Nasu Dengaku | Japanese Eggplant

Harajuku Gyoza and Nasu Dengaku Recipe

A week ago I was invited to Harajuku Gyoza in Potts Point to try their vegan dishes. It was quite a pleasant surprise, as I visited them only a month ago for a quick lunch, and I thought to myself, ‘this restaurant is actually vegan friendly’. And indeed it is, and very much so. I went with my vegan friend, Jo, and we both had a great time tasting all their vegan dishes, from dumplings, to tacos, and finally a lovely dessert, for which we had no idea what it was made made of, but which looked and tasted delicious.

My lovely friend Jo


Japanese Plum Wine – delish!

Vegetable Gyoza. Great with some vinegar and chilli oil.

Open Tofu Taco, Tempura Eggplant, and Agedashi Tofu (veganised) – triple yum!

Raindrop Cake – delicate melt in your mouth jelly served with peanut powder and I’m not sure about the rest! Tastes good though :)


It’s not every day that I can eat more than just salad and vegetable tempura at a Japanese restaurant, and so I was very cheerful (the plum wine and sake might have contributed to the elevated mood as well).

What a spread! All vegan :)

I got home feeling motivated to create a Japanese-inspired video recipe. Nasu Dengaku, or miso glazed eggplant, is one of my favourite Japanese dishes to make at home because it’s so simple, healthy and most importantly tasty. It’s also especially useful for this time of the year when the weather is getting colder and I’m craving things that are more comforting. And this dish is just that, comforting, especially when eaten with a steaming bowl of rice… heaven-sent.

Here’s the video and the recipe. I posted it on Instagram a few days ago and a few people have tried the recipe and told me how delicious it is. If you don’t have sake, you can omit it, the recipe will still taste good.

Nasu Dengaku | Japanese Eggplant
0 from 0 votes

Harajuku Gyoza and Nasu Dengaku Recipe

Simple, delicious, and comforting. Recipe adapted from
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 2
Author Keren Natalia


  • 1 large eggplant or 2 small ones
  • 2 tablespoons mirin
  • 1 tablespoons sake
  • 2 tablespoons shiro miso
  • 1 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
  • Toasted sesame seeds for garnish


  1. Cut eggplants lengthwise and score.
  2. Mix all the sauce ingredients.
  3. Brush the cut sides of the eggplants with the sauce and cook for 20 mins at 180C (or about 10 mins for smaller eggplants)
  4. Garnish with sesame seeds and serve with boiled rice.

If you make this, I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below and let me know what you think. You can also follow me on Instagram and share your creation with me. Just tag me @passionatelykeren so I won’t miss your post.


Keren x

Soul Burger – Randwick

A few months ago I went to Soul Burger in Randwick for the first time since they went completely plant-based in December 2015. Having become used to being limited to just one option at burger joints (generally involving a veggie patty of some sort), it was so strange being able to pick anything from the menu! But before I go into detail, let me share with you my story.


I have a long history with burgers.

When I was growing up in Jakarta, my mum used to treat us (my sisters and I) with Wendy’s burgers on weekends. Wendy’s was (and still is) a big-name US fast food chain, which pretty much revolves around burgers and chips, and is marginally better than McDonalds.

Back then burgers were a luxury food for our family and for many others. They were more a lot more expensive than local Indonesian food and you could only find them in high-end shopping centres. People would go to burger joints for a celebration, or some sort of special event. You certainly wouldn’t find people eating burgers every day. Not even the people working there.

Fast forward a few years later, I moved to Australia… the land of burgers, pies and sausage rolls. I put on ten kilos in the first year! (I think I’m still carrying most of the weight gain, even now, 15 years later!).

So now I’m back to treating burgers as a luxury food item, not because of their price (although some can cost upward of $20), but because of their high calorie count. I need to either have enough ‘calorie credit’ to eat the burger or know that I can ‘pay for it’ somehow (with some sweat and tears). That’s how I treat all comfort foods. It’s a fun way of looking at the trade-off between taste and calories, and it also helps you make a better decision. And when I do indulge, I want it to taste good. Really good. Because, hey, I’m paying big for it, not just with my wallet, but with my hustle.

