Sometimes people ask me about the ingredients I’ve used in my dishes, questions like “What is On-choy?” or “What is Snow Fungus”? So for this week’s #FridayFunList, I thought of compiling the top vegan staples I use in my cooking. Most, if not all, could be found at Asian grocery stores.
1. KANG-KONG/ON-CHOY/MORNING GLORY
Kang-kong is a kind of water spinach that has crunchy stems and tender leaves (when cooked). It absorbs flavors really well while adding a nice texture and crunch to every bite. In Tagalog (Filipino dialect), it is called Kang-kong, in Chinese: On-Choy, in English: Morning Glory.
Kang-kong is delicious in dishes like Sinigang or Adobo.
2. SNOW FUNGUS
I’ve discovered this wonderful ingredient after having a vegan Pho soup at a Vietnamese restaurant. Snow Fungus was used to replace the tripe in the soup. Since then, I’ve used Snow Fungus in my Filipino dishes such as Kare-kare and Goto Porridge.
Snow Fungus has a very subtle taste. I use it mainly for its wonderful, chewy texture.
3. BANANA LEAVES
One cannot exclude banana leaves when making Filipino desserts. Banana leaves infuse an aromatic flavor often used when making Filipino desserts like Suman.
In the Philippines, you could find banana trees and leaves almost everywhere. Unfortunately here in the United States, you could only get them packaged at the frozen section of your local Asian store. Still, I would rather use one than leave it out altogether.
4. WHEAT GLUTEN CAKE
Also available at Asian grocery stores, wheat gluten cake is the answer to veganizing some of the notoriously meat-heavy Filipino dishes such as Dinuguan. It could be found at the frozen section of Asian grocery stores.
Please note, I’m not referring to the fake meats which are pre-seasoned. I’m referring to the block of gluten cake that is completely bland with no other ingredients than wheat gluten and water. I suppose you could also make one from scratch if you’re up to the challenge. Wheat gluten absorbs flavor well and provides a chewier texture than tofu.
5. ACHUETE OR ANNATTO
Achuete (Achioete) or Annatto is a natural food coloring traditionally used in Filipino soups, stews, and other dishes like Sotanghon, Ukoy, or Palabok. It’s a seed that came from Achuete trees. It produces a bright orange color that livens up anything it touches.
Filipinos use it simply for the color. Achuete does not have any particular taste or flavor. Just dissolve it in water before adding it to your cooking. Sometimes it comes in powder form so it could dissolve faster.
6. STICKY RICE
We Filipinos love our rice. In fact, every Filipino main course always have two components: the ulam or entree and the rice. One won’t be complete without the other. As if that’s not enough, we’ve taken things to another level by also incorporating rice to our desserts and soups! Sweet sticky rice to be exact.
(Tsampurado/Champorado soup with sticky rice, chocolate powder, and spices. Topped with almond milk).
Rice prevalently grows in the Philippines hence our frequent use of it. I highly recommend buying some from the company Eight wonder, which practices Fair Trade and social entrepreneurship with the farmers, not to mention it produces an array of gourmet rice.
Have I missed out something? What ingredient would you like to learn about?