You might remember my friend Molly from several posts back – the Vegan chef who shared with us her delicious tofu salad recipe. A lot has been happening with Molly since the last time we chatted; not only has she moved from the Bay Area to New Mexico but she’s also launched an amazing cookbook Bold Vegan.
I recently caught up with Molly and her co-writer Luanne to find out more about cookbook writing, healthy eating and just what the heck is tempeh..
Bold Vegan is such an amazing and exciting way to look at vegan food. Can you tell us how it came about?
Molly & Luanne: It was a collaboration that came from wanting to provide bold flavors and new techniques of cooking to people who want to eat less meat.There are many people right now wanting to explore less meat in their diet and there are a lot of amazing vegan and vegetarian cookbooks out there. We wanted to offer recipes that were uncommon to this part of the world.
Some of the recipes in the book are really hard to find because they are so unique, like savory pan fried turnip cake with garlic and bean sprouts (Char Koay) — found sporadically or at night markets in Malaysia. We thought it would be fun to bring these rare recipes to readers.
At what age did you start cooking and where did you get your inspiration from?
Molly: I started shadowing my mom in the garden and then the kitchen at a young age, around 5 or 6. She has always been my culinary inspiration. I was raised a vegetarian and it was important to her that I knew how to cook so that when I got older, food wouldn’t be an issue. When I was growing up there were nowhere near the amount of vegetarian and vegan restaurants and cookbooks as there are now.
When I was younger, I used to go to McDonald’s with my friends and I would order a cheeseburger with lettuce and no burger patty. My friends and the workers behind the counter looked at me like I was crazy. I remember the cashier having to call the manager because there was no button on the cash register to request that modification.
What is your favorite recipe from the book and why?
Luanne: They are mostly all my favorites. These are dishes that I grew up with in Malaysia and are not commonly available here. It brought back a lot of memories. I’m excited that people are able to experience a part of South East Asian food in their own homes through our book.
Molly: The stir fried tempeh with green beans in sambal sauce and coconut rice is one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. That dish is like heaven in my mouth. Tempeh dishes in the US are often really bland. Indonesians however, know how to cook some tempeh! I am also really proud of the sambal sauce because it is traditionally made with shrimp paste and it’s difficult to make dried shrimp flavor without shrimp! It took me many hours in the kitchen to get it just right.
Did you discover any interesting ingredients while writing the book that you had not come across before?
Molly: Lot’s! I had little experience cooking Asian food before my first trip to South East Asia in 2009. I arrived there and a whole world of food and new ingredients opened up. One thing I realized after the book was complete was that I didn’t use my oven for one single recipe. Everything is either steamed, blanched or pan fried.
What is the number one thing that people need to understand right now that they probably don’t know about a vegan diet and how eliminating meat and dairy can affect their lives for the better?
Molly: This is such an important question. If there is one thing that I want people to understand it is that we are all in charge of our own health. The human body is an amazing machine, capable of a lot and we are designed to be healthy. Our bodies are like cars, give them good fuel and proper maintenance and they will run well for a long time. So much illness and disease can be prevented and even reversed simply by eating a healthy plant based diet.
The Western diet is one that is nutritionally void. There is so much fuss about carbs, fat and protein when really, the most important thing for our health are Phytonutrients which come from plants. When people consume their calories from processed food, meat and dairy, they are setting themselves up for a lot of health problems. The good news is that this can be reversed by eating the right things. Bring on the green veggies, grains and beans and your health will start looking up.
The first step is realizing / awareness and then comes the learning / education which leads to implementation.
Any suggestions on how to get a meat lover to eat more vegetables?
Luanne: As a meat eater all my life, I’ve managed to reduce my meat intake drastically by adding a healthy dose of vegetables in every meal. For me it has always been about adding, not subtracting like most diets. This is when the paradigm shift occurs. When you add lots of leafy greens, you feel good and you have better digestion and bowel movements. When you feel better, you wanna keep doing it. .
One thing I have noticed is how I feel after I eat a completely plant-based meal vs a meat one — I don’t feel lethargic or feel the need to take a nap after a plant-based meal. After doing this for awhile, you will notice the difference. Your body and palate changes and the meat requirement for every meal no longer becomes a requirement.
Will you be writing more cookbooks?
Molly & Luanne: We are working on our next book now – A vegan cookbook geared towards meat eaters, due out later this year. We are super stoked about it! We had so much fun with our first book that we quit our jobs and moved to New Mexico to write the second!
Where can people find Bold Vegan?
You can order the eBook or printed version directly through the website.