Okara Scones

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The thing about making your own soya milk is that you have a constant supply of okara (the soya bean pulp left over once the milk has been made). It’s a great source of both fibre and protein, so I never throw it away. Instead, I make all sorts of things with it, both savoury and sweet.

My most recent creation was these delicious vegan scones – the addition of okara ensures that they are really moist and also nutrient rich. In fact, you can just about convince yourself that they’re a necessary element of a healthy, balanced diet. You have to eat one; you’re doing it for your health, after all.

The recipe is really simple:

8 oz wholemeal flour + extra, as needed, until you hava a workable dough

1 batch of okara (approx. 8oz)

2 tsp baking powder

2 oz brown sugar

2 tsp cinnamon powder

Handul of raisins

Soya milk as needed to mix it all into a dough

Combine all the ingredients, get a dough that isn’t too sticky to handle, and then cut into fairly thick rounds. Bake in the oven at about 180 degrees C for around 20 minutes or so. And there you have it: delicious scones that are almost good for you!

They keep really well in the fridge/freezer. I also find them particularly delicious when toasted and spread with raspberry jam.

Chân Nguyên: Macrobiotics, anyone?

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96H Võ Thị Sáu, Q1 (tel: 38251659)

184 Nguyễn Thiện Thuật, Q3 (tel: 22422951)

There’s a great shop in district 3 called Chân Nguyên and it stocks a wide range of things that would please those of a macrobiotic-type persuasion. I got some delicious red rice there (and you can see on the plate of delectable goodies I sorted out for myself the other evening that I made a rather nice red rice salad with it, too), but they also have a really large selection of wholemeal noodles, pasta, and rice. They also stock those delicious rice crackers you see being made everywhere in the Mekong Delta, but these ones are made with brown and/or red rice as opposed to the usual white.

I’ve been enjoying other snacks from there, too, including this puffed red/brown rice, which is rather tasty (especially when mixed with sesame seeds). There was a whole range of other puffed rice type snacks, and also something that looked like dried/puffed mock meat pieces, but I really wasn’t sure what they were, so I didn’t buy any on this occasion. Boring, I know – maybe next time.

In a fridge at the front they have home-made peanut butter and also this amazing black tahini which is just YUMMY! Tahini isn’t that easy to come by in HCMC (or, at least, I haven’t found it that easy to buy) – I know they have it in Veggy’s and sometimes at Annam Gourmet, too, but it’s always the regular white variety and it’s super expensive in both of those places, too. At Chân Nguyên, I bought this little pot of black tahini which is really delicious. I can’t remember exactly what it cost, but I do know that I didn’t have to stand there trying to justify to myself why it would be acceptable to buy it, so it must have been reasonable enough (tragic, but the Scrooge in me always wins out in those discussions, so it’s the first batch of tahini I’ve bought since being here. In your face, Ebeneezer-me!). I also found a big old jar of miso, which is fabulous and so versatile. It’s also massive, as you can see from the picture, so it will last me for ages. (You see how Ebeneezer-me lures regular-me into conversation? Even when I’ve already bought it?!)

They also sell bags of various nuts, seeds and dried fruit up at the front, in addition to offering a very pretty albeit quite random selection of cookware and crockery. I went to the branch in district 3. It’s pretty small but they manage to get an awful lot in there. I’ll check out the district 1 branch at some stage, I’m sure. (The district 7 branch that’s listed on the card didn’t seem to be a shop as such, just yet. It seemed more like a private home with a big sign over its garage, so The Omnivore and I just kept on driving by and tried not to look as though we were casing the joint for some kind of robbery. I guess it might be opening a shop there at some point, but at the moment I think it’s just the headquarters or something – definitely not worth a visit.) Great range of products and very nice chilled little shop in the Q3 branch, though.

Âu Lạc District 4

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60 Tân Vĩnh, P6, District 4

Tel: (848) 8265856, (848) 8730720

Opening hours: 6am-9pm

This is one of our favourite spots for lunch. Not far from district 1, this place is on the corner of Tân Vĩnh. They have a really tasty selection of dishes, from various tofu and mock meat dishes, to one of the yummiest vegan phởs I’ve had in Saigon. I didn’t have that today, opting instead for the vegan gỏi cuốn, which are also way up there on the list of best veggie gỏi cuốns in town, in my opinion. They’re so fresh and are stuffed to the brim with herbs and noodles, with a tasty tofu slice and some mock shrimp inside, too. The mock shrimp freaked me out a bit the first time I came across them. The Omnivore assured me they were definitely not actual shrimp (since the big CHAY sign outside was not, apparently, convincing enough in the face – literally and metaphorically – of these little pink coils)….Anyway, I’ve since become used to these – they are tofu-like in texture and are not remotely fishy in taste, thankfully. They come served with a yummy peanut sauce which is nicely spicy (you can ask them to leave out the chillies if spice is not your thing), and are really filling. (There’s something that looks suspiciously eggy in the com dia selection, so you need to be clear about which options you do and don’t want.)

