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.

KALE FRIED HOR FUN
with chill and miso
Serves 2
Ingredients
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

Method
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.

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

Method
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)


22 comments:

  1. You are so right. When it comes to a healthy diet, balance is the key to getting it right.
    LOVE LOVE LOVE kale! They are so tasty, even raw! I actually made a Shirataki stirfry with just kale and chilli sauce last month. I love your version mixed with beansprouts too.
    Have a wonderful weekend, Shu Han!
    Angie

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    1. Thanks Angie :) I used to freak out over what was healthy and what was not. It was really liberating to be able to let go of that mindset!

      Your version sounds delicious Angie! Love shitataki noodles :)

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  2. well said love your approach to food, this looks delicious

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    1. Thanks Rebecca! It took many crazy years to find that out ;)

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  3. Beautiful recipe. It feels so clean if you know what I mean. Great blog post!

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    1. Yes totally! And thanks Dom, means a lot to hear that coming from you!

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  4. I attended an amazing event at their meeting rooms and I ate more than I should. I had bread pudding, apple crisp, waffles and strawberries and cream. Do I need to go on?

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  5. I completely agree with your approach to food Shu Han and this recipe captures your sentiments perfectly. Simple, clean ingredients. It looks so tasty and you know I love anything with kale!

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    1. Thanks Caz :) It took me many years of strict eating and craziness to figure that out!
      And yes I know you love all things kale! Try this one next! x

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  6. hor fun is a new word for me! I believe in eating everything in moderation :)

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    1. It is a cute word now that I think about it! And good to know you feel the same :)

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  7. I have never tried a diet, but I have definitely had extremely unhealthy eating habits. I went vegetarian for half a year and lived off of pasta and fries...like that gives me any kind of nutrients...
    But this looks so good! If only I saw this when I was vegetarian.. I would have been so much healthier!

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    1. I wish someone said something like that to me too when I was being confused and experimental. Great to see you've discovered a way of eating you're happy with now :D Love your food! x

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  8. Not you!!!! When I saw the title I thought I have mixed up blogs ;-) Seriously, I have tried cooking kale... but I really don't like it. I must admit your dish does look very tempting though!
    I think that every food product is healthy, but some just have to be limited... On the other hand, what is called "balanced diet" is sometimes not working if one wants to keep the same looks. Healthy doesn't mean slim and some people are happy only when slim... Even if you have a healthy diet, don't stuff yourself, don't eat fast food, etc. you might discover one day that you regularly put on weight (especially after the age of 30 or 35 when for many women metabolism slows down, but portions stay the same...). The thing is that being healthy or eating healthy doesn't make us automatically happy... and the happiness is what counts, so I think everyone should try to adapt the way she or he eats to their own needs or dreams.

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    1. HAHA! Do't worry, not me at all ;) Not about to jump on that bandwagon too. Though I do love kale. I love most dark leafy greens!
      You are so right Sissi! I think people overlook the mental aspect of health when they pursue the physical aspect too much. I would even argue the metal/ emotion side of things are way more important. That's why I love your blog Sissi! Great balance always of nice and naughty x

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  9. This resonates with me more than I'd like to admit, Shu! I still have a few dusty raw vegan cookbooks sitting somewhere back home...now I tend to scoff at the thought of that era in my kitchen, but in retrospect it made me a much more creative and curious cook—all those restrictions were like restraints when working with an unfamiliar brief. Anyway, I'm relieved that both of us have walked through the fire and emerged with cake fork in hand!
    Anyway, the part of your post that resonated with me the very most: "Smell it right now- it should make you cry." Brilliant. Hope you're doing well out there in the real world xx

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    1. I have a feeling this resonates with many people, more than they would like to admit! I didn't know that you went through a similar phase (or phases), but whatever it is, glad you're over it. I don't regret it either because I learnt so much about food and preparing it in very unconventional ways, and at the end of the day made me more conscious about the food choices I make. Even if it is "I consciously choose this fat slice of chocolate cake, mmmm"!

      I'm well thank you! Hope you are too! Good luck with uni it gets pretty scary when you know you're about to graduate but I trust you will be more than fine xx

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  10. This sounds lovely. I do have to agree with you, I love food and I eat 'real' food; I can never say no to a slice of cake!

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    1. Have been following your blog for ages so I think we both agree on our approach to food! Cheers Caroline x

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  11. everything in moderation and this just looks delicious!

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