One of my favourite Chinese street foods has to be baked (or sometimes steamed) sweet potatoes. They are available almost everywhere almost all year round. Sometimes, when I’ve had a long day at work and the thought of cooking is not appealing but the thought of eating out isn’t really either, I buy some baked sweet potatoes from the street food vendor near my house, keep them tightly-sealed in their brown paper bag and go straight home. Then I make some sort of vegetarian toppings that is satiating and ‘all-in-one’ so I don’t have to cook for too long.
This is one idea for those days. The good thing (nutritionally) about the sweet potato is that it is low-GI (Glycemic Index, low-carb basically), which means energetically, it is a much better often that the simple carb white potato.
The aubergine, lily bulb and mint curry happened by accident, I was trying to make a vegan version of chilli and toppings on the British street food jacket potato (pictured below) that I grew up with in the UK . The lily bulbs are flaky, soft and sweet, and go very well with salty foods or ingredients. I first came across lily bulbs in China when I ordered the typical braised celery, lily bulb and walnut dish. They seem to work well here with the tahini and mint, and with anything salty and spicy I think.
When I was trying to use tahini (sesame paste) instead of cheese as a vegan topping for the sweet potato, I thought I should accompany this dish with the fresh mint and aubergines of the famous Babaganoush (Aubergine & Sesame Pate). Use whatever you have in the fridge, these are ingredients I often have knocking around.
Cherry tomatoes, 500g
Ginger cloves, minced, 3
Fresh lily bulbs, 2
Fresh mint, chopped, a handful
Green Hangzhou chillies, 2
Celery, 1 stalk
Spring onions, 2-3
Extra-virgin olive oil, a drizzle or two
Sea salt, to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
1. Finely chop the spring onions, fresh mint leaves and chillies and half the cherry tomatoes.
2. Add these ingredients to a high-speed blender, alongside the minced garlic, a drizzle of olive oil and other seasoning and blend until smooth (the Nutribullet works a dream for this, it takes around 1 minute).
3. Add the raw tomato sauce to a saucepan and cook on a low-heat for 5 minutes.
4. In the meantime, finely the chop the celery and thinly slice the aubergine.
5. Add the vegetables to the tomato sauce, tweak the seasoning to your tastes and cook on a high-heat for an additional 10 minutes or until the aubergines are soft.
6. Pour into a bowl, or on top of your (sliced open) baked sweet potato, add a dollop or two of the tahini paste, drizzle with more olive oil if you wish, and finally garnish with fresh mint before eating.
Garnish with black or white sesame seeds if you wish. Add cumin seeds or powder to the tomato sauce or garnish with cumin seeds to finish.
If you can’t get hold of the lily bulbs you could use any other light and aromatic vegetable like celery or fennel as a substitute. Substitute the tahini paste for any other nut butter (i.e. cashew nut butter or almond nut butter) you can get hold of.