Nac Mac Vegan: adventures in rabbit food

23/04/2010

Buying sea vegetables

Filed under: Ingredients, Shopping — Tags: , , — Feòrag @ 02:35

Looking at the search terms which bring people to this blog, I’ve noticed a lot them are questions about buying sea vegetables, usually in London.

Now, I don’t live in London, and only visit two or three times a year, but I do know the answer to that question, and it includes general information that can be applied to anywhere.

  • Organic and whole foods stores usually have the Clearspring range, which includes the Japanese staples, plus dulse (one of my favourites). Clearspring products are more expensive than many, but the quality is outstanding. There’s a list of stockists online.
  • The Japan Centre on Regent Street, next to Mitsukoshi, has the Clearspring range, several Japanese brands plus some obscurities. There is a small cluster of Japanese shops nearby on Brewer Street which also sell a range of sea vegetables.
  • Chinese supermarkets are another good source, and there are a number of those in Chinatown. The quality is more variable than in the health food shops or Japanese stores, but there are Chinese supermarkets in many cities.

Finally, last time I was there, there was a stall on Borough Market which sold Welsh laver bread. I can’t find it on their list of traders, but there again, I can’t remember what else they sold.

07/04/2010

Japan: some additional vegan konbini goodies

As mentioned yesterday, Herwin Walravens’ Japan Vegan Restaurant Pocketguide contains a handy summary of the few vegan items available in Japanese convenience stores. There are a few others too.
Sesame tofu package
Gomadōfu (ごまどうふ) is one of the non-tofu “tofu”s. It’s sesame milk set with kūzu and is rather pleasant if you like sesame. There are a number of similar looking items, some of which are flavoured tofu – shiso (しそ – perilla) is a vegan one of these; others are the aforementioned jellies set with kūzu, including a black sesame version. One warning: if you see a package very similar to the one shown, but yellow, it’s a savoury egg custard thing. The kanji for egg is very distinctive and worth learning to recognise: .
vegan daikon and seaweed salad from Family Mart
The second discovery is a daikon and seaweed salad from Family Mart. I’m afraid I forgot to photograph it until I’d eaten half of it, but the photo is enough to get the picture. The container has a small amount of lettuce at the bottom, then loads of shredded daikon, topped with a variety of seaweeds. There is no salad dressing, so you might want to sprinkle on a bit of soy sauce or something. I have been through the ingredients list with the proverbial fine toothed comb and all it contains is the lettuce, daikon and various kinds of seaweed. They’ve neglected to sneak in any fish whatsoever. Let’s hope no English-reading person at Family Mart notices this post and gets the “error” corrected!

I’ve been eating a lot of inarizushi while I’ve been here. It’s one of my favourite foods, so I’m not at all upset about it. There are many variations, and I have yet to find one that isn’t vegan. You can get it with mushrooms, or sansai (山菜 – mountain vegetables, edamame and many other things. The only non-vegan version of which I am aware is a regional variation which uses thin omelette instead of the tofu pouches. I’ve never actually seen it anywhere.

There are several varieties of small sushi roll which are vegan: the classic cucumber (adding mayo to them seems to be an American trick), yellow pickled daikon, natto and one I’d not seen before – kanpyo dried gourd reconstituted. Note the sachets of soy sauce that come with convenience store and supermarket sushi aren’t – they’re a mixture of soy sauce and fish stock. Buy your own wee bottle of soy sauce.

I am here for three weeks and can’t eat out for every meal or I wouldn’t have money to spend on capsule toys, yaoi, robots and weird Hello Kitty items. I have a kettle in the room, and there is a microwave oven in the hotel, so I plan to expand my horizons a little. I have a nice small miso bowl from Muji and a larger plastic noodle bowl from a 100 yen shop. I brought some sachets of a vegan instant dashi (enough to tide me over till I find a shop that sells it) and a small bottle of soy sauce with me. I have already bought a small bag of sweet white miso, a package containing mixed seaweed and wheat gluten coils, some fried tofu and some vegan instant ramen bought from a macrobiotic shop. The supermarket near Akihabara station sells fresh soba (buckwheat) noodles, so I can easily put together a hot meal in my (pokey) room on the cheap. I’ll try and remember to blog my efforts.

06/03/2009

Vegan Dashi

Filed under: Ingredients, Japanese, Products — Tags: , , , , , — Feòrag @ 13:07

Dashi is Japanese for soup stock. It comes in all sorts. Hon dashi (本だし) is never vegan as it’s fish stock. Konbu (こんぶ – kelp) and shiitake dashi are more promising, but they usually contain bonito (also call katsuoboshi), a fish product.

Shimaya konbu dashi

Shimaya konbu dashi

There are at least two brands of Japanese instant konbu dashi which are vegan. The first is made by Shimaya (シマヤ), comes as mid-green sachets (long and thin) in a green plastic bag, and is labelled こんぶだしの素. I have also seen the same product in boxes. You might read that this product contains lactose—it used to, but doesn’t any more. If you want to check, go to the product page and search for 乳糖, which is Japanese for lactose. You’ll find it in the shiitake dashi (which used to be vegan—poo!), but not the konbu dashi at the top. The ingredients translate as: seasonings (amino acid etc), table salt, saccharides (dextrose, sugar), natural flavourings (kelp powder, kelp extract). You can get this from the Japan Centre, or any of the Japanese supermarkets in London.

