If you’re looking forward to the first local asparagus, rhubarb or tomatoes, you know the excitement of eating local. Patricia Tanumihardja shares your passion. She wants to help you make the most of what’s in season by borrowing some Asian culinary wisdom.

In “Farm to Table Asian Secrets: Vegan and Vegetarian Full-Flavored Recipes for Every Season” (Tuttle Publishing $15.95, published late March), she uses easy-to-find vegetables and ingredients and straightforward techniques.

“It’s really an homage to my mom. Twenty years ago, when she moved to Seattle from Singapore, she could not find familiar produce and I watched her adapt and substitute,” Tanumihardja said.

Her parents are Indonesian, and she grew up in Singapore before moving to the U.S.

“I really learned Indonesian, Chinese and Singaporean cooking by watching my mother. I went to culinary school later, but Asian cooking is so different. Then I wrote ‘The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook’ and learned from cooks across Asia,” she said.

Tanumihardja’s next big influence was California, where she managed a farmers market.

“That’s really where I grew to love eating seasonally, and the farmers were mostly organic,” she said. “When I went to Asian markets, you could never tell where it was from, or whether it was organic. So I love to use the produce I find fresh and local in dishes like my mother would make.”

The recipes in this book really are a love letter to vegetables, above all.

“So much Asian vegetarian cooking is about using tofu, and even uses fish sauce. This is just for everyone who loves to eat vegetables, or who wants to eat more plant-based. The dishes can be side dishes, for hard-core carnivores,” said Tanumihardja.

She hopes that her readers will learn the secrets of Asian cooking and make them their own. That includes using a lot of garnishes, to add flavor and texture. Crunchy fried shallots are added to everything for some pizazz.”

Tanumihardja also builds flavor with oils. “A drizzle of toasted sesame oil, or a garlic- or chile-infused oil at the end of cooking makes a simple stir fry more interesting,” she said. Soy sauce, tamari, miso and seaweeds add umami, the fifth taste, to a dish. “They add a spark to vegetable foods,” she said.

With recipes like Vegetable Soup With Rhubarb (spring), Eggplant Meatball Vietnamese Sandwich (summer), Butternut Squash Potstickers (fall) and Kung Pao Potatoes (winter), Tanumihardja will have you cooking Asian all year long.

Rainbow Chard Korean Pancake

Serves 4 (makes 2 large pancakes).

Note: In this hearty Korean staple, rice flour adds texture for crispy edges while leaving the middle slightly chewy. But even if you omit it, the pancakes will still be tasty. Aim for a consistency that’s between crêpe batter and American pancake batter. The batter should coat the back of a spoon and drip down in a thick stream. You can also divide the batter into smaller portions and make smaller pancakes if flipping the full-size ones is difficult. From “Farm to Table Asian Secrets; Vegan and Vegetarian Full-Flavored Recipes for Every Season,” by Patricia Tanumihardja.

 1 1/4 c. (150 g) all-purpose flour

• 1/3 c. (50 g) rice flour

• 1 1/2 c. water

• 8 oz. rainbow chard

• 5 tbsp. vegetable oil, divided

• 1/2 c. sliced yellow onion

• Fine sea salt

 Soy and Green Onion Dipping Sauce (see sidebar)


In a large mixing bowl, mix the all-purpose and rice flours together with 1 1/2 cups water.

Gently tear or cut the chard leaves from the center ribs. Chop the ribs into 1/2-inch pieces. Stack the leaves and roll lengthwise into cigars, then cut crosswise into 1/2-inch ribbons. Keep ribs and leaves separate. You’ll have about 1 cup ribs and 3 cups packed leaves.

Swirl 1 tablespoon oil in a medium nonstick or cast-iron skillet and set over medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Add the onion and chard ribs. Cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes, until the onions turn translucent. Add the ribs and continue to stir and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the leaves and a pinch of salt, then cook until they wilt, another 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool for about 5 minutes. Fold the chard and onions into the batter.

Wipe out the skillet and heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat for 30 seconds. Pour half the batter into the skillet, tilting and swirling so the batter forms an even layer. The pancake should be about 1/4-inch thick. Cook, shaking the skillet occasionally, until the bottom is golden brown, 3 to 4 minutes.

Lift up one edge and pour in 1 more tablespoon oil, then flip the pancake carefully and press down with a spatula to flatten it and ensure it cooks thoroughly. Cook until the pancake is golden brown on the bottom and the edges are crisp, another 1 to 2 minutes. Turn and press down on the pancake 2 to 3 more times until the pancake is cooked through.

Transfer the pancake to a serving platter and keep warm in a 200-degree oven. Repeat with the remaining batter.

To serve, cut each pancake into 8 slices and serve with Soy and Green Onion Dipping Sauce.

Nutrition information per serving:

Calories 390 Fat 20 g Sodium 420 mg

Carbohydrates 46 g Saturated fat 3 g Total sugars 4 g

Protein 7 g Cholesterol 0 mg Dietary fiber 3 g

Exchanges per serving: 3 starch, 3 ½ fat.

Soy and Green Onion Dipping Sauce

Makes 1 1/2 cups.

Note: This sauce keeps for at least 3 days in the refrigerator, up to 1 week if you leave the green onions out until just before serving. Extra sauce? Dip fried tofu into it or toss with fresh greens. To toast sesame seeds, place in a dry pan over low heat until fragrant and starting to brown. From “Farm to Table Asian Secrets; Vegan and Vegetarian Full-Flavored Recipes for Every Season,” by Patricia Tanumihardja.

• 1/4 c. soy sauce

• 2 tbsp. rice vinegar

• 2 tbsp. water

• 1 1/2 tbsp. sesame oil

• 1 1/2 tbsp. honey

 2 tbsp. toasted sesame seeds, crushed with a mortar and pestle (see Note)

• 2 tsp. coarse chili pepper flakes or chili paste

• 2 green onions, green and white parts, chopped


Whisk all ingredients together in a bowl and refrigerate until ready to serve.


Robin Asbell is a cooking instructor and author of “Big Vegan,” “The Whole Grain Promise” and “Great Bowls of Food.” Find her at robinasbell.com.