Pan Fried Tofu with Chili Marinade and Stir Fried Vegetables – Low FODMAP & Gluten Free

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One of Ev’s and my favourite restaurants is a Szechuan place about a 5 minute walk from our apartment. It’s dangerously close, so our rule is that we can’t buy dinner more than once a week. It’s right next to the sushi restaurant that we used to spend all our money at… for all our neighbourhood could never be described as the most desirable one out there, it is not lacking in cultural diversity, which makes for a great selection of restaurants… I just wish I could eat at more of them! But if I’m careful then it’s normally doable – I just need to research the menus beforehand.

One of the best meals we’re had at this restaurant is the “choose your meat and tofu dry pot;” They even let us do a “tofu and tofu” dry pot, though it’s not on the menu and we got a few confused looks. About a month ago we decided to replicate this meal at home, or at least try to. It worked out quite well, so we’ll definitely be making it again.

FODMAP Notes

  1. Tofu, while made from soy beans, mainly contains the proteins, so most fruct mals can tolerate a moderate serving of it. Make sure you only buy firm tofu, not silken tofu, which hasn’t been strained and is higher in the FODMAP galactans.
  2. Both chili paste and oil can sometimes contain garlic – make sure you read the labels and choose one without.
  3. The stir fry veggies that are shown below contain onion (Ev doesn’t have fruct mal); however it’s in such big chunks that it’s easy to pick out. This is fine for me, as I know my limits. If you are still on elimination, or are very sensitive to onion, do not cook with it in the pot to the end, as FODMAPs are water soluble and, if you do not stir fry properly (high heat, very fast) then water will leech out from the veggies, including fructans from the onion.
  4. Chinese five spice powder is low FODMAP in 1 tsp. serves, which is fine, because you normally don’t need more than that through an entire recipe.
  5. Garlic infused oil is FODMAP friendly.
  6. Sesame seeds are low FODMAP.

Pan Fried Tofu with Chili Marinade

Serves 3-4

  • 2 cups extra firm tofu
  • 1 1/2 cup soy sauce/tamari
  • 1/4 cup chili paste
  • 1/4 cup chili oil, make sure you get a good amount of seeds in there if you like it spicy
  • 1 tsp. 5 spice powder – see above
  • 1-2 tsp. of garlic infused olive oil
  • 1 tbsp. toasted sesame seeds

About an hour and a half before you want to eat the tofu, slice them as shown and place them sandwiched between two chopping boards with paper towel in between, so that the layers go: chopping board, paper towel, tofu, paper towel, chopping board. Place a weight on top, it shouldn’t be more than a kilo. Leave the tofu like this for 20 minutes, so that as much of the liquid inside is squeezed out as possible. This allows it to soak up as much of the marinade as possible in the next step.

While you’re waiting, mix the soy sauce, chili oil, 5 spice powder and garlic infused oil together in a tall/narrow container and set aside. When the 20 minutes is up, carefully place each of the tofu slices in the marinade container, ensuring that they are fully covered, and leave it to soak up all the flavours for another half an hour. While this is marinading, wash the rice and prepare the vegetables for the stir fry listed below.

Once the marinading process is complete, remove the tofu and pat them down/wipe off as many seeds etc as you can. Seal a fry pan and pan fry the tofu over a medium-high heat for about 3-4 minutes a side, until they are slightly crispy. Serve with a garnish of the toasted sesame seeds and dried red chili peppers.

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Stir Fried Vegetables and Chinese 5 Spice Rice

Serves 3-4

  • 4 cups of vegetables suitable for stir frying, such as julienned carrots, sliced zucchini, red capsicum etc – basically 1 cup per person
  • The left over marinade from the tofu dish above, with the garlic picked out if necessary
  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked Basmati rice, washed
  • 1-2 tsp. five spice powder – see “notes” above

Cook the rice according to these instructions, stirring in the 2 tsp. of 5 spice powder (bought or homemade with the recipe above in “notes”) before you bring it to the boil. This cooking process takes 30 minutes from the time you have finished washing the rice and it has come to the boil, so make sure you time it so that the individual dishes are done as close together as possible.

