Have you had your three servings of vegetables today? October 1st is World Vegetarian Day and kicks off Vegetarian Awareness Month, a month to educate the public about the numerous advantages of living a vegetarian lifestyle. For example, did you know that a diet high in red meat is linked to a greater risk of heart disease? Or that eating less meat, specifically red meat, is better for the environment than giving up your car?
I’m not trying to moralize at anybody- after all, I’ve been known to enjoy the occasional bacon slice or two. I just have respect for anyone who possesses the compassion and commitment to live a meatless existence. I was actually vegetarian for a brief period of my life after watching a traumatic PETA video in high school. I swore off meat and animal byproducts for three years, until a savory platter of turducken broke my resolve. I didn’t really have the discipline to sustain a healthy vegetarian diet, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t! If you’ve ever thought of becoming a vegetarian, this October is a great time to give it a test-run.
For World Vegetarian Day, I wanted to share with you a recipe for Lodeh Tewel, an Indonesian vegetable soup made of young jackfruit. You’ve probably tried sweet ripe jackfruit, a common ingredient in Southeast Asian desserts and beverages, but young jackfruit is green and has the appearance of pulled pork when cooked. The following recipe is a combination of the traditional Lodeh Tewel that has its origins in Yogyakarta, a city on Java in Indonesia, and my grandma’s Sayur Lodeh. My grandma was born in Indonesia but emigrated many times throughout her life and took certain liberties with her recipe, replacing hard-to-find ingredients with more common vegetables. Instead of melinjo leaves and stink beans, you’ll find familiar vegetables like corn and carrots in this recipe. Even if you’re an unabashed carnivore, hopefully you’ll find this meatless vegetable curry tasty and satisfying.
Indonesian Jackfruit Curry: Lodeh Tewel (Yield: 7 servings)
For spice paste:
6 shallots, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 kemiri nuts, smashed
½ teaspoon coriander
½ teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
¾ teaspoons powdered galangal, or 2 cm fresh galangal
2 red peppers (optional)
1 twenty ounce can of young green jackfruit
2 carrots, sliced into rounds
1 ½ cups green beans
1 cup green cabbage, chopped
1 fifteen ounce can of baby corn
1 stalk of lemongrass, bruised
2 Indonesian bay leaves (daun salam)
2 fourteen ounce cans of coconut milk
3 cups water
Bird’s eye chilies (for garnish or extra spice)
- Begin by prepping your vegetables. Slice the carrots into rounds, cut the green beans into 2-inch pieces, chop the cabbage into squares, and roughly chop the jackfruit into chunks. You can also cut your shallots, garlic, kemiri nuts, and chili peppers, but keep them separate from the other vegetables (they’ll be ground up in the spice paste).
- Bruise the stalk of lemongrass with a meat tenderizer until it is malleable and can be tied into a knot. You can also chop them into smaller pieces.
- Make the spice paste by adding the chopped shallots, garlic, kemiri, chili peppers, coriander, turmeric, salt, sugar, galangal, and a little bit of coconut milk to a blender. Blend until it forms a thick paste
- Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a soup pot. Add the spice paste and saute until fragrant. When the spice paste changes color, add the coconut milk, water, jackfruit, carrots, corn, lemongrass, and bay leaves to the pot. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and allow to simmer for 20 minutes, or until the carrots are soft.
- Add the green beans and cabbage to the soup. When both are cooked to completion (about 5 minutes), the soup is ready to serve. Garnish with sliced bird’s eye chilies.