One thing that can be claimed with absolute certainty is that I am not a legendary cook and my cooking is certainly no stuff of legend from which legends are made. But it will not be fair if I say: ‘damned! I can cook!’.
For someone who did not fancy cooking before like myself and always having food cooked for me in the past, I find cooking not only as the dreadful chore but also seems complicated and thus daunting. Perhaps, I used to find cooking to be dreadful because I thought it to be complicated. I have accepted that I am somebody who cannot cook.
The idea of myself of being someone who is unable to cook has changed since the day I become and being vegan. Since then, I have taken charge of the kitchen and started to give attention to the food we eat and how to prepare them. I have discovered that I have the flair for cooking. The chore that I used to find so daunting has now become an activity from which I receive an undiluted pleasure.
In one of his talks entitled ‘Cheese: How Breaking A Surprising Addiction Can Revolutionize Your Health’, the speaker Dr. Neil Bernard demonstrates how milk and dairy products can be damaging to the life of both human and non-human animals. Also, in this particular talk which can be watched on you tube, Bernard also said that – and I am paraphrasing – being a vegan is not a sacrifice but an adventure. I agree. In my particular case, it is not only an adventure because I have discovered that I can cook, but I can cook well without meat, fish, and dairies at all. Being vegan certainly gives me something to reflect upon and write about.
So far, I am very pleased with the vegan foods I have cooked. Of course there is always room for improvement and I have also failed a couple of times in the past. For instance, the sweet and sour sauce I am about the share here below has taken few failures. It was either too spicy, too sweet, or too sour. Now, it is goldilocks. Soon it is up to you to discover and create that secret ingredients that marks your food distinctively yours, like a signature.
When we really put our hearts with the food we cook and prepare our meals mindful to other magnificent creatures, we do not only feed our body, but I guess, we also feed our minds. Nobody has to die, so that we could live. From that frame of mind, I do not miss eating meat at all. As a matter of fact, I have come to realize that meat might have had spoiled the taste of my food in the past. Perhaps, it was the taste of suffering.
The sweet and sour recipe below is not originally mine. I have made some alterations though. In my experience, one should not follow recipes dead seriously. They are only guidelines. One needs to follow one’s own taste and not the indicated measurement. If you like it salty then go ahead at your own risk. Eventually, you have to make to whole process according to your own version. As to avoid plagiarism, I must acknowledge that this version of sweet and sour is based on Tineke Sluijter’s Chicken in Sweet and Sour Sauce Recipe which was published in the Trouw newspaper couple of months ago (in Dutch language).
For obvious reasons, Sluijter’s version of the sweet and sour is not exclusively vegan, if not vegan at all. What I did is simply removed the chicken and replaced it with vegan balls which can be procured from the mainstream super market. She also mentioned that tofu can also be used instead of chicken, which of course makes the dish vegan through and through. My next project is to make my own vegan balls because I do not entirely trust the processed food made readily available for us.
Vegan Balls in Sweet and Sour Sauce Served with Pandan Rice
This dish is inspired by Asian Cuisine and it is plant-based meal.
- 12 pcs vegan balls or 1 block tofu sliced into cubes
- 3 tbsp. olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 onion sliced
- 1 vegetarian bouillon cube in one cup boiled water
- small piece of ginger (optional)
- 1 red pepper sliced into thin strips
- 1 red bell pepper sliced into cubes
- 1 yellow bell pepper sliced into cubes
- 1 tin pineapple on juice
- 3 tbsp. vinegar
- 3 tbsp. soya sauce
- 3 tbsp. sweet chili sauce
- 1 tbsp. corn starch (mixed in one cup cold water)
- 2 bunch onion
- On a pan, fry first the vegan balls for five to six minutes or refer to the instruction indicated in the package. When tofu is used, fry them until they become golden brown. Then set aside.
- In that same pan and oil, put the onions first then the garlic. Some prefer to do the garlic first and then the onion. Stir for two minutes, then add the ginger and the red pepper. Stir again for two minutes or until all the ingredients begin to change their colours. Then, add the bell peppers. Stir carefully and evenly.
- Wait until five minutes and then mix the flavours: bouillon soup, pine apple juice (set aside the pine apples for garnish), soya sauce, vinegar, and then stir them together. Cover the pan until the bell peppers are well done and that the colour of the sauce is changed into dark red(ish) colour. It is the time to add the sweet chili sauce and the corn starch to make the sauce thicker.
- Put the sweet and sour bell pepper on the top of the vegan balls or tofu then garnish it with the slices of pine apples and bunch onions as toppings. This dish is best served with white pandan rice.