Monday, March 30, 2015

Rice Paper Rolls | Vietnamese Spring Rolls

Spring is Nature's way of saying 'Let's party'

This famous quote by Robin Williams is perfect for today. It is late March and now spring is officially here. There is color everywhere. The plants have varied flowers on them, the markets are filled with fresh vegetables and the days are filled with sunshine till late evening. Fun times are finally here!

The season and weather is perfect to enjoy these spring rolls. Rice paper films stuffed with mixed vegetables, noodles, stir-fried tofu and fresh mint leaves make these amazing rolls. The vegan rolls can be made from vegetables of your choice and tofu that is sauteed in chili oil and cooled. I have used Mung bean noodles, however you can use rice noodles or the regular noodles. Boil them and cool them before making the rolls. For the vegetables, you can use creamy avocados, crunchy carrots and cucumber or some peppers to get a little spicy kick.

The first time I had these rolls was when my Asian friend invited us for dinner and made a ton of these wonderful and filling rolls. She also made an amazing hoisin peanut sauce to go with it and the meal was an amazing time we had. I have been wanting to make these rolls for a while, and finally made them for dinner one night. I made the rolls and a spicy peanut sauce to go with it. You must try it for a week night dinner too. It is time to spring into spring with these colorful and healthy vegan Vietnamese rolls!


For the Rolls
Rice Paper 12
Firm Tofu 1 packet
Napa Cabbage 1/2 bunch
Carrots 2 medium
Bok Choy 1 bunch
Mung bean noodles 1 cup
Bean Sprouts 1 cup
Fresh Mint leaves 1/4 cup
Chili Oil or vegetable oil 1 tsp
Warm Water

For the Peanut Dipping Sauce
Peanut butter 1/2 cup
Sriracha Garlic Sauce 1/2 cup
Minced Garlic 2-3 cloves
Vinegar 2 tbsp
Soy Sauce 2 tbsp


For the Rolls
Remove the tofu block from it's packet and press it between a couple of kitchen towels to squeeze out all the water. Once the water is out, cut the tofu into long square logs of 1 cm thickness. Heat oil in a pan and saute the tofu pieces in it. Add some chinese salt or regular salt-pepper. Ensure that the pieces are golden brown on all sides. Set aside.

Remove the leaves of napa cabbage from the bunch and cut a wedge to remove the thick stalk. Peel and cut the carrots into julienne. Separate the bok choy leaves. Wash and drain the bean sprouts. Cook the mung noodles in warm water with a pinch of salt. You may use any other noodles of your choice. Also, you can replace or add any other vegetables of your choice. 

Keep all the vegetables ready before you start making the rolls. These rolls cannot be heated as the rice paper will wilt. To make the rolls, keep all the vegetables and tofu together, heat water and place in a bowl that is wide enough to dip the rice paper. 

Dip the rice paper in warm water and place it on the working area. Place the cabbage leaf on one side of the paper. On it, place tofu, carrots, bok choy and bean sprouts. Add a couple of mint leaves on it. Mint is the ingredient that brings in the freshness to these rolls. Fold two sides of the rice paper and then make tight rolls from the rice paper. 

The rolls can stick to each other, so place a cabbage leaf between two rolls to store. Serve the rolls with the peanut dipping sauce.

For the peanut dipping sauce
In a large bowl, mix peanut butter with some water. Once the mixture is homogenized, add vinegar, sriracha sauce and soy sauce. Add the garlic pieces and mix well. The dipping sauce is ready. You can add some chili oil to make the sauce spicy.

Enjoy it with a bowl of Asian Ginger Broth. A complete meal!!

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Kale Muthiya | Kale Dumpling Rolls

It is officially Spring and I am loving the colorful vegetables in the market. It is a delight to enjoy the summer vegetables before summer starts heating up everything. To kick off spring cooking, I decided to start with Kale. Kale is very high in beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, and rich in calcium. Kale is a source of two carotenoids, luteinand zeaxanthin. Kale, as with broccoli and other brassicas, contains sulforaphane (particularly when chopped or minced), a chemical with potent anti-cancer properties. Boiling decreases the level of sulforaphane; however, steaming, microwaving, or stir frying does not result in significant loss. Who doesn't know all this?? It is directly picked up from Wikipedia ;)

So, apart from the obvious benefits of kale, I decided to use it in this dish to get a different flavor in the traditional Muthiya. Generally people prefer to use bottle gourd or fenugreek leaves or radish in this snack. But I had a big bunch of kale beaming at me every time I opened the refrigerator and I thought this recipe would be the best way to finish the bunch all at once. What emerged was a very tasty and flavorful dish and we loved it. 