There’s a shop at the front selling a range of mock meats and veggie sauces. This is a veggie but not a vegan place, so not all of the packeted goods are vegan. Most of the mock meats are 100% vegan though. I used to be very unenthusiastic about the whole mock-meat thing before I living here, but the way they use/make it in this country, it’s really just a variation of tofu in terms of adding a different texture to your diet. Better still, it’s an amazing source of protein. They’re named after different meats only in so far as colour and what you might use them for, I think – they don’t really taste that different from one another, and The Omnivore says that none of them really taste like meat, which is fine by me. The mock chicken slices they sell at the shop here are a mega source of protein and the bags are really cheap, too (about 13,000VND – 38p or 63 cents for a bag which is good for 2-4 different dishes – total bargain!).

Our lunch cost 58,000VND (approx.£1.75/$2.80) in total, including iced tea: 30,000VND for the rice plate, and 6,000 (that’s 18p/30 cents) per spring roll. So cheap and soooooo delicious! This place is a complete gem. It’s also part of a chain; there’s another one is district 7 which is amazing. I’ll save that one for another post….

Huệ Bảo

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926 Nguyễn Trãi, P14, District 5

Tel: 0987 87 1537 (39508223/66539788)

Went and had some lunch here after going to the excellent Binh Tay market (Chợ Bình Tây) and the Tinh Xa Loc Uyen Pagoda in district 6 – both well worth a visit. Happened upon this little place on our way home and it was rather a nice little find. Quite tasty selections, as you can see from the pictures, and there were some really imaginative touches in addition to the standard veggie fare. The Omnivore’s com dia (rice plate) was pretty tasty and I thought the chilli stuffed with tofu was a great idea. Of all the many different things on his plate, the only thing he didn’t like was something that looked like it was going to be a mock pork slice or something, but turned out to be some kind of unspecified root vegetable…I have to agree, I wasn’t all over that one either, and I’m usually a big fan of the root vegetable. Anyway, otherwise a very nice range of elements on his plate. The soup that came with the meal was also quite tasty and had cubes of butternut squash in amongst the fresh, leafy greens – another nice touch. I had the noodle soup (phở bò chay), which had a great variety of tofu and mock meats in it, in addition to a huge mound of deliciously fresh herbs. All quite a bargain for 54,000VND. Yes, that’s 54,000VND (£1.60/$2.60) for everything, including 2 big tankards of iced tea. Talking of which, we have yet to discover the flavour that infuses so much of the iced tea here; it’s absolutely delicious but we have no idea what it is. I was wondering if it might be lotus, but the bags of that I bought at the supermarket didn’t taste the same at all…. What is that elusive flavour? Anyway, this doesn’t have a whole lot to do with anything, it’s just one of the many things I’d like to know in life.

Nathalie’s

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S9 Hùng Vương 3, district 7, Tel: 54 100 822

Opening Hours: Not sure, but it seems to be pretty much 24-7…..

Delicious Thai Yumminess. Bit of a  weird post for a blog that’s called ‘Vegan in Vietnam’, I’ll admit, given that this restaurant is neither vegan nor does it serve Vietnamese food. However, it is in Vietnam, and it does serve vegan food, so I thought I’d include it here anyway. It is definitely friend to the vegan and The Omnivore is as happy as the proverbial pig whilst there, so it’s an all round winner.

They have a vegetarian menu. I’m not sure that the curry would be vegan, given that Thai curries often favour a fish-infused curry paste as their base, so I never choose those. Some of the tofu dishes they do there are vegan though; there’s one I always have when I go there – the deep fried tofu with sweet sauce (tàu hũ chiên giòn) – and it is delicious! They also have a good range of vegetable dishes too, including a particularly fiery ‘that-style stir fried morning glory’ (rau muống xào lửa đỏ kiểu thái) dish which I absolutely love. My mouth is still tingling with the spice two hours later! It’s probably worth mentioning that The Omnivore was sweating from the left-side of his head after just two….What would be the right noun here? We were eating with chopsticks not forks, so I’m going with ‘moundfuls’. Or ‘prongs’, perhaps? Well, you get the picture – it didn’t take too much to blow his head off, and he’s typically quite hardy with the old spice. So anyway: sweating on one side of the head: this happens when there’s been a slight spice overload. Apparently this is quite common in menfolk. Why should that be the case? I have no idea. I’m no scientist, just a careful listener and attractor of ‘weird facts about my husband/boyfriend/partner’ stories. What you gonna do?

