Sothi is a typical Sri Lankan curry which my mother thought me last night. This is a simple oil-free vegan yellow coconut curry which resembles the Malay “Masak Lemak” dish. You could cook any vegetables using this recipe. In this we used regular green cabbage. Unfortunately I did not take down the Malay “Masak Lemak” recipes from Kakak Is. She prepared banana blossoms (jantung pisang) and yellow burr head (genjer) which is very delicious. I am guessing the Malay version has lemongrass, pandan and galangal but I can’t say for sure. Both versions are very similar none the less.
- 3 red chillies chopped
- Medium red onion chopped
- 1 spring of curry leaves
- ½ teaspoon of fenugreek
- 2 cloves of garlic chopped
- 4 leaves of cabbage chopped
- ½ teaspoon of turmeric
- 14oz can of coconut milk
- 2 fresh tomatoes chopped
- 1 fresh lime sliced in half
- Salt to taste
- Add chillies, onions, curry leaves, cabbage, fenugreek, garlic, cabbage and turmeric to pot and fill with enough water to cover vegetables. The amount of water depends on how you like it. I like a thick sauce and so I used less water which did not cover all the vegetables.
- Bring water to a gentle boil.
- Once the cabbage is half or more cooked add coconut milk
- Do not boil coconut milk as it will release the oils. Stir gently over a very gentle simmer.
- Once all vegetables are cooked add tomatoes, salt and squeeze lime to taste and remove from heat immediately as you do not want to cook the tomatoes nor overcook the vegetables.
- If the dish is too tangy, counteract with a bit of brown sugar.
Virginia Beach, US
Varai is one of several typical Sri Lankan dishes that my mother has mastered during her time in America. I was thought to make a simple Kale Varai but I am guessing one could use any green leafy vegetable in stead of Kale. Kale is one my favourites and this is so far the most delicious way to prepare Kale in my opinion.
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 4 green chillies or dried chillies chopped
- Medium red onion
- 1 spring of curry leaves
- 2 cloves of garlic chopped
- 12 large leaves of kale stemmed and chopped
- ½ teaspoon of turmeric or less (optional)
- 2 tablespoons of desiccated coconut
- Add a bit of oil (I would just splash a bit of water) on heated pan.
- Add mustard seeds once pan is hot.
- As soon as mustard seeds pop, add onions, garlic and chillies.
- When onions are translucent add Kale.
- Splash more water to keep Kale from sticking to pan. Not too much as this is a dry dish.
- Cover and cook on medium-low
- Once Kale reduces and begins to wilt, add turmeric and desiccated coconut.
- Stir gently until Kale is cooked but be careful not to over cook
- Remove and serve.
Virginia Beach, US
I was reminded of an old favourite that I used to have when I was very young. It is a simple traditional Tamil dish made with purple yams. Puple yams are known as rasa valli kilangu (இராசவள்ளிக்கிழங்கு) in Tamil. They are traditionaly prepared as a congee (கஞ்சி). This dish can be replicated with most beans, grains and tubers. I am not going to state measurements for ingredients as it is made to individual tastes and consistency. It is traditionally made very sweet hence I used a lot of sugar. I made this dish with regular white sugar even though I prefer it with palm sugar. This an oil-free vegan dish.
- Purple Yams
- Coconut milk
- A pinch of salt
- Sugar/Palm Sugar
- Pandan leaves (optional)
- Peel yams well. It should be fully whitish purple.
- Chop yams as small as you can make them. This will not only quicken the boil but also help to better mash them.
- Add chopped yams to pot and add water until about an inch above yams. Don’t add too much water. You may add more water later depending on your preference. I prefer it thick.
- Add pandan leaves and a pinch of salt.
- Boil over medium low heat.
- Let it boil for about 15-20 minutes until yams are soft and tender.
- Use masher to mash yams until it looks like chunky soup. If you prefer it thinner and smooth. Use hand blender or added it to blender later.
- Add as much sugar as you like. I add a lot of sugar as I like it sweet. You may want to add another pinch of salt at this point depending on how you like it.
- Add coconut milk. I only add a little as I do not want to obscure the taste of yams.
- Keep boiling for another 5-10 minutes.
- Leave on hob to cool or refrigerate. I like my yams to be warm hence I do not refrigerate.
- Additionally, you may boil the rest of your coconut milk separately and add to your bowl as you like.
Tempoyak (fermented durian) is another unbelievably simple yet very delicious Malaysian/ Indonnesian dish. The ladies selling kampong vegetables at the market recommended using pucuk ubi (cassava/tapioca leaves) as the main ingredient for a vegan alternative. This is certainly a favourite considering that I have never ever taken a liking to durians and still haven’t. Raw tempoyak is usually sold in our local markets and so I have not had the need ferment ripe durians. However, for those residing outside of these parts, and want to attempt it, the fermentation is incredibly simple, however, as it can be difficult to come by durian or tempoyak in most places, I may soon post a coconut alternative known as “masak lemak”. You will need mortar and pestle for this recipe and this is an oil-free vegan recipe. This recipe was written down under the tutelage of Kakak Is. I have hyperlinked photos in recipe.
- 1 bundle of cassava leaves (tapioca leaves)
- 1 cup of raw tempoyak
- 3-4 cloves of garlic
- 1-2 tiny red onions (I accidentally omitted the onions and it worked)
- 1 tiny knob of ginger
- 2-3 tiny knobs of fresh turmeric
- 1 stalk of lemongrass
- 1 sliver of galangal
- 4 birds eye chili
- 1 mug of water
- Salt to taste
- Boil cassava leaves in a pot for about 15-20 minutes until wilted and well-cooked.
