palate. These days, most of my posts are inspired by food trends. I take delight in recreating dishes I’ve seen on Youtube and Instagram.

Vegetarian “Pulled Pork”

I don’t recall who followed who but I remember that my initial interactions with Allison was with her “guess the next dish” on Instagram. I soooo take pride on my correct answers. Lol! I also couldn’t help but be amazed if I guessed it wrong. I’d go “Wow! I didn’t think of that!” I also like that she follows themes because being organized is important to me. I recently tried to be consistent with my themes as well.

I’m excited and honored to be one of her Au-guests. Her theme this month is about fruits and it’s something I can incorporate with food trends. I chose jackfruit or langka because it is gaining popularity stateside. Instead of making a local dish (I can only think of Ginataang Langka. Hehe.), I decided to go for Vegetarian Pulled Pork because it’s something new for me. I’ve found recipes as old as 3 years but I only got to see it on IG about a month ago or so. I’m calling it vegetarian instead of vegan because I’m not sure if the ingredients of the barbecue sauce are all plant-based.

I hope you enjoy making AND eating this dish as much as did. It’s easy to make and it’s something you can add to your #meatlessmonday entry 😉

Recipe adapted from:

Vegetarian “Pulled Pork”

PREP TIME 10 MINS | COOKING TIME 1 HOUR | SERVES 4

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 pack (approx. 350g) pre-sliced young jackfruit
  • 4 small red onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup barbecue sauce*
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil (or any cooking oil is fine)
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp brown sugar

*If you want to make a vegan version of this dish, you may source for plant-based barbecue sauce as a substitution.

METHOD

  1. Chop the young jackfruit to smaller pieces so the core gets broken down and the “flesh” appears to have the pulled pork texture.
  2. Heat oil in a large pan and sauté the onions and garlic until slightly softened.
  3. Add in the jackfruit, spices, and brown sugar. Mix well.
  4. Add in water and simmer for 30 minutes until the jackfruit is tender and the liquid has almost been absorbed.
  5. Mash the jackfruit with a masher (I don’t have any so I used a wooden spoon. Lol!) until you achieve your desired pulled pork texture and the liquid has fully evaporated.
  6. Coat the jackfruit in barbecue sauce and toss well.
  7. Let sit for 3-5 minutes to brown the jackfruit and to give it a charred appearance.
  8. Serve warm and enjoy!

Vegetarian “Pulled Pork” Sliders

After a number of taste tests, my coworkers have said it really tasted like pork. At the same time, they could tell that the last batch I made (pictured) didn’t have the pulled pork feel because I didn’t shred it enough. So, chopping the core and mashing it thoroughly is really important if you want to really go for the pulled pork “look and feel”.

In addition, I agree with several blogs that I’ve read that the barbecue sauce can make or break this dish. I recommend the smoky flavor kind. Some blogs would also suggest pairing it with coleslaw. I’m not into mayo though… My coworkers and I enjoyed eating it plain with pickled jalapeños or kimchi on the side. We also had fun having it as pulled pork sliders. We just packed it and the pickled veggies in a tiny dinner roll and gobbled it up in one bite. Haha!

Vegetarian “Pulled Pork” Sliders

Photo Courtesy & Recipe Copyright © 2019 | Ferreli Virtudazo

BON APPÉTIT

– Ferreli Virtudazo

myTaste.com

Asian-inspired Vegetarian Eggs Benedict

Asian-inspired Vegetarian Eggs Benedict

Hello Everyone! I hope everyone has had a good start to the week so far, and of course had a great weekend celebrating Mother’s Day! We celebrated by having a delicious brunch at Le Keris (again), as it is our new favourite go-to restaurant for fine dining quality food that’s super affordable. Other than that, the week hasn’t been all that exciting but at least I have the day off to look forward to tomorrow! It’s a public holiday for the first day of Ramadhan here in Brunei and I’m probably going to spend the day updating and planning Amcarmen’s Kitchen, and also whip up a storm in the kitchen – this is, if I don’t procrastinate or fall lazy by midday *cheeky grin*

Last week I mentioned how versatile one can get with a classic Eggs Benedict dish, and I also said that I will be covering the as many options as I can for this month of May. Tonight, I will be sharing an Asian-inspired Vegetarian Eggs Benny with everyone. I drew inspiration from Jenessa over on Jenessa’s Dinners so be sure to drop a visit to her site before continuing on with the recipe below!

