Cookbook of the Month: Asian Vegan Kitchen

AVK Button Mushroom Curry (12)

The Asian Vegan Kitchen had been sitting on my bookshelf for several years, and only used twice.  That’s pretty poor, especially considering how much I love Asian food.  I’d always been deterred by the fact that the ingredients lists look so daunting, and there aren’t many pictures.  Choosing this as a cookbook of the month forced me to actually venture into some of the tempting recipes, and I was not disappointed.  As I already have a pretty good stock-pile of ingredients now, it turned out to be a fairly cheap and tasty month, though due to my holiday I didn’t have time to cook as many recipes as I would have liked.  The book is organised by country, and I seemed to stick to a few of them.

AVK Satay Skewers (8)

Starting with the Thai section, I made these satay skewers with their delicious chunks of deep-fried tofu, mushrooms, peppers and asparagus.  The recipe also called for chunks of baby corn, but I couldn’t get them onto the skewers – fortunately, they were delicious eaten straight from the marinade.  The marinade was tasty, but was  overpowered by the sweet peanut dipping sauce that is served alongside it – I think you really only need one or the other.  We also debated whether we’d put theses ingredients on skewers again.  It would be much easier to simply serve them with some rice and a dollop of sweet peanut sauce.  We’ll definitely be having it again in one form or another though.

AVK Tom Yam Soup (9)

The tom yam soup was nicely flavoured, but looks a bit unappetising due to the dark soy sauce I was using.  I’m now rather fed up with thin Asian broths – I’ll definitely be back to some chunky, thick soups in May!

AVK Drunkard's Noodles (2)

The amusingly titled drunkard’s noodles are so named because the author believes they are a good hangover cure.  I can’t confirm that, but I had them when I was full of cold post-holiday and they certainly cleared my sinuses!  They were good and spicy, and delicious hot or cold.

AVK Roasted Aubergine Salad

This roasted aubergine salad was a filling and spicy lunch – again, good for my sinuses.  It’s better fresh from the oven, but cold leftovers work too.  I loved the crunchy peanuts!

AVK Sticky Rice With Mango (1)

Unsurprisingly, desserts aren’t the main focus of this book.  The only one I made was the sticky coconut rice with mango, that Thai staple.  It was as good as I’d hoped, and I’ll definitely make it again!  The recipe calls for quite a lot of sugar, which I thought would be unnecessary in light of the coconut milk and cream.  However, I would recommend using the full amount as a mouthful without any mango was really lacking in sweetness.

AVK Navratna Korma (8)

I’d expected to use the Indian section a lot more, but it only got a couple of outings.  The navratna korma is actually one of the dishes I’d made before.  This time I tweaked the recipe, soaking a cup of cashews beforehand to provide a real creamy sauce for the curry.  Actually though it wasn’t particularly creamy, and turned out to be one of my least favourites.

AVK Button Mushroom Curry (11)

The mushroom and green pea curry from the Indian section was one of the more intriguing dishes I tried- it was unlike any curry recipe I’d used before.  It called for a sauce made from ground up blanched almonds, which I decided to replace with almond butter, which resulted in quite a thick and creamy sauce.  The poppy seeds were a pleasant but unusual addition.  All in all, it was a nice tasty curry.

AVK Lachedar Paretha

And I even made my own bread to serve with it!  I’m a famously bad breadmaker, so this lachedar paratha was quite the surprise – it did exactly what I wanted (except that it was meant to be round and came out rectangular).  Mr HH is an expert in Indian flatbreads, and even he seemed tolerably impressed with my efforts, so I’m calling this one a definite win.

AVK Pho (2)

Although I lived in Vietnam for two and a half years, I rarely cook Vietnamese food.  I only remember eating pho once when I lived there (I know.  My only defence is that I hadn’t even heard of Happy Cow back then and didn’t really know how to find meat free food.), and that was when a student took me out and failed to grasp the concept of vegetarianism – she ordered me the soup without the meat, but it was still meat broth and I could barely choke down a few polite mouthfuls.  This was much better!  There were lovely tofu and shiitake strips, some fiery red chillies, crunchy beansprouts and of course plenty of noodles which I slurped up like a true Vietnamese.

Spicy Coconut Vegetable Soup (8) The spicy coconut vegetable soup from the Vietnamese section doesn’t look too appetising, thanks again to the strong colouring from the dark soy sauce I used.  But it’s all about taste, and that was spot on – it didn’t lie about the “spicy” part.

AVK Fresh Spring Rolls (3)

Spring rolls were probably my favourite Vietnamese food, and while I’d usually go for the crispy, deep-fried variety, this time I made some healthy fresh ones.  They were simple and tasty and I’ll definitely make them again – they made for a nice light meal and were nice simply dipped in soy sauce.  As always, the presentation needs improving, but the taste was an immediate hit.

