VEGETARIAN JOURNAL



Vegetarian Journal 2006 Issue 2

Fiery Vegan Dishes

From Around the World

by Habeeb Salloum

As a travel and food writer who has traversed the world for more than a quarter century, I always enjoyed sampling fiery dishes in the countries where hot foods and spicy foods are the usual fare. From Central and South America to North Africa and the Arabian Gulf to the Indian subcontinent and beyond, I've dined on countless vegan dishes made tasty and appetizing by the inclusion of hot peppers.

During my many trips to the Caribbean, Mexico, and South America, I relished hot foods in both peoples' establishments and luxury hotels. Some restaurants, especially in the grand hotels with their tourist clientele, offered safely mild dishes. However, like the Mexicans, I love mine fiery hot.

Halfway around the world from Mexico, I found an array of satisfying hot foods on my numerous trips to Tunisia. Unlike some other North African cuisines, Tunisian food is noted for its spicy hotness. It is said that a husband will judge his wife by the amount of hot peppers with which she prepares her food. Some men even believe that, if a wife's cooking becomes bland, it means the love for her husband is fading.

Further away still, in the United Arab Emirates, I've enjoyed another version of hot-spicy foods, dishes with origins in the Indian subcontinent. The majority of workers in the United Arab Emirates are recruited from that region, and they make up some 50 percent of the population. Not surprisingly, they have brought their culinary traditions with them and have saturated the land with their eating places. In the kitchens of Arabian Gulf countries, exotic herbs and spices such as cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, ginger, nutmeg, cardamom, turmeric, and all types of curries and hot peppers are now used to create a world of gourmet delights. The spices of the lands to their east have become an integral part of Arabian Gulf dishes.

In addition, the foods of the Far East, especially Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia, are a twin to the foods of the Indian subcontinent. These kitchens have the quality and consistency of Chinese food integrated with the hotness and spiciness of Indian and Mexican cuisines. Indian cuisine, and to a much lesser extent Portuguese-, Dutch-, French-, British-, and Japanese-introduced foods, have left an indelible mark on these Southeastern Asian menus. I greatly enjoyed these foods, which ranged from the mild to fiery hot and spicy, oozing with unique flavors and mouth-watering aromas. Indian condiments, coconuts and their milk, galangal, lemon grass, lime juice, mango, salted cabbage, palm sugar, tamarind, and hot pepper sauces give the kitchens of these lands a luring appeal to those, like myself, who enjoy exotic hot dishes.

The Ingredients

Chilies, the fiery fruit of some capsicum plants, are what give hot dishes in all parts of the world their fire and succulence. They come in many varieties and can be eaten interchangeably fresh, canned, or dried. When dried, they become a spice, and they can be used whole in pickles or pickled themselves and served as a relish.

The best chilies, both in appearance and in flavor, are picked when they are bright red. The larger the chili, the milder it will be; the smaller the fruit, the more volcanic it becomes. The seeds are the hottest part; if cooks want a fierce, fiery effect, the seeds should remain. Without the seeds, the dish will still be hot but somewhat subdued. It is no wonder, then, that chilies are known as "little devils" in parts of Italy.

When chilies are ground, they become cayenne, a spice highly favored in hot countries. Cayenne gives an essential zest to food and is used to season curries, sauces, and vegetable dishes.

When ground chilies are mixed with other spices, the product is called chili powder, a versatile spice utilized to flavor stews and other foods. In most dishes, it can be used to replace cayenne.

Paprika, a cousin of the hot powdered chilies, is a spice made from dried, finely-ground large Hungarian or Spanish red peppers, which range from sweet and mild to semi-hot and slightly aromatic. The finest paprika in the world is made from the brilliant red variety grown in Hungary.

Many times after I returned from exotic locales, I have duplicated a good number of their hot dishes with one type of chili or another that I relished on my meanderings. Try the following recipes, which I have recreated to my own taste. They will make a successful party meal for fiery-food lovers. The amount of hot peppers that you use in these recipes can be adjusted according to your tastes.


Recipe Index


Quingombos Guisados
(Caribbean Okra Stew)

(Serves 5)

This dish is believed to have originated in Puerto Rico, but it has spread to the other islands of the Caribbean.