Crispy firm tofu, topped with deliciously soft sautéed shimeji mushies in ginger, lemongrass, and garlic, accompanied with some Asian greens and pan-fried marinated eggplant in a sesame oil mixture, tied together with liquid gold and a tom yum hollandaise sauce – if this didn’t make your mouth water, then don’t talk to me. Of course, if you’re going to try this recipe out, you don’t have to restrict yourself to the ingredients I’ve chosen, or the type of cuisine that inspired this dish, pick your favourite veggies and cuisine to fuse together and I’m almost certain that you’ll come up with something just as (guilt-free) indulgent.

Asian-inspired Vegetarian Eggs Benedict Ingredients

PREP TIME 15 MINS | COOKING TIME 30 MINS | SERVES 3

INGREDIENTS

For the eggs benedict

  • 3 large free range eggs
  • 3 medium-size eggplant, sliced thinly lenghtwise
  • 3 pcs firm tofu
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 2 stalks lemongras, finely sliced
  • 1 bunch bok choy
  • 1 pack (250g) fresh shimeji mushrooms
  • Sesame oil
  • Thumb-sized fresh ginger, peeled and grates

For the tom yum hollandaise sauce

  • 3 large free range eggs, yolks separated
  • 175g unsalted butter, cut into cubes, at room temperature
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1-2 tsp tom yum paste*
  • Fresh Thyme Leaves
  • Ground salt and black pepper, to taste
  • Toasted sesame seeds, to garnish

*Adjust to your level of spice likeness

METHOD

  1. Crispy Tofu: Line a plate with a paper towel and set the tofu on top. Set a small plate on top of the tofu and weigh it down with something heavy, pressing to absorb the liquid – about 15 minutes. Remove the weight and drain off the excess liquid. Pat the tofu dry with more paper towels.
  2. Heat about a quarter cup of oil in a large frying pan over medium-high until the oil shimmers. It should not smoke. If you see a wisp of smoke, lower the heat slightly and immediately proceed with adding the tofu. Fry until all sides are golden and crispy, about 4-5 minutes. Once done, place on a cooling rack. Set aside.
  3. Vegetables: In the same frying pan, discard excess oil, leaving about a tablespoon. Sauté the garlic, ginger, and lemongrass until fragrant. Transfer half of the sautéed mixture to a small bowl with sesame oil.
  4. Add the shimeji mushrooms to the frying pan and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Season with a touch of salt and ground black pepper to taste. Once done, set aside.
  5. Brush the sesame oil mixture on each side of the eggplant slices and place in the frying pan to cook until soft, about 3-4 minutes per side.
  6. While the mushies and eggplants are going, bring a small pot of salted water to a boil and cook the bok choy for about 2 minutes. Once done, transfer to an iced water bath to stop the cooking process. Drain and set aside.
  7. Hollandaise Sauce: While the balsamic reduction is underway and slowly simmering, start on the Hollandaise sauce. Place a heatproof bowl over a medium saucepan that is quarter-filled with water. Make sure that the bowl should fit snugly into the pan without touching the water (lift the bowl to check and remove some water if it does). Bring the water to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to very low so the water is barely simmering (there should be almost no movement at all). It is important that the water is barely simmering while making the sauce – if it is too hot, the egg yolks will cook too much and the sauce will curdle.
  8. Place the egg yolks and the 2 tablespoons of water in the heatproof bowl and place over the pan. Whisk the mixture constantly for 3 minutes or until it is thick and pale, has doubled in volume and a ribbon trail forms when the whisk is lifted.
  9. Add the butter a cube at a time, whisking constantly and adding another cube when the previous one is incorporated completely (about 10 minutes to add it all in). If butter is added too quickly, it won’t mix easily with the egg yolks or the sauce may lose volume. At the same time, it is important that the butter is at room temperature and added a cube at a time, so that it doesn’t take too long to be incorporated – if the sauce cooks for too long, it can curdle.
  10. Remove the bowl from the pan and place on a heatproof surface. The cooked sauce should have the consistency of very lightly whisked thickened cream. Whisk in the lemon juice, tom yum paste, fresh thyme leaves, and season with salt and pepper.
  11. Poached Eggs: Bring small saucepan of water to the boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to low-medium – the water should be just simmering. Add in the vinegar and stir. Crack one egg into a small bowl and quickly, but gently pour it into the water. Repeat with the other egg. A really soft poached egg should take around 2 minutes, but if you want it a bit more firm, it will take about 4 minutes. To check if they’re cooked right, carefully remove the egg from the pan with a slotted spoon and give the yolk a gentle push (you can tell just by your instincts if it is under or over – or perfect)!
  12. Assembly: Top the crispy tofu with the sautéed mushies, followed by the poached egg. Place the bok choy to the side together with rolled slices of the eggplant. Drizzle the poached egg with a generous spoonful of the tom yum hollandaise sauce, with a bit of extra tom yum paste a top. Garnish with a pinch of toasted sesame seed. Serve and enjoy!

