It’s A Vegan World: Malaysian. The Roundup.

This past weekend I was at the amazing D.C. VegFest, an event celebrating cruelty-free living and the most delicious vegan food.

The place was buzzing with cooking demos and speakers like Rory Freedman of the fabulous Skinny Bitch books. Best of all, I made some great new friends like Marya and her beautiful, vibrant, smart-as-a-whip four-year-old who’s been raised as a vegan since birth.

Then there were the super vegan eats from designer cupcakes to sizzling Indian food to mouthwatering vegan pizzas. All of which really made me wonder why anyone in their right senses chooses to eat dairy-loaded desserts and oil-soaked pizzas piled high with dead animals. Hmm…

Meanwhile, we’ve had our own little celebration of compassionate eating going on here at Holy Cow! — It’s A Vegan World, an attempt to explore the vegan possibilities in global cuisine. And trust me, not since Christopher Columbus has anyone had an opportunity to do so much exploring.

This month’s theme is Indian food, but today I am here with the roundup of last month’s theme– Malaysian.

To all of you who participated– bravo and a ton of thanks! You proved that Malaysian food is not just diverse and delicious, but it can also be gloriously cruelty-free, and that’s no small feat. What’s more, you’ve helped create a great resource for compassionate cooks everywhere looking to explore new cuisines. There’s everything here to satisfy any craving for Malaysian food: from scrumptious satays to ravishing rices, incredible curries and delectable deserts.

For those who didn’t participate, not all’s lost– this month we’re featuring Indian vegan cuisine which should, honestly, be easy as pie. Or curry. So what’re you waiting for? Get cooking and rush in your entries to Graziana of Erbe in Cucina who’s hosting.

But first, feast on this:

Claire’s Tofu Curry

June’s Muah Chee

…and June’s Sago Gula Melaka

Meera’s Vegan Laksa

Minu’s LacyPancakes (Roti Jala)

Priya Narasimhan’s Malay-style Noodles

Priyasuresh’s Nasi Lemak (Coconut Rice)

…and Priyasuresh’s Spicy Okra Kheema

Shri’s Fried Shallots

Stephanie’s Char Kueh Teow

…and Stephanie’s Claypot Tofu Rice

Sudha’s Mee Curry

Susan’s Tofu Satay with Peanut Sauce

Susana’s Mango Tofu Curry

…and Susana’s Eggplant Tofu

Sweatha’s Apam Balik

…and Sweatha’s Cucur Kodok

My Murtabak

As always, please send a heads-up if you spot any glitches, broken links, bad links and such. And, of course, let me know if I accidentally overlooked any of your entries.

Enjoy, all!

(C) All recipes and photographs copyright of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.

Murtabak: A Malaysian Treat

I first had Murtabak long, long ago, in the days before I became a vegan, and I loved it. This delicious Malaysian dish is typically made by stuffing minced meat, usually lamb, and eggs inside the folds of a paper-thin flatbread. It reminded me somewhat of a paratha, although that is more often vegetarian, so I wasn’t surprised to hear that Murtabak first originated among Malaysia’s huge Indian population.

When I announced Malaysian as the cuisine for this month’s It’s A Vegan World, I knew rightaway that I wanted to make Murtabak again, but this time a vegan version of it. I don’t often cook with meat substitutes because I don’t care much for them, but I also wanted to make sure I kept the integrity of this satisfying, hearty dish that makes one want to burp with satisfaction and lick one’s fingers till every last bit is gone.

TVP was out because even softened and cooked, it is not soft enough for stuffing inside a delicate bread. After looking over the meat substitute shelf at Whole Foods, I finally picked up a package of vegan sausage (Gimme Lean).

The meat, or in this case the vegan sausage, is cooked with a mixture of spices and onions not unlike a kheema would be. Contrasted with the crispy-thin overlay of bread, it is deliciousness itself.

So here’s the recipe, and a reminder to get cooking and send me your vegan Malaysian dishes before the deadline, Sept. 5. This is not difficult, folks– Malaysian cuisine is chock-full of delicious vegetarian foods that would appeal to anyone’s tastebuds. In fact, here’s a great resource from a reader who just sent in her recipe to IAVW: Malaysian Delicacies. Sudha’s blog has lots of delicious-looking vegetarian dishes to get you started, if you haven’t already.
Enjoy, all!