3 Tablespoons oil
1 pound thawed frozen okra
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 large sweet pepper, thinly sliced
1 small hot pepper, finely chopped
2 large tomatoes, finely chopped
1 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon allspice

Heat oil in a non-stick saucepan and sauté the okra over medium heat until it turns light brown, turning it over a few times to cook evenly. Remove okra with a slotted spoon and set aside on paper towels to drain excess oil.

In the same oil, sauté the onions, garlic, and peppers over medium-low heat for 10 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and water and sauté for another 10 minutes. Gently stir in the okra and the remaining ingredients. Cover and cook for approximately 15 minutes or until okra is tender, adding more water, if necessary, to prevent sticking. Serve hot with cooked rice.

Total calories per serving: 138 Fat: 9 grams
Carbohydrates: 15 grams Protein: 3 grams
Sodium: 478 milligrams Fiber: 5 grams

Aguacates Rellenos
(Stuffed Avocados)

(Serves 8)

This dish is from the Guadalajara region of Mexico.

4 medium-sized ripe avocados
1/2 cup ground almonds
4 Tablespoons finely chopped scallions
2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh coriander leaves
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne

Cut unpeeled avocados in half lengthwise and remove pits. Scoop out the pulp and place it in a mixing bowl, reserving skin. Add the remaining ingredients to the pulp and thoroughly combine. Spoon mixture into avocado skins and serve immediately.

Total calories per serving: 216 Fat: 20 grams
Carbohydrates: 10 grams Protein: 3 grams
Sodium: 157 milligrams Fiber: 6 grams

Caraotas Negras
(Venezuelan Mashed Black Beans)

(Serves 8)

This dish can be served hot or cold.

2 cups black beans, rinsed and soaked overnight, then drained
6 cups water
3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh coriander leaves
1 large hot pepper, finely chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon cumin

Place pre-soaked beans and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over medium heat for 1 hour, adding more water, if necessary.

In the meantime, heat the oil in a frying pan and sauté onions over medium heat for 10 minutes. Stir in garlic, coriander, and peppers and stir-fry for another 5 minutes. Add frying pan contents, salt, pepper, and cumin to the beans and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes or until beans are well done. Serve this recipe as is or mashed, either hot or cold.

Total calories per serving: 209 Fat: 6 grams
Carbohydrates: 31 grams Protein: 11 grams
Sodium: 309 milligrams Fiber: 10 grams

Markat Ommalah
(Tunisian Chickpea Stew)

(Serves 8)

In Tunisia, this dish usually contains meat, but it was served sans meat at a farmer's home.

3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 pound chopped mushrooms
2 medium onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh coriander leaves
1 large hot pepper, finely chopped
4 cups cooked chickpeas
4 medium tomatoes, chopped into small pieces
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon thyme
3 cups water
1/4 cup green olives, pitted and chopped
2 Tablespoons lemon juice

Heat oil in a saucepan and sauté the mushrooms over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add onions, garlic, coriander, and peppers and stir-fry for another 5 minutes. Stir in chickpeas, tomatoes, salt, pepper, cumin, thyme, and water and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes, adding a little more water, if necessary. Stir in olives and lemon juice and simmer over low heat for 5 minutes. Serve hot.

Total calories per serving: 229 Fat: 8 grams
Carbohydrates: 31 grams Protein: 10 grams
Sodium: 390 milligrams Fiber: 8 grams

Hummus wa 'Adas Mazza
(Chickpea and Lentil Appetizer)

(Serves 8)

This dish makes an excellent appetizer when scooped up with crackers or pita bread.

1/2 cup split red lentils, rinsed
3 cups water
2 cups cooked chickpeas
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne
5 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
One small tomato, finely chopped
1 Tablespoon olive oil

Place lentils and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over medium heat for 20 minutes or until the lentils are cooked but still somewhat firm. Drain and allow lentils to cool.

Place lentils, chickpeas, garlic, oregano, salt, cumin, pepper, cayenne, and lemon juice in a food processor and process into a paste. Spread on a flat serving platter and decorate with parsley and tomato pieces. Sprinkle with oil just before serving.

