Very thrilled to be a contributor in VegNews‘ May-June travel issue. In this issue, I veganized recipes I grew up loving, mixing a few popular flavors from my Filipino-Chinese heritage. I ended up with Savory Char Sui Maitake Bao and Sweet Ube Siopao. Steamed buns, also known as bao and siopao, are stuffed with sweet and savory fillings, making it a common and portable snack eaten every day and originally found all over South East-Asia. Growing up, we ate these for breakfast or as a snack. It was such a treat.
Since my friends at VegNews were so kind to feature my recipes, I am going to hold-off on giving the fillings recipes for now, so you can subscribe or pick up an issue at your local health food store. I am going to wait about a month to give out the entire recipe. So, please hold tight if you’re not able to get a hold of the issue right now. For now, since I made a version in the magazine that uses regular wheat flour (which is just like the original bao I grew up loving), for my gluten-free readers, I have a bun recipe for you, below.
After several attempts at making a bouncy gluten-free bao bun, I unfortunately wasn’t able to achieve the signature bouncy, spongy attributes the original wheat flour version possesses, BUT! When eaten minutes after steaming, it does have more of a bounce, so make sure you eat them minutes after steaming to get somewhat of a bouncy feel. Otherwise, if you wait and let them sit, they will feel heavier and dense.
In preparing for the feature, I was asked a few questions about my recipes and how they are relevant to my multicultural background. They ended up not making the cut, but that’s ok. This is why I have a blog! I share the questions and answers, below.
What’s your personal relationship to this recipe?
As a child, going to Woo Chee Chong Market, which at that time was the only Asian market in my hometown, was definitely a treat for me and my sisters. While my mom shopped for her essentials, my sisters and I would slowly peruse every aisle with wonder–inspecting, observing, and smelling all the foreign and exotic ingredients, spices, beautifully packaged and prepared foods. Our favorites were the red and green boxes of Botan Rice Candy that melted in our mouths, and watching the part-time teenage workers in the kitchen use a super sharp cleaver to slice the most delicious bright red char siu pork, and packaging it in a to-go box with chow mien for us to take home. I don’t have a memory eating it at home because once we would get home, it would be gone in .03 seconds. It was so delicious—tender, sweet, savory, and spiked with spices I couldn’t even name or identify. Char siu is definitely ingrained in my taste bud memory.
Around this same time, my grandmother would make the most delicious steamed buns called siopao. We would eat them piping hot right out of the bamboo steamer. They were beautiful little, bouncy, sponge-like pillows filled with juicy, flavorful shredded meat, and egg.
I created a vegan version of it without her direction, as she has since passed. I decided to create a char siu-style siapao. Instead of using pork I used maitake mushrooms, which create a meaty texture and hold flavor quite well. I made this in classic Yvonne-style, making it gluten-free, vegan, low-glycemic, and yet very flavorful. The sweet ube bao recipe is reminiscent of all the Filipino desserts I ate growing up–ube ice cream, ube cake, and the blob of ube on top of my halo-halo dessert!
Both recipes are reflective of my childhood and Filipino-American heritage.
Why is this recipe special in the culture it represents?
Every culture seems to have some sort of small, succulent parcel encased in dough and wrapped. Mexicans have tamales. East Indians have samosas. Filipinos have lumpia, empanadas, and siopao. Chinese have eggrolls, wontons, and bao, which actually means “wrapper” and is referred to being steamed stuffed buns. In ancient Chinese history, bao went by different names, and was said to be created by different people for many reasons–to help keep the poor warm and fed in the winter, and to cure soldiers from plague. Today it is definitely a popular food. Bao is a common and portable snack eaten every day mostly for breakfast and found all over South East-Asia.
How is this recipe originally made and how did you veganize it?
These recipes are originally made with shortening, meat, dairy, sometimes egg, and lots of refined sugar. I veganized it by replacing the meat with maitake mushrooms, ube, and using vegan milk and coconut sugar.
