I know I promised it a long time ago, but I am only just now getting around to posting the first Phuket Cleanse inspired recipe. My time there was a whirlwind of experiencing new flavours, new ingredients and unexpected combinations that created the most delicious raw dishes. I have never had raw vegan food like this before, and let me say, it has been slightly life changing. I came back from my holidays with a list of things to buy: nutritional yeast, spiralizer, sprouter, deydrater, water filter and the list goes on. Two weeks later, and I've at least gotten myself a spiralizer. Step one, check. I already found all the recipe inspiration I need thanks to a blog called "Inspiralized", now I just have to find the time to get busy in the kitchen.
So, back to the recipe; as someone who is completely freakin’ obsessed with Thai food, I just had to post a Thai dish first. Thai cooking places emphasis on lightly prepared dishes with strong aromatic components and a spicy edge. There's always at least 3 flavours involved: sour, sweet, salty, bitter, or spicy. It's not a secret that I have a bit of a sweet tooth, so maybe the fact that many dishes are sweet is the reason I'm hooked on Thai food. Latest after my Thai Cooking Class at Mai Kaidee, I have become inspired to bring the Thai cuisine to my own kitchen and start experimenting with some recipes. Expect some more Thai recipes to follow soon. But first, let's take a look at this simple tomato salad.
To cook or not to cook - that is the question
Tomatoes have long been known to be a good source of lycopene, the phytochemical which makes them red and gives them their antioxidant properties. Research has shown that this antioxidant power can be boosted even more simply through cooking the veggie. The reason for this is that the heat breaks down the plant's thick cell walls and helps the body's uptake of some nutrients that are bound to those cell walls. As a result, cooked tomatoes are better against protecting cancer - especially prostate cancer - than their raw counterpart.
On the other hand, cooking tomatoes (any vegetable for that matter) reduces their Vitamin C content by roughly 10%. Vitamin C is highly unstable and easily degraded through oxidation, exposure to heat or through cooking in water. In fact, Vitamin C dissolves in the cooking water, which is why some people suggest to keep the cooking water of vegetables to make stocks.
My personal opinion? Mix it up. There's a lot of studies indicating the benefits of a raw diet, but likewise there's a lot of evidence indicating the contrary. The field of nutrition is interesting in that sense; it is the only scientific field where two diametrically opposed theories can both be proven right. A raw diet increases life expectancy, cooking food reduces cancer, eating raw preserves enzymes, cooking increases the food's antioxidant content. There's some truth to all of this.
This is exactly why I don't subscribe to labelling your diet or to restricting yourself too much. I believe in moderation, in balance and in being open-minded about all the nutrition info out there. I recently stumbled across the term nutritarian diet, coined by Dr. Fuhrman, which describes a way of eating that bases food choices on maximising the micronutrients per calorie. I't not enough to just look at the macronutrient breakdown aka the percentage of carbs, fats and protein that food has, but you should also consider how nutrient dense your food is. I like this way of thinking about food; the more food nourishes you from a nutrient point of view, the better. Easy, no?
So, back to the dilemma of wether or not to cook your tomatoes: If we think of it in terms of a nutritarian diet, we would eat tomatoes both raw and cooked. On Monday we might opt for a creamy roasted tomato soup and on Wednesday we'll have this light summery salad. Whoot whoot! So go ahead and enjoy the diversity that life has to offer!
Most Thai Tomato Salad recipes call for fish sauce, but we'll be doing this one without it. I don't have a particular stance for or against fish sauce, but for the sake of keeping it vegan we shall omit the fishy ingredient.
Raw Food Series: Thai Tomato Salad (Serves 2)
6 medium sized tomatoes
4 cups shredded lettuce
1 handful cilantro
1/3 cup minced red onion
Juice of 3 large limes
3T Thai sweet chili sauce (You can make this by mixing up a little honey, vinegar and chili)
Mix together and serve. As easy as that!