Stir fry the vegetables over a high heat for a minute (you want them still slightly crunch) before adding in the leftover marinade from the tofu dish. Keep on the heat for another 30 seconds or so to heat the sauce through properly and then transfer to a serving dish.

The best way to time this dish is to wash the rice and start its cooking process before you begin to pan fry the tofu, due to the time the rice requires to cook as well as the tofu requiring more attention. The stir fried veggies only take 5 minutes at the most to cook and plate, so they should be done last. If you need a more in-depth description of how to stir fry vegetables, then look at this recipe.

If you like spiced and spicy foods, then this is the dish for you. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

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Sushi Revisited – Fructose Friendly & Gluten Free

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Sushi, for us, is pure bliss. Made well, the flavours blend as much as the textures do and the whole thing just fits together – no odd tastes here or there.

In Australia, sushi shops are like Starbucks in Seattle – they are everywhere but aren’t always great, however you can easily get your sushi fix for under $5. You can’t just go up to a sushi stand in Seattle (that I’ve seen, anyway) and to get our sushi hit we have to go out to a proper restaurant or make it ourselves. The problem? It takes about 2 hours to make from beginning to end and we can eat our fill in 20 minutes tops… it’s not really value for time but damn it’s still worth it.

In my previous sushi post, I discussed your typical maki sushi, the roll that most people will know about and have probably eaten. In this post, I will discuss a couple of other sushi styles that we have added to our repertoire, Nigiri and Gunkan sushi.

Our sushi/sashimi fish of choice is the sockeye salmon, which is wild caught around the ocean and rivers here in the Pacific Northwest. It has enough fat for flavour but isn’t as fatty (we’ve found) as the coho salmon that we’ve also tried. The colour is a striking red, due to the salmon’s diet of almost 100% zooplankton; this diet has another bonus, besides the amazing colour – because the sockeye don’t feed on larger aquatic creatures, they have been found to have much lower mercury levels than other fish their size. We really are spoilt for choice with seafood in the PNW.

Notes:

  1. Be careful with sashimi (raw fish). It can be safely prepared with a fresh fish that has been handled well but there are a few pointers that you should follow: the fish shouldn’t smell fishy (after the skin and the thin layer of flesh next to the skin has been discarded), the fish should be washed with water and dried properly and the fish should never be eaten raw after the first day. And of course, store it in the fridge when it’s not being handled or eaten.
  2. Rice, nori and fish are all low FODMAP but be careful of anything else that is added, such as chili pastes in dynamite sauce, which shouldn’t contain onion or garlic if you can’t tolerate them.
  3. Wet hands make handling the sticky rice much easier – it stops it sticking to you.

Nigiri Sushi

Makes 8.

  • 1 cup cooked sushi rice
  • 8 strips salmon sashimi, cut approximately 2 x 5 cm, with the grain of the fish running lengthwise down the slice (see photo)
  • Wasabi

Take a heaped tbsp. worth of the cooked rice and form it into a rounded oblong in the palm of your hand. Take the strip of sashimi and spread a tiny dab of wasabi along its length, then place the wasabi side of the salmon down onto the rice you shaped earlier. Squeeze the whole thing together, gently, with your palm and two fingers of your other hand, before placing it down on the serving dish. Watch this video for a good visual on how to form Nigiri sushi.

Nigiri sushi is the simplest to put together, as it does not require the sourcing of nori (which can be expensive at non-Asian grocers) or a bamboo rolling mat (a maki).

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Nigiri sushi – front

Gunkan Sushi (Gunkan Maki)

Makes 8.

  • 1 cup cooked sushi rice
  • 8 strips of nori, approx. 5 x 15 cm
  • Your topping of choice – spicy salmon or tuna, masago (basically anything finely diced)
  • A ramekin of water

Take a heaped tbsp. of the cooked rice and shape it into a rounded oblong. Next, wrap a strip of the nori around, with the rice sitting at one end and the other end empty – dab your finger in water and rub it onto the nori where the seam will meet, because this will help it stick to itself and seal the roll.

