My Plant Based Market Stall at Plant 4 Bowden
It has been nearly a year and a half since I embarked on my journey of strictly plant-based Malaysian/Indian Street Food at Plant 4 Bowden; since they opened their doors for business in October 2016. I am so grateful for my customers’ support; for Plant 4 management team’s efforts each week and for the Plant 4 family and community’s friendship.
You will notice that my creations are not authentic nor traditional. This allows me the freedom to create my own fusion flavours from East and West.
I create my own fresh turmeric-based recipes. Turmeric is in all of my 3 signature sauces. Sometimes I am so surprised to hear my customers order the same food every time they visit my stall! So I must continue my journey and repeat these regular recipes until further notice.
However, my goal is also to continue developing my free recipes on my website like I have been doing since 2010, but I can’t cook them all at my weekly markets because my stall is just a ‘one person cook show’. Plus the stall is small and I only have a few appliances.
NEXT PROJECK: After my visit to Malaysia an Vietnam in June of this year, look out for my 60/80 pages Plant Based recipe book either online or hard copy!
Some of you may know that I started cooking at the age of 21 out of necessity; after marrying Stephen! You’ve probably heard him say; “she made over 1,300 different recipes over the 38 years of our marriage.” Over many years many people have joked…. “Can I come to your place for your home-cooking?”
Well dreams do come true and now you can come to my stall at Plant 4 Bowden. Soon I am going to make my sauces available for sale so that you can have me at your place, sort of. They will be called “Sarj@Home”. This is yet another aspect of my life’s journey to pay respect to my mother. What many of you may not know is that my mother raised all 9 of her children single-handed after my father passed away when I was 17. That’s 10 meals at a time, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Money was scarce and she had to be resourceful to make little go far. When she wasn’t cooking for us she was tending to 4 acres of land all by herself. There were tropical fruit trees and about 80 coconut trees through our block. She would grow her own vegetables to make ends meet and this was my introduction to eating organic foods. I felt very healthy. She would collect eggs everyday from over 100 chickens which she raised by herself. She sold the eggs she didn’t use. So, just like my mother inspired me to go on this journey, you may also be inspired by the wide range of foods at Plant 4. Each night I make about fifty meals, and, although it is hard work, I do it thinking how hard my mother worked to raise me and my siblings. I think she will be proud of me. I lived overseas for more than 30 years and did not see her working so hard each day but I knew her life was hard. Cooking for you at Plant 4 reminds me of what my mother did for others. My plant-based journey is dedicated in memory of her. She came from a Hindu background which meant that she had to fast two or three times a week. She had to abstain from all meat products including food made by a non vegan person or shop.
When growing up my siblings and I experienced a great difficulties on the rare occasions when we could persuade Mum to go out and eat with us either at street stalls of in the city. She would not eat anything that was not vegan, and, even if it was vegan she would not eat it if it had been cooked in a kitchen that was also used for cooking meat or fish recipes because she would believe that it was not completely vegan.
At home we were accustomed to Mum being very fussy about hygiene. So, living her lifestyle from an early age has prepared me to serve you plant-based food in the way she would have approved, and that way meets vegan standards.
I have the same fussiness in my home. I keep all my pots, pans and utensils, including my special three bowl kitchen sink reserved especially for plant-based foods for Plant 4.
You see me at the market three days a week but for me it is a six day commitment because I must shop for fresh ingredients from local farmers’ markets, prepare them beforehand and then clean up afterwards. I think you usually hear me say that I will cook for you till you don’t need my cooking any more or, until my body is no longer able to do it all for you.
Cooking so many meals single handed can be tiring, but I am lucky to have Stephen to help me with the muscle and prep work, but this can only happen in breaks from his own commitments. Where would we be without his regular ‘dad joke’ , but, watch out he has a new one prepared especially for you donated by his older sister this month, so it’s very fresh but I just know that he will repeat all year long!!
We used to have many of our customers standing around our stall. This blocked the walkways and even obstructed other stalls, so Stephen devised the prank call to tell customers that their order was ready. This gave customers the option to sit at a table or shop around until their meal was ready. Every customer has preferred this option and that is why you won’t see customers standing around our stall anymore, they are at their table waiting for Stephen to prank them. It’s a prank call they actually want!When ordering and you don’t see people queuing do ask Stephen how long wait for your meal order because if I am still cooking it means I am still serving customers.
Regular on the menu for this year by popular demand will be: Laksa!
My Laksa is made from my own recipe of aromatic broth combining fresh turmeric and Asian herbs and warm spices in coconut milk, served with noodles and mushroom dumplings (or without the dumplings) and topped with my three signature sauces; Onion ginger garlic plus turmeric (OGG+T), Peanut-free Satay, and, Hot Sambal Relish for those who like it hot or medium hot. The broth and my signature sauces are also gluten-free and have no fish or shrimp content at all, unlike traditional Laksas.
