Thursday, 3 October 2013

Herb it up

I've cut out salt as you know, and will try to do my best to maintain this as a constant rather than a sometimes, but it will be almost impossible to do this, specially if eating out because just about everyone uses salt as a seasoning, specially restaurants/cafes.  That's cool, I'm not a believer in extremes so it is what it is.
But this got me thinking about my food and how I would adapt to make up for the salt.  I'll be honest, I think salt does bring out the flavours, but what are the alternatives?

There's a few things:

  • dulse:  a type of red algae that has been around for yonks and is widely used as a snack or flavour enhancer.  It's a good source of minerals and vitamins compared with other vegetables, and contains all trace elements needed by humans, including iodine.  It also has a high protein content.
  • kelp granules: another sea wonder, same properties as dulse and used in the same way.  
  • nutritional yeast: a type of deactivated yeast that is sold as yellow flakes or powder.  It is a source of protein and vitamins, especially the B-complex vitamins, and is a complete protein. It is also naturally low in fat and sodium and is free of sugar, dairy, and gluten. Sometimes nutritional yeast is fortified with vitamin B12.  It has a cheesy flavour and is great when making the popular 'cheese' sauces for zucchini pasta.
  • herbs:  herbs are an amazing addition to any dish, both savoury and sweet, and we are lucky that we are able to get just about every herb, year round.  A trip to the Asian supermarket is a revelation in herbs (even if you can't read what they are or how to use them).  I say, just have fun with it, and try them out.  My favourites to use are mint, coriander, parsley and basil.  Yes, I'm a bit boring where herbs are concerned but I have been experimenting with some Vietnamese herbs so I'll have a recipe for you using those.
  • spices:  it's no wonder that they were once used as a form of currency, and there is a plethora of spices to liven up just about any dish.  My favourite to use are cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, ground coriander, smokey paprika and pepper.
If you are trying to give up salt and love Asian cooking that contains tamari or soy sauce, you could opt for coconut aminos which are a lot less lower in salt and contain natural sea salt rather than the bleached white stuff that is not good for you at all.  I've only been able to find raw coconut aminos through iHerb.
I would also recommend using Celtic sea salt or Himalayan pink salt as alternatives to table salt.

So here's a recipe using some wonderful asian herbs that I found.  The one on the left is called sawtooth coriander (Ngò gai)and the one on the right is called rice paddy herb (Ngò om).  They are both so fragrant and delicious.  As you can tell by the name, sawtooth coriander has a really strong coriander taste and the rice paddy has a citrus/cumin flavour.  Both delicious, both worth trying.  I am told that they are important herbs in the delicious Vietnamese sweet and sour soup.
Sawtooth coriander is also known as culantro (not cilantro), and used a lot in Central American cooking, specially bean based stews.  Yum!

Crunchy Asian Salad with Vietnamese Herbs & Mango Ginger Dressing
Serves 1


2 medium zucchini, julienne
1 small carrot, julienne
handful of bean sprouts
1/4 of medium red capsicum, julienne
6 snow peas, julienne
1 bunch of bok choy, chopped
1/2 cup of fresh mint, thinly sliced
3 sawtooth coriander leaves, thinly sliced
4 sprigs of rice paddy herb, leaves removed
hemp seeds (optional)

1/2 mango
1/4 medium red capsicum 
1/4 tsp grated ginger
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 medjool date,pitted


Place all salad ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
In a large bowl, mix your salad ingredients except for the hemp seeds. 
Pour over the sauce and toss well, serve with the hemp seeds sprinkled on top if using.

This salad can be made with whatever vegetables you have and love and is good when you want to use up any veggies that may be nearing their use by date.

Hope you try it and like it!

Peas, love and mungbeans


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