So here we go again. It’s detox time! Unfortunately, January health kicks are rarely sustainable for most of us, including me.
So my approach is to accept my human fallibility, and try and balance the number of times I enjoy cake against the number of times I eat my greens. As it happens, I like my greens. Mainly because I don’t prepare them like some stinky old school cabbage. My love of Asian food means I make delicious greens in spicy curries, crispy fritters and fragrant broths. Trust me, it’s not a chore (a true misnomer held by many people about us veggies and vegans – that we live off salad and enjoy the pain of a deprived existence).
South East Asian food is hugely appealing when trying to eat more healthily. Being predominantly rice-based, it’s less stodgy and glutinous than the European diet. And while there are lots of fried snacks, these are balanced out with fresh rolls, broths and curries.
The fresh and fragrant herbs and spices can make even the simplest of vegetables punch far above their weight on flavour. This is what made me fall in love with this kind of food, especially on my travels. Although I’m vegetarian, I love to eat vegan food more often (as it’s better for me, the cows and the planet). And in Asia, I ate some of the best vegan food of my life.
In much of Asia, eating a plant-based diet is the norm. This has resulted in an explosion of flavourful dishes and variety of menus. The lament for many vegans and veggies on the road in Europe is usually “ah well there’s always chips!” Not so in Thailand or Indonesia. But there will be something to eat and not only that, it will taste really good.
One of the latest trends for January kick-starts and eating more healthily is vegan food. I really love the idea of Veganuary, where carnivores, pescetarians and even vegetarians sign up to eating a plant based diet for the month. I know that that if I stop drinking alcohol for a month, or even a week, the next time I have a drink, I drink far less and far less often.
But how do you get someone to try a vegetable-based dish over their usual meaty choices? I think the best starting point is flavour. Eating food that is packed with fresh and fragrant flavours will alight anyone’s taste buds and make the hungriest diner feel satisfied. It helps to be open-minded about tofu or some weird mushroom you’ve never heard of, or any other ingredients used for protein and texture.
My last tip would be to eat more greens. If there is one group of vegetables that Asian food does better than the rest, it’s greens. There are so many of them, it’s like a candy shop of green goodness. Endless curries, stews and broths or stir-fried with garlic and ginger (I would rather eat them like this any day of the week than drink only their extracted juice).
If you’re trying to make small changes for a healthier lifestyle, you could do far worse than simply choosing a vegan dish over a meat dish. And by exploring some of the delicious vegan dishes of South East Asia, you could be tempted to eat vegan food more often. Not as a chore. Just to simply enjoy some really delicious dishes!
Try something vegan on Tampopo’s menu here (and don’t forget to eat your greens).
About the author: Jackie Kearney is a chef and food writer, and creator of The Hungry Gecko. Check out her debut cookbook Vegan Street Food or her recipe page here. Explore the Veganuary recipe pages here.
For a Signed copy of Jackie’s new Vegan Street Food book, purchase directly from Tampopo here.