Tofu Salad with Spiced Peanut Sauce + Midsummer Potluck for Peace

Tofu Salad with Spiced Peanut Sauce + Midsummer Potluck for Peace

Yay, summer's here! Can you tell that this tropical sun worshipper is jumping for joy? Salads are usually in heavy rotation for us during the warmer months of the year here in California and when I want a taste from my sunny home of Southeast Asia, this tofu salad with a flavorsome spiced peanut sauce is what I make. 

This salad is inspired by a tofu street snack in Malaysia that goes by the name tauhu bakar (grilled tofu) or tauhu sumbat (fried tofu stuffed with vegetables). It is fried tofu filled with bean sprouts, and shredded cucumber and carrots. The fried tofu pieces are cut into squares or triangles, and pockets are made by cutting their midsection, which is where the vegetables go. The fried tofu may also be grilled to a crisp just before serving. 

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How to Make Vegan "Fish" Sauce: 3 Recipes Tested

How to Make Vegan "Fish" Sauce: 3 Recipes Tested

The first time I wrote about fish sauce was for the Thai Glass Noodle Salad (Yum Woon Sen) recipe. It's difficult to talk about Southeast Asian food without talking about fish sauce. Made with anchovies fermented in salt, fish sauce is a staple condiment in Thai, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Burmese, and Lao cuisines. 

I also mentioned vegan fish sauce in that post and promised that I will explore the subject further. So here we are! I tested three vegan fish sauce recipes, used them to make the same Thai glass noodle salad, and took tasting notes. In the process, I learned a few things about umami ingredients, lessons that are valuable for everyone, vegan or not.

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Chinatown + Snow Fungus Soup for a Sweet Lunar New Year

Chinatown + Snow Fungus Soup for a Sweet Lunar New Year

There's a joke among Malaysians that we'll travel far and wide for food, and that includes speed driving across town for that special plate of char kway teow during our workday lunch break or making a road trip out of an intense desire for laksa on the island of Penang. That habit is a persistent one and even after relocating to the US, my husband and I often find ourselves making the hour-long drive to Oakland for our favorite Malaysian restaurant in the SF Bay Area. And because the restaurant is located in Chinatown, we get to kill two birds with one stone: eating and shopping!

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Malaysian Laksa with Pumpkin (Spicy Noodle Soup)

Malaysian Laksa with Pumpkin (Spicy Noodle Soup)

"There is so much comfort in familiar tastes," writes Nigel Slater in The Kitchen Diaries. Laksa, a spice-strong noodle soup considered by some to be the unofficial national dish of Malaysia, is one of those dishes that serves up both comfort and surprise for me. There are countless variations and almost every state in Malaysia has its own version of the recipe. Depending on where I'm having it, the familiar dish can sometimes be a completely new discovery for my palate. 

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Let's Talk About Cookbooks!

Let's Talk About Cookbooks!

In my first ever visit to New York early this year, I came across Bonnie Slotnick Cookbooks in the East Village, a bookstore entirely dedicated to cookbooks. When I went back to New York again a few months later for the SAVEUR Blog Awards, my new friend Suchi took me to Kitchen Arts & Letters in Uptown, another bookstore filled to the brim with cookbooks and food-related reads.

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Sweet Rice Dumplings with Pumpkin (Tang Yuan) + A Pumpkin Party!

Sweet Rice Dumplings with Pumpkin (Tang Yuan) + A Pumpkin Party!

The last time I shared a kitchen with my family in Malaysia was on the night before my little brother's wedding, making tang yuan with aunts, uncles, and cousins I had lost touch with for many years. 

Tang yuan are sticky balls made of glutinous rice flour that sometimes have a sweet peanut, black sesame seed or red bean filling, served in a spicy ginger soup. These dumplings are usually made during the Winter Solstice festival (happening soon) or on the occasion of a family reunion. 

In Chinese tradition, the roundness and stickiness of the balls symbolize harmony and unity within the family. Rarely do we make tang yuan for no special reason, and they are almost always done around a table full of family members involved in various stages of the cooking process. Kneading, the shaping of balls, boiling and scooping, talking loudly, and laughing are all part of the ritual. 

That night, we were honoring the union of two people, and it was one of the most joyous tang yuan making sessions I've ever had in my life.  

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Easy Malaysian Fruit Salad (Rojak Buah) + Taste of Home

Easy Malaysian Fruit Salad (Rojak Buah) + Taste of Home

"What meal always tastes like home to you?" 

That question has been on my mind ever since it was brought up on the #WhyIWriteAboutFood interview series I host (read the interview here and and check out the entire collection of delicious conversations here). 

