Friday, 30 January 2015

'Vegan, Gluten-free' Kale Fried Hor Fun, and my 2 cents on diets

I planned this to go out at the start of January, when words like 'detox', 'diet' and '(insert latest criminal ingredient)-free' are flying around. Work caught up with me though, so here I am posting this at the end of the month, hopefully when people are starting to falter a little bit on that perfect New Year New You diet.

I am a big health freak, though many of the green-juicing, bike-cycling ashtanga yogis out there would probably raise an eyebrow at the way I eat. (No offence, I do all of the above too.) We can generally agree that those who survive mainly on fast food, takeaways, and microwaveable meals could improve their eating habits. But beyond that, things get confusing. I don't think I've admitted it on this blog yet, but like many health-obsessed teenage girls out there, I've yo yo-ed through a few of these diets myself. There was a period in my life when I was experimenting with the 'healthiest' way to eat and I have done them all– from paleo to raw vegan–and only ended up unhappy, unhealthy, and hungry for whatever it was I was cutting out. It took me a while to end up back at square one, eating the food that I grew up with. I eat everything now and most of all, I love what I eat.

It's because I love food so much that I insist it should come from a real source, made or grown by people who actually care about it; and if it does come off a shelf (still need my fish sauce and rice noodles #asian), to have real ingredients and as little ingredients as possible. Beyond that, there are no hard rules. I've rambled more about how I aim to eat most of the time when I first started the blog (and when I was more anal) on the How to Eat and Golden Rules page, if you can stomach it. But there are days when I just need a fat slice of chocolate cake and that's fine; because stressing out about unhealthy food is more unhealthy than just eating it.

Before I go on, I would like to say I'm not pushing for an ideal way of eating. I have plenty of friends who don't eat meat, friends who don't eat carbs, and friends who don't eat beyond 500 calories two days of the week– and I've eaten some great food prepared by them. I think there are lots of great takeaways from all diets, but I don't subscribe to the idea of restricting calories and/or any food groups. I do think everybody's body is different and it's up to you to work out what makes you feel best.

This fried hor fun recipe was something I made for an Indian friend who's grown up vegetarian due to religion. It was through her that I learnt a lot about natural sources of plant protein from vegetables like kale and sprouted/ fermented beans (during my vegan phase). It is gluten-free and vegan but I would rather not think of it as such. It was delicious. And that was it.

with chill and miso
Serves 2
300g fresh hor fun (fresh flat rice noodles)
1 bunch of kale
2 handfuls of beansprouts
1 tbsp chilli garlic paste (see below)
1 tbsp white miso 
1 tbsp good, naturally fermented soy sauce
2 tbsp kecap manis*
3 tbsp groundnut oil
4 shallots, minced
1 tsp sesame oil

1.  Rinse the hor fun and drain well. Rinse the beansprouts and if you can be bothered, trim them.
2. Combine the miso, chilli garlic paste, light soy sauce and kecap manis.
3. Heat the oil in a wok until smoking hot then add the shallots to fry, stirring quickly to prevent them from burning. Once fragrant, add the hor fun and kale and stir-fry for a few minutes, till the kale just begins to wilt. Pour in the seasoning mixture and stir well to make sure everything is well-coated with the sauces. Continue stir-frying for 4-5 minutes till the noodles are lightly charred.
4. Add the beansprouts and sesame oil and give everything a few final tosses to combine. Cook for another minute or so; the beansprouts should still be crunchy. Serve immediately.

*This is sweet dark soy sauce. The range available here is very limited and most of them have nasty additives. I cracked it by combining equal quantities of good soy sauce and molasses. 


This is a good one for the pantry. I make loads and use for cooking/ dipping.

makes about 1/2 cup
150g red Serrano chillies
4 cloves garlic
1 1/2 tbsp white rice vinegar
big pinches of salt
2 tbsp unrefined brown sugar

Place all the ingredients in the food processor and pulse till you get a coarse texture. Smell it right now- it should make you cry. Bring everything to a boil in a pot, then lower the heat to a gentle simmer and cook for about 5 minutes or until it no longer smells raw. Season with salt and sugar, adjusting quantities to taste. Let cool, then pour into jar or squeezy bottles. Keeps for a month in the fridge.

There is a version of this in every Asian country– fresh rice noodles, tossed into a wok with aromatics and a blend of salty, sweet and sometimes sour and spicy sauces. Instead of using tamarind/ fish sauce (a la pad thai), or oyster sauce (ala the Cantonese), I've gone for a combination of fermented soy sauces/ paste.

This recipe is incredibly versatile, what I like to think of as a 'base recipe'. Come summer I'll probably swop the kale for sweet sugar snap peas and beans. You can also change things up by using sambal tumis belachan instead of chilli garlic paste. On days when I feel like some meat, I'll add thin slices of pork shoulder or beef to the dish, marinated first in the seasoning mixture with a little dash of rice wine. I might even fry this with a healthy dose of lard. And it will be no less 'healthy' or delicious. 

More health reads
How to Eat (listen to your mummy)
My Golden Rules (how I aim to eat mostly)
Detoxing is a myth (via Guardian)
Saturated fat is healthy (via Independent)