As you have read above, kale is best consumed when boiled and I did the same. Season kale with indian spices and steam these rolls. Enjoy them hot with a tablespoon of oil drizzled on them or cool them and temper them. They taste amazing both ways!!

Whole wheat flour 2 cups
Kale leaves 1 bunch
Ginger Chilli Garlic Paste 2 tbsp
Spices: Red Chilli powder, Turmeric Powder, Asafoetida, Carrom seeds 
Salt, Sugar, Lime Juice
Yogurt 1/2 cup
Oil and water to knead the dough

For the tempering
Mustard seeds, Cumin seeds, sesame seeds
Green Chilli
Curry leaves

Wash and finely chop the kale leaves. Discard the thick stems from the leaves. Sprinkle salt on the chopped leaves and let it rest for 5-10 minutes. Squeeze out all the water from kale after ten minutes and reserve the water. Add the ginger garlic and chilli paste to the kale and mix well. Add sugar, red chilli powder, turmeric powder, asafoetida, carrom seeds, lime juice, yogurt, oil and mix well. Next, mix in the flour and make a firm dough. If water is required, add it from the amount kept reserved from the squeezed kale. Adjust the salt as required.

Line a steamer dish with oil and place it in the steamer with water below it. Heat the steamer till the water just start boiling. Divide the dough into 6 equal parts and roll it into a cylindrical shape with your palms. Apply oil on the palms if the dough sticks. Place these muthiyas in the steamer leaving some space between them to allow expansion on steaming. In case you do not have a steamer, heat water in a large vessel like a pressure cooker and place a sieve on it. 

Steam the muthiya for 20-22 minutes, on medium flame. Ensure the whistle is not used to steam them, incase you are using a pressure cooker. Open the steamer and check with an inserted toothpick if the muthiya is cooked. Remove from flame and let them cool. It is very important for them to cool completely before cutting it into pieces. 

Once cool, divide each piece into smaller sections and set aside. In a large wok, heat oil. Add mustard seeds and let them splutter. Next add the green chilli, curry leaves and sesame seeds. Once it all splutters, add the muthiya pieces and mix well. Let the muthiya brown a little bit before turning down the flame. Top with cilantro and serve with chutney and Masala Chai.

Want to try a different flavor of muthia? Try these bottle gourd or dudhi muthiyas.

Mini Bundt Cakes with Cream Cheese Icing

The month long world cup is finally drawing to a close with New Zealand qualified in the finals and the semi-final between India and Australia is happening today. Hoping that India makes it through to the finals and makes the famous hashtag of recent times #wontgiveitback and the advertisement series of 'mauka' come true!! 

In order to cheer the Indian cricket team, I decided to bake a cake in the indian colors. I thought of a few options like white cake with blue icing, blue cake with white icing and few more. However, I finally decided to make small bundt cakes, light blue colored cakes with sky blue icing. The same method works for all colors, and if you want to eliminate the colors, make them white on white with a vanilla flavor. 

The cake recipe for this one is a basic cake recipe, with proportions adjusted to make just four 6-inch bundt cakes. The icing for these cakes is made with cream cheese, mixed with some heavy whipping cream and sky blue icing color. so enjoy this cake while watching the match, or make them to celebrate any other occasion! these cuties are always a pleasure to make and a treat to have.


For the cupcakes

All purpose flour 1 cup
Confectioner's Sugar (Powdered Sugar) 3/4 cup
Baking Soda 1/2 tsp
Baking Powder 3/4 tsp
Salt 1/4 tsp
Eggs 2 medium
Vegetable Oil 1/3 cup
Vanilla Extract 2 tsp
Buttermilk 1/2 cup (check the end of the post)
Blue Food Color a pinch

For the icing

Confectioner's Sugar 1/2 cup

Heavy Whipping Cream 1/4 cup
Cream Cheese 1/2 cup

Vanilla Extract 2 tsp

Blue Icing Color a pinch


Baking the Cupcakes

In a large mixing bowl whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt to form a homogeneous mixture. Set aside. In another mixing bowl whisk sugar with eggs, oil and a pinch of blue color. Add vanilla extract and homogenize into a smooth mixture.

Pour half the wet mixture and half the buttermilk into the dry ingredients and whisk. Once combined, repeat with the remaining mixture and buttermilk and whisk on medium speed to form a smooth paste. The mixture might be flowy, but that is how it is supposed to be!