Finally, take a tbsp. of your filling and dollop it into the top (empty) half of the gunkan, before placing it on the serving dish. Our filling was a spicy salmon sashimi (finely diced salmon mixed with mayonnaise and chili paste).

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Serve with soy sauce (gluten free if necessary) to dip. Alternatively, you could add a drop of lemon juice or sesame oil to the soy sauce to change things up a little bit.

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Chinese Style Sticky Ribs – Fructose Friendly & Gluten Free

Last night Ev made the most delicious ribs ever.

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I helped, I suppose – as much as my post half marathon legs would allow. Never before had I realised that having the pots and pans in the lower cupboards was such a hassle, that the slightest steps would be so hard. I felt like I was 100 years old… still do, well maybe 80 by now, which is why I’m choosing a seated activity like blogging over cleaning the kitchen.

I will regret being seated for so long when I attempt to get up again… ouch. But I’m already planning the next one! 2 hours and 25 minutes for my first half marathon, I’m pretty stoked; especially considering I couldn’t run for the three weeks preceding it due to a recurrent hip injury. Now I need to improve on it!

These ribs can be served with blanched or stir-fried vegetables and rice. I will only explain the ribs in this post and I’ll do the rice in another. But they are so delicious. And grinding the star anise was my favourite part. Because I haven’t found a wheat-free/fructose friendly liquorice that I can eat, the aniseed aromas that wafted out of the food processor were like magic. Combine that with the ginger in there and it was like Christmas had come for me. All I could smell were liquorice and fresh ginger bread… at least in my mind!

FODMAP Notes

  1. Dextrose is a low FODMAP sugar.
  2. Ginger root (fresh and ground) is low FODMAP in 1 tsp serves.
  3. Tomato sauce – in Australia – is safe in 13 g serves. The 1/2 cup called for in this recipe equates to about 100 g, so around about 7-8 serves of this recipe for FODMAPers.
  4. Golden, maple and rice malt syrups are all low FODMAP.
  5. Hoisin sauce has not been tested for FODMAP content. I have found a brand in the US that I am okay with, please check ingredients and, if you are not sure, then skip this recipe.
  6. Rice vinegar and rice wine are both low FODMAP.
  7. Brown sugar is low FODMAP in the amount present per serve.
  8. Sesame oil contains no carbohydrates, so is low FODMAP.
  9. Five spice powder is a blend of star anise, cloves, cinnamon, szechuan peppercorn and fennel seeds. All but the szechuan peppercorns have been tested by Monash and are low FODMAP and five spice powder as a premade blend is low FODMAP in 1 tsp. serves.
  10. Asafoetida is low FODMAP and, given that you’d only ever need a tiny amount per recipe, it’s easy to not go over. Just make sure that you buy a gluten free version if you have Coeliac disease.

Chinese Style Sticky Ribs

Serves 8 FODMAPers.

For each rack of spare ribs, you will need…

  • 2 tbsp. dextrose
  • 6-8 chunks of ginger root, cut into 0.5 x 5 cm (1/4″ x 2″) chunks.
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce (aka ketchup, HFCS free)
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce, GF if required
  • 1/2 cup golden syrup/maple syrup/rice syrup
  • 1/4 cup GF hoisin sauce – has not been tested, check ingredients
  • 1 tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. rice wine
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar – sub in dextrose if this is problematic
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 tsp. five spice powder
  • 2 tsp. grated/ground ginger
  • 1 pinch asafoetida

Prepare your ribs. You can either buy them St Louis style or by the whole rack (usually cheaper per pound) and cut them down yourself. You can find more detailed instructions here but essentially you trim off the membrane, skirt and the riblets to reveal a neat, rectangular rack of ribs.

The rack should then be cut into individual ribs and then those ribs cut (read – bashed with a meat cleaver, ribs are hard) into 5 cm/2 inch lengths. You can also cut the riblets down to size and include them… I actually like those bits best because they have more meat on them.

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Next, soak the ribs in slightly salty water for 15 minutes. This gets rid of any funky odours that packaged meat sometimes comes with due to chemicals that warehouses spray on them to impede bacterial growth.

