Sri Lankan Jackfruit Curry + Jackfruit the Old-Fashioned Way

Sri Lankan Jackfruit Curry + Jackfruit the Old-Fashioned Way

Many of us now identify with jackfruit as a vegan meat substitute but I knew it first as a giant fruit bigger than the size of my head with bright yellow flesh as sweet as honey. Growing up in Malaysia, it was one of my mother's favorite fruits and I can still remember the nectarous whiff that came with it. We called it by its Malay name nangka and sometimes ate it deep-fried in batter as a mid-day snack. 

With all the recent jazz surrounding jackfruit as the "pulled pork" of vegan cooking, I was curious to find out how this tropical fruit had originally been cooked in other countries and cultures. Jackfruit has long been enjoyed in South Asia and Southeast Asia both in its ripe and green forms. In Thailand and The Philippines, the sweet fruit is thinly sliced and added to desserts. Countries like India and Indonesia treat the bland unripe jackfruit like a vegetable and use it in curries and stews, like the Sri Lankan curry I made. 

Read More

South Indian Coconut Vegetable Curry

South Indian Coconut Vegetable Curry

When we think of Indian food, the first few things that come to mind are red curries and naan bread. Little do we know that these are generally North Indian staples and there's a whole different world of cuisine in South India.

Take this fresh-looking curry for example. It hails from Karnataka, a state in the south-western region of India, and gets its appetizing green color from a chewy curry paste made with grated coconut and cilantro. It's nothing like the curries we usually get in Indian restaurants here. 

Read More

Rice and Mung Bean Porridge with Vegetables (Kitchari)

Rice and Mung Bean Porridge with Vegetables (Kitchari)

I make porridge a lot. When I feel under the weather and need something light on the stomach, I make a simple rice porridge. When I do not have the time to cook, I make a big pot of rice porridge and have it over the week with various toppings: dried fruits, nuts, and seeds for breakfast or ginger, scallions, soy sauce, sesame oil, and ground white pepper for dinner. In fact, I've written about the various styles of Chinese porridge here and shared a recipe on the Protest Fuel zine (which you can order here). 

Porridge is good for anytime of the day, especially in the colder seasons when a warm bowl of food can bring so much comfort. This winter, I've been making an Indian-style rice and mung bean porridge known as kitchari that I learned about from Ayurveda cookbooks

Read More

Indian Spiced Okra with Kenyan Coconut Rice + Celebrating Diversity

Indian Spiced Okra with Kenyan Coconut Rice + Celebrating Diversity

Lately I've been making foods that I've never had before, allowing books like Shane Mitchell's Far Afield: Rare Food Encounters from Around the World to guide me in my exploration of new flavors. Whenever life stresses me out, I retreat to the kitchen. If I had to express myself succinctly without delving into the current political climate in the US, I'd say the last few months have been really disturbing.

In cooking I seek solace and I always find it, the discovery of a new ingredient or the excitement of trying a new recipe never fails to provide me with a sense of meaning in a time of confusion. Having Indian-style spiced okra with Kenyan coconut rice on the same plate makes perfect sense for me right now. And yes, they are tasty together!

Read More

Basmati Saffron Pilaf [Video]

Basmati Saffron Pilaf [Video]

Family traditions are often created over the holidays. This year, we're thinking of spicing up our first Christmas in the new apartment. As we plan this year's Christmas menu, it's looking more and more like a multicultural feast made up not only of Western holiday staples but also some of our Asian favorites, like this spicy Basmati Saffron Pilaf and an East-meets-West pumpkin laksa soup I've been experimenting on (watch this space!). It appears a holiday tradition is in the making in our household, and it is one that embraces diversity as a delicious opportunity. 

Read More

Five Spice Apricot Chutney

Five Spice Apricot Chutney

The last time I took a walk in my neighborhood, I saw a big blue sign on my street with the word APRICOTS written in bright yellow. What did I do? I followed the arrow, of course, and walked into a backyard filled with golden apricots freshly-picked from a farm in the SF Bay Area. It certainly felt like I landed on a page in a Roald Dahl book! 

Read More

Baked South Indian Fava Bean Fritters with Green Chutney

Baked South Indian Fava Bean Fritters with Green Chutney

Remarkable things happen when you work on a farm. If I made a list it would be lengthy, but I'll just name one that has impacted my eating habits the most: the discovery of new vegetables. When I started volunteering at One Acre Farm in Morgan Hill, California, last Fall, I found out I really like long beans. It helps that your farm host is a fantastic cook who makes intuitive cooking effortless. I've been going back to help on the farm on a weekly basis, and was recently introduced to fava beans. 

Read More

Roasted Chana Dal with Jaggery and Coconut (Okkarai) for Diwali

Roasted Chana Dal with Jaggery and Coconut (Okkarai) for Diwali

The Indian festival of lights is happening in November and I'm feeling nostalgic about the celebrations back in Malaysia. Growing up in a multicultural country means having a variety of major holidays throughout the year, and with them come various spreads of festive culinary delights. Along with Chinese New Year, Aidilfitri and Christmas, Diwali (or Deepavali) is one of the many festivals Malaysians partake in.

Read More