Try these vegan versions of Asian favourites

Food File: Sasha Gill’s ‘Jackfruit and Blue Ginger’ is out now. Plus: ketchup caviar

Sasha Gill. Photograph: Steve Brown

Sasha Gill. Photograph: Steve Brown


Sasha Gill is a 24-year-old fourth-year medical student at Oxford University, who grew up in Singapore. She adopted a vegan lifestyle at the age of 17, and in 2014 began writing a blog about her attempts to reproduce the flavour-packed Asian dishes of her home – without meat, fish or dairy, and on a student budget.

The Sasha Diaries blog grew into a just-published book, Jackfruit & Blue Ginger, in which she offers “Asian favourites, made vegan”. It’s the best kind of vegan cookbook, in that it is a collection of interesting recipes, beautifully photographed, that just happen to be plant-based. Non-vegans, too, will find much to inspire in its pages.

Although she says she found converting to veganism easy, in the main, there were times when Gill missed the flavours of the Asian dishes of her childhood, among them “my favourite tandoori chicken and my grandfather’s famous sugee cake”. So she began recreating alternative versions of her food-loving family’s recipes, and found that she could capture the authentic tastes and textures using only plant-based ingredients.

The recipes are arranged in chapters covering India, Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia, China and Japan, with a representative selection of dishes covering each cuisine. Tikka, pad thai, laksa lemak, Shanghai soup dumplings, ramen . . . they’re all there, just without meat, fish or dairy.

Although Gill set out to make her recipes “accessible, affordable and easy”, there are few shortcuts taken, so curry pastes are made from scratch, for example. Useful diagrams are included showing readers how to fold samosas and spring rolls, seal several types of dumpling, and fashion handrolls from nori sheets. A useful “basic techniques” section reveals how to make vegan versions of such things as Kewpie mayo and kecap manis. Chicken-style seasoning sounds intriguing, being a blend of nutritional yeast, celery salt, dried sage and oregano and sweet smoked paprika.

Despite its inclusion in the title, there are only three recipes in the book that include jackfruit, the meat substitute that has become so mainstream you’ll even find it as a topping in Pizza Hut. Jackfruit & Blue Ginger is published by Murdoch Books, £18.99.

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Ketchup caviar from Heinz.
Ketchup caviar from Heinz.

Rich taste with ketchup caviar

As a conversation starter, tomato ketchup caviar is right up there. No fish were harmed in the making of this Heinz product, however, and the ruby red pearls contain only what it says on the jar. They are being made to celebrate the brand’s 150th birthday.

But you can’t just go out and pick them up at the supermarket. Only 150 jars are available in Ireland (the same number as in the UK), and to be in with a chance of winning one, you’ll need to say why you are a “super fan” of the brand, on social media @HeinzIreland (Facebook) or @HeinzIrelandOfficial (Instagram), by February 14th.

Plant an apple tree in Clonmel

Planting a tree is a lovely way to mark a special occasion or honour someone’s memory, and in Clonmel, Co Tipperary you can have an apple tree planted along the river Suir Blueway, which runs from the town to Carrick-on-Suir.

The project is being run by the people behind the Clonmel Applefest, a new initiative which had its inauguration last September. Last year 32 trees were sponsored by local businesses and planted by students at the Loreto and Presentation schools as well as by community volunteers.

This year the scheme is being opened up to members of the public to subscribe to. The trees cost €75 each and can include a plaque inscribed with the variety of apple, the name of the person to whom it is dedicated, and the name of the donor, if wished. To adopt a tree, email

Starter’s orders for tapas championships

Chef Rob Curley, who runs the Slemish Market Super Club, a pop-up in Ballymena, Co Antrim, was last year’s Irish representative at the World Tapas Championships in Valladolid, Spain, where more than 70 chefs took part in national and international events.

His tapa was based on oyster and Guinness, with a kelp-cured native oyster served in an edible oyster shell made from Guinness bread, with plankton and oyster mayo, trout caviar, Guinness puree and horseradish milk foam.

The qualifying round for this year’s championships will be held at IT Tralee on April 9th-10th. Chefs who want to take part should register at to receive an application pack, which should be returned by February 22nd. Entries must be a savoury dish of no larger than three bites, and should use Irish ingredients.

New head chef for Gables in Foxrock

The Gables restaurant and wine bar in Foxrock, Co Dublin has appointed Cian O’Leary as head chef and, to introduce his new menu, is offering a one-off six-course dinner, with five paired wines and a welcome drinks reception, for €75. It takes place on Thursday, February 7th at 7.30pm, and reservations can be made by telephoning 01-2892174.

The menu will feature beetroot cured salmon; ham hock and Gruyère croquettes; Champagne sorbet; paupiettes of sole stuffed with crab; Thornhill duck with salt-baked celeriac, and dark and white chocolate mousses with honeycomb.

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