Asian-inspired Vegetarian Eggs Benedict

Asian-inspired Vegetarian Eggs Benedict

Of course you can plate it up any way you want, like incorporating the bok choy and eggplant slices into the stack. It’s up to you on where you creative plating skills will take you!

BON APPÉTIT

– Ally xx

myTaste.com

Risoni al Ratatouille

Risoni al Ratatouille

Risoni al Ratatouille

Hello Everyone! Today is the last day of Pasta Month; sad to be ending as I actually have a whole lot more pasta dishes that I want to try out, but also happy to move onto a new theme for next month! Just a heads up though – the likelihood of a theme not happening is quite possible. I did have a theme in mind, and I’ve already prepared and cooked two dishes for it in advanced, the only problem is getting two more made for next month’s theme is quite unlikely. I say this because I am heading off to the Philippines on Saturday for about a month! Because of that, I probably won’t have time to cook. I also will not be sure if I will have Internet connection during my stay there so the likelihood of me uploading content for the month of July might not happen as well. So I guess I’ll just see how it goes – if posting on my blog is a problem, then you can follow me over on Instagram @amcarmenskitchen to follow my food journey while I am in the Philippines – I’ll make sure to keep that up to speed 🙂

Anyway, so okay, the dish is not quite a Ratatouille (I just thought naming it for this post would make it sounds fancier than it looks, hehe) – more like it’s inspired by some of the vegetables used to make a ratatouille *cheeky grin* but nonetheless, it still tastes pretty good for something that I just “whipped up” with the ingredients lying in the fridge and the pantry. You can bulk this dish up by adding meat or seafood if you wish, but I decided to keep this dish vegetarian.

Risoni al Ratatouille Ingredients

PREP TIME 10 MINS | COOKING TIME 15 MINS | SERVES 6

INGREDIENTS

  • 500g risoni, or other shaped pasta
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2-3 red bird’s eye chilies, sliced
  • 2 medium-szied Lebanese eggplants, sliced into 1-inch thick chunks and then quartered
  • 1 medium-sized zucchini, sliced into 1-inch thick chunks and then quartered
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 punnet (125g) cherry tomato medley, sliced
  • 1/2 bunch asparagus, woody ends snapped off and cut into thirds
  • 1 tbsp baby capers, washed and drained
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice from 1 lemon
  • Ground sea salt and black pepper, to taste
  • Handful of grated parmesan cheese
  • Olive oil

METHOD

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Once boiling, add in the risoni pasta and cook according to packet instructions or until al dente (mine was about 11 minutes).
  2. While your pasta is cooking away, heat some olive oil in a large frying pan. Sauté the garlic and chilies until golden brown and fragrant, about a minute, and then add in the onions, cooking until soft for another minute or two.
  3. Add in the asparagus, together with the zucchini and eggplant, cooking until soft for about 6-7 minutes. Season with a bit of ground salt and black pepper. Add in the cherry tomatoes and leave to cook for a further 4-5 minutes. Lastly, add in the capers and then turn the heat off.
  4. Once the risoni is done, drain, and then return to the pot. Add in the stir-fried veggies to the pot with the risoni and then give it a good mix.
  5. Divide the risoni equally into 6 portions and then top with a generous handful of  grate parmesan cheese and some ground black pepper. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Risoni al Ratatouille