Seal your pot. Once it is properly sealed (and only then!) pour in the 2 tbsp. castor sugar and fry it on a medium heat til it caramelises. You will need to seal it with more oil than usual, or the sugar will absorb it all too quickly and dry out and burn.  In the meantime, drain the ribs (they need to be thoroughly dry or the water and hot oil mixing will create a nice explosion) and have them ready to go. Once the sugar has caramelised, sear them in the pot with the ginger chunks.

IMG_2740 IMG_2742Leaving the ribs and ginger in the pot, fill it with water until everything is just submerged, then bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes. When it comes to the boil, the blood will rise to the top in a layer of scum – skim this off and discard. Set the timer.

IMG_2748After the 20 minutes are up, remove the ribs with a slotted spoon (discard the ginger) and place them aside to dry in a bowl lined with paper towel.

IMG_2751While the ribs are boiling, make the sauce. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix together. We didn’t have five spice powder (and I couldn’t find it anywhere locally) so I made it myself. I couldn’t find one of the more typical ingredients, either, so I substituted it for another type of pepper.

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Star anise, fennel seeds, cloves, cinnamon and paprika – I misread the recipe and it should have been some sort of peppercorn, not a chili pepper; a mistake but it still tasted delicious. Blend until smooth in a food processor.

Once you have dried the ribs, seal your fry pan because you will need to sear them once more until they are a crispy brown.

IMG_2752Remove them once more (for the last time, I promise). Leave the pan off the heat for a few minutes to allow it to cool properly or there will be another explosion when the water based sauce hits the hot oil and heat your sauce through on a low-medium heat til it is smooth and well combined.

IMG_2753Pour the ribs back into the sauce and heat through while stirring. Serve with rice and veggies. Enjoy!

IMG_2758 IMG_2760This definitely worked a treat as a post looooong run meal with protein and carbs. If you have problems with table sugar, which is 1:1 fructose to glucose, then this meal might not be for you unless you substitute a cooking sweetener like Stevia or dextrose in its place.

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I have never cooked with Stevia because in the small amounts that I eat sugar, it hasn’t bothered me; this is what I hear from most other people I know with FM – which is different than HFI. Brown sugar, on the other hand, has about 101 g fructose to 100 g glucose. The 1 g of extra fructose doesn’t bother me in small amounts (though I haven’t sat there and eaten a bowl of it to see how much would bother me) but again, if you know it affects you or you don’t want to risk trying it, then skip it or replace it with something like Stevia.

Sushi – Fructose Friendly & Gluten Free

Ev and I like entertaining. It’s fun to have your friends over for dinner and drinks and to show off your skillz in the kitchen.

About the middle of 2011, we realised how much money we were blowing every time we ate at the local sushi restaurant. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a 10 minute walk away and we still visit occasionally but you know how those Sushi Train restaurants work, $$$ per plate and everything that’s travelling past you looks so delicious that you just have to try it. And who keeps track of the different coloured rims and the quickly escalating bill? Not us.

Ev, who can’t say no to a challenge and the possibility of doing something (well) that most others can’t, decided one night we’d make sushi for dinner. Well, I can tell you what we plated up was not what we had imagined after months of good sushi from the local restaurant. It was so heart breaking, to think we’d slaved away for 2 hours – no joke – and all we came up with was this…

Argh, BURN IT!!! It’s embarrassing.

Here’s where we went wrong:

