Friday, June 14, 2024

Vegetarian Nyonya Recipes: Contrasting Flavors

Once upon a time, cooking Nyonya Cuisine (NYONYA CUISINE: REDISCOVERING HERITAGE) meant pounding ingredients in a mortar. Today, it's all about convenience with food processors and blenders. But there's still one old-timer, Ms. Nava, pounding away now and then. While some women prefer showroom kitchens, she cooks in shorts, bringing Nyonya vegetarian recipes to life with flair! Unlike those reliant on helpers or fancy kitchen setups or cook for seeking validation and praising from others for occasions, Ms. Nava stays true to tradition, cooking for her family. She after using her Nyonya cooking knowledge, blends the old with the new, converting classic Nyonya dishes into delightful vegetarian versions, proving that culinary excellence knows no bounds.

Nyonya Vegetarian Raw Mango Salad
1 medium-sized green mango - peeled, seeded, and thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves - chopped
2 red chilies - chopped
Some crispy fried shallots
2 stalks of coriander leaves - chopped or shredded
2 tbsp roasted white sesame seeds
1 tsp crushed palm sugar
Salt to taste

In a large mixing bowl, add all the ingredients.
Toss everything together until well combined.

Vegetarian Nyonya Eggplant Sambal
2 eggplants - cut into pieces, salted, fried, and set aside

Other Ingredients
1 tbsp dried chili paste
5 garlic cloves - minced
1 tbsp light soy sauce
½ tbsp dark soy sauce
A small piece of palm sugar
2 tbsp oil
Salt to taste
Some spring onions - sliced

Heat the oil in a pan and sauté the minced garlic until fragrant.
Add the dried chili paste and continue to sauté for a minute.
Stir in both the light and dark soy sauces, and add 2 tablespoons of water.
Season with the palm sugar and salt if needed.
Add the fried eggplant pieces and stir quickly to coat them with the sauce.
Remove from heat and dish out.
Garnish with spring onions.

Nyonya Vegetarian Nasi Kerabu/Herbs Rice (VEGETARIAN NASI ULAM)
3 cups cooked white rice
1 stalk lemongrass - chopped
7 Thai betel leaves (daun kaduk) - thinly sliced
4 winged beans (kacang botol) - thinly sliced
6 shallots - thinly sliced
2 red chilies (seeds removed) - thinly sliced
Salt to taste
Calamansi lime

In a large bowl, add all the ingredients except for the lime.
Toss everything together until well combined.
Serve with calamansi lime on the side.

Nyonya Vegetarian Turmeric Rice
For the Rice
2 cups uncooked rice
1-inch piece of fresh turmeric (peeled and smashed)
Water as needed 
**Add rice and smashed turmeric to a bowl of water.
Stir and set aside for at least an hour.

Other Ingredients 
2 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup coconut milk
Salt to taste
Some kerisik (grated and pan-fried coconut)
1 turmeric leaf - sliced

Drain the water from the rice and remove the fresh turmeric.
Transfer the rice to a rice cooker.
Add the 2 1/2 cups of water, coconut milk, and salt. Stir well.
Cook the rice in the rice cooker as usual.
Once cooked, add the sliced turmeric leaf and fluff up the rice.
Before serving, sprinkle with kerisik.

Vegetarian Nyonya Pineapple Curry
For the rempah/curry paste (blend/grind with some water)
Dried red chillies (to taste)
1 tomato
1 red onion
5 garlic cloves
2 small lemongrass stalks
1/2 fresh turmeric root
1/2 inch galangal

Other ingredients
1 pineapple - peeled and sliced
1 turmeric leaf - sliced
3/4 tbsp kerisik (pan-fried & pounded grated coconut)
1/2 cup oil
Water as needed
Salt to taste

Heat the oil in a pan and add the rempah/curry paste.
Cook until the oil splits from the paste.
Add the pineapple slices and stir.
Add some water and cook until the pineapple softens.
Stir in the kerisik, and salt.
Switch off the heat and add the sliced turmeric leaf.




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