Dumplings; ingredients are; mushrooms, cabbage, and carrots combined with Asian herbs and my signature sauce. Dumplings are also delicious by themselves or served with my Laksa broth. However the dumpling wrappers aren’t gluten-free. At some stage I will find the time to produce my own gluten-free dough.
My ‘BITSA‘ (bit of this and bits of that) meal option was named by Stephen because customers asked him if they could try a bit of everything from the Bain Marie and he obliged!
There are two ‘BITSA’ main options for this year; my signature chickpea balls made with kale or spinach and served with tomato based sauce, and, Soy Nugget curry with seasonal vegetables sometimes stir fried or served in dhal/lentils. Both these meals are gluten-free and can be enjoyed as a single or a combo-meal with rice. Those who would like their ‘BITSA’ meal to go further can add a single or a combo of two entrees e.g. curry puffs and onion and chive puffs, however these aren’t gluten-free. See the notice board for price options and change in the menu of the day if any.
My signature curry puffs and the onion and chive puffs and some other on the menu were invented 4 years ago for my very first outdoor market at the Lightsview, Northgate.
Since then many new buildings have been built and many new residents have settled in the area and their children we witnessed as babies are growing up. We raised our funds there for our 6 part documentary series ‘6 NORTH‘. You will get to see the end product someday soo,n in the meantime you can watch some clips of it on my YouTube channel via links from my website.
These recipes were well received and so we moved to Plant 4 to introduce them. Our Lightsview customers were sad to see us leave Northgate. Many of them are still in touch with us and come to Plant 4 and they are pleased that I still make their favourites. They are:
Curry Puff: the mixture usually contains peas, pumpkin, sweet potato and potatoes and it is medium to mild curry flavour. The pastry is short crust and fried so that it keeps the tradition of Malaysian hawker style street-food. The pungency of curry leaves gives it that extra edge of authentic taste however still fusion with a Western twist.
Onion and Chive Puffs were created because I didn’t have access to an oven to bake it outdoors so I created this to resemble a mixture and taste between Indian onion bhaji and Oriental Curlers (cha kway) usually eaten during breakfast. Cha Kway is made by Hawkers throughout the day in some parts of Malaysia and China. These have been favourite with children and toddlers too and they refer them as ‘balls’, and adults who know how tasty they are can’t resist the puffy texture of naan and bread but with the onion and chives flavour. I still get asked by Italian and Greek customers if I am making Zeplis or Lukamades! I say this is my own fusion!
We do a couple of sweet dishes too. These are a carry-over from our outdoor market too. My Sweet Potato Dumpling Donuts were created by my memory of my mother deep frying her sweet dish of ‘gulgulas’! which were made of sweet batter which was deep-fried and sugar coated! For extra nutrition I decided to add 50% of flour and sweet potato and to keep it vegan I add coconut milk! For some customers this is pure heaven. Just because it doesn’t have a hole in the centre it doesn’t mean it’s not a donut… right! If you like it sweeter then please ask for my Sweet Potato Gulab Jamuns which are the same mixture soaked in a rose-water syrup and made vegan (as opposed to the regular gulab jamun which uses dried milk powder).
My own blend of My Mum’s Chai Tea was a favourite at our outdoor market. At Plant 4 I am so busy that I can only make chai tea for my own personal consumption or when special friends drop in. However, if you really want to try it, ask me if I have the mixture on hand because you can take it home to make it for yourself. Here at Plant 4 I combine my mum’s chai tea blended spices into a combination of Apple Chai Pods then fill short crust pastry with it and deep fry them for that nice melt in the mouth texture with a coating of sugar and cinnamon! So, you can still experience my mum’s chai in my Apple Chai Pods instead! Both of these sweet treats are great for next day when slightly warmed up in the microwave!
I am also happy to create you hawker-style meals like; Char Kwey Tiow, Nasi Goreng, Mee Goreng (noodle stir fry) or stir-fries of your choice using vegetables of the day. Most of my recipes are Gluten free and vegan. Just double check by asking me on the day.
Don’t forget to ask if you’d like something specially made for you, other than that’s on the board, provided you are willing to wait. All my cooking uses my gluten-free signature sauces, and very little of store-bought sauces. If you are allergic to bought sauces, or anything in particular, and you only wish to use my signature sauces in your desired dish then there will be a $2 extra charge per dish to cover the cost of my signature sauces.
I do not advertise my food other than my regular food picture updates on Instagram @sarjcooking and Facebook; Simply Sarj Kitchen/Cooking. Most of my food has been promoted by my customers’ word of mouth; the old fashioned way, because I think this is the best way. I hope you will do the same after you have tried it.
If you require some catering taken care of, big or small, at your place or at Plant 4 then get in touch with me.
Plant 4 Events can also facilitate your parties and functions. You can also nominate what kind of food you’d like available for your function. We will be happy to cater accordingly.
Thank you for your support over the year and we look forward to serving you again. Here’s to 2018 wishing you health, happiness and prosperity.