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Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Mauritian Style Vegan Halim with a Twist or Curried Dhal Soup with Meatless Balls and Eggplant

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I made this dish some time during last week and BoyfriendLovlie said this was The-Most-Fabulous-Vegan-Dish I have ever made! Uh! What about the other food I’ve made so far? Well, I think I’m going to take this one as a compliment. I think the reason he liked it so much is because it was very close to the meat version he used to have! But I agree, it was really delicious and much better than the meat version! Much much better than I anticipated!

It is based on a very popular Mauritian soup dish called Halim. So popular that this is even sold as a hot soup in mini food stalls or caravans on street corners! I very rarely feature Mauritian dishes here although Mauritius has a rich food heritage. With the country being multicultural from history, it has a fabulous marriage of cuisines – from Chinese, Indian, Creole style to European. Well, I think Halim originates from Pakistan or the Persian regions. However, in Mauritius, this has been adapted with Indian spices, the use of Chinese chives or scallions as garnish and traditionally served with French bread. Vinegar or lemon juice can also be added to the soup just before serving.

While Halim is basically a high calorie meat dish laddened with ghee and high fat mutton or beef, my version here is a low-fat vegan one with a slight twist; I have added in some aubergines (or eggplants if you prefer). Eggplants in dhal soup is another Mauritian delicacy!

True Halim recipe calls for cracked wheat. Shame that I did not have any; it’s a very tasty addition. Feel free to add in 4 – 5 tablespoons to soak together with the dhal if you happen to have some cracked wheat. I have added it to the recipe in case you are incorporating this ingredient.

The ‘Meatless’ Balls are adapted from Joni’s Swedish Meetballs recipe. I changed the spices and used minced soy meat instead of TVP. The minced soy meat required less liquid to be rehydrated. I also did not use wheat gluten as I did not have any, but they were still great! BoyfriendLovlie adored the meatless balls on their own. I kept some of them (just the meatless balls) in the freezer and we even had them the next day as a sandwich-filler with salad! They’re great to freeze too if you want to make them in advance. I think I'm going to make them into burgers next time.

Meatless Balls Recipe

Ingredients (about 22 balls – 2.5 cm or 1 inch diameter)

2 cups minced soy meat
1 cup vegetable broth, hot (or 1 stock cube dissolved in hot water)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon cumin (ground)
1 teaspoon garam masala
½ teaspoon ginger powder
½ teaspoon cracked black pepper
4-5 dashes of Tabasco (or to taste)
½ teaspoon sea salt or to taste
Oil for frying


  • Rehydrate minced soy meat by pouring boiling broth over the dry flakes, cover and let sit for 10 minutes.
  • In a non-stick pan, sauté the onions and garlic in vegetable oil until translucent. About 5-7 minutes.
  • Remove from heat.
  • Mix this in the minced soy meat. Add the flour and all of the spices including Tabasco (just don’t put your finger in your eyes afterward, when handling!). Let sit until cool enough to handle.
  • With your hands, form balls about 2.5 cm or 1 inch in diameter.
  • The balls should be firm enough so they don’t fall apart in the oil.


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  • Fry them in oil (allow them to be ⅓ immersed), rolling them around in the pan to brown on all sides. You may need to adjust the heat (i.e. oil should not be too hot) so that the inside is thoroughly cooked as well.

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  • Remove when lightly crispy on all sides. Drain on absorbent paper.

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Mauritian Style Vegan Halim with a Twist!
Or Curried Dhal with Meatless Balls and Aubergine

Ingredients (4 servings)

22 (or so) meatless balls (prepared as above)
1 cup yellow split dhal (soaked for at least 4 hours)
4 – 5 tablespoons cracked wheat (soaked with the dhal for at least 4 hours), optional
1 large aubergine (or eggplant), chunkily sliced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cumin
(ground)
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 teaspoon mild curry powder (or hot or just your favourite one!)
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon vegan margarine (or vegetable oil)
¼ cup soymilk (optional)
Salt to taste

Suggested garnish:

Coriander (or cilantro)
Mint leaves
Chopped scallions / Chinese chives
Lime / lemon wedge (to squeeze on)

  • Boil dhal together with the cracked wheat and some salt until dhal is soft but still whole (about 15 – 20 minutes). If you are using a pressure cooker, time it so the dhal is not completely disintegrated.
  • Drain (but not completely) the water into a bowl (you will use this water later if you need to add sauce). Keep both dhal and water aside.
    A little note here: it is best not to use too much water to boil the dhal as you will lose a lot of nutritious water otherwise, just use enough so that it doesn’t dry up and you can still use the rest as sauce addition.
  • While the dhal is cooking, you can prepare the eggplant slices. Fry them in 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil until soft and lightly browned. Set aside.