AVK Gyoza

China was quite under-represented in my endeavours, and the only dish I tried was this one.  I was extremely nervous and excited about making gyoza for the first time – and astonished at how easy they were!  The filling was really simple but tasty, and construction was easy.  We popped a few in the freezer as well, so we have some more to look forward to.

AVK Tofu and Vegetable Soup (4)

The Japanese section was one of my favourites:  I’m crazy about Japanese food at the moment.  The tofu and vegetable soup was simple, but really tasty.  It included burdock, a mysterious ingredient that I’d planned to simply omit until I spotted some in the Chinese supermarket and thought I’d give it a go.  I suppose I’d expected it to taste like dandelion and burdock, but in actual fact it didn’t seem to lend a particularly distinct flavour to the soup.  Still, it was an exciting purchase, and the soup was really nice- the best of the ones I made.

AVK Vegetable Pancake (1)

I was a little anxious about making this vegetable pancake because I don’t usually excel at flipping pancakes.  But this one turned out pretty nicely, as you can see.  The recipe said it would serve four, but (gluttony alert) the pancake above consists of half the batter.  That looks the perfect size for a main course, in my opinion, so I don’t feel too guilty about it.  It was nice and crispy, and really delicious with the tomato-based sauce from the recipe.  I made it again with asaparagus rather than shiitake mushrooms, and it was just as good – they added a nice bit of bite to it.

AVK Tofu Teriyaki Steak (10)

The tofu teriyaki steak was one of the dishes I was most excited about trying.  I simplified the recipe somewhat, frying the mushrooms and asparagus in the same pan as the steak to save on washing up.  I know a lot of people complain about tofu being bland (that’s the point, it’s a flavour sponge!), but this had some good flavour from the sauce.  I might marinate it in the sauce next time to really let it soak it all up.

AVK Black Sesame (4)

I served the steak with black sesame asparagus – I didn’t grind the seeds as recommended, and I really liked the texture as it was.  The taste was good too, and it accompanied the steak nicely.

I felt like I hadn’t done that well with my challenge this month, but looking back I think sixteen recipes is pretty good in a month with a long holiday.  And the challenge worked for me in the sense that I finally overcame my fear of this book and no longer feel so daunted by it – it’s one that I’ll happily dip in and out of again in the future.  Despite the lack of pictures, the recipes are easy to follow and are quite easily adaptable if you want to replace expensive/hard to source ingredients with those you can pick up easily at the supermarket.

Next month I’m turning my attention to Afro Vegan, a book I got for my birthday this month.  The recipes look quite involved, but hopefully I’ll have enough time to dedicate to them.

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11 Responses to Cookbook of the Month: Asian Vegan Kitchen

  1. JB says:

    I’ve not heard of this cookbook, but I’m really intrigued now! I’d love to branch out and try some new things. I’m really not familiar with a lot of Asian food, like Japanese is totally an unknown to me!

    • Jenny says:

      I bought it because I was moving to Asia…and then never used it the whole time I lived there! I’m really getting into Japanese food at the moment, but I really want to explore the Korean chapter as well.

      • JB says:

        I had a Korean instructor in tech school and I was always intrigued by the food he posts on FB. I’ve veganised a recipe he recommended for bean sprout soup and it was pretty good but it’s been a long time and I could probably do better now!

  2. Asian Vegan Kitchen is one of my favourite cookbooks! There’s almost nothing I’ve made from it that I haven’t liked. I’m most impressed by the dumplings and the bread. Making bread always seems like a tonne of work, but definitely worth it here!

    • Jenny says:

      I’m glad someone else likes it too! This bread was very easy, minimal effort required. I never have much success making bread with yeast, but flatbreads like this are within my comfort zone.

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  5. onesonicbite says:

    It is interesting to see what you cooked from this book. I got this as a gift, and I wasn’t impressed. Maybe it is because I’ve done a lot of Asian cooking, and I live in an area where getting some ingredients isn’t too hard. I found a lot of my mess ups were because the author didn’t get specific about which type of noodles and such. It also felt a little bit like the author didn’t try and replace non-vegan ingredients, like fish sauces. But I think it is a good stepping stone if you don’t want to buy 8 different soy sauces like I do. XD Oh and using almond butter instead of grinding the almonds for the mushroom and peas curry is actually really smart!

    • Jenny says:

      That’s interesting, I didn’t really consider the book from the viewpoint of someone investing in all the good Asian ingredients. If you have a recommendation of a good Asian book, I’d love to hear it!

      • onesonicbite says:

        Hmm… good question. I have so many Asian cookbooks pre and post veganism. I think my favorite is probably Vegan Eats World, though it doesn’t focus totally on Asian food. I still need to look around for a good vegan cookbook that has some great information about veganism in their countries with lots of photos and descriptions of foods. But a quick search shows that “The 30-Minute Vegan’s Taste of the East” got a lot of great reviews on Amazon.

      • Jenny says:

        Ah, I was eyeing that up recently! Maybe I’ll treat myself.

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