What’s a vegan?
To put it simply, a vegan diet is one that excludes any animal product. As such, it’s more restrictive than a vegetarian diet as, in addition to meat, it also excludes dairy and poultry products such as milk, cheese and eggs.
Why go vegan?
There are many reasons one would choose this diet, such as, for ethical, religious, environmental or health reasons and certainly, reading about some of the inhumane practices in our highly industrialized commercial food production would invoke the vegan in any of us. Hence, it’s no surprise that veganism has become a widely accepted dietary choice.
What do vegans eat?
Surprisingly, not all vegan diets are created equal. While some vegans have wholeheartedly embraced the ‘no animal product’ rule and stuck exclusively to whole foods originating from plants, others have remained vegan while substituting meat with ‘meat-like’ products – usually tofu-based products masquerading as meat and the like.
Whichever your preference, with a little effort, you too can be a card-carrying vegan with the help of simple vegan recipes to tempt your discriminating vegan palate.
A Malaysian staple
In this article, I’ll be sharing a simple recipe for Nasi Lemak, a hearty, staple of Malaysians be it for breakfast, lunch or dinner (though not for all three meals in a day unless you’d like to end up as big as a bus).
There are three main components to this dish which are, the rice, the Sambal and the side dishes. As mentioned above, this is a bare bones recipe with minimal ingredients which you can choose to fancy up as much as you please yet will be more than satisfying as it is, if you choose to be a lazy vegan.
Let’s begin shall we?
Simple and delicious, all you need to do is slice onions, ginger and garlic and throw them into the pot with rice, coconut milk, salt and water and cook as usual. If you have it, add a pandan leaf for fragrance.
That’s it folks! It’s even simpler if you’re using a rice cooker as you can just throw the ingredients in and press the button without needing to watch the stove.
Here are the amounts used when cooking for 2 – 3 people:
2 to 3 cups of rice
1 cup of coconut milk (basically, the coconut milk should be a third of the total water you’d usually use to cook the rice, e.g. if you use 3 cups of water to cook rice, replace 1 cup with coconut milk)
1 whole onion
A slice of ginger (about 1 inch)
2 cloves of garlic
Salt to taste
Sambal is basically a chilli-based sauce or condiment that you’ll be eating the rice with. There are many versions from extra hot to mild and you’ll be able to adjust as you like once you get the hang of it.
Again, keeping things minimal, you will need dried chillies, onions, tamarind juice, salt and sugar. As a Sambal enthusiast, I usually already have blended dried chilli stored in my freezer which I can just take out to use when I need it. So, no need to blend a new batch every time. Also, ready-blended chillies are also available at Asian stores so you can get those as well.
To prepare the tamarind juice, I use a spoon of tamarind paste and dilute it with some water (see pic above of that brown-looking liquid in a bowl). Then, slice the onions and you’re good to go.
First, add some oil to a pan and stir fry the onions till soft. Then add 4 tablespoons of chilli (just multiply this amount as needed if you need more portions – who knows you might be a Sambal fiend and not know it!) and stir fry until it starts to dry up and then becomes oily.
Add a little bit of water and 8 tablespoons of tamarind juice, half a teaspoon of salt and 2 tablespoons of sugar and let it thicken to a semi-paste like consistency. Voila! That’s your Sambal ready!
Some things to note:
Sambal preference is a personal choice so feel free to adjust the proportions according to your taste. Prefer it spicier? Use more chilli or less tamarind juice and sugar. Want it more sour? Add more tamarind juice, etc.
Nasi Lemak can be enjoyed with a variety of vegan sides so feel free to add any of those listed below.
- Stir-fried water spinach (just stir fry onion, and add in water spinach and salt to taste)
- Stir-fried mushrooms & carrots (again just stir fry onion before adding carrots and mushrooms with salt to taste)
- Crispy fried tempeh strips (just cut tempeh into thin strips and deep fry till crispy)
- Fried/toasted peanuts
- Sliced cucumber
The Finished Product
To whet your appetite, here’s a photo of the finished Nasi Lemak with Sambal on top of the rice and sliced cucumber and stir-fried carrots and mushrooms on the side. Happy cooking!