Category: Reader Request

Ramen Revisited + How to make Dashi

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Amen Ramen // My New Roots

My parents made my lunch every day that I was in school from the time I was barely old enough to hold a brown paper bag, right up until my last days of high school. It was always exactly the same format, with slight variations: sandwich, juice box, granola bar, piece of fruit. Pretty standard fare for most of my peer group if I remember correctly, and I never complained about it. That is until the day I peered over my bologna-on-a-bun to see Alexis at the popular kids’ table in the junior high cafeteria slurping over what looked like a rather foreign and intriguing styrofoam cup of something hot and tasty.

“Oh, that’s Mr. Noodles”, my best friend Julie said, and went on to explain that all you had to do was pour boiling water into the cup and wait a few minutes before eating the noodle soup-like meal. I looked down at my cold, relatively flavourless, pedestrian food and felt left out. Not only was I totally un-cool, but suddenly my lunch was too. Could life get any worse?!

I ran home and told my mom about the cup noodles and begged her to buy some at the store, promising her that this could not only save her time, but most importantly, my lunchroom reputation. “Don’t you want me to be popular?!”, I wailed. Convinced this was my ticket to the promised land of spin-the-bottle and weekend shopping mall hang-outs, I persuaded her to invest the fifty cents on a couple trials and see what all the fuss was about. When she came home I had the kettle boiled and ready to get down to business.

Folding back the paper lid, I spotted a magical little package of flavoured powder inside, which I read was meant to be emptied into the cup before adding the water. A couple shriveled, token peas fell out amongst the dust and my mom looked pleased to see green. The boiling water was added, I closed the lid again and waited – the longest four minutes of my life thus far. But oh, what ceremony! What rapture! The timer on my ironman wristwatch beeped, I stirred the cup, and dug in.

It was salty. Very salty. That’s about all I can recall. The noodles, semi-cooked and crispy in parts were underwhelming and bland, while the broth, if I can all it that, was shockingly saline. But none of that mattered. I would have eaten cow dung if it meant sitting next to Alexis. I finally had the answer to the question of cafeteria coolness.

Amen Ramen // My New Roots

Needless to say, eating ramen did not initiate me into the popular crowd, nor did it inspire a great love of this ubiquitous, cheap eat canonized by hung-over college kids everywhere. Until very recently this had been my only experience with ramen. But when yet another ramen recipe request landed in my inbox, I knew it was time to revisit this famous dish.

It needs to be said that instant ramen is a far cry from its traditional roots of noodles in broth, which when prepared properly with care and intention, can be utterly delicious. I suppose it’s like most things that go from revered, regional dish to the freezer section of the gas station’s grocery aisle, or worse. Shouldn’t these things receive a different name or label in respect to the original recipe? It’s somewhat maddening, but I surrender to the fact that there is only so much I can change in this world.

Amen Ramen // My New Roots

The backbone of all ramen is the broth, or dashi. Dashi is a clear stock that is traditionally made using kombu, Japanese sea kelp, and katsoubushi or bonito, dried fish. Other dashi bases can include shiitake mushrooms, and because my recipes are plant based, I’ll be showing you how to make this variety and the kombu one today. Once you have this base, you can spike your dashi with shallots, garlic, ginger, miso, etc. but today we’re keeping things simple and I leave the fun and improvisation to your ramen-hungry minds.

Toppings vary widely, but vegetarian ingredients can include noodles (obviously), mushrooms, strips of nori or other tasty sea veggies, greens, spring onions, shredded cabbage, kimchi, garlic, and the ever-so-popular soft-boiled egg. If you are vegan, simply leave this ingredient out – it’s the only animal product in the recipe and still delicious without it. The one thing I love about ramen is its versatility and infinitely customizable combinations to suit every season, taste, and budget.

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On Salt, Sodium and Finding a Balance
The big bad deal with packaged ramen and its accompanying powdered broth or “flavour packet” is the incredibly high sodium content, some brands containing an entire day’s worth in just one serving! On the flip side, making your own dashi allows you to control the sodium level and provide you with balanced saltiness for overall wellbeing.