Ajinomoto konbu dashi

Ajinomoto konbu dashi

The second is a similar product made by Ajinomoto, and is packaged almost identically, with eight long and thin, but light green, sachets per pack. When I first spotted it, I thought it was the Shimaya one with re-vamped packaging. The ingredients for this brand are salt, sugar, mannitol (E421), monosodium glutamate (E621), powdered kelp, kelp extract.

Two brands of dashi which are vegetarian, but not vegan.

Two brands of dashi which are vegetarian, but not vegan.

There are two more brands, which are vegetarian, but unfortunately aren’t vegan, though for one of them you’d never tell from the translated ingredients list. Riken Mutenka (“additive-free”) Konbu Dashi is also GM-free. The importer translates the ingredients as simply “tangle”. The actual list is: flavourings (kelp extract, powdered kelp), starch, lactose, yeast extract. The other is a Dutch macrobiotic brand, Manna, which also contains lactose (I thought macrobiotics discouraged the use of dairy?).

Wel-Pac dashi konbu

Wel-Pac dashi konbu

If you know you will need the dashi a few hours in advance, it’s simple but time-consuming to make your own. Good dashi konbu will be thick and not too wrinkled – I’ve had consistently good results with the Korean Wel-Pac brand, which is stocked by pretty much all Chinese supermarkets and is easy to obtain. To make a litre of stock, take a sheet and break it into three long pieces. Wipe the konbu with a damp cloth and place in a large pan with a litre of water. Put the lid on the pan and bring quickly to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until you have about ¾ of the original volume of liquid. If your pan lid does not have a hole in it to let steam out, place it ajar whilst simmering. Top up the water back to the original level, using cold water, and simmer for a further 20 minutes or so, then top up again and simmer for another 10 minutes.

By this point you will know if you had good quality konbu as it will have expanded and small blisters will appear on the surface. The more dashi you make, the longer it will take to cook. It will keep for a few days in the refrigerator, and you could consider making a highly concentrated version and freezing it—just use less water or more konbu.

Another trick for simmered dishes is to simply place a piece of dashi konbu at the bottom of the pan before you add the other ingredients and remove it after cooking. Don’t throw the used konbu away, though, as it is still good to eat.

19/02/2009

Japanese recipes so far

As a way of getting this kick-started, here are my Japanese vegan recipes which I’ve already posted to my LiveJournal and elsewhere.

There are plenty more of these, and the observant might have noticed references to a cookbook. Yes, I’m working on one.

09/12/2008

Kinugoshi no gomadare (Silken tofu in a sesame sauce)

Filed under: Japanese — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — Feòrag @ 13:36

Kinugoshi no gomadare (Silken tofu in a sesame sauce)This is a really simple recipe, that can be made to look incredibly posh.

Ingredients (four servings)
One cake firm silken tofu (e.g. Mori-nu)

sesame sauce:
8 tsp white sesame seed
4 tsp soya sauce
4 tsp sake
8 tsp mirin (use an expensive one, like Clearspring’s Mikawa Mirin)

topping:
2 tsp white sesame seed
A sprinkle of nori flakes, or perilla if you can get it.

Blend the sauce ingredients together and divide between four small bowls.

Cut the tofu as shown below and place one piece of tofu in each bowl.

cutting-tofu

Toast the other sesame seed in a heavy pan and put approximately ½tsp on top of each piece of tofu. Sprinkle the nori or perilla on top of this. Serve as one element of a Japanese meal.

Variations:
This dish is made chilled. It could be heated in a microwave before the toppings are added, but I haven’t tried this. Adding brown rice syrup to the sauce would turn it into a dessert.

22/05/2007

Black Beans and Hijiki

This recipe was adapted from one in Kyoko Honda’s Tofu and Soybean Cooking. The original used soya beans, and used more sweetener and seasonings.

1 can black beans
10g dried hijiki (about 1/3 cup)
3 dried shiitake mushrooms
1 sheet abura-age (fried tofu sheets)
1 small carrot
½ sachet dashi (vegan ones do exist, honest)
4 tbsp shoyu
2 tbsp brown rice syrup
2 tbsp sake
1½ tbsp sesame oil

Put the hijiki to soak in 1 cup warm water; soak the shiitake mushrooms in enough water to cover them. Put on some brown rice.

Rinse the abura-age in hot water to defrost and get rid of the oil. Pat dry in a tea towel and slice into julienne strips. Slice the carrot into julienne strips. Combine the shoyu, brown rice syrup and sake in bowl. Drain the tin of beans.

Go away and read teh internets for 10 minutes or so.

Drain the seaweed and mushrooms, retaining the soaking water. Cut the stalks off the shiitake and bung them in the stockpot (or the bin, depending). Slice the caps.

Heat up the oil in a wok or large saucepan. Add the carrots, mushrooms, hijiki and abura-age and stir fry for a couple of minutes (don’t skip this for health reasons – much of the good stuff in sea veg is oil-soluble). Add the beans, soaking water and dashi powder, bring to the boil. Add the combined shoyu etc – you might have to add a bit of the hot water from the pan to get all the syrup out, then allow to simmer until dry.

Serves 2 as a one bowl meal with rice. Serves lots and lots as a small dish presented as part of a Japanese style meal.

Blog at WordPress.com.