BON APPÉTIT

– Ally xx

myTaste.com

Iku Wholefood

Iku Wholefood believe that nutritious food is essential for good health and vitality: Food that is natural, wholesome, authentic, freshly prepared and tasty. The style of graphic content that they want push through on Facebook and other social media platforms, are Natural & Organic – which as advised from the founder of Iku, a lot of green, and wood textures. This is to conceptually portray the message that all their foods are dairy free, additive free, preservative free, animal free, and free from genetic modification.

Iku Wholefood Context


Examples of graphic works that I have created for Facebook and Instagram:
(Click on the images to see an enlarged version of the graphics)

Iku Wholefood: Myth Iku Wholefood: Fast, Healthy Food Iku Wholefood: Well Being Iku Wholefood: Ken Israel
Iku Wholefood: Breakfast Iku Wholefood: Raw or Cooked? Iku Wholefood: Quotes BW Richardson Iku Wholefood: Beans
Iku Wholefood: Food was created perfectly Iku Wholefood: What's your story? Iku Wholefood: Cold Pressed Juice Iku Wholefood: Balanced Diet

– Ally xx

SHUK North Bondi

Hello Everyone and welcome back to our final Review Sunday for the year! Your read that right, and if you were able to catch my review last Sunday, you would’ve already known that I am stopping Review Sundays for a while. I have pretty much covered all the restaurants and cafés that I have visited over the past few months when I was in Sydney, and I have not been café hopping since I got back to Brunei. Instead of reviews on Sundays, I will be posting some of my design work on the blog.

All that aside, let’s get down to the review! So I’ve been wanting to go to this place for a very long time now and have had many opportunities to visit, but was always shot down for various reasons. The first time I tried to come here was for a brunch outing with Jialing and Yvonne. Yvonne was feeling under the weather at that time and said that she didn’t want to travel so far for brunch. The second time I tried to go there was with Jialing and her boyfriend for lunch; shot down again because he didn’t want to go to a place that has anything to do and/or supports Israel – just some firm beliefs and political issues he has with the country. So for my farewell brunch, I didn’t let anyone tell me otherwise because this would be the very last opportunity I’d have to go to this place. So how I came to know about SHUK was purely by just discovering eating places that I have never been to before. I came across a lot of places, but SHUK really spoke out to me, especially their Isralei Breakfast.

So yes, as mentioned above, I invited a few of my very close friends to come out and have brunch under the beautiful winter sun. Amongst the people who came out to see me were Annie, Daniel, Edison, Greta, Kevin, and Sophia. I know, you’re probably asking, where’s Jialing and Yvonne? Something happened the night before where Jialing couldn’t make it to brunch that morning. Yvonne technically had no excuse, but still ended up waking up late and therefore did not make it to brunch. I did however see her for a bit after brunch.

“The place is unstoppable. It’s Israeli by heart, Mediterranean on paper, Bondi by postcode and very Australian in its multicultural scope.” — Ryan O’Kane in GoodFood.

This café, bakery, and deli draws inspiration from the Hebrew term SHUK, which means marketplace. SHUK is North Bondi’s own marketplace where the freshest produce and dishes offered promises a flavour of Israel mixed with modern favourites for locals and tourists alike. Their menu is directly influenced by Arabic, Turkish, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean cuisines, and of course is inspired by Israeli dishes that the owners of SHUK grew up with, sharing with us what they’ve learnt from their families back home.

ALL DAY

SHUK: Green Shakshuka
GREEN SHAKSHUKA: Baked eggs, fennel, zucchini , kale, caramelised onion, feta, olives, and sourdough ($16.00) with extra chorizo (+$3.50)

If I ever have the chance to go back again, I would definitely order this dish. It looks like it would taste really good, I mean, of course it tasted good according to my friends who ordered it and didn’t share one bite (I forgive you Kevin). Edison was too far away from me to share, because I know he’d share 🙂 It is also a healthy vegetarian dish if you minus the chorizo add ons on the other dish!

