Vegan Cherry Cheesecake…Using Chickpeas!

Super creamy vegan cheesecake made from chickpeas…no added fats, no dairy, no baking time. It’s actually pretty unbelievable.

In my last post on oil-free falafels, I showed you how I separated the chickpea pulp from the chickpea “milk” before adding in the spices and cooking them up. As I was waiting for the falafels to grill, I actually went to work right away experimenting with a dessert using the chickpea milk. I am so stoked about how it turned out!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ingredients for the cheesecake portion:

  • Chickpea milk (click here to see how to make it)
  • Vanilla extract
  • Lemon juice (lemon zest also works nicely)
  • Sugar, or sweetener of choice
  • Salt (optional)

Ingredients for the base of the cheesecake:

  • I used milled golden roasted flaxseeds mixed with maple sugar, but crumbled up cookies or granola also worked beautifully. (Or, for something a little more decadent, try blending up some dates with almonds and using that as the base!)

I started by heating the chickpea milk on the stove at medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spatula to keep it from burning. After about 10 to 15 minutes the chickpea milk will start to get quite thick, like custard. The thicker you can get it, the better.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Once it’s nice and thick, mix in all the ingredients (vanilla, some lemon juice, sugar, and a bit of salt if you like). Then, just lay down your cookie crumbs or roasted flaxseeds at the bottom of some little ramekins, and pour the batter over top. Place the dishes in the fridge to set.

One super important tip — you have to resist the urge to dig in right away! At the very least, let it sit for 24 hours. If you can manage 48 hours, that’s even better. The longer it sits, the creamier and firmer the cake gets. That way, the lemon juice also has the chance to get infused into the batter. It’s absolutely worth the wait!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

For the topping, I just made my own cherry sauce by heating together some frozen cherries, sugar and starch. I also tried another batch with blueberry compote, which was also delicious. I found that it was best to put the topping on right away, before letting the cheesecake sit in the fridge for 24-48 hours. This gives the flavors a chance to permeate into the rest of the cake. Enjoy!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Irresistible Indian Cuisine in Japan

If you could only have one type of cuisine for the rest of your life, what would you choose?

I’ve been asked this a bunch of times, and my answer often depends on where I am at the time. If I’m traveling in South Asia, I tend to seek out Japanese foods. When I’m in Japan, I crave Indian spices. And, when at home in Vancouver my diet tends to gravitate towards the Mediterranean side of things. I’m not sure why…maybe I just enjoy the challenge of hunting for obscure ingredients!

So, how about you? What would you go with?

The other day, I went to another Indian restaurant. Every time I go for Indian food in Japan, I tell myself that I won’t go again. Don’t get me wrong, the food is usually quite good, but I always think that I should make the most of my time here and experience Japanese cuisine to the fullest. And yet…I always find myself wandering into every Indian and Napalese restaurant that I see. There’s something that’s just so irresistible about the aroma of roasting spices, especially after relying for so long on soy sauce and miso as my main seasonings.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
veggie curry
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
daal
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
huge, fluffy naan
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
mango juice

I tried out the vegetable curry, daal, naan, and mango juice. The daal was unlike any I’ve had before. I’m used it being a soupy dish made with brown lentils, but this daal was very thick and made with big split yellow peas. The mango juice was so syrupy, almost more like mango nectar than juice. All in all, it was an incredibly filling and generous meal.

Like most Indian restaurants in Japan, they offered unlimited free refills of fresh naan, but the servings were so massive that I was more than satisfied with just one!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sweets with Cherry Blossom Filling

I’m back at it again with more Japanese sweets. (I swear I don’t eat like this all the time…but I mean, who can resist!) I recently came across another curious, but delicious sweet called sakura daifuku. It’s made of a thin gooey layer of mochi on the outside, with a sweet white bean paste filling, delicately flavored with salted cherry blossoms and cherry leaves. The result is a soft, aromatic dessert with a subtle sweetness and just a hint of tang from the cherry leaves. It’s not at all like western cherry flavored candies, and it doesn’t even taste like actual cherries…it really is in a class all its own, and the skillful balance of flavors absolutely stunning!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Cherry blossoms and cherry leaves are seasonal ingredients most commonly used in Japanese sweets during the springtime, but they are still available year round for people like me who just can’t get enough of them. There’s even a cherry blossom tea, where you put a few of the little preserved flowers at the bottom of your cup and pour hot water over them. The blossoms open up and look like they’re blooming right there in the water, and the fragrance is incredibly calming.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Pink Mochi filled with Sweet White Bean Paste

I’ve made a few posts before about kashiwa mochi, the amazing Japanese sweet that’s traditionally enjoyed on Children’s Day in Japan. Kashiwa mochi are soft rice cakes filled with sweet red bean paste and wrapped up in a special oak leaf. I’ve also talked about sakura mochi, another popular dessert made of a pink rice cake filled with red bean paste and folded into a salted cherry leaf.