For the bread:

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour plus more as needed

1/2 cup whole-wheat flour

1/2 cup soy yogurt

2 tbsp canola or other vegetable oil

2 tbsp flaxmeal + 6 tbsp water, whisked together

1 tsp salt

Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix. Knead the dough around 10 minutes, adding more flour if necessary, until you have a smooth dough. Place in an oiled bowl or container, turning over once to coat the top of the dough, cover, and set aside at least for half an hour.

For the stuffing:

1 pound ground vegan sausage (I used Gimme Lean)

1 medium onion, minced

1 tsp ginger paste

1 tsp garlic paste

1/3 cup black raisins

1/4 cup sunflower seeds (optional– I like the slight crunch they add)

2 green chillies, minced

1/2 tsp red chilli powder

1/2 tsp turmeric

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp garam masala

1 cup firm tofu, crumbled

Juice of one lemon

1 tsp sugar

1 tbsp canola oil

Heat the oil in a skillet and when warmed, add onions. Saute until they begin to soften, about 8 minutes.

Add the ginger and garlic, stir quickly, then add the sausage, breaking it up into little bits as you put it in the skillet.

Stir-fry until the sausage starts to brown, then add the powdered spices and salt to taste and stir fry for a few more minutes.

Add the crumbled tofu and stir again. If the sausage is still clumping together, mash it down with a ladle or with a potato masher until it is broken up into tiny bits.

Cook for about 5 minutes, then add the raisins and sunflower seeds and mix thoroughly. Add lemon juice, sugar and mint and stir in. Turn off the heat and set aside to cool.

The assemble the murtabak:

Tear off a lemon-sized piece of the dough and roll it between your palms into a smooth ball.

Using just as much flour as is necessary, roll into a very thin disc, about 8 inches in diameter. The dough will put up some resistance at first, but it will relax eventually. You should be able to see the countertop through the rolled disc, that’s how thin it should be. Don’t worry– the dough is pretty elastic and doesn’t tear very easily.

Now place about 3-4 ttbsp of the stuffing in the center of the disc, leaving a border of about 2 inches.

Fold over the top and then the bottom of the disc over the stuffing, and then fold in the sides, until you have a packet. Push the stuffing into the corners of the packet using your fingers, so it is even.

Sprinkle some flour on the countertop and roll the packet out into a square of about 6 inches.

Heat a cast-iron or non-stick griddle and smear some oil on it. Now place the murtabak on it and cook until golden-brown spots appear on the bottom. Flip over and cook until spots appear on the other side.

Before serving, cut into four squares.

Serve hot with a spiced herb dip (recipe follows).

Spiced Herb Dip

1/4 cup loosely packed mint leaves

1 cup firm tofu

1/2 cup soy yogurt (optional)

1/2 cup soy milk

1 green chilli, minced

Salt to taste.

Place all ingredients in a blender or food processor and process until you have a smooth dip. Add more soy milk if necessary.

Remove to a bowl.

(C) All recipes and photographs copyright of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.

Malaysian Mushroom Korma and Snowshoe Naan

I love watching Baking with Julia reruns on public television and yesterday afternoon I watched a baker couple make fabulous “snowshoe” naans from Central Asia. So called because of their rather abstract, snowshoe shapes.

While naans are common Indian restaurant food, I was struck by how soft and pillowy these naans from Central Asia looked, as well as by the different and interesting method the cooks used to shape them.

Right then and there I decided, naan it was for dinner. But I hadn’t written the dough recipe down, and was too lazy to check it up online. I did remember that the bakers only used flour, salt, water and oil. They also shaped the naan in two different ways, one similar to the way I usually do, with a rolling pin, and another that was totally alien to me, using their fingers and lots of water.

Since I didn’t have the recipe, I went with my standby recipe for naan, and just aped the method that the TV cooks used to shape them. And the shaping made a huge difference, as the bakers had said it would. The resulting naans were perfectly textured and they tasted wonderful. I did use bread flour, which is a refined flour, for this naan, but if you prefer whole-wheat, I have a great recipe here that I posted earlier.

To go with the naan, I needed a spicy, hot, chunky curry that would satisfy any palate. I had just gotten five different kinds of mushrooms from the Asian supermarket and since I think mushrooms are a great substitute for meat, I used them instead of lamb in this Malaysian-style korma that is just out-of-this-world delicious.