Anyway, the point is (and sorry for the long-winded introduction), now that I’m vegan, finding a good plant-based burger has become an ongoing pursuit.

Until Soul Burger! They don’t just make good burgers, they smash them out of the ballpark. Just check out their menu.

I wanted to try everything all at the same time but settled with Chilli Beef which has plant-based beef, lettuce, tomato, jalapenos, sriracha aioli (I know!) and tomato relish. My boyfriend Nat opted for a more traditional Classic Cheese burger which has plant-based beef, cheese, lettuce, tomato relish and mustard aioli. They were both really good (though I think mine tasted better!). Here’s a quick video on how it all went down. Missa (my spoodle) makes a cameo in this little clip. Hope you like it.

Soul Burger opens Monday to Sunday for lunch and dinner. Visit their website for more info on location (by the way, they just opened a new store in Glebe!) and opening times.

Keren x

(Vegan) Blueberry Donuts – Halloween Edition

These (Vegan) Blueberry Donuts were actually a two-fold experiment: the first stage was to test if I could make blueberry donuts with fresh blueberries, and the second was to experiment with stop-motion technique to give the resulting video a bit of ‘magic’. Stop-motion is a technique which uses a lot of still frames with the object moving in small increments, creating the illusion of movement when the series of frames is played as a continuous sequence, like an animation.

So this recipe’s video incorporates a bit of wizardry (like summoning ingredients and baking with a blink of an eye), and I loved it, because, after all, who doesn’t love a touch of magic in the kitchen?

vegan blueberry donuts

Tips on making these vegan blueberry donuts

These donuts are based on my Lifechanging Donuts recipe. To make this version you just need to add 1/2 cup of blueberries to the batter.

Important note: to make sure the blueberries don’t stick to the bottom of the mould (I recommend using a silicon mould), be sure to cover the base of the silicon pan with the batter first (without blueberries) and then follow with some more batter with two or three blueberries. This will prevent the berries from sticking to the bottom of the mould which makes the donuts impossible to remove without breaking.

Alternatively, you can add the blueberries right at the end, when the mould has been filled with the batter (see picture below), so the blueberries are on surface, however, I personally like to top the mould with just a bit extra batter to cover the blueberries and create a smoother surface.

vegan blueberry donuts

Anyway, I had so much fun making these blueberry donuts and the associated video. The video production was a bit more technical than I expected: you have to think ten steps ahead, and make sure everything is just perfect, because you don’t want to start all over again. The editing process was quite lengthy (about three hours), but I really enjoyed it, and I can’t wait to explore the stop-motion video making realm. If you like the video, don’t forget to subscribe to my new YouTube channel. I’d really appreaciate it.

vegan blueberry donuts

Did you make this recipe?

Please let me know how it turned out for you! Leave a comment below or share a picture on Instagram and tag me so I can see your creation.

Keren x

Be Fraiche Skin Care Workshop

A few weeks ago I went to a Lip Balm and Lotion Bar workshop organised by Helen Dao, founder of Be Fraiche. Helen and I met through one of the Sydney Passion Bloggers Meetups. Helen thought I might want to check out one of her workshops and learn how to make my own skin care. I’m a big fan of DYI’s so it was a no-brainer for me. Here’s a little video I made for fun workshop held at a cosy co-working space in Bondi, The Little Space.

Now I’ve been to many workshops over the years but I have to say that it was the most organised workshop I’ve been to. The attention to detail from Helen during this three-hour workshop was incredible. From the meticulous placement of the bright yellow aprons and safety glasses on the table, to the goodie bags she prepared for everyone, everything looked so fine-tuned and stylish.


Everyone turned up early, including me. Some came from as far as Newcastle. There definitely was a buzz about the workshop which none of us wanted to miss.


Helen gave an introduction about herself – how she went from working in corporate to pursuing her passion in skincare. By the by, Helen is a qualified skincare formulator, having trained in the UK for Organic Skincare Formulation and in France for Perfumery. Pretty impressive and worldly credentials, wouldn’t you say?