Preheat oven to 350 F and grease four 6 inch bundt cake pans with cooking spray or vegetable oil. Divide the mixture equally among the bundt cake molds, filling only upto 2/3rd of the mold as the cake will rise on baking. Bake the cakes for 15 minutes. Test with a toothpick, if it comes out clean, the cakes are done. The outer side of the cake will be light brown in color while the inside will be light blue. You may choose to add any color of your choice. I chose blue to go with the India's world cup color. You may choose to skip the color completely too. It will be a vanilla cake then.

These bundt cakes can be enjoyed just like this with a glass of milk. You may choose to top it with royal icing or with cream cheese and heavy whipping cream icing as described below.

For the Icing
Whisk together the cream cheese and sugar till it becomes fluffy. Once soft, add heavy whipping cream, vanilla extract and the blue icing color. Mix well till the icing becomes evenly colored. Start by adding just a pinch of color and increase the quantity of color if desired. You may choose another color of your choice, and skipping the color completely will yield vanilla icing. The bundt cakes do not need very firm icing as the icing has to be poured over the cake. Once the icing is evenly colored, pour it over the cakes. You may choose to add a few sprinkles on it.

P.S.: Buttermilk can be made by mixing half cup milk and 2 tsp vinegar and letting it stand for 5 minutes before using it.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Spicy Orange Tofu

Ever since I have moved to San Francisco, I have tried various cuisines for the first time and Vegan happens to be at the top of my list. Being a vegetarian, I never felt the desire or urge to try any meat. However, I used to often look at the fancy names of non-vegetarian dishes on restaurant menus and wonder if they could be made vegetarian because I found the sauce interesting. 

Orange Chicken is one such dish. I remember reading the description on a menu: Succulent pieces of chicken served in a spicy orange sauce. I always thought it sounded super cool to cook with orange juice!! However I wasn't sure what to replace chicken with. My confusion was solved recently, when I went to a Vegan restaurant and ordered orange chicken a.k.a orange tofu.

I have never tasted the original orange chicken, however I loved the way this restaurant made orange tofu and served it on a bed of fried rice. I tried to vary a couple of things from that recipe to make it my own. I used clementines to make the sauce and about 3-4 of them should be enough for 1/2 cup juice. I used 3/4 of the clementine to get enough zest for the dish and the garnish. This may not be the original recipe to make orange chicken the vegan way, but if definitely is super awesome in taste and we love it this way!

Firm Tofu 1 packet (14 oz)
Garlic 3-4 cloves
Ginger 1 inch piece
Green Chili 1-2
Green Peppers 1 cup
Spring Onion 1/2 cup
Vegetable Oil 1 tsp
Chili Oil 1/2 tsp
Salt, Pepper powder

For the Sauce
Orange Juice 1/2 cup
Orange Zest 2 tsp
Soy Sauce, Vinegar
Sriracha Garlic Sauce 2 tbsp
Corn Starch 1-2 tsp

Drain and press tofu between a couple of kitchen towels and place a weight on it, so that the water drains out. Cut the tofu into equal size pieces and set aside. For the sauce, mix the sauces and corn starch in 1/4 cup water.

In a pan, heat the chili oil and place the tofu pieces. Keep the tofu pieces on the pan till they turn golden brown and then turn the pieces over. Move the pieces to the edge of the pan and add the oil in the centre. Once hot, add minced garlic and ginger. Once the raw flavor goes, add green chili and green peppers. Cook till the peppers are soft.

Next, add the sauce to tofu and mix well. Add the orange juice and zest mix everything well. Let the sauce thicken and become little glossy. Add salt and pepper powder and adjust the taste with Sriracha sauce. Turn down the flame and season with spring onions and orange zest pieces. Serve with Fried Rice, Quinoa Fried Rice or Chili Garlic Noodles

Looking for other Indo-Chinese main courses? Try this Tofu in Chili Garlic Sauce or Babycorn Chili.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Thai Lemongrass Soup

By far the best fragrance from the kitchen is the one we get while baking a cake or bread. In my opinion, the smell of a gingery and lemony broth simmering away does not fall far behind. The fresh smell of lemongrass combined with the sweet smell of basil and cilantro is indeed a great one. I love this fragrance to fill my kitchen pretty often.

Okay, moving on from the fragrances to the recipe. This recipe is not the authentic Thai lemongrass Soup, but has my variations to it. You may or may not get Galangal in the area you reside, so I have used Ginger instead. Do not find Kafir Lime leaves? No problem, just give them a miss! The taste is not greatly compromised. I have made a lemongrass and cilantro basil broth for this soup, which can be made ahead of time and refrigerated. Used common  vegetables like carrots, broccoli, cabbage along with some firm tofu. You may add or subtract anything that you particularly like or dislike.