Vermilion Roots was born out of the necessity to find a sense of place after I moved from Malaysia to California. In many ways, it has given me a space to confront my feelings about the place I left and to explore the place where I now live. Along the way, I made a few new friends, met many more at the recent SAVEUR Blog Awards in New York, started volunteering on a farm, tried a bunch of vegetables I'd never heard of before, picked apples and pumpkins for the first time in my life, and became a better cook. A whole new universe opened up for me. All thanks to the universal love of cooking and eating. 

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Fall for Spices + Five Spice Energy Bites

Fall for Spices + Five Spice Energy Bites
"The secret of happiness is variety, but the secret of variety, like the secret of all spices, is knowing when to use it." -Daniel Gilbert, author of Stumbling on Happiness

What delights me more than a pantry full of spices from around the world is remembering I have an emergency stash of spices buried deep inside my purse. I call it BYO spice.

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Step by Step: How to Make Rainbow Cauliflower Rice [Video]

Step by Step: How to Make Rainbow Cauliflower Rice [Video]

We can make cauliflower rice. Or we can make RAINBOW cauliflower rice! All we have to do is use the different varieties of cauliflower. There's the classic white that we're most familiar with. Then there's orange cauliflower, which has a higher content of beta carotene and Vitamin A, and there's the purple kind, which gets its unique hue from the antioxidant anthocyanin. There's also the striking green romanesco with its stunning pine cone shape. Talk about getting your colorful nutrients! No wonder we are encouraged to eat the rainbow. 

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Easy Summer Asian Recipes

Easy Summer Asian Recipes

The days are getting really hot and sunny here in California. Let's take it light and easy, shall we?Today's link collection is a special one, because I've rounded up some of the simplest Asian recipes using the best summer produce just for you. We're talking cucumber, tomato, zucchini, green beans, and all those wonderful summer fruits. I bet we'll be seeing a lot of them at the farmers market, and maybe they are growing in abundance in your garden now. I hope these recipes will provide you with easy, fun and delicious ideas to enjoy them! 

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Transitions + Preserved Lemons

Transitions + Preserved Lemons

I'm in the mood to play with food. I don't mean anything like build a dollhouse with the veggies from my CSA box. (Or do I? Wink.) I mean try something new or different, experiment and get dirty in the kitchen! (That doesn't sound quite right either, does it?)

This past Spring, I've had so much fun discovering new vegetables like green garlicleeks and fava beans. With Summer right around the corner, I'm starting to feel a little frisky. It's difficult not to be when plump peaches and bright cherries are starting to appear everywhere. The plum trees around the neighborhood are about to unload their juicy goodness on us. Are you ready for sweet summer? 

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My Time Capsule + Salted Kumquat Tea

My Time Capsule + Salted Kumquat Tea

A year ago, I filled up several jars with layers of sea salt and fresh kumquats from the backyard. I placed them on the shelf, checked on them every few weeks, and eventually forgot about them. Patience is an essential ingredient in this recipe. 

Salted kumquats are one of those things that get better with age, and I've been told they keep for years, in fact the longer the better. Almost every Chinese household keeps a jar, or knows someone who does, because salted kumquats in hot water with honey stirred in are a long-held Chinese remedy for sore throat. Add some ice cubes and you have the perfect sweet-sour-salty cure for a hot day. 

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A New Day in Spring + Cherimoya Overnight Oats

A New Day in Spring + Cherimoya Overnight Oats

Every time I go out to work on the garden, a new bloom greets me. I thank my lucky stars every day that this is happening right now in the backyard of our new place. The candytuft flowers are real eye candy and the columbines look like the perfect hangout for fairies. Spring is definitely here and the weather is getting warm enough for us to enjoy a meal or two under the clear blue sky. I write plenty about the seasons, especially with regards to how they affect my outlook as someone from a tropical country, and I have to say I'm getting pretty chummy with Spring. To me, it's a season filled with a sense of newness and hope, and an air of lightness replaces the heavy drapes of winter.

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Our First CSA Share + Dandelion and Celeriac Salad

Our First CSA Share + Dandelion and Celeriac Salad

If you could see me right now, you'd notice the biggest smile on my face. The colorful farm-fresh produce in our first CSA share (community supported agriculture) from Live Earth Farm in Watsonville, California is bringing so much sunshine into our kitchen. Some of these vegetables are new to me, so I've been having a lot of fun experimenting with recipes and reaching out to friends for guidance. I'm learning so much and can't wait to share with you the discoveries I'm making! So this week's link love is all about vegetables, particularly those that came in our CSA, and at the end of this post you'll find a recipe for a salad using three ingredients from the box: dandelion greens, celery root and lemons. 

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