As to the workshop itself, each of us had our own setup, complete with our own little scales. We got to formulate our own lip balm and body lotion. The workshop felt like my old lab days, when I was a biologist, weighing ingredients to as precise as one-tenth of a gram, controlling the temperature so that it wouldn’t get too hot when heating and mixing up the ingredients, pouring solution into the tiniest containers and praying to God that I wouldn’t spill any of this expensive stuff.


I learned that most lip balms are made using beeswax, so Helen taught us how to replace beeswax using Candelila, which is a plant-based alternative.. It’s a little bit tricky to work with as it’s much harder to dissolve, but when done well it does the job, and it gives the lip balm a nice shiny coat on it, too.

I would say I had an amazing time except that I can’t use that word anymore since the editor (my boyfriend Nat) has declared the word banned due to overuse. Apparently if everything is amazing, nothing is. He may have a point there and maybe I do need to expand my vocabulary a little bit more. So let me think how best to describe the experience.



Sorry, Nat. It was. And I think you can have lots of amazing experiences if you choose to. Why wouldn’t you?


You can check out the Be Fraiche skin care workshop on their website. They have launched their natural skincare products so be sure to try them the next time you’re shopping for some skincare.


Keren x

Truffle Hunting at Tarago Truffle, NSW

If you’re a foodie like me, you’ve certainly heard of black truffles and how precious they are. Some people truly adore truffles (my people) while others think they’re overrated pieces of smelly fungus. People call them ‘black gold’, and in many ways, they are, as they’re extremely hard to cultivate and harvest. I came to fully appreciate how precious and scare they are during my truffle hunting experience at Tarago Truffle with Dusty, a friendly burgundy-brown Australian Shepherd who absolutely loves being the centre of attention.

Tarago Truffle-15

Tarago Truffle-14

As it turns out, truffle hunting is hard work. Yes, we’ve all heard that it’s hard but really, it is very, very hard! You’d think the dog would do all the sniffing and the digging but actually, humans do eighty percent of the physical work. The dogs find the approximate location of the truffles in question but it’s the farmer’s job to determine if the truffle is ripe enough for harvesting, by sniffing the soil, and then digging it out, all without damaging the truffle. It’s not an easy task – you’re on your knees a lot, with your nose buried in soil most of the time trying to find the elusive truffle. Your digging tools: a silver spoon and a bread knife.

Tarago Truffle-8

It was an eye-opening and fun experience. We were given a chance to dig for our own truffles and we did. It was nearing the end of the truffle season (truffle season is late June to August in Australia) so there weren’t many left to dig out. Nevertheless it was quite thrilling to find some truffles underground and have a sniff at them. I think we found about five truffles or so in an hour of sniffing around.

Tarago Truffle-4

The best part about the truffle hunting experience is that we got to eat some delicious soup, with crusty bread, shavings of fresh truffle and some truffle salt.

Dogs vs. Pigs

Traditionally, truffle hunters used pigs to find truffles. Pigs have a natural appetite and nose for truffles so they need no training at all.

Tarago Truffle-11

Modern farmers now use dogs in place of pigs, though: Firstly, dogs have more stamina than pigs. Secondly, dogs are less likely to eat the truffle once they find it. And thirdly, it is easier to manage a 40kg dog than a 200kg pig when trying to rescue the truffle from its finder.

By the way, on the subject of these animals, did you know that dogs smell about 10,000 times better than humans, and pigs’ sense of smell is about three times better than dogs? Mindboggling stuff.

Are Truffles Vegan?

Some vegans don’t eat truffles because of ‘animal exploitation’. I remember feeling bad at Gigi’s in Newtown, once, when I offered a vegan friend a slice of mushroom pizza and they refused because they don’t eat truffles.

I see no problem in eating truffles (expect for the high cost). Yes, the truffler farmers use animals to help find them truffles. So what? That’s not exploitation on its own. It’s just like using miners to mine for gold. I think the important question is the working condition of the pigs or dogs used to find the truffles.

