Nasiba’s Colourful Poké Plate
This is Nasiba.
Nasiba is a beautiful, young woman who – as you might expect – loves to cook. She doesn’t cook every day and never plans her meals in advance, but trusts her intuition of what she wants to eat in that very moment, to then get cooking! When she cooks, she puts a lot of effort into making it taste really delicious and making it look appealing; as we all know, the eye eats first. Whenever she has any food cravings, they mostly circle around Asian soups such as Vietnamese Pho or Japanese ramen. When she was studying in Amsterdam, she usually made rice paper rolls for dinner nights with friends, impressing everyone with the colourful fillings and homemade peanut butter sauce. Does that sound delicious to you? I bet.
Nasiba’s diet is vegan. However, her take on food is not as limiting as many other vegans experience it. Of course if she can avoid animal products, she will. After all, that’s the whole point of her decision to become vegan. But her diet is neither keeping her from gaining culinary insights nor excluding her from trying new foods. To her, it’s all about the principle, the commitment, mindset and intention. She wants to eat with a clean conscience and open the eyes of those around her; because by committing to a vegan lifestyle, her friends and family start to question their own diet. After first suspicions, they listen to her opinion, her reasons for why she chose to take this path and most importantly: they try her food. If it’s not a winning argument to let someone taste delicious and nutritious vegan food, then I don’t know what could be more convincing!
However, not eating a piece of cake that someone made for her only because it saw a few drops of milk in its short cake-life is not the solution to the environment’s problem. So if someone invites her for a meal, she won’t be picky and not eat anything. Naturally, this is not how all vegans should deal with their approach to food, as some find it easier to be 100% strict with what they allow into their bodies. Nasiba’s approach inspires me because it reminds me of the core values we aim to express through choosing what we eat.
In some cultures, meat is more important than in others. The way Nasiba grew up makes her understand the traditional value of not only meat but of food in general. Where did she grow up? Before moving to the Netherlands, Nasiba spent her childhood in Tajikistan, a country tucked into Central Asia. There, the food is heavy on vegetables and traditional dishes aren’t centred around a piece of meat. It is culturally implemented that people get their meat at markets where it is not presented as we know it from supermarkets. Instead of being wrapped in plastic and cleaned from any remaining blood, it still resembles the animal it once was (or still is). Nasiba tells me that in Tajikistan, meat is valued for its functionality. It isn’t just about a chicken breast that people eat for dinner, it is about the entirety of the product that can feed a whole family; the bones are being cooked for a broth that offers the base for a hearty soup or a cosy stew. The meat is used to enhance the food and not to make up the majority of what ends up on the plate.
Tajik food consists of many one-pot dishes, which comes back to the functionality aspect. Of course, by now fast food arrived in that small Central Asian country as well everywhere else in this world. However, fast food is considered as a quick snack and does not replace an entire meal; Tajiks value homemade cooking and love their traditional dish mantu, which is a type of dumpling that can be filled with minced meat, onions, potatoes, pumpkin and spices.
By the way, Nasiba now lives in Berlin where she moved into a beautiful, modern apartment in the center of the city. As soon as I arrived, she handed me a gorgeous vegan pancake topped with honey, forest berries, shredded coconut and almonds. Even though I had eaten breakfast not too long before, I could never have said no to this heavenly thin crêpe that sure as hell didn’t survive the day. Now, to really get the food talk going, let’s have a look at the ingredients she used for today’s dish:
Colourful, eh? Nasiba loves the vibrant colours of fresh fruits and vegetables and likes to eat a lot of them uncooked. The dish she chose for today is a combination of warm and cold, of raw and cooked. Whenever Nasiba cooks, she doesn’t follow too many guidelines but naturally combines different foods and trusts the result. She makes this dish when craving something nice without having to cook for too long. Let’s see how she transforms these beautiful ingredients into a vibrant dish that was delicious and nutritious, are you ready?
Colourful Poké Plate
Prep time: 25 min
Cooking Time: 20 min
Total Time: 45 min
For this recipe you will need:
1 cup brown rice
2 spring onions
1 cup shredded carrot
1 cup shredded cabbage
3 cups spinach
For the sauce:
5 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp maple syrup
½ lemon, juiced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp sesame seeds
1 tbsp ginger, minced
dash of Tabasco
- Preheat the oven to 220ºC and cut the aubergine into thick slices. Place them in the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes until they become soft. Remove them from the heat and rip into long pieces.
- In a bowl, mix the sauce and marinate the eggplant in 2 tbsp of it.
- Cook the rice according to the instructions on the packet.
- Thinly slice the red cabbage, spring onion, cucumber and radishes.
- Heat water in a pot and sauteé the spinach for less than one minute. Drain it, place in a bowl and stir in 2 tbsp of the sauce.
- On a plate, place a few spoons of rice in the middle. Assemble the different veggies around it and drizzle some more of the sauce over it all!
Nasiba’s motto is: Work with what you have. When assembling the food on plates instead of bowls, she laughed and said well, that matches my motto, doesn’t it? A poké plate? Maybe that should be a new thing.
As you can see, I wasn’t the only one taking photos: as soon as Nasiba decorated our plates and served her delicious food, she grabbed her own camera to capture the colourful beauty of what she created!
Thank you for feeding me, Nasiba, and for teaching me 2 or 3 new things.
I think a new trend is on the way, let’s make poké plates a thing, why don’t we?