Sodium is not only important to us, our survival depends on it. Its role in the human body is to work in conjunction with potassium to maintain cellular fluid levels, acid/alkaline balance, and keep the nerves and muscles functioning properly. Sodium plays a role in hydrochloric acid production in the stomach, and is used during the transport of amino acids from the gut to the blood.

Because sodium is needed to maintain blood fluid volume, excessive sodium can result in increased blood volume and elevated blood pressure, especially if the kidneys are compromised in any way and unable to clear it efficiently. Hypertension and premenstrual problems are more frequent in people who have a high salt intake, especially when there is a relatively low level of potassium in the diet to counteract it. Virtually all whole unprocessed plant foods contain more potassium than sodium. Grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens, offer ten to several hundred times more potassium, and yet the average American is said to be deficient in potassium. Although there is no standard ratio of sodium to potassium to recommend, eating a balanced, whole foods diet (surprise!) is the best way to achieve equilibrium.

So how much sodium should be eating in a day? First it needs to be established that sodium and salt are two different things. The salt we consume is in fact a combination of two ions, sodium and chloride, in percentages of roughly 40% and 60%. Most nutrition experts agree that sodium intake on a daily basis should not exceed 2 grams per day. This amount is equal to 5 grams of salt, or 1 teaspoon. Yup. That’s it. Put into those terms, it’s easy to see how one could overdo it…by lunch hour.

To avoid excess sodium intake, limit processed foods. As I mentioned above, a little recon revealed that some instant ramen brands cover the daily sodium base in just one serving. Yikes! Sodium lurks in some very unexpected places, so be savvy and read labels. To be extra cautious avoid high-salt foods such as commercially-prepared pickles, olives, and saurkraut, canned and instant soups, processed cheese, condiments like ketchup, barbeque sauce, gravy, alfredo sauce, salad dressings, mayonnaise, soy sauce, snacks foods like chips, salted peanuts and pretzels, crackers, and boxed breakfast cereal. Remember, cooking for yourself is the only way to know exactly what you are getting in your food.

Amen Ramen // My New Roots

There are a few things that need to be mentioned about this recipe.

First, you need to start the process the night before (or the morning of) by simply soaking the dashi ingredients in water and set in the fridge. This is how you make the broth. You can hurry the process by cooking the ingredients in hot water if you’re in a rush, but the results are better if you follow this slower method (plus, your fridge does all the work). I will also say that traditional dashi is delicate and mild-flavoured, unlike the instant dashi that is saltier and stronger due to the addition of artificial, chemical flavour enhancers. When you try the dashi for the first time, try not to compare it to the ramen broth you’ve had in the past – this is the real deal. Appreciate its clean, pure taste and it subtlety, and add tamari or miso only as needed to enhance the natural flavour.

Second, you can make and enjoy the dashi bases separately if you like, or combine the two for a more complex flavour. I really like the combination of the kombu and shiitake dashi together. They both contain good amounts of umami, so united they deliver a deep, multifaceted taste experience without the meat.

Third, get organic ingredients if you can. Sea vegetables and mushrooms are both like little sponges in their respective environments so finding the cleanest and highest quality you can is a good idea.

Finally, purchase the most high-vibe ramen noodles you can find. The other reason I was inspired to write this recipe and post was because of all the incredibly awesome ramen I’ve seen at the health food store. Made with whole grains, some of them even gluten-free, I couldn’t say no! Now, you could make your own noodles if you like (this is an art I greatly admire) but in the interest of saving a smidgen of time, buy yourself some noodles and get to the ramen even faster.

 

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My New Roots - Inspired Plant-Based Recipes for Every Season

Hey everyone! Mybook comes out today!!! I am so ridiculously excited to see this day arrive and the book arrive in your homes and kitchens. The reviews have been so positive so far and for that, I thank you. Please note that although most stores in North America that are carrying the book should have it in stock today, some may take a few days to longer. If you want to purchase the book online, there are many retailers listed here.

I would like to take this time to acknowledge the couple of misprints in the book. During the editing process the following mistakes were made: on page 21, the ghee recipe is labeled vegan. On page 241-242 buckwheat and spelt switched places so that buckwheat is in the gluten-containing section of the grains chapter, while spelt is in the gluten-free section.