Tarago Truffle-7 From my research, and what I’ve witnessed, at least in Australia, the animals are treated exceptionally well. Some truffle dogs are valued at $100,000 so you can imagine how well these valuable animals are treated. Truffle farmers dote on their dogs. At Tarango Truffle you could tell how precious the dogs were. A similar approach is taken with pigs. Truffle-hunting pigs are hand raised and trained, just like dogs. While we can never be absolutely certain of what passes behind the scenes, the best thing you can do, to make sure that your truffles are ethically sourced, is to go and see the process yourself. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Tarago Truffle-6

On a sidenote, did you know that most truffle oils are not infused with real truffles? They have synthetic flavouring, and most of the truffle oil dishes you get at cafes are probably using flavoured truffle oil. So if you’re a level 5 vegan, truffle oil maybe a safe option for you. As for me, pass me those smelly, black funguses, please.

Tarago Truffle-13

Tarago Truffles

173 Willandra Ln, Tarago NSW 2580

50 minutes drive from Canberra, and two and a half to three hours from Sydney.

Sydney Good Food and Wine Show 2016

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to Sydney Good Food and Wine show thanks to Liven – an awesome app which offers great savings that you can share with your favorite charity. I didn’t expect to find a lot of vegan-friendly foods but I didn’t go hungry. Plus, it was fun to see what’s happening in the mainstream food world.

There were lots of food, wine and cheese (sad face). Nevertheless, I was quite stoked to see Pana Chocolate and a few other vegan-friendly vendors such as Kez’s Kitchen, Blush Tomatoes, Blind Tiger Gin (makes amazing G&T), Ecoganics Foods, and some others. You can still a foodie as a vegan for sure!

Here’s a short clip with some of my highlights.

Do you love going to food festival like I do? What’s your favourite?

Keren x

Vegan Choc Chip Hot Cross Buns

Vegan Choc Chip Hot Cross Buns

With Easter just around the corner (and very early this year) I thought it’s time for me to share this recipe. I remember my first Easter as a vegan and I struggled finding vegan hot cross buns, especially the chocolate chip variety. So I went and made my own, and I’ve been making them ever since for Easter.

Friends, this is what Easter is made for…


Why I love these vegan choc chip hot cross buns

Aside from the sensation of biting into warm gooey chocolate, these buns smell as delicious as they are tasty. The added spices give them that traditional hot cross buns smell and taste, but with a sprinkle of chocolate magic.

Vegan Choc Chip Hot Cross Buns
Author: Keren
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 9
  • Dough
  • 2 tsp instant dried yeast (1 sachet)
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 cup of soymilk (or your favourite non-dairy milk)
  • 3 cups plain flour
  • 1/2 all spice
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • a pinch of salt
  • 100g dairy-free dark chocolate, finely chopped (or dark chocolate chips)
  • 2 tsp organ egg replacer (equivalent of 2 eggs)
  • 4 tablespoons water
  • Flour Paste for Crosses
  • 2 1/2 tbsp plain flour
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp water
  • Sugar Glaze
  • 1 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoons boiling water
  1. If you’re using cold soymilk, heat the milk microwave for 20 seconds until lukewarm but not hot to the touch (you can also use the stove to do this).
  2. Mix sugar and soymilk. Add yeast and mix. Stand for about 10 mins until frothy. If the yeast doesn’t froth at this stage, it’s not active and you’ll have to get some fresh yeast.
  3. Whisk egg replacer powder and 4 tablespoons water in a small bowl until thick and frothy.
  4. Sift flour, salt and spices into a big bowl. Stir in the yeast mixture, egg replacer mixture, and then the chopped dark chocolate. Knead for 5-10 mins or so until it becomes a smooth, elastic dough. Use a mixer with dough hook attachment to speed up the process. It took me 2 minutes to do this using the Tefal Cuisine Companion.
  5. Place dough in an oiled bowl, cover with cling wrap and leave to rise in a warm space for an hour (an oven with the light turned on works a treat).
  6. Turn dough out and divide into 9 portions. Roll them into balls and place them on a baking tray. Cover with a tea towel and leave in a warm place till nearly doubled.
  7. Preheat oven to 180C
  8. Make the flour paste by mixing ingredients together until smooth. Pipe crosses on buns using a piping bag.
  9. Bake buns for 20 mins or until light golden brown.
  10. Make the sugar glaze by mixing all the ingredients together. Brush glaze over hot buns.
Use dairy-free milk chocolate if you like it sweeter.[br][br]For the traditional hot cross buns, replace chocolate with mixed dried fruits.