SHUK: Hummus & Lamb
HUMMUS AND LAMB: House made hummus with 8-hour slow cooked lamb, served with pickles, olives, bread, and zhug ($18.00)

This dish that Sophia ordered looked amazing, and even the combination of hummus and slow cooked lamb was hard to resist. On their menu you could have hummus and mushroom as another option, and I remember when Sophia ordered this, she asked our waitress, “I really like lamb, but I also like mushrooms, so I was wondering if I can have the hummus and lamb with mushrooms as well?” The waitress said she’d ask but by the looks of the photograph, I don’t think she got her mushrooms. Anyway, I had a bit of her dish and it was delicious. The lamb was tender and juicy, and the hummus complimented it well. I can’t remember if it was from her dish, or Kevin’s, but I remembered eating the olives from someones dish because they didn’t like it.

BREAKFAST

SHUK: Israeli Breakfast
ISRAELI BREAKFAST: 2 eggs of your choice, Israeli salad, olives, labn’e, butter, house jam, avocado, and yoghurt with granola ($21.00)

This was the dish that I ordered. To be honest, even though it look spectacular in front of me, served in a massive pan with little bowls of everything, that was all it was. Don’t get me wrong, it was a bad dish, it’s just that he flavours and everything were average and nothing really blew my socks off. Also, when I got the dish, I felt like something was missing; I had all these spreads but no bread to put it on, so I had to call a waiter and ask for some toast for my dish. I still liked this dish; I only wished it impressed me more.

SHUK: SHUK Porridge
SHUK PORRIDGE: Oats, puffed whole grains, banana, dulce de leche, and roasted nuts ($13.00)

Now I know Daniel to be quite health conscious, so it was no surprise that he’d go for this dish (well except for the fact that it has dulce de leche in it). Daniel was sitting across the table from me so it was hard to want to try a little bit of his dish. From where I was sitting though, he seemed to enjoy his porridge, but I think he was a little bit upset by the fact that he ordered some smoked salmon on the side. Why was he upset? The side was priced at $4.00, and he got a puny bowl of it.

SANDWICHES

SHUK: House Cured Salmon
HOUSE CURED SALMON: House cured salmon with sour cream & dill, pickled cucumber, and spinach on an Israeli roll ($13.00)

I’m surprised that even though Greta sat next to me, I didn’t get to try her roll at all, well only because it’s kind of hard to bite into someones sandwich I guess. I did ask her how her dish was and she said it was very good. She had actually been thinking of going to SHUK for some time as well and thanked me for choosing this place as it then gave her to opportunity to.

SPECIALS

SHUK: SHUK Special

I’m sorry but I completely forgot what this dish was – it was on their specials menu which meant that it wasn’t listed out on their regular menu. A little back story here, so one of my friends, Annie, who came late to the brunch, went inside the café and ordered this dish. When he dish came out, she told us that it was one of the specials that they had for that week. We never asked the waitress who served our table what the specials were, and frankly she didn’t think to mention it to us as well, so I guess it’s no one’s fault. Also, because of that, I didn’t know what dish she ordered, nor did I remember to ask her what dish she ordered. I think she mentioned it, but it’s been more than a month since I was at SHUK, so it has already slipped my mind. So I did have a bite of the burger, I believe it was beef, and one too many sweet potato fries *cheeky grin* The fries, to die for, and the burger patty was tender and juicy.

Overall, I’m actually quite impressed with the food served up at my farewell brunch. It was actually quite a packed Saturday morning when I got there, but I was able to snag a table within 5 minutes of arriving. I’m just glad that they didn’t kick me out of the table because I had to wait a good half hour for the next three people to arrive, and an hour for the rest to come. We basically had the table for an hour before we even started ordering… Oops! Besides that, they can accommodate quite a lot of people in their restaurant, both indoors and outdoors. The service was pretty good, the waiters and waitresses who served our table were quick with requests and food came out very quickly too I might add. I’d give ambience/environment and service a clear 8/10 for our experience that day. I must say that I was quite surprised that the food served was fairly priced, though I’m not sure if I’d pay $21.00 for the Israeli Breakfast, but other than that, the other dishes definitely looked like you got your money’s worth; 8/10. The food looked amazing and some impressed more than others; 8/10.