Cherry blossom season is over, and Children’s Day was back in May, but if you go to a traditional sweet shop it’s still possible to get an interesting treat that blends together the best of both worlds…a pink kashiwa mochi!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’d been very curious to try this for a while because of one unusual ingredient. Instead of the usual sweet red bean paste which tastes almost like chocolate and is insanely popular, this one is actually filled with a sweet white bean paste. White bean paste itself is fairly common in Japanese confectionaries, but the most interesting thing here is that the white bean paste is flavored with just a touch of miso!

I thought there was a good chance that I wouldn’t like the pairing of sweet and salty, but the miso flavor was so subtle and delicate that it just enhanced the sweetness of the white bean paste. Absolutely fantastic! I still have yet to taste a Japanese sweet that I don’t like. If you find one, let me know!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Fluffy Red Bean Donuts at a Japanese Bakery

That’s right. We’re talking about sweet red bean paste again today…What can I say? It’s one of the best things in Japanese cuisine!

I made a post a little while back on a real old fashioned red bean donut that I bought from a traditional sweet shop in Mito. The shop has been around for over half a century, and a fellow blogger pointed out to me that they even have a handwritten sign in the window saying that they are rumoured to be the best red bean donuts in the city. These traditional style treats were made with a thick cake batter, making the donut dense and incredibly rich in flavor.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

For the sake of comparison (that’s my excuse), I went to a modern upscale bakery and tried out their version of the red bean donut. Instead of using cake batter, they went with a sweet bread dough which they then deep fried and sprinkled with sugar. From what I’ve seen, this style of red bean donut seems to be more common nowadays. It’s a lot bigger and fluffier and tastes quite different, but it’s still awesome in its own way. If any of you have ever tried these different versions of the red bean donut, I’d love to hear what you think. Which do you like better?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After refueling at the bakery, I walked a few kilometers out to the famous and historical Kairakuen Park. It’s known as one of the Three Great Gardens of Japan, and it’s absolutely massive. There are gift shops and resting areas at the entrance, and once you enter the park there are many walking paths that take you through bamboo forests and a huge grove of plum trees.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Delicious Mochi Rice Cakes

There’s always so much more to learn about Japanese sweets. I thought I knew what mochi was…but it turns out I had no idea. When I’m home in Vancouver, I occasionally buy prepackaged mochi rice cakes from a local Japanese grocery store. They come in partly dehydrated rectangle blocks so that they last a long time on the store shelves. Before serving, you just wet them with a bit of water and heat them in the microwave. Or, you can put them in the oven and grill them until they get all crunchy and toasted on the outside, and all soft on the inside. So, don’t get me wrong, these are really delicious! …But, it’s just that they are totally different from fresh, handmade mochi.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

While visiting a park in Japan, I came across an outdoor market and there was one tent where a lady was selling mochi and dango prepared that day. I treated myself to a package of mochi smothered in sweet red bean paste. It was incredibly soft and delicate, unlike the stretchy texture of the mochi that I am used to buying. And, since it had been pounded by hand, the mochi was uneven and still had little pieces of rice in it which gave it a lot more character.

I took some of the mochi home to use in oshiruko (a sweet soupy dessert). The mochi started to melt the second it touched the hot water, and I realized just how incredibly different it is from the packaged stuff. I feel so lucky to be finally able to see how these Japanese sweets were originally, before they started being replicated in big factories!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Imagawayaki: Japanese Cakes with Sweet Filling

Imagawayaki are a classic Japanese treat that I have loved ever since I was a little kid. They are a staple item at festivals and fairs, although you can also find them pretty easily at other year-round food vendors and small sweet shops. Unlike a lot of other traditional Japanese confectionaries, imagawayaki are actually made fresh right there in front of you and you can usually buy them while they’re still piping hot.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’ve tried buying imagawayaki (or something that looks a lot like them) back home in Canada a few times but they tend to substitute with pancake batter so the flavor and texture is way off. I don’t know exactly what they use for the authentic batter here in Japan, but real Japanese imagawayaki are unmistakably different. Nowadays, you can choose a variety of different fillings like custard, chocolate cream, and sometimes even local varieties like sweet potato, but I always go with the good old sweet red bean filling. These are so satisfying!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA