Friday, 29 November 2013

On vegetarians v.s. eating vegetables in Asia


In a few hours' time, I am going to be sleeping in a hammock, or maybe lazily reading Blood Bones and Butter (fabulous, do check out) while breathing the salty sea air and overdosing on vitamin D. #smugholidayface  I'm going on a little retreat and it's going to be amazing– the sun, the sand, the yoga... the ayurvedic vegetarian meals, yikes.

Thanks mum for worriedly asking if I should sneak some 'proper' food into my bag, but I'll do fine.

I don't have an issue with vegetables. I love vegetables– in fact, probably even more so than a vegetarian. I love my pork belly but I love the kale lying on the same plate just as much. I've always been brought up on the idea of a meal not being complete without vegetables (and rice, #asian). There never was any disguising of vegetables, no blended spinach chocolate smoothies or zucchini muffins. You just got used to seeing the colour green on the table. We were given vegetables, and surprise! the vegetables tasted good.

We could have a meal with just dishes of vegetables. There could be marrow, simmered with goji berries in a light pork stockaubergines, fried with sambal made with fermented shrimp paste; carrots, shredded and tossed in a sharp fish sauce-spiked dressing; bok choy, simply steamed and then drizzled with oyster sauce. I think you might have noticed something here. Nothing is vegetarian. (And that aubergines and carrots are not green, shush you get the point.)

"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." It's a pretty famous quote in a New York Times article by Michael Pollan in response to all those unhealthy/ crazy diets out there. I smiled when I read that for the first time, because it's exactly the way I eat, rather unintentionally (though I would also like to add "with delight, with friends, and with an extra squirt of chilli", and I don't do too well on the "not too much" all the time).

The sort-of-recipe here is a classic example of that. It's one of my mum's favourite ways with vegetables. This will work with almost anything, and the most boring white cabbage fried this way has me and my sisters chopsticks-fighting. The vegetable here is nai bai, similar to baby bok choy but with a white stem and crinkly leaves, but use whatever greens you like; I dare you to find me a vegetable that won't taste good fried this way, with copious amounts of crushed garlic and dried shrimps, and in good ol' healthy lard of course.



MUM'S VEGETABLE THING
serves 1(me) to 4 
Ingredients
500g nai bai, or choice of vegetable*
8 cloves garlic (yes.)
2 heaped tbsp dried shrimps
2 tbsp lard**
3- 4 tbsp of warm water
pinch of sea salt

Method
1. Soak the dried shrimps in the warm water for 10 min or till soft. Drain and save the soaking liquid it's bloody amazing and forms the stock for later.
2. Trim the bottoms of the nai bai, wash and dry well.
3. Mum pounds the garlic with the dried shrimp and a big pinch of salt in a mortar and pestle. This helps to release their flavour better in a quick stir-fry. You can also just mince very very finely.
3. Heat wok till smoking hot, then add the lard. Once lard is hot, add the garlic-shrimp mixture and stir-fry till fragrant, it will only take a few seconds.
4. Add the nai bai and stir-fry on high heat for a minute, before adding the soaking liquid*.  Continue frying until just withered. Plate up and eat straight away.

*if using a hardier vegetable like cabbage, after adding the soaking liquid, cover and let cook on medium heat till tender. Sweet pumpkinish squashes work extremely well too. 
**from happy pigs please



This is how you eat vegetables in Asia, or at the very least in my home – with lard, and with pleasure.

.. fingers crossed for the next few days.


p.s. Before anybody shoots me, "in Asia" is specific to the Chinese/ migrant Chinese communities in Southeast Asia, aka er, in my home. Muslims of course do not use lard, and certain Indian households do not even use anything that used to move– I am in awe.


Related reads
For the love of lard

Other non-vegetarian vegetable dishes
Killer sambal grilled aubergines
Sayur lodeh, a veg curry but better
Mum's marrow stew
Simmered kabocha squash 
Soon kueh, steamed turnip (gluten-free) dumplings
Cashew asparagus

38 comments:

  1. Fun photography! I love veggies, esp. when stir-fried with garlic!

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    1. Woo! Thanks Angie! My mum is queen of garlic ;)

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    2. SAYA INGIN BERBAGI CERITA KEPADA SEMUA ORANG BAHWA MUNKIN AKU ADALAH ORANG YANG PALING MISKIN DIDUNIA DAN SAYA HIDUP BERSAMA SUAMI YANG SAKIT-SAKITAN DAN 3 BUAH HATI SAYA SELAMA 10 TAHUN DAN 10 TAHUN ITU KAMI TIDAK PERNAH MERASAKAN YANG NAMANYA KEMEWAHAN,,SETIAP HARI SAYA SELALU MEMBANTIN TULANG UNTUK KELUARGA SAYA NAMUN ITU SEMUA TIDAK PERNAH CUKUP UNTUK KEBUTUHAN HIDUP KELUARGA SAYA..AKHIRNYA AKU PILIH JALAN TOGEL INI DAN SUDAH BANYAK PARA NORMAL YANG SAYA HUBUNGI NAMUN ITU SEMUA TIDAK PERNAH MEMBAWAKAN HASIL DAN DISITULAH AKU SEMPAT PUTUS ASAH AKHIRNYA ADA SEORANG TEMAN YANG MEMBERIKAN NOMOR AKII DEWA,,SAYA PIKIR TIDAK ADA SALAHNYA JUGA SAYA COBA LAGI UNTUK MENGHUBUNGI AKII DEWA DAN AKHIRNYA AKII DEWA MEMBERIKAN ANKA GHOIBNYA DAN ALHAMDULILLAH BERHASIL..KINI SAYA SANGAT BERSYUKUR MELIHAT KEHIDUPAN KELUARGA SAYA SUDAH JAUH LEBIH BAIK DARI SEBELUMNYA,DAN TANDA TERIMAH KASIH SAYA KEPADA AKII DEWA SETIAP SAYA DAPAT RUANGAN PASTI SAYA BERKOMENTAR TENTAN BELIAU…BAGI ANDA YANG INGIN SEPERTI SAYA SILAHKAN HUBUNGI 085=293=577=799 AKII DEWA

























      SAYA INGIN BERBAGI CERITA KEPADA SEMUA ORANG BAHWA MUNKIN AKU ADALAH ORANG YANG PALING MISKIN DIDUNIA DAN SAYA HIDUP BERSAMA SUAMI YANG SAKIT-SAKITAN DAN 3 BUAH HATI SAYA SELAMA 10 TAHUN DAN 10 TAHUN ITU KAMI TIDAK PERNAH MERASAKAN YANG NAMANYA KEMEWAHAN,,SETIAP HARI SAYA SELALU MEMBANTIN TULANG UNTUK KELUARGA SAYA NAMUN ITU SEMUA TIDAK PERNAH CUKUP UNTUK KEBUTUHAN HIDUP KELUARGA SAYA..AKHIRNYA AKU PILIH JALAN TOGEL INI DAN SUDAH BANYAK PARA NORMAL YANG SAYA HUBUNGI NAMUN ITU SEMUA TIDAK PERNAH MEMBAWAKAN HASIL DAN DISITULAH AKU SEMPAT PUTUS ASAH AKHIRNYA ADA SEORANG TEMAN YANG MEMBERIKAN NOMOR AKII DEWA,,SAYA PIKIR TIDAK ADA SALAHNYA JUGA SAYA COBA LAGI UNTUK MENGHUBUNGI AKII DEWA DAN AKHIRNYA AKII DEWA MEMBERIKAN ANKA GHOIBNYA DAN ALHAMDULILLAH BERHASIL..KINI SAYA SANGAT BERSYUKUR MELIHAT KEHIDUPAN KELUARGA SAYA SUDAH JAUH LEBIH BAIK DARI SEBELUMNYA,DAN TANDA TERIMAH KASIH SAYA KEPADA AKII DEWA SETIAP SAYA DAPAT RUANGAN PASTI SAYA BERKOMENTAR TENTAN BELIAU…BAGI ANDA YANG INGIN SEPERTI SAYA SILAHKAN HUBUNGI 085=293=577=799 AKII DEWA

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  2. I love the font you used in your photos. What font is that?

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    1. It's hannah's handwriting, I can't remember where I got it from though xx

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  3. Growing up I always loved the veggies on my plate as much as the meat and sometimes more so! No one ever had to hide vegetables from me. I love the hiding broccoli sketch and the fact that you got another line about lard in there to make me smile. :) Enjoy the retreat, I'm jealous. London is cold and drizzly. :(

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    1. Hi five Caz! I find the mums that sneak the veggies always end up having a harder time with the kids liking vegetables.. Lots of lardy love and sunshine from thailand ;) x

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  4. Yup, can relate! Which is why when I started eschewing meat as a teenager my parents hardly noticed (although all our stir fries had meat in, I just picked around the meat).

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    1. Ha! I almost tried going vegetarian once.. it didn't work for me. During that period, that's what I did too- easy!

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  5. I wish I could have my veggies like this everyday. My mum has them boiled and unseasoned for more than 10 years daily now, leaving only a few days a month for exceptions! And I agree, on those days, mere veggies can lead to chopstick wars hehe

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    1. Wha?! Oh no. Much as I love vegetables and can enjoy them simply boiled or even raw, a pinch of salt makes things so much better! Take over the kitchen girl ;)

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  6. We ate mostly vegetarian food when I was growing up and it took me a long time to appreciate *vegetables* treated well, not my grandmother's horrible cooking!

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    1. That's what I meant! I think people poo poo vegetables because they've just not been given veggies cooked in a way that makes you *want* to eat them! Glad you now love veggies :)

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  7. I love vegetarian food, love the way you captured it.

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    1. Thanks! I love vegetables > vegetarian food haha!

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  8. Saw this on your IG so I had to drop by to read the post. I'd use lard if I had some in my fridge but normally I settle with vegetable oil. Enjoying your vacation!

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    1. Thanks Yi! Glad you stopped by! My mum renders lard every week from the (free) bits of fat she gets from the butcher and in London, I've fallen into the habit of havign some lard in the fridge, always :)

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  9. Hell yeah, i can't live without veggies!
    i love to add szechuan peppercorn too within the garlic, dried shrim and lard( i guess i skipping this lately due to my weight issue)
    i love the way you present the food Shu, humbly fun!!!!

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    1. Woo! Thank you.Sounds mindblowing (literally. this is how szechuan peppercorn always makes me feel). I'll have to try that with my next shrimp-garlic-lard stirfry- thanks for the tip!

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  10. Still can't believe your mum cooks with lard. My dad says it's bad for the heart. haha. LOVE it. :) Simply and easy vegetarian food with a carnivorous attitude.

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    1. Haha she renders it every week or so from the free bits of fat she gets from the butcher. She is the original old-school cook man. Charcoal fire for stock, only one Chinese cleaver for everything, lard....

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  11. The dish looks fantastic and is a great example of the wonders Asian cuisine can make with vegetables (reminds me a bit of my recent discovery: cabbage stir fried with Sechuan peppers: also simple but so amazingly good). Cooking methods and time change completely the vegetables' taste (already the crunchiness of cauliflower or of French beans would do miracles for all the European vegetable haters), not to mention seasonings.
    My grandmother used lard in everything most of her life and she lived healthy for such a long long time... Lard is life :-)
    Enjoy your holidays and the book! (Thank you for the recommendation!).
    PS I have just come back from London... pity it was during your absence, but I will certainly be coming back (that is as soon as I recover from the financial catastrophe caused by clothes shopping I did there ;-) ).

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    1. Yes I saw that cabbage post! So simple but so amazing. And you are right about the textures too- I didn't write about that but that is so true! The wonderful mix of flavours and crunchy/tender textures is what makes an asian vegetable dish so delicious.
      Hurrah for you grandma!! Old-school to the max!
      The book is brilliant. I just finished it- such a wonderful cook AND writer- funny, dreamy, gritty, honest, sweary all at once.
      NO WAY YOU FINALLY GET TO LONDON WHEN I'M NOT AROUND?! Ha! See you soon back in london I hope x

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  12. Ha ha ha, so cute! Even just reading your recipe made me smile. Nice recipe and photos!

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    1. Thank you!! Your recipes always make me smile too :)

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  13. I just love your whimsical style, girl! Great post!

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  14. LOL at with lard and with pleasure. I love vegetables probably more than meat but I'll eat just about anything. :)

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    1. Hee hee! So many people eat veegtables out of obligation- it should be a thing of pleasure!

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  15. You're very witty! :) I've never used lard but my husband raves about it. I should really try it with my stir fry next time!

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    1. Thank you!! Yes you should :) Or any type of fat- really helps to add flavour, and also is much better than processed vegetable oils!

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  16. I love the title... "Vegetable Thing" :D. I wonder if that's the thing that always differentiates vegetables I've eaten in Chinese restaurants. Do they use lard? The flavour is always so much more rounded and full then when I try to recreate it at home!

    I hope you're having a good vacation Shu - where did you go?

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    1. A lot of Chinese restaurants nowadays just use processed vegetable oils, because it's way cheaper unfortunately. That flavour you're talking about is probably 'wok hei' a combination of VERY high heat (think industrial burners) and swift fast crazy badass chinese wok skills. There's an old post on that called 'secrets to a chinese stirfry' on my blog- do a search if you like! :)

      I'm having a wonderful time! I'm in Koh Phangan, Thailand. Finally finished my yoga course (ayurvedic yogic vegan meals, help!) and am now wandering the streets having grilled pork collar hehehe.

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  17. I love it! Two Christmases ago I dedicated a post to my mom's mushrooms and cauliflower sauteed in salt and butter and how my mom, a French Canadian, (and her mom before her), used copious amounts of fat to enhance the flavour of their omnivorous diet. French Canadian women, meanwhile, are indestructible :) -- I've got no problem with lard and I'm rather addicted to the fish and shrimp sauces I toss in to soups and stews... I still have to work on the "not too much" aspect of Pollan's mantra however - lol! I do love my food. Great looking vegetable thing Shu :o) - xo.

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    1. I need to do a search for that post! This is the way we do it in Asia, using lots of good healthy fats, and meat/ fish or meat/fish-derived sauces are used to enhance the flavour of the vegtables, rather than being the star of the show. And the French are brilliant at this too- how can I forget! Butter butter butter :) Hurrah for vegetables and a healthy dollop of fat!

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  18. Looks great. Killer plate too.

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    1. One day we need to get together just to compare plates

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  19. Hi Shu Han, excellent posting. Love your great sense of humour. This vege certainly look plain but with lard and dried shrimp... it sure taste great. :))

    Have a wonderful Sunday.

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