In other news, my Vancouver tour dates and events have been confirmed! Here is where and when you can find me in Van city (this will be my first time there, can you believe it?!). Click the links for more details and ticket information.

April 15: Burdock and Co. Collaborative Dinner + Book Signing
April 16: Whole Foods Cambie Cooking Demo + Book Signing
April 17: Interview + Afternoon Tea with CBC’s Sheryl MacKay
Barbara Jo’s Books to Cooks Dinner Event + Book Signing

Looking forward to seeing you all there!

Also, check out my most recent interview over at the gorgeous site, The Coveteur.

Sarah B’s Bubble Tea

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Sarah B's Bubble Tea // My New Roots

I get some pretty interesting recipe requests from you, my readers, and although I receive far more than I could ever fulfill, I do like to rise to the occasion. I am especially inclined to answer the call if more than one person asks for the same thing: gluten-free vegan lasagna, healthy cookies, and easy breakfasts are just a few of the cravings I’ve tried to satisfy.

It seems that over the past year, bubble tea has become a popular item for health-ifying, and I’ve gotten several emails about this very thing. How can we take a pretty sugar-laden, artificially-coloured-and-flavoured beverage and turn it into something beneficial, light, and refreshing? Here I am to the rescue!

But can I make a confession? I’ve never actually tried it before. Most of the time I do my research in order to gear up before making something out of my wheelhouse, but this time it was just too much to swallow. I actually did go to a teashop though, with my best intentions to sample a bevy of bubbles. I walked in, saw all the crazy colours, dubious “juices” and syrups, pulled a 180 and headed straight to the health food store instead. I did leave with bubble tea straws, of course. That much I know is essential.

So, that all said, if I get this totally wrong, I do apologize. This is my version and I quite like it. Sarah B’s bubble tea is not pretending to by anything other than what it is – a bubble tea all its own.

Bubble Tea

Tapioca Pearls of Wisdom
What makes those darn bubbles anyway? It’s tapioca, in fact. Tapioca is the dried starch from the root of the cassava plant, a tuber native to South America. It has a naturally sweet taste, which is why it is so often used in candies and desserts, most familiar of them being tapioca pudding. Tapioca also the amazing ability to absorb and thicken liquid. Being naturally gluten-free, it is has become a popular gelling agent to use in foods, as opposed to fillers containing wheat. You can use tapioca flour / starch / powder in place of arrowroot or cornstarch in most recipes.

Tapioca is a staple food in many countries throughout the world due to its high concentration of carbohydrates, low levels of fat and dietary cholesterol, and its vitamin and mineral balance. Key nutrients in tapioca include calcium to support bone health, magnesium to help control inflammation, phosphorus for protein synthesis, and vitamin A for glowing skin.

You can find tapioca at most health food stores where it is often sold in powder, flaked, or pearled form. For bubble tea, look for large pearls instead of the small ones that are typically used to make tapioca pudding. Make sure that the only ingredient in the pearls is tapioca starch, and organic if possible. Many “novelty” pearls contain food coulouring and flavouring agents, and it’s best to avoid those for obvious reasons. Natural peals are pure white and are almost completely flavourless, except for a hint of sweetness.

Sarah B's Bubble Tea // My New Roots

Peaches and plums have just come into season, so I’ve decided to use those as the fruit base for my teas. You can use whatever is available where you are of course, and match the brewed tea flavours accordingly. I chose chamomile to pair up with the peach and green tea to go with the plum. These were really delicious combinations, but are by no means the only options. Rooibos would be tasty with peaches too, and maybe jasmine with plums? I’m just guessing here – get creative!

Sarah B's Bubble Tea // My New Roots

So what else do you want to know about? What other kooky experiments will you have me diving into? Bring ’em on! If you are so inclined to send me an email, type “recipe request” as the subject line and I’ll squirrel it away for a time when I’m a bit stumped for what to make next. And you never know, I may just answer your call.

Hope you are all having a gorgeous summer! Sorry for the radio silence on my end – I’ve been giving the cookbook so much attention, it’s hard to keep the blog up to speed. I promise it will be worth the wait though. Good golly am I excited!!!