SHUK is open everyday for breakfast and lunch, and dinners on Friday and Saturday night until 10pm. If I ever find myself in Sydney again, I would definitely hit this place up again and try dishes from their lunch and dinner menu as they look very enticing. As to quote Greta on that day, “you should just keep coming back and leaving so that we’ll have endless farewells.” Thank you Greta! 🙂

SHUK North Bondi
2 Mitchell Street
North Bondi, New South Wales
Australia, 2026

– Ally xx

Celery & Green Apple Slaw

Celery & Green Apple Slaw

Hello Everyone! The story behind me attempting this recipe is that I always seem to struggle with celery. There are times where I’d buy a whole bunch for a dollar (on special) when the halves weren’t available or if they didn’t have the bags of pre-cut celery sticks. The thing with me and celery is that I only use it when I’m making a bolognese or minestrone soup. I rarely use it for any of my dishes. So half the time it sits in the fridge waiting to be use, and then eventually thrown out because it’s been sitting there for weeks, possibly months. I know, most of you are probably thinking that I could’ve just eat them like that with some sort of dip, but in all honesty, raw celery isn’t quite my thing. Again, another rabbit food moment here.

Celery & Green Apple Slaw

So, I bought a bag of celery sticks last week for a dish that will be posted next week, and before going out to do my weekly groceries, I jumped online and search for a recipe that I could make that included celery – yes, I was determined to not waste my bag of celery! I came across this recipe from Taste and I thought that I’d give this one a go. I know, when I thought about it and how I mentioned that “raw celery isn’t quite my thing”, and here I am attempting a raw celery slaw. Well, I thought it was about time that I gave raw celery a chance and it did not disappoint. Well to be honest I could’t distinctly pick out its taste, maybe because from the crème fraîche dressing, but the crispiness and freshness from both the celery and apple paired with the creamy sweet yet tangy dressing really made the dish exciting to my palette. Why did I not think of this sooner! All those celery sticks that went to waste…

Celery & Green Apple Slaw Ingredients

PREP TIME 20 MINS | COOKING TIME | SERVES 2-3

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 celery sticks, cut into matchsticks
  • 1 large green apple, cut into matchsticks
  • 100g Danish feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/3 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
  • 2 tbsp crème fraîche
  • 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 & 1/2 tbsp chopped fresh chives
  • Pinch of caster sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

METHOD

  1. In a small bowl, whisk the crème fraîche, lemon juice, sugar and chives in a small bowl. Season with a bit of salt and pepper.
  2. Plate up the celery and apple matchsticks in a deep dish. Pour the crème fraîche mixture over the celery and apples, and top with crumbled danish feta and walnuts. Serve!

Celery & Green Apple Slaw

If you want to add some protein or omega-3 to this fresh, light slaw, you can have some chicken on the side, or as what I’ve done is grill some salmon to go with this dish. Season with salt, pepper, and lemon juice, pop in the grill oven for about 5 to 7 minutes (for a thin portion as what I had), and serve!

Celery & Green Apple Slaw with Salmon

Celery & Green Apple Slaw with Salmon

BON APPÉTIT

– Ally xx

myTaste.com

Corn Salsa

Corn Salsa

Hello Everybody! Short post today as I have no long-winded back story for this dish. I just wanted something fresh on the plate to accompany my wings and this came into mind! Please do check out the original recipe here though by allrecipes once again.

Corn Salsa Ingredients

PREP TIME 10 MINS | COOKING TIME  SERVES 3-4

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 can (420g) sweet corn kernels, drained
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • Handful of rocket leaves
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Ground salt and pepper to taste

METHOD

  1. Add all the ingredients into a large bowl and toss together until well combined. Chill until ready to serve. Simple as that!

Corn Salsa

BON APPÉTIT

– Ally xx

myTaste.com