- While leaves are boiling, add ginger, fresh turmeric, onions, birds eye chilies and garlic to the mortar and pound until it is a fine paste.
- Lightly pound lemongrass and galangal in mortar.
- Once leaves are cooked. drain water with sieve and set aside.
- Add a mug of water to pot or wok, along with raw tempoyak and all pounded ingredients.
- Mix all ingredients well.
- Leave ingredients to simmer on a medium-low heat.
- Once the sauce has thickened, add cassava leaves and mix well.
- Add a pinch of salt or as much as you like.
- Leave to simmer on low heat for another 5-10 minutes until sauce is thick and fragrant.
- Once thick and all ingredients are mixed well, remove and serve.
Curried pumpkin is yet another favourite swift and simple dish that Kakak Is prepares for lunch. I have tried my best to convey the recipe from her pithy instructions. These recipes are written as they were taught to me, hence, I have not experimented with omitting cooking oil. I will write more if and when I get the chance. This is a vegan recipe.
- 1 small pumpkin (or a quarter of a big pumpkin). Remove seeds and cut unpeeled into large cubes. (I am tempted to experiment with seeds)
- 2 medium diced red onions
- 3 cloves of diced garlic
- 4 teaspoons of mixed fenugreek
- 1 tablespoon of curry powder (eye measure is best, you don’t want too much as it will obscure the natural sweet flavour of the pumpkin)
- 1 tablespoon of chili powder (eye measure is best, you don’t want too much as it will obscure the natural sweet flavour of the pumpkin)
- ½ teaspoon of turmeric powder (eye measure is best, you don’t want too much as it will obscure the natural sweet flavour of the pumpkin)
- Fistful of dried chilies (or as little or much as you can handle)
- Half a fistful of curry leaves
- Heat a tiny drop of oil in pan and add cubed pumpkins over medium to low heat.
- Splash a bit of water to keep pumpkin from sticking to pan.
- Fry until dark bright orange and fragrant and remove from pan. Be sure to check if it is cooked.
- In the same heated pan with oil, fry red onions, garlic, curry leaves, mixed fenugreek and dried chilies over medium heat.
- Once fragrant and onions have browned thoroughly, add cooked pumpkin with curry powder, chili powder and turmeric.
- Mix all ingredients well. Ensure everything is coated well with spices.
- After a few minutes, once spices have heated through, remove and serve.
Tempeh is the Indonesian answer to Chinese tofu. I had asked Kakak Is to teach me her recipe for preparing sambal tempeh and have tried my best to convey in writing. I have also included a recipe for Kakak Is’s tempeh kukus (steamed tempeh) (see below). If tempeh is not easy to come by, you could very easily use firm tofu as an alternative. In fact sambal could be used as a base for cooking any vegetables. I have tried and liked sambal terong (aubergines) and sambal labu (pumpkin). You merely have to fry/cook the vegetables first and add it to the sauce later. Sambal is truly a simple fragrant dish. Preparation and cooking took 30-40 minutes but I am sure with practice one could whip up a sambal in 20 mins.
You will need a mortar and pestle for this recipe. If not you will have to improvise, you could lightly blend ingredients using a food processor or hand blender, but you’ll want the ingredients to be fairly coarse. I am hoping to experiment preparing this dish without using oil, if you’ve been succesful, please share. This is a vegan recipe. I have uploaded step by step photos for the sambal on postimage.
Kakak Is’s Sambal Tempeh
- 1 block of tempeh (or tofu), cubed into tiny pieces.
- 1 diced red chili
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 6 tiny red onions
- 2 or 3 kaffir lime leaves
- lemongrass chopped and crushed
- salt and sugar to taste
- a thin sliver of galangal (optional)
- 2 candlenuts (also known as kemiri nut) (optional)
- Fry cubed tempeh thoroughly until crispy yellow-brown. Remove from pan and set aside.
- Add the garlic, onions, candlenuts and diced chillies to the mortar and carefully pound until all ingredients have turned into a coarse paste. Feel free to add more red chillies.
- Heat pan and empty pounded ingredients from mortar, crushed lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves and galangal into pan and fry on a medium low heat.
- Keep frying until fragrant and splash a bit of water to keep ingredients from sticking to pan. But not too much as it should be a dry dish.
- As the ingredients appear cooked and fragrant, add the fried tempeh and heat through.
- Add sugar and salt to taste. This is ussualy a spicy-sweet dish, so you would add more sugar.
- After several minutes when ingredients have coooked, remove from pan and serve. I normally have it with Thai Fragrant Rice cooked with pandan leaves and coconut milk
Kakak Is’s Tempeh Kukus (Steamed Tempeh)
- 1 block of tempeh (or tofu)
- 2-3 tiny red onions
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1 red chili diced
- Thai Basil
- Pound all ingredients in mortar with pestle until it turns into paste
- We ussualy ladle paste into banana leaves and fully wrap to make little parcels. I am not sure what would be an alternative
- Place parcels in a steamer and steam for about 15-20 mins. Don’t leave it for too long as it will turn to watery though I didnt mind it.
- Remove from steamer and serve. I normally have it with Thai Fragrant Rice cooked with Pandan leaves and coconut milk but I have also had it with fluffy brown rice and really liked it.