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Being vegetarian isn’t boring

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Hedy Khoo on 23 Sep 2018

The Straits Times

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Communications professional Eiktha Khemlani enjoys sharing plant-based dishes, such as her vegan nasi kerabu, featuring blue pea flower rice

 

Being a vegetarian has not stopped communications professional Eiktha Khemlani from being a foodie who loves going on culinary adventures.

 

An avid home cook who also loves to bake, the 36-year-old enjoys spending her weekends hosting meat-free lunch and dinner parties at home.

 

In July, she also began organising weekend food trails for those keen on exploring plant-based options. These leisure activities are part of her mission to encourage more people to turn towards a plant-based diet.

 

“I want to show people that being vegetarian does not mean having to eat boring food. Be it eating out or dining at home, there are many exciting plant-based options,” she says.

 

One of her signature dishes at her parties is vegan nasi kerabu. Nasi kerabu is a Malay dish that features blue pea flower rice, eaten with fish or chicken, crackers and pickles, among other dishes.

 

She began cooking the dish in 2015 as she wanted to serve her guests something that can be customised according to their dietary preferences. “I wanted a dish that would impress my guests, especially if it is not easily available when dining out,” she adds.

 

She began experimenting with baking and cooking in 2012 after attending a local food festival where she had the opportunity to chat with chef Alvin Leung of Bo Innovation in Hong Kong.

 

Intrigued by molecular gastronomy, she was motivated to learn to bake and cook.

 

She picked up cooking skills from her mother, who taught her how to make the sambal chilli used in the nasi kerabu. Her mother, Mrs Vimla Khemlani, 61, a freelance speech tutor, is also vegetarian.

 

Both mother and daughter often cook together for Ms Khemlani’s parties and love coming up with new dishes.

 

Ms Khemlani, who is single, says: “We want to share how delicious vegetarian food can be and how it is not complicated to go meat-free.”

 

Those interested in her food trails can get more details at www.vegthiscity.com

 

VEGAN NASI KERABU WITH BLUE PEA FLOWER RICE
 

BLUE PEA FLOWER RICE

INGREDIENTS

  • 800ml water
  • 12 to 15 dried blue pea flowers
  • 2 rice cups of uncooked rice
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves
  • 2 stalks lemongrass, bruised
  • ½ tsp salt

 

METHOD

 

1. Bring the 800ml water to a boil in a saucepan and remove from heat.

 

2. Place the dried blue pea flowers into the hot water and soak for 10 minutes. Strain and discard the flowers. Reserve 720ml of the liquid for cooking rice.

 

3. Place the rice in a rice cooker and add the blue pea flower soaking liquid. Add the kaffir lime leaves, bruised lemongrass and salt to the rice mixture. Cook the rice.

 

SAMBAL CHILLI

INGREDIENTS

  • 20g dried red chillies (soak in hot water for 10 minutes, drain and discard water, then blend)
  • 5 large shallots
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 heaped Tbs tamarind pulp
  • 60ml of water
  • 1½ Tbs vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • Pinch of salt

 

METHOD

 

1. Blend shallots and garlic into paste. Set aside.

 

2. Soak the tamarind pulp in 60ml water for five minutes. Strain to remove pulp and seeds. Reserve the tamarind juice.

 

3. Heat oil in a pan, stir-fry the shallot-and-garlic paste until fragrant. Add red chilli paste, tamarind juice, sugar and salt.

 

4. Simmer sambal paste on medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes until it thickens, then set aside.

 

SRI LANKAN-STYLE COCONUT SAMBOL

INGREDIENTS

  • 340g grated coconut
  • 1 Tbs chilli powder
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • ½ tsp of salt
  • 1 tsp of sugar

 

METHOD

 

1. Toast the coconut on medium heat in a pan, stirring the mixture every two to three minutes for 15 to 20 minutes.

 

2. When coconut turns golden-brown, turn off the heat and let it cool completely.

 

3. Mix the coconut with chilli powder and lime juice. Season with salt and sugar, mix well.

 

SPICY-SOUR COCONUT GRAVY

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 to 4 shallots
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 2 medium-sized onions or 1 large onion (120g)
  • 10 dried red chillies, rinsed
  • 4 candlenuts
  • 15g ginger
  • 3 tsp tamarind pulp
  • 60ml water
  • 2 Tbs vegetable oil
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, bruised
  • 230ml coconut milk
  • 2 Tbs gula melaka (palm sugar)

 

METHOD

 

1. Blend the shallots, garlic, onions, dried chillies, candlenuts and ginger into a paste.

 

2. Soak the tamarind pulp in 60ml water for five minutes. Strain to remove pulp and seeds. Reserve the tamarind juice.

 

3. Heat oil in a non-stick pan. Stir-fry blended paste and lemongrass over medium heat for 10 minutes until fragrant.

 

4. Stir in the coconut milk and tamarind juice. Add the gula melaka and simmer on low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens.

 

RAW HERB SALAD, SOY FISH AND TEMPEH

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cabbage leaf, thinly sliced
  • 50g beansprouts
  • 2 stalks long beans, thinly sliced
  • Bowl of chilled water
  • 1 torch ginger bud, slice thinly
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves, devein and slice thinly
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, remove the first layer and use 8cm of the white root part, slice thinly
  • 400g soy fish, slice into eight pieces of 5x7cm each
  • 150g tempeh, cut into eight pieces of 3x5cm each
  • 150ml cooking oil

 

METHOD

 

1. Blanch the cabbage, beansprouts and long beans for one minute in boiling water.

 

2. Remove the vegetables from the pot, drain and place the vegetables in a bowl of chilled water for 30 seconds.

 

3. In a bowl, place the blanched cabbage, beansprouts and long beans. In another bowl, place the torch ginger bud, kaffir lime leaves and sliced lemongrass.

 

4. Fry the soy fish and tempeh separately in oil until golden.

 

TO ASSEMBLE EACH PLATE OF NASI KERABU

 

1. Place one serving of blue pea flower rice in the centre of a serving plate.

 

2. Arrange two pieces of soy fish and two pieces of tempeh on the plate.

 

3. Add 1 Tbs of sambal chilli, 2 Tbs of the coconut sambol and 2 Tbs of spicy-sour coconut gravy to the plate.

 

4. Add one portion of the blanched vegetables and one portion of raw herb salad.

 

Makes four servings

 

Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.