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  • Place cumin, curry powder, turmeric and minced ginger in a bowl. Add some water and stir to form a paste. Set aside.

  • In a deep sauce pan (Teflon / non-stick preferably), melt vegan margarine.
  • Add in onions and garlic. Saute until translucent.
  • Add the curry paste. Add water (from the drained dhal) if required.
  • Stir and allow spices to roast for a while. 5 – 7 minutes. Add more water if required.
  • Add in the dhal with some water. Stir and mix well. (The amount of water you add will depend on how thick you want the soup to be. I like thick soups, almost curry-like but if you prefer thin soups, this is also fine).
  • Add soymilk for a creamier consistency.
  • When the soup has almost reached the consistency you want, add the meatless balls and the pre-fried eggplants. Stir and mix well. Allow to reduce and thicken slightly. Add salt to taste.


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  • Serve hot with Indian or French bread. (I had chapattis!) Or just as a spicy soup on its own with some scallions and freshly squeezed lemon juice for a fresh tangy taste.


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Do you feel like some delicious heartwarming Mauritian inspired dish tonight?!

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21 comments:

  1. You are amazing! That looks so good.

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  2. What a wonderful post! Thanks so much for sharing.

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  3. This looks and sounds totally delicious! I hadn't realized how interesting Mauritian food is - thank you for writing this post.

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  4. Oh my God,now you've made me hungry!..and it`s still morning..!That looks absolutely delicious!
    mia

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  5. The meatballs look AMAZING! What kind/brand of soya meat did you use for them? I'd like to give them a try (I usually buy 'Realeat' frozen veggie mince but I think it might be too chunky for this recipe).
    Thanks for another delicious recipe!

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  6. Becks, I bought the mince soy meat in the Asian store over here. It's the East End brand. But I'm sure I've seen this in some Tescos in London (Indian/Asian aisle), I'm not sure about other areas in the UK. You can get it at Holland and Barrett too.
    There's a chunky one which you can always mince down in the food processor after rehydrating if you can't find the mince one.

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  7. wow, Lovlie - your dish looks absolutely amazing! dan & i are going to have to try it out! so far we've only been able to find TVP, but i'll definitely look for some soy meat at our asian market - i bet they have some!

    i love a good dish with eggplant & curry - yours looks too delicious not to make! thanks so much for the recipes! mmmmmmmmmmmm!

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  8. Thanks, very helpful! Another good excuse for me to find an Asian Supermarket >:o)

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  9. hey i just found your blog and its beautiful! your such a wonderful photographer! your meatless balls look delish :)

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  10. These meatless balls look so delicate and delicious! Delicious from Mauritius! :)

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  11. I'm totally going to make these! I love your blog.

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  12. I only found your blog for the first time today and I am seriously impressed. Wow your food looks amazing!

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  13. brilliant! I don't even know how you thought of this wondrous recipe but it looks insanely good, thanks for sharing
    xo

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  14. This looks amazing! Thank you for sharing the recipe and tutorial. :)

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  15. Oh, this looks truly amazing! Thanks for the recipe!

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  16. thanks for all these tip on cooking asian food:)

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  17. this one looks super tasty and, i've got to say, your pictures really do make the recipes appealing :)

    tom

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  18. I think I visited your blog before. I saw your link during that blog thing at Island Crisis. :)

    I was looking for information about halim because a friend was asking me about halim and I came across this blog entry. What a coincidence! hehe

    Do you know what type of vinegar we use in halim? Strangely, I haven't found the same type of vinegar when I was still in Shanghai. They have white vinegar and another vinegar used to eat Chinese dumplings. I'm looking for the type of vinegar that we can buy in Mauritius. The brownish one. Maybe there's a specific name for it.

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  19. The vinegar we get in Mauritius is very different in taste. I also don't find it here. I don't know what they use to make it, probably sugarcane syrup...

    The closest I've been able to reproduce it is by diluting brown malt vinegar (1 part malt vinegar : 4 parts water). Malt vinegar is very strong though and the smell is different.
    But I find rice vinegar quite good for halim soup. Try it and see if you like it.

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  20. You forget not only the indian and chinese cuisine is influenced in mauritiaus but AFRICA as well. Dont forget it. I hate it when you asian obmitt that when you all know how you lot pretend how you end up on the island in the first place. Need to readup on the dalit people of south india. Then it would take the prejudice and ignorance out of you.

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  21. Anonymous, if you took the time to read the article you would have seen that I did mention the different types of cuisine we have in Mauritius:
    "With the country being multicultural from history, it has a fabulous marriage of cuisines – from Chinese, Indian, Creole style to European. "
    Isn't Creole style African?
    Please read before commenting and also commenting as anonymous, what does it say about you?

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