Cha Siu Maitake Bao
Makes 10 bao
1 ½ cups unsweetened vegan milk, lukewarm (100- 110 degrees F)
3 tablespoons plus 1 ½ teaspoons coconut sugar
1 package dry yeast (2 ¼ teaspoons)
3 tablespoons grapeseed oil
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons oat flour
1 cup potato starch
3 tablespoons plus ½ teaspoon arrowroot powder (or cornstarch)
½ teaspoon xanthan gum
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
2 maitake mushrooms (8 ounces)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
¼ teaspoon minced peeled ginger
2 tablespoons tamari (or soy sauce)
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons coconut sugar
2 tablespoons mirin (or rice wine, dry sherry)
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 ½ teaspoons ketchup
1 ½ teaspoons hoisin sauce
½ teaspoon sesame oil
½ teaspoon 5 spice powder
1 teaspoon arrowroot powder
- For the dough, in a large bowl, whisk together warm vegan milk, coconut sugar, and yeast. Let stand for 5 minutes or until bubbly and bloomed. Add the grapeseed oil.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients then add to the yeast mixture. Stir until a soft dough forms, then turn dough out onto a lightly oat-floured surface. Knead until smooth. Return dough to large mixing bowl, coated with cooking spray, and lightly spray the dough. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and set aside in a warm place (85 degrees F) for 1 hour or until doubled in size. As it rises, prepare the filling.
- For the filling, in a medium saucepan, combine all ingredients except maitake mushrooms and arrowroot powder, and stir to combine. Break maitake apart from the roots, to pieces, and into the sauce, and stir to coat. Place covered saucepan over medium-low heat for 17 minutes. Remove from heat, mix in arrowroot powder, and set aside uncovered to cool.
- Divide dough in half. Cut each half into 8 equal portions, forming each into a ball. Cover dough balls while working with one dough ball at a time. On a lightly dusted (with oat flour) surface, roll ball into a 4-inch circle using a rolling pin. Place 1 tablespoon of filling in the center of the dough circle. Bring up sides to cover filling and meet on top. Pinch and twist to seal in filling. Place each bun onto a 2 ½-inch parchment square with the pinched seal at the bottom while you finish the rest of the buns.
- Spray a multi-layered bamboo steamer with cooking spray. Place the steamer on top of a large saucepan, and pour in water to several inches below the steamer. Bring water to boil.
- Working in several batches, place 3 or 4 buns into each steamer layer without letting buns touch each other or the edge of the steamer, about an inch apart. Cover steamer. Let buns steam over medium-low heat until puffy and the dough is springy. About 15-20 minutes per batch. Cool for at least 5 minutes and serve warm.
Makes 16 siopao
For the Dough:
Use dough recipe, above.
For the Filling:
1 ¼ cups steamed ube (purple yam)
¾ cup coconut milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup monkfruit sweetener (or 1 cup sugar)
1 cup shredded young coconut
¼ cup sliced jackfruit (optional)
1. Prepare dough as explained, above.
3. For the filling, in a blender, combine all ingredients except for shredded young coconut and jackfruit, adding the coconut milk first, and blend completely using a tamper or spatula to ensure a smooth blend. Do not blend for too long or the filling will become pasty. Stop blending once thoroughly combined. Fold in shredded coconut and jackfruit.
4. Divide dough in half. Cut each half into 8 equal portions, forming each into a ball. Cover dough balls while working with one dough ball at a time. On a lightly dusted (with oat flour) surface, roll ball into a 4-inch circle. Place 1 tablespoon of filling in the center of the dough circle. Bring up sides to cover filling and meet on top. Pinch and twist to seal in the filling. Place each bun onto a 2 ½-inch parchment square with the pinched seal at the bottom while you finish the rest of the bun.
5. Spray a multi-layered bamboo steamer with cooking spray. Place the steamer on top of a large saucepan, and pour in water to several inches below the steamer. Bring water to boil.
6. Working in several batches, place 3 or 4 buns into each steamer layer without letting buns touch each other or the edge of the steamer. Cover steamer. Let buns steam over medium-low heat until puffy and the dough is springy. About 15-20 minutes per batch. Cool for at least 5 minutes and serve warm.Share on Facebook
Best Foods new egg-free, cholesterol-free spread called Carefully Crafted Dressing & Sandwich Spread is helping me gear up for summer picnics and tea parties. I decided to recreate a past favorite to share at my next summer gathering, Curried Chicken-less Jackfruit Salad Tea Sandwiches. In my pre-vegan years, I catered many tea parties. Of all the dishes I made, my curried chicken salad recipe was most-loved. In my vegan-friendly version, I utilize Best Foods Carefully Crafted Dressing & Sandwich Spread to make the curried dressing.