So, big thumbs-up for this lovely restaurant. Outside seating, which is nice. Perhaps not the best idea when you therefore get a free side order of pure carbon dioxide, but otherwise very pleasant. Not cheap by local standards, but very good qualitydishes and generous portions, too. Tofu was 60,000VND (£1.80/$2.90), veg was 75,000VND (£2.20/$3.50) and rice was 18,000 (£0.50/$0.80). I know, cheap as chips really, but you really can eat out a great deal more cheaply here. Still, definitely worth the full £4.50!

This has been a rather lengthy post. What can I say? I get excited about tofu. Hey, this blog is called ‘Vegan in Vietnam’ – what did you expect?

Fiery Pumpkin Seeds

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Spicy yumminess

Guess who bought a pumpkin at the weekend? Yes, this is the second – and by no means last – post related to all things pumpkin. Just like I’ve only recently started baking with pumpkin despite using it for savoury dishes for years, I’ve only very recently come to the realisation that I shouldn’t get rid of the seeds when I’m getting ready to use the pumpkin’s flesh. And I even buy pumpkin seeds. Ridiculous! All that time I could’ve been collecting my own from all that pumpkin I was using for soups and stews. But shop bought ones are green and the ones fresh from the pumpkin stay pretty much white (or near enough) no matter what you do to them, so I think I was under the impression that they were not entirely the same thing. Well, ignorance will get us nowhere. And so I have embarked on making my own pumpkin seeds – well, that’s perhaps not quite the right verb. The pumpkin does most of the hard work, if truth be told. But it can’t season them with salt and chili pepper. And it can’t pop them in the oven until they get all kinds of crispy deliciousness. No, they might be able to make the seeds, fair enough, but it’s me who really made these seeds. In your face, pumpkin! Didn’t use any oil, but I’m sure it would’ve made cleaning the pan I cooked them in a little bit easier. Once cool, store them in an airtight container. And sprinkle them with gay abandon over anything – I stopped at a salad, myself, but who can tell what guides the heart and soul of another?

Spiced pumpkin loaf (fat free)

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Smells like xmas

Pumpkins: why haven’t I been using them for baking until now? I’m always cooking things with them – soup, stews, dips…But I’ve never, until now, used them for baked goods. More fool me: all those years when I could have been enjoying delicious pumpkin sweetness, and I just didn’t bother.  I know that Americans often use them in baking and hey, if you live in the US you can probably buy jars of pumpkin puree and you make delicious baked pumpkin-y things all the time. But I’m not American. Ah well, they say that hindsight is 20/20…

Anyway, so I’ve been baking all kinds of things with pureed pumpkin lately. Like its applesauce cousin, pureed pumpkin is the friend o’ fat-free baking: it adds lightness and moistness to cakes and biscuits; all kinds of deliciousness with none of the guilt.

This is a recipe for a savoury loaf I’ve been enjoying. You could add some sugar and adjust the spices (I’m thinking more heavy on the ginger) for a lovely cake/gingerbread type loaf. But this one is a savoury bread (it has the consistency of something between bread and cake) that I’ve been enjoying alongside soups and salads – it’s good on its own or spread with tahini. I found a delicious black tahini in a macrobiotic shop in Saigon, but more of that in another post….

Ingredients:

3/4 cup pumpkin puree (I just boiled/steamed a load of pumpkin and then pureed it with some water in my blender until it was the consistency of pretty thick soup)

1/4 cup molasses (yes, this can be bought in Saigon, too – I’ll add that to the post I write about where to find that black tahini. One thing at a time, people)

3/4 cup soya milk (very easily bought everywhere in Saigon, but I make my own. The soya beans are also v. easy to buy here and you can even buy the soya milk makers everywhere, too – gotta love Asia! It was much harder to buy the machine and the beans back in the UK)

1 tsp cider vinegar

1 3/4 cup brown flour (or brown + white combo)

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

2 tsps cinnamon

1 tsp powdered ginger

1/4 tsp cloves

bit of nutmeg

1/2 tsp salt

Mix all the dry ingredients in one bowl, all the wet ingredients in another, then put the two together. Combine until you have a fairly stiff batter (almost a dough but a bit wetter than that), put it in a loaf tin, then bake it at about 180-200 degrees C until it’s browned on top. If it’s done, when you stick a knife or toothpick into the centre of the loaf, it should come out dry. It takes about half an hour to cook, I should think. I’ll check next time I make it.

The Omnivore has not yet ventured to try this. I think he’d probably make a noise like ‘Ahj’ as in ‘Ahj, it’s ok. Not amazing, not awful.’ But we don’t always have to be guided by The Omnivore. The Vegan says ‘YUM, this is total deliciousness!!!!!’