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Show me your bubble tea on Instagram: #MNRbubbletea

Raspberry Ripple Buckwheat Porridge

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Raspberry Ripple Raw Buckwheat Porridge

Does anyone out there latch onto a food and become totally obsessed with it? Do you find it making its way into almost everything you make? Lately, I’ve been riding the buckwheat wagon hard. And although I am not so much into food trends, I predict that buckwheat is going to be the new hotness. You heard it here first.

Okay, maybe it’s just me. This little seed (yes, it’s a seed!) has tumbled its way into my little heart and made a triangular burrow so deep that I can’t imagine what my life was like before it. Those beautiful, variegated, pale green-and-sand coloured pyramids, so humble yet majestic. The way it crisps up in the oven, like teeny, crunchy fireworks. The soft, creamy texture it has after cooking, and how it absorbs so many flavours, leaning either savory or sweet. The rich and nutty flour that turns into noodles, bread, muffins, pancakes, scones and waffles so deliciously.

And while I thought I had buckwheat all worked out, he pulled out his wildcard and now I’m scarfing raw buckwheat porridge like it’s my job. Looking for a power-packed breakfast this summer? High protein, high fiber, gluten-free, versatile, portable, and insanely delicious. It’s also super easy to make, and perfect for those mornings when you need to get outside in the sun as quickly as possible. Obsessed!

How is the porridge raw you ask? The trick to making this treat, is soaking overnight. It’s an easy way to enjoy completely uncooked grains, in their full nutritional force.

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The Right Way to Soak
Although soaking grains in pure, un-chlorinated water is good, if you really want to go the extra mile, the key is dropping some acid! And what I mean by that is, adding something acidic to the soaking water, fresh lemon juice and apple cider vinegar being my top picks. For every cup of grain, use 1 tablespoon of acidic medium (don’t worry –the sourness will not be noticeable in the end product, cooked or raw). It also helps if the water is relatively warm, recently boiled but cooled off to some extent.

Suggested soaking time is 7-8 hours, such as an overnight. Leave whatever you are soaking at room temperature. I just keep mine on the counter, covered with a clean tea towel. In the morning, drain the grains in a sieve and rinse well. FYI – buckwheat has a very unique property of making goo. Don’t be alarmed if your groats are on the snotty side the morning after – this is totally normal and it is easily rinsed off.

What these elements add up to, is making the grains far more digestible. Warm, acidic water helps to remove phytic acid, which would otherwise interfere with mineral absorption, and neutralize enzyme inhibitors. Soaking also allows the enzymes, lactobacilli (friendly folk bacteria) and other helpful organisms to break down some of the harder-to-digest starches. Overall, it’s a really good idea, even if you are in excellent health with stellar digestion. It’s these little steps that quickly add up to major life change – I can certainly attest to that.

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This porridge was actually inspired by my mother, eternal lover of raspberry ripple ice cream. As a kid, I could never understand how you could waste an entire trip to the ice cream shop on fruit. I mean, really. But I get it now, and raspberry swirling through a blushing pink, creamy, vanilla porridge seems almost too good to be true for breakfast.

If you have never eaten soaked, blended buckwheat before, be prepared for a pleasant surprise. Its mildly nutty, and slightly sweet flavour make it a perfect breakfast food during the warmer months. Plus, it is the easiest thing to whip up, taking less than five minutes from start to finish. The texture is up to you: if you like a chunky porridge, blend it just a little, or if you like it smooth, let your machine run for 30 seconds or so until it is beautifully silky. Even though you can use milk in this recipe, you will certainly achieve a creamy consistency with water alone. That is the magic of buckwheat!

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The raspberry is the shining star of this breakfast, giving the porridge a beautiful colour and juicy tartness. If raspberries aren’t in season where you are, use whatever berries or fruit you have. I added a little lemon juice for brightness and cardamom for a richer spiced flavour. This is optional, but really delicious. The frozen banana ups the creaminess, sweetness, and makes the porridge cold, which I really dig, but you could replace it with dates, honey or maple syrup too. The bee pollen is not essential to the recipe, but a wonderful way to boost the nutritional content of this dish even more. If it’s your first time using bee pollen, start small and work your way up. The amount given here is for those just starting out.

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Show me your porridge on Instagram: #buckwheatporridge