Carefully Crafted is smooth, creamy, light, and has a tangy zip, which makes it perfect in transforming my recipe into something even non-vegans can enjoy. In addition to using Carefully Crafted, I use young green jackfruit in place of roasted chicken. Jackfruit can be found in Asian markets or, for all Los Angeles locals, at OrganixLA. Otherwise, jackfruit can be ordered online! To get a palatable texture and make it more easily digestible, I braise the young green jackfruit. After being braised and shredded, it very much resembles shredded chicken.
What I enjoy most about this recipe are the exotic flavors and textures of curry powder, mango chutney, and the crunchy texture of the water chestnuts, almonds, celery, and the sweetness of the grapes. There are several ways to enjoy this curried jackfruit salad: between 2 slices of whole wheat bread or topped onto one slice of gluten-free bread; wrapped inside of a tortilla or collard leaf; to top a salad with; or just on its own, as my sister Riva enjoys it best. This recipe is so simple, and with Best Foods Carefully Crafted as part of my recipe, I can rest-assured that there are no mystery ingredients and feel good about serving this to my loved ones.
This article was created in partnership with Best Foods and FeedFeed – all opinions expressed are my own.
Curried Chicken-less Jackfruit Salad Sandwiches
Time: 3 hours
4 cups (2 cans or 20 oz. drained) young green jackfruit (don’t use the sweet kind!)
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
3 cups vegetable stock
¼ tsp sea salt
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
½ cup plus 2 Tbsp Best Foods Carefully Crafted Dressing & Sandwich Spread
1 Tbsp coconut aminos (or tamari or Bragg’s liquid aminos)
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 ½ tsp curry powder
1 Tbsp prepared mango chutney
½ cup celery, diced
1 (8 oz can) water chestnuts, chopped
2 cups seedless red grapes, halved
5-6 Tbsp slivered almonds
1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
2. In an 8”X8” or 9”X9” square baking dish, combine all of the ingredients for the braised
3. Place in the oven for 2 hours.
4. Once it has cooked for 2 hours, use 2 forks to pull the jackfruit, resulting in shredded jackfruit.
5. In a medium bowl, combine all of the ingredients for the dressing and whisk together.
6. Add the remaining salad ingredients including the shredded jackfruit and toss to combine.
7. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. This can be eaten on its own, in a wrap, between 2
slices of bread (or on top of one slice of bread), or on top of lettuce. I like to cut off the edges of
the bread if I make sandwiches and cut them into fours to create cute little tea sandwiches.
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On Sunday, January 25th, Los Angeles debuted its very first LA Cookie Con and Sweets Show. When I was invited to give a live “cooking” demo at the West Coast’s biggest baking and pastry party, I could not turn down the opportunity. As many of you know, it is my mission to prove to all that vegan and gluten-free food can be absolutely delicious while still being nutritious. I had two demos—one in the morning and one in the afternoon, so I was happy to have broadcast my message twice! I was also thrilled that vegans and non-vegans alike loved my Superfood Truffles and came back for seconds and thirds!
Many thanks to Nancy Tei, the organizer of the event, for inviting me to demonstrate how to make a raw vegan and gluten-free dessert to the public, and a big thanks to my friends at Melissa’s Produce for providing all of the delicious and nourishing ingredients to make my Superfood Truffles. Additionally, I want to thank all those who stopped by to watch my cooking demos and asked great questions about the benefits of a vegan lifestyle and eating raw until 4 o’clock.
Melissa’s Produce made this such a positive experience for me. The Friday before the event, I met up with Nancy Eisman and Sara De Leeuw at the Melissa’s Produce test kitchen to prepare samples and prizes to give away at the convention. Nancy works on various projects at Melissa’s Produce and writes for the Melissa’s Produce blog, Plantbased411 blog as well as her own blog, Adventures with Nancy Rose. Sara is a Master Preserver, instructor, and the creator of the My Imperfect Kitchen blog. One thing I miss about working in a professional kitchen is having coworkers and getting to know one another as we complete our tasks. I had so much fun rolling my hundreds of truffles while getting to know these lovely ladies at the test kitchen. I felt that we clicked right from the start, so that was a great feeling. On the day of the convention, Nancy and Sara were some of my biggest cheerleaders–I cannot thank them enough for their support!