A word about the mushrooms: I used button, shiitake and portabella, which are the mushrooms I most often use, but I also found these two varieties of really cute, really delicious little Japanese mushrooms called Bunapi and Bunashimeji (the tiny ones in the picture). A woman was sauteing them right there in the store and offering a taste, and a spoonful later I was hooked. They were chewy, delicious and hearty. If you don’t want to use five varieties, but even just one or two, feel free. Of course, make sure you use more.

So here’s my Naan and Five-Mushroom Malaysian Korma. Hefty, delicious and tantalizingly spicy. A perfect dinner for a chilly October evening.

Puffy Snowshoe Naan


2 cups bread flour

1 tsp salt

1 1/4 tsp active dry yeast

1 tbsp vegetable oil

3/4 cup soy yogurt

Water as needed

1-2 tbsp sesame seeds

In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a regular bowl, place all the ingredients and knead, using as much water as needed to make a soft, smooth dough.

Continue kneading for about 10 minutes on low speed if using a stand mixer, or a little longer if doing this by hand.

Place in an oiled bowl, turning once to make sure the dough is coated in oil. Cover with a cloth napkin and set aside in a warm place to rise for about 2 hours. (In winter, I leave the bowl in my unheated oven with the light on)

After 2 hours, punch down the dough and divide into four pieces.

Place a bowl of water next to you, and place a ball of dough on a lightly floured surface.

Dip your fingers into the bowl of water and press into the dough with all fingers, making little bumps and indentations on the surface. Starting at the top, work your way downwards, dipping your fingers into the water often, and repeating to press into the dough until you have an oval of fairly even thickness that is about 4 inches in width and 6-7 inches in length.

Sprinkle the surface with sesame seeds.

Pick up the naan, draping it over the sides of both hands. Now continue to shape it by stretching it with your hands until the naan is about 10-12 inches in length.

In a preheated, 475-degree oven into which you’ve placed a pizza stone of unglazed tiles, place the naans, one at a time, directly on the hot tiles. Be very careful not to burn yourself. Fit as many naans as will go on the tiles without overlapping.

Bake about 6-7 minutes or until the top and bottom are a pale gold-brown.

Remove with tongs and serve hot with mushroom korma (recipe follows) or any spicy curry.

Malaysian Mushroom Korma


1 tbsp vegetable oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tsp grated ginger

1 large onion, sliced thin

1 1/2 tsp garam masala

1/4 cup soy yogurt.

1 14-ounce can of light coconut milk (if you can only find regular coconut milk, use half the coconut milk and mix in an equal quantity of water or vegetable stock)

About 3-4 cups of mushrooms (shiitake, portabella, button, or the Japanese mushrooms I mentioned above are all wonderful)

2-3 potatoes (I used purple potatoes), cut into 1-inch chunks and boiled or microwaved until just tender.

For the spice paste:

1 large red onion, chopped

7-8 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 2-inch piece of ginger, chopped

15 black peppercorns, ground

1 tbsp fennel seeds, ground

1 tsp cumin seeds, ground

1 tsp coriander seeds, ground

1-2 tsp red chili powder like paprika

2-4 tbsp chopped coriander leaves

Place the above ingredients in a blender and using just as much water as is necessary, process to a thick, fairly smooth paste.

Heat oil in a large, fairly deep pan like a Dutch oven

Add the onions and saute on medium heat until soft and translucent.

Add the ginger and garlic and stir for a minute.

Add the garam masala and stir to coat with the oil, about a minute.

Add the spice paste and stir well. Cook, on medium-low heat, stirring frequently to keep the paste from sticking to the bottom. Cook about 10 minutes or until the paste no longer has a raw smell and taste.

Add the yogurt and stir in and cook a couple more minutes.

Add the mushrooms and stir in. Add salt to taste.

Cook a few minutes until the mushrooms start to soften and express their juices. Add the potatoes and half the coconut milk.

Bring to a boil on medium heat, then continue to simmer for about 3-4 minutes.

Add the coconut milk and turn off heat immediately so the curry does not boil again.

Garnish with coriander leaves and, if desired, fried onions.

Serve hot with naan or with boiled rice.


For other great naan recipes, try this vegan recipe from The Post-Punk Kitchen, or Jugalbandi’s Whole-wheat Pudina Naan.

(C) All recipes and photographs copyright of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.