This soup is not only refreshing and healthy, but also hot and comforting, and you can easily make it spicy using chili oil if you please. Make it for a weeknight dinner and team it with something like Pad Thai Noodles or Pineapple Fried Rice and your simple Thai menu is ready. 

For the Broth
Lemongrass stalk 2
Lemon  zest 2 tsp
Cilantro stalks 1/2 a bunch
Basil few leaves
Garlic 2 cloves
Galangal/ Ginger 1 inch
Whole Black pepper 

For the Soup
Firm Tofu 1/2 cup
Vegetables (Mushroom, Carrots, Zucchini, Bean Sprouts, Broccoli, Cabbage)
Garlic 2-3 cloves, diced
Ginger 1 inch
Oil 1 tbsp
Salt, Pepper powder, Lemon Juice
Cilantro, Basil

For the Broth
Wash the lemongrass stalks, cilantro stalks, ginger and basil leaves. Roughly chop the lemongrass, cilantro stalks and cut peeled garlic and ginger into half. In a thick bottom pan boil 3-4 cups of water and add a pinch of salt and few whole black pepper seeds. Once the water boils, add ginger, garlic, lemongrass, cilantro and basil. Boil the broth on low-medium heat for at least 20-25 minutes. The flavor of the broth will enhance when it is boiled on low heat for a long time. The more you let it simmer, the tastier the broth will be. Once the water reduces to half, turn down the flame and add the lemon zest. Let the broth stand for sometime. Once cool, strain the broth and set aside.

For the Soup
In a pan, heat the oil and add garlic and ginger/galangal. Saute for a couple of minutes till the raw smell goes away. Next, add the vegetables and mix well. Season with little salt and let the vegetables cook. I like to use mushrooms, zucchini, bean sprouts, carrots, broccoli and cabbage, however you can use other vegetables like cauliflower, french beans etc too. 

Depending on how crunchy or soft you like the vegetables, cook them over medium heat. Once they are a little soft, add the tofu and the broth. Season with pepper powder and adjust the salt. You might want to add some water to mild down the soup. Bring the soup to a boil and turn down the flame. Add lemon juice and finely chopped cilantro and basil. Serve warm.

Want to try another flavorful broth? Try this Asian Ginger Broth.

Love Thai food? Try this Pineapple Fried Rice and Pad Thai Noodles.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Moong Sprouts Bhel | Sprouts Salad

Hosting a Chaat party? Want to include an unconventional Chaat? On a diet and want to skip the fried Puri, Rice kurmura and still have a bhel? The answer to all these questions and a few more is this Sprouts Bhel. A portion size enough to serve four, it is made with 1 tsp of oil and topped with little sev which too can be done away with! If you like, add some spicy mint chutney and some sweet Imli chutney and serve with a flat puri to complete the Bhel experience. Want to serve it with a baked Puri? Find the recipe here.

Not just as a Chaat, I love this dish as a salad too. Just add an extra dash of lime juice and serve it as a salad. It makes a great dish and can be made in less than ten minutes once you have the sprouts ready. I make it with just moong sprouts, but you could very well go ahead and add mixed sprouts to it. Making this dish makes me believe that salads can be tasty, even without the unnecessary sauces that are so full of calories!! Try this out soon, it is a great way to break free from repetitive salads and chaat ideas.

Moong 2 cups
Onion 1 medium, diced
Tomato 1 medium, diced
Carrot 1 medium, diced
Cucumber 1 medium, diced
Thin sev
Chaat Masala
Salt, Pepper, Lime Juice
Oil 1 tsp
Cumin seeds

Using 2 cups Moong and following the method mentioned here, make Moong Sprouts.

In a microwave safe bowl, add 1 1/2 cup water and a pinch of salt. Add the sprouts and microwave for 2-3 minutes. Drain water and set sprouts aside. In a pan heat oil and add some cumin seeds. Once they pop, add the sprouts. Let the sprouts saute for a couple of minutes, and then adjust the salt and also add the Chaat Masala. Mix well and turn down the flame.

In a mixing bowl, add diced onions, tomatoes, cucumber and carrots. Add some salt, pepper powder and lime juice. Mix well. Now add the sprouts, and homogenize the mixture. Remove in serving bowls, add some thin sev on top and garnish with Cilantro.

This dish can be enjoyed as an appetizer or snack. It can also replace the conventional Bhel in a Chaat party. Made with just 1 tsp of oil, the portion is enough to serve four people as an appetizer.

Have extra sprouts? Try this amazing Brown Rice and Sprouts Pulao.

Still craving for Bhel? Try it here: Bhel Puri