Farm to Table Asian Secrets: Vegan & Vegetarian Full-Flavored Recipes for Every Season, written by Patricia Tanumihardja, features Asian flavors in a variety of seasonal lightened meals. I got a chance to meet Patricia a couple of years ago during one of her cooking demos and was so excited to discover that she was creating a new cookbook. This one definitely doesn’t disappoint with incredible flavors and fun recipes such as Asparagus in Coconut Cream Sauce, Burmese-Style Pumpkin and Parsnip Curry, Broccolini with Seasoned Soy Sauce, Ice-Cold Korean Buckwheat Noodles, and Mixed Vegetable Salad with Indonesian Peanut Sauce. This book is set to be released on March 28th, 2017.
Patricia Tanumihardja was born in Indonesia and grew up in Singapore before moving to the United States for college. As a food writer, she focuses on topics related to food history and culture. She has a blog (Pickles and Tea) in collaboration with the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center and has contributed to Edible Seattle, Seattle, Sunset, Saveur, and more. She is also the author of The Asian Grandmothers’ Cookbook: Home Cooking from Asian American Kitchens.
Disclaimer: I received this book from Tuttle Publishing in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links.
Chapters are divided based on season: Basic Recipes, Spring Recipes, Summer Recipes, Autumn Recipes, and Winter Recipes.
The contents page at the beginning includes a full list of the recipes for easy reference with notes on whether the specific recipe is vegan, gluten-free, or if it can easily be made so with substitutions. The Basic Recipes chapter covers how to cook rice, toast sesame seeds and coconut flakes, make ramen eggs, create sauces, stocks, spices, and more to help build a flavorful base for the rest of the book.
Patricia includes a few seasonal variations with a chart on substituting certain vegetables based on availability along with a menu guide. The Asian Pantry section includes photos and descriptions of popular Asian ingredients and herbs with favorite brands, where to find them, and substitutes when possible. There is also an overview of basic equipment and utensils with photos. I personally love Patricia’s many tips including to set deep-fried food on a wire rack over a baking sheet instead of paper towels to keep them more crisp. She also discusses other cooking techniques along with menu planning guides and ways to find the best produce.
The photography is provided by Sarah Culver. Many of the recipes are accompanied by a beautifully styled quarter to full page photo of the finished dish. A handful have step-by-step photos to demonstrate wrapping, stuffing, and other techniques. There are also a few family photos in the introduction. Measurements are provided in US Customary and Metric. Every recipe has a headnote with background information, tips, and variations.
This book is a great pick for those wanting to try Asian flavors in lightened vegetarian meals. Many are also vegan and/or gluten free. Instead of just swapping meat for tofu (though tofu is an ingredient in a handful of recipes), Patricia focuses on maximizing the flavors of the vegetables to make them the star. With the exception of a few, the dishes are perfect for weeknight cooking and can be prepared in 45 minutes or less. The recipes have generally been adapted to feature ingredients that are available in larger American supermarkets. A few may be more difficult to find and require the use of an Asian food market such as miso, Korean red pepper powder, kombu, Chinese cabbage, daikon, baby bok choy, hoisin sauce, Thai chilies, chive blossoms, jicama, lemongrass, Chinese sesame paste, tamarind, sticky rice, and bánh pho. There is a nice assortment of appetizers, soups, stir-fries, salads, sides, noodles, and rice dishes, but you won’t find any beverages or desserts.
These Curried Vegetable Turnovers are savory little puffs inspired by the curry puffs of Singapore. Instead of having a fried short-crust pastry base, this version uses premade puff-pastry and are baked for an easier and lighter alternative.
The turnovers are filled with a curry-spiced combination of potatoes, carrots, and bell peppers. Other possible additions include hard-boiled eggs and vegetables such as corn, peas, or celery. If you don’t want to cut out the puff pastry sheets into circles, they can also be sliced into 12 equal squares to form triangles.
Leftover baked turnovers can be reheated in a 300 F (150 C) for 15 minutes.
I also made the Blanched Baby Spinach with Sesame Sauce, Spring Fried Rice with Asparagus and Cilantro, Mushu Vegetable “Burritos,” and Warming Vegetable Pho.
The Blanched Baby Spinach with Sesame Sauce was so easy to make and so flavorful. Evan usually isn’t a fan of cooked spinach, but he enjoyed this dish. The spinach and shredded carrots are blanched just long enough to cook briefly, then rinsed and squeezed of excess moisture. The vegetables are then tossed in a lightly seasoned soy sesame sauce. It can be made a day ahead of time for easy serving.
The Spring Fried Rice with Asparagus and Cilantro is perfect for a weeknight meal. Just make sure you have already prepped white rice in the refrigerator. The flavors were exact on this recipe (and actually all the ones I tried) and I didn’t need to change a thing. Pieces of asparagus, garlic, shallots, and chilies are tossed with cooked white rice and seasoned with cilantro and soy sauce. Claire especially loved the asparagus.
The Mushu Vegetable “Burritos” are filled with eggs, mushrooms, cabbage, carrots, bean sprouts, and green onions. Instead of the traditional pancake, premade tortillas are used for the base for easy weeknight preparation. The burritos are seasoned with hoisin sauce and chili paste that can be brushed on using homemade green onion brushes (loved this touch).
I made the Warming Vegetable Pho while my mom was visiting. It was one of the more time-consuming recipes, but so incredibly flavorful and a huge hit. Homemade mushroom (which I used) or vegetable stock is the base of the rice noodle soup and spiced with cinnamon, ginger, onion, star anise, clove, coriander, and a little brown sugar. Patricia includes a list of suggested toppings and garnishes. I used a variety of herbs, broiled tofu, and broiled shiitake mushrooms.
Curried Vegetable Turnovers
Adapted from Farm to Table Asian Secrets
Serves 4-6 (12 turnovers)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped shallots or red onion
2 teaspoons yellow curry powder
8 ounces (250 grams) yellow potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1/4 inch (5 mm) dice
1/3 cup (15 grams) diced carrot
1/4 cup (60 grams) diced red bell pepper
1/3 cup (85 ml) water
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound (500 grams) puff pastry (preferably all butter), defrosted according to package directions
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon milk
In a large wok or skillet, drizzle vegetable oil over medium high heat. Once shimmering, ad the garlic and shallots. Cook until just aromatic, about 30 seconds. Stir in the curry powder and cook until fragrant, another minute.
Stir in the potatoes, carrots, and bell peppers. Add the water and season with salt, sugar, and black pepper. Stir, cover, and reduce heat to medium low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are tender, 8-10 minutes. If too dry and beginning to stick to pan, add a little more water. Season if needed and remove from heat. Allow to cool to room temperature or refrigerate for up to 2 days.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (205 C) and line 1-2 baking sheets with parchment. In a small bowl, beat together the egg and milk.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out a sheet of puff pastry until it is 1/8 inch thick (3 mm). Cut out circles 4-5 inches (10-12 cm) wide using a circle cutter or small bowl. Gather and reroll the scraps to cut out another circle or two. Repeat with remaining pastry sheet if there is one.
Place a tablespoon of the cooled filling in the center of each circle, leaving 1/2 inch (1.5 cm) border around the edges. Brush the edges with the egg wash and fold the pastry over to enclose the filling in a half moon shape. Use a fork to seal the edges and transfer to prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining circles.
Brush the tops of the pastries with the egg wash and bake until golden brown, 15-20 minutes. Allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.