  • At this point we were still using our shitty rice cooker. I know there are good ones out there and some people swear by them but the day ours shorted out and we could ditch it was one of the best days of our culinary lives.
  • We were n00bs at filleting and preparing the sashimi. Don’t worry, it was fresh, but the slices were messy and looked terrible.
  • We left out the avocado and cucumber… colours are part of what makes sushi so good to eat. Food should look and taste good.
Here’s what we do now. It’s (apparently) so good we managed to convert a non-sushi eater who now complains if it’s MIA when she comes over… not naming any names 😛
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The Rice:
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ABSOLUTELY important. You can’t slack off here and put in just any rice, cooked just any way. We learnt that the hard way. Begin with proper sushi rice. You can’t substitute Jasmine or Basmati, their grains are too long. Making it this way, we have never had rice stick to the bottom of the dish. I used to think that that was just part of making rice but apparently it’s not!
  • 3 cups of rice should make enough sushi to serve as part of a meal for 8-10 people. We normally serve sushi as an appetiser (US lingo)/entree (rest of the world lingo for appetiser).
  • WASH YOUR RICE!!! Wash it until the water runs clear. You should scrunch the rice with your hand between rinses as well. Washing it gets rid of the starchy outer layer, which will give it a chalky taste and mushy texture.
  • Add the drained rice to a pot with 1.25 cups of water to every cup of rice, put the lid on and let it sit for 30 minutes.
  • Put the pot onto a high heat and bring to the boil – a tight fitting glass lid works best. Once the water is boiling, reduce the heat to a low setting and let it simmer for 15 minutes. The lid cannot be removed until the rice is finished or the steam will escape. Also, set a timer.
  • Take the pot off the stove and let it sit for a further 15 minutes, leaving the lid ON.
  • Make your sushi rice seasoning while you wait. A typical ratio is 1 cup rice vinegar to 1/2 cup superfine sugar and 1/4 cup of salt. Or you can buy sushi rice seasoning pre-made.
  • Now you can remove the lid and pour the sushi rice out onto a casserole dish  that is made of glass/pyrex or a wooden chopping board… NOT metal or the rice will cool too quickly and the texture will not be the same. Use a small fan (hand held or electric) and “chop” your rice back and forward across the dish with a firm spatula to facilitate cooling, while gradually sprinkling over your seasoning. Don’t mush the rice around or you’ll crush the grains. Check your rice for taste and texture to know when to stop adding the seasoning. It should be sticky, not gluggy.
  • CONGRATULATIONS, you’ve just made sushi rice. I’m not exaggerating when I say it took us 6 months to perfect this method, taking tips from here and there.
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The Fillings:
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Dynamite sauce – 1/2 cup kewpie, 2 tbsp sriracha, 2 tbsp roe. Alter to your own taste.
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Our standard fillings would be salmon (sashimi), avocado, cucumber and homemade dynamite sauce.
Alternatively, you can make vegetarian sushi for those like my sister who don’t eat meat or fish. Some combination of beetroot, green beans, cucumber, firm tofu, bean sprouts, carrot, avocado and dynamite sauce would all work.
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I know you’d think it goes without saying but the fillings should be julienned… except the sauce.
Basically, just play around with flavours. Ev wants to attempt a pulled pork version of sushi next… I’ll keep you updated.
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Assembling the sushi:
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A sushi rolling mat (or something similar) makes your life so much easier and produces neater sushi rolls.Lay your nori (the dried seaweed mat) out on the rolling mat and, using the spatula from earlier, spread your rice in a thin-ish layer over 2/3 of the length of the nori. If you spread it over the entire length, you’ll end up with a spiral sushi like we did in our first picture. Not as pretty, so we leave the last 1/3 of the nori uncovered so it will just stick to itself and you wont even know it existed.
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About 2-3 cm in from the end closest to you (which should be the end covered in rice) lay a trail of your ingredients from left to right across the width of the nori/rice. Don’t use too many ingredients, or your sushi will be too thick and wont be structurally sound.
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To roll your sushi, lift the edge closest to you with the rolling mat and roll the whole thing towards the rice-free end that is furthest from you. Once the nori that is covered has met, keep rolling nori on nori until you get almost to the end. Then lightly dip your finger in water and spread it across the width to help it stick together and stay sealed.
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If we make sushi ahead of time (never more than by a few hours, as rice can be a good breeding ground for nasties like bacteria, not to mention the necessity for fresh sashimi) this is where we stop and refrigerate it, to be sliced later on.
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Slice the sushi into a size of your choice. You could opt for a longer California roll, or a pretty, bite-sized piece like we normally do. A very sharp, wet knife will help you cut them cleanly without smooshing the rolls as you go.
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Oishii desune!
      
PS. The benefits of making your own sushi means you can use left over rice to make nigiri! Yum, yum, yum.