Sara also demo’d at the convention. She made the most amazing Chocolate Chile Bark with Pepitas and Blood Orange Zest. It is the Best chocolate bark I have ever tasted! The recipe can be found on her blog or in the Melissa’s Produce The Great Pepper Cookbook.
Meanwhile, Nancy distributed Melissa’s Produce Clean Snax to the public. They come in four flavors: almond, coconut, cranberry, and pumpkin. They are bee-gan (which means they contain honey). My husband, who considers himself plant-based, enjoys this snack. He usually picks up the snack at the Staples Center when we attend Clippers games, and he enjoys the pumpkin flavor most.
Now, let me tell you about my Superfood Truffles. The recipe is actually a collaboration. When Nancy Eisman and I discussed ingredients I needed in order to make my Goji-, Cranberry, Coconut Truffles recipe, Nancy suggested I add some cacao nibs to make it a little chocolatey. At first I was not keen on the idea, but Nancy really believed that it was a great idea since so many people who love cookies and pastries also love chocolate. We gave it a try—added it into the recipe and, oh my, they turned out even better than the original. So delicious. The cacao nibs add a nice crunch factor and deep chocolate flavor to the truffles. That is how the Superfood Truffle was born! I’m so glad I met Nancy. Not only is she down-to-earth and fun, without her I wouldn’t have my Superfood Truffles recipe. I hope you enjoy it as a snack or dessert!
Melissa’s Produce and goods can be found in the US, in major grocery stores like Whole Foods, Sprouts, Trader Joe’s, Vons, Ralphs, and the list goes on.
Time: 20 minutes
Diet: V, GF, GFV, DF, SF, R
1 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes, plus 1/2 cup for rolling
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup dried goji berries
3/4 cup almond flour
1/4 cup coconut nectar
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
2 tsp vanilla extract
a pinch fine sea salt
1/4 cup cacao nibs
1. Add all of the ingredients EXCEPT for the cacao nibs to a food processor. Pulse a few times to combine until you reach a texture of your liking. More texture is better than being over-processed. You still want to see chunks of the dried fruit.
2. Pour the mixture into a medium bowl. Add the cacao nibs and stir to combine, using clean hands or a silicone spatula. Make sure the cacao nibs are evenly distributed!
3. Line a quarter-sheet pan or tupperware with parchment paper. Scoop out 1.5 Tbsp-sized truffles, round them out with your hands, then roll into coconut flakes and place them onto the lined sheet tray or plate. You should make about 15-18 truffles. Refrigerate immediately until hardened, about 15-20 minutes.
Note: These truffles are best eaten cold, right out of the refrigerator. Enjoy!
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I am honored to have been recognized by Clean Eating Magazine as a chef who is dominating the web! Your support, positive feedback, and moments like this make what I do so worthwhile. Thank you to my readers and a big thank you to Clean Eating Magazine for the feature and interview.
Click here to read my full interview and to get the recipe for one of my favorite desserts, the decadent Chocolate Truffle Cake! Yes, it is vegan and free of gluten, soy, and refined sugar! If you haven’t tried it, I recommend you soak raw cashew now!
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I am delighted to have my Morning Tonic recipe featured in What’s Up Magazine’s Food Newsletter Column by Rhea Torreon, and named Drink of the Week! This special hot beverage is something I enjoy almost every morning. It’s my version of warm lemon water, but cranked up a notch with the addition of turmeric and cayenne pepper. There are so many benefits to drinking warm lemon water. In doing so, it initiates the production of digestive juices and gives my digestive process a nice kick start for the day. Learn about the many benefits one can receive from my special concoction in her article, and get the recipe too! Click here for the article.
Another exciting tidbit. With the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, I failed to notice that the My Eclectic Kitchen App was also featured as the App of the Week in December by What’s Up? Magazine! I was very pleased about the write up. See why the My Eclectic Kitchen App was named App of the Week in the article, here!
Photos by Rhea Torreon. To subscribe to Rhea Torreon’s Food column, go to www.whatsupmag.com, click on the subscribe link at the top, then click on the E-Newsletter link, and finally enter your email and check the box for What’s Up Food.Share on Facebook