Tofu is fairly recent regular addition to my kitchen /cooking. It is very similar to paneer, which is an Indian cheese that does not have any particular taste and can be used for sweet and savoury recipes. As a result I use tofu more regularly. It absorbs all the flavours and hence makes it very versatile.
A few years ago I bought a basic quick vegetarian recipe book from a supermarket and Scrambled Tofu was one of the recipes in it. It was a simple red capsicum, tofu and chives scramble. I like the idea and added a few other ingredients to give extra taste and flavour to the tofu. This is a good breakfast / brunch recipe, or even to eat as a healthy snack and a good alternative to scrambled eggs.
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My younger sister and two of my nieces love spring rolls. I have never really liked the taste of ready made vegetarian spring rolls, always preferring the home made ones. I tend to make them in a large batch and freeze them so as they are ready to have when ever I want to make a complete Chinese meal. There are many different versions I have made. Out of them it is the Thai and Chinese versions that I truly enjoy.
Some of the dishes we learnt at a very early age, used to be at the ladies club. We used to meet up on a regular basis and food, flower arranging, house hold tips etc. used to be demonstrated. This is where we learnt how to assemble spring rolls, I remember when my mother and sisters used to do it all together, like a production line. Now when I make them on my own I have fond memories of how we used to listen to music and were gently coaxed into making sure we have enough paste and roll it tightly. After a few broken ones, we got there in the end 🙂 Of course it is much easier now that we buy the ready made frozen pastries, as opposed to rolling them out ourselves, which is where we started – Oh the joys and convenience of ready made items to make cooking life easy 😉
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If you look at the complete menu for a Chinese meal in our house, then you see sweetcorn soup, spring rolls, and stir fry with either rice or noodles. This was also the standard order when ever we used to go out to eat in Malawi. That used to be the set menu we would get, probably because that was all the vegetarian option that was available. I remember how we used to keep on adding more pepper to the soup because that is what our father did, and then as we got older adding the garnish also just like he did. The chilli in the vinegar gives it an added flavour and depth to the taste especially if you like the slightly tangy and spicy flavours. Just simple tastes and natural flavours, this is what you get from this soup, not to mention the health benefits of the key ingredient itself. Sweet corn is rich in vitamin A & C and folate and magnesium. Cooked sweet corn is said to become rich in antioxidants and believed to help fight cancer and heart disease, however you loose the vitamin C.
I don’t know why I don’t make it with out having the other Chinese dishes, as it is such a quick simple recipe and can be eaten with bread or rice crackers. Oh well will have to try and remember next time I am looking for a healthy filling snack 🙂
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When I was growing up in Malawi, we used to go to a Chinese restaurant and this was one of the items we used to always have. I don’t know why it has this name but I guess that is part of the novelty of having this fun snack / starter / side dish. After many years, I made it last summer when my older sister and nieces came for the summer from Hong Kong. We just went by memory and recreated it but later I found a recipe from an old recipe file, which had cabbage and carrots in it also. It is a messy but fun dish to eat, kind of like Mexican tacos. All the same it is a good recipe to share with friends and family. Perhaps you can serve this dish as a self service meal, that way the lettuce leaves will not become soggy and people can have the amount of filling and garnish they want.
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When we first used to make stir fry or Chinese sweet & sour stir fry in Malawi, we would use specific vegetables (cabbage, french beans, carrots etc.) and make the sauce at home. We would have it either with plain rice or fried rice. Then when we came here we saw the supermarkets with pre made sauces like hoi sin, teriyaki, black bean etc. As always we had to be cautious as these tended to contain some form of fish oil or sauce. The other thing with all the ready made sauces is that they have added preservatives to give them the long shelf life. So after trying a few brands which where vegetarian, we created our own version by using shop bought sauces and our own home made mix. However I do try and make the sauces at home to taste, this way I know what I am putting into it and each time the taste is different. The list of ingredients started to change also. After marriage I started adding tofu, mushrooms, and savoy cabbage to my stir fries. By making my own sauce at home I sometimes get the correct balance of vegetables and sauces and sometimes I get it wrong, however that is all part of the fun of cooking.
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