Vegan Choc Chip Hot Cross Buns-6

Did you make this recipe?

Please let me know how it turned out for you! Leave a comment below and don’t forget to share a picture on Instagram and tag me. I’d love to see your creation.

With love,



Cuisine Companion Launch and How to Make Whole Wheat Oat Dinner Rolls

What’s the first thing you do when you have a cooking robot? Get it to knead you some bread, of course.

Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 1.46.41 am

A few weeks ago I went to a VIP event as one of the founding members of the Tefal Cuisine Companion Cuisine Club (Hello Bizzylizcook and Vegetaraian :o) . At the VIP event I got to play with this wonder machine and made a delicious vegan risotto and apple crumble effortlessly.

Cuisine Companion

It’s such a versatile machine. It chops, whips, mix, kneads, cooks, steams, blends, stirs, emulsifies, whisks, sears, crushes, mills and heats food. In the beginning I was afraid that it might be a bit complicated to use but it turns out to be quite easy and straightforward with an intuitive user interface and six automatic functions.

That first weekend I decided to test-drive my demonstration model, making one of my favourite breads, Maple Oat Bread. I use a combination of whole-wheat flour and oats which help lower the gluten content of the bread and increases its nutritional value. Though I’m trying to eat less bread, I’ve never been a fan of complete deprivation, so rather than stop eating it altogether I’d rather try making it healthier and better for me (and maybe eat a bit less of it). So when I discovered you can turn oats into flour and make bread with it, you could imagine my excitement.

Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 1.45.53 am

Why I love it:

This bread is quite easy to make so you can certainly make it by hand if you want. However, the Cuisine Companion makes it even easier as you don’t have to knead it. The machine does all the work, including maintaining an optimum proofing temperature. Once I had put all the ingredients in, the only thing I had to do was to wait and then shape the dough into bread rolls. Too easy.

What’s good about it:

In my book, oat is superfood. Here’s 5 reasons why you need to make oat bread, not that you need any.

5 Reasons Why You Need To Make Oat Bread

  1. Oats are high in fibre and are a good source of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals
  2. Oats help you control your appetite [1]
  3. Oats help regulate blood pressure [2]
  4. Oats are rated no. 1 for breakfast, in satiety index [3]
  5. Oats may improve insulin sensitivity [4]

Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 1.45.53 am

Whole Wheat Oat Dinner Rolls


  • 300ml warm water
  • 1 packet of dry yeast
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup (you can add up to 3 tbsp if you like it sweeter)
  • 1 cup of whole-wheat flour
  • 1 cup of rolled oats, plus a few tablespoons, divided


  1. Place the yeast and 300ml of warm water in the bowl fitted with the kneading/crushing blade. Launch the P1 pastry program. After 30 seconds, open the lid and add the flour, oat and salt. Note that this program will knead the dough for 2 minutes and then it will stop for 30 minutes while maintaining the temperature at 30C.
  2. After 40 mins, remove the dough using a spatula and knead for 5 mins or so by hand until it forms a loose ball.
  3. Place the remaining oats on a small bowl. Pick up the dough ball and gently roll it over the oats.
  4. Leave on a tray lined with baking paper. Leave to rest for 1 hr 30 mins.
  5. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
  6. Place a bowl of water on the lower rack in the oven (this will help achieve a nice crust). Bake for 25 mins. Lower the oven to 180°C and cook for an extra 15 to 20 minutes.

Disclosure: I received a complementary Cuisine Companion from Tefal both to play with and for editorial purposes.

You can find out more about the Tefal Cuisine Companion at It is now available at select Harvey Norman stores across Australia.


[1] Nutrition Research, October 2009; 29(10):705-9

[2] Journal of Family Practice, April 2002; 51(4):369

[3] European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, September 1995; 49(9): 675-90

[4] European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, June 2007; 61(6):786-95