Total calories per serving: 127 Fat: 3 grams
Carbohydrates: 20 grams Protein: 7 grams
Sodium: 302 milligrams Fiber: 5 grams

Shawrbat 'Adas bil-Tamar Hindi
(Tamarind/Lentil Soup)

(Serves 6)

Besides being on the daily menu in the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, tamarind is utilized to a great extent in the Arabian Gulf countries.

2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
1 large hot pepper, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger
2 cups stewed tomatoes
2 Tablespoons tamarind paste, dissolved in 7 cups hot water
1 cup lentils, rinsed
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon pepper
4 Tablespoons chopped fresh mint

Heat oil in a saucepan and sauté onions, peppers, garlic, and ginger over medium heat for 10 minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients, except mint, and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over medium heat for 40 minutes or until lentils are well cooked, adding more water if you desire a thinner soup. Stir in mint and serve.

Total calories per serving: 209 Fat: 6 grams
Carbohydrates: 31 grams Protein: 11 grams
Sodium: 549 milligrams Fiber: 12 grams

Yakhnit Batata
(Hot Potato Stew)

(Serves 8)

I enjoyed a dish similar to this one in the United Arab Emirates, where taste buds have become accustomed to hot Indian foods.

3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 medium sweet peppers, finely chopped
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped coriander leaves
8 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
2 teaspoons ground cumin seeds
6 large potatoes (approximately 2 pounds),
      peeled and chopped into large pieces
4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 lemon rind, finely chopped

Heat oil in a saucepan and sauté peppers and onions over medium heat for 10 minutes. Stir in the coriander and garlic and stir-fry for another 3 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Cover and cook over medium heat for 40 minutes or until potatoes are well done but still somewhat firm, adding more water, if necessary. Serve hot.

Total calories per serving: 158 Fat: 5 grams
Carbohydrates: 26 grams Protein: 4 grams
Sodium: 307 milligrams Fiber: 4 grams

Khao Pad Krapow
(Thai Fried Rice with Basil)

(Serves 6)

This is my own version of a well-known Thai vegetarian dish.

3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 large hot pepper, finely chopped
2 cups sliced mushrooms
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 cups cooked rice
2 cups green beans, broken into inch-long pieces
1 large sweet red pepper, finely chopped
2 Tablespoons soy sauce
4 Tablespoons chopped basil leaves

In a heavy frying pan, heat the oil until sizzling and stir-fry garlic and hot peppers over medium-high heat until the garlic turns golden brown. Add the mushrooms and onions and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Add cooked rice and stir-fry for a few more moments. Add green beans, sweet peppers, and soy sauce and stir-fry for 2 minutes. Stir in basil leaves and serve immediately.

Total calories per serving: 226 Fat: 7 grams
Carbohydrates: 35 grams Protein: 5 grams
Sodium: 338 milligrams Fiber: 3 grams


Habeeb Salloum is a regular contributor to Vegetarian Journal. He recently authored Arab Cooking on a Saskatchewan Homestead: Recipes and Recollections.




Excerpts from the 2006 Issue 2:
Low-Cost Vegan Meal Plans
Dietetic intern Melissa Wong helps young adults, seniors, and families of four eat healthfully without emptying their wallets.
Fiery Vegan Dishes From Around the World
Habeeb Salloum adapts spicy-hot recipes from Latin America, North Africa, Southern Asia, and beyond.
Perchlorate Controversy Calls for Improving Iodine Nutrition
David M. Crohn, PhD, examines the risks of perchlorate consumption and how vegetarians and vegans can improve their iodine health.
Nutrition Hotline
What is tempeh, where can you buy it, and what do you do with it?
Note from the Coordinators
Letters to the Editors
Notes from the VRG Scientific Department
Interviews that our dietitians granted.
Vegan Cooking Tips
How to Use Leftover Rice, by Chef Nancy Berkoff.
Scientific Update
Veggie Bits
Book Reviews
Catalog
Vegetarian Action
Vegetarianism and Tennis: An Interview with Peter Burwash by Heather Gorn.
Look for These Products in Your Local Market

The Vegetarian Journal published here is not the complete issue, but these are excerpts from the published magazine. Anyone who wishes to see everything should subscribe to the magazine.

Thanks to volunteer Stephanie Schueler for converting this article to HTML.



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Last Updated
May 5, 2006

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