'Food should be made for taste. It should be nutrient dense. It should keep the decency of the ingredients and there should be no toxic chemicals or nasties,' says manager Lam Dinh, explaining the four parts to Nourishing Quarter's food ethos. Love is the fourth component. 'If you cook it for family and friends, love has to be there. Food should not be a chore.'

This dish has travelled all the way from Vietnam to Redfern. 'Grains are old and sacred - so we call them the ancient pearls. And they are "within your grasp" because they are served like sang choi bao, in a lettuce cup. They are served with both hands and given beautifully and respectfully.' Informed by a vegan, wholefood mantra, Dinh laments that both ancient foods (such as pulses and grains) and respectful ways of serving them are being lost. He suggests beginning a meal with dishes such as this jewel-like mix of diced vegetables, black and white fungus, tofu and red quinoa grains. 'We always try to do things that people can make at home,' he says. Crisping the lettuce cups in the fridge before filling them provides extra texture and crunch, while caramelising the sauce in the pan brings richness and depth of flavour to the dish.

Serves 4-6


1 tablespoon sunflower oil
1½ tablespoons grated ginger
4 garlic cloves, grated
75g each of chopped black and white fungus
80g each of diced kohlrabi and diced snake beans
160g diced carrots
240g carrot garlic-infused red quinoa (add chopped garlic to cooking water)
240g diced firm tofu
¾ cup each of chopped coriander, spring onion and Vietnamese mint
10-12 cos lettuce leaves, chilled
2 handfuls of bean sprouts
very finely sliced kaffir lime leaves, to serve
roasted sesame seeds, to serve
freshly ground black pepper

80ml fresh orange juice
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons coconut sugar
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 teaspoons sesame oil

Cooking sauce
1½ teaspoons sesame oil
1½ tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons coconut sugar
1 teaspoon amaranth flour

Dipping sauce
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 chilli, chopped
1 tablespoon, lime juice


Combine the dressing ingredients in a bowl and stir until the sugar dissolves.

Combine the cooking sauce ingredients in a bowl and stir until the sugar dissolves.

Combine the dipping sauce ingredients in a small bowl.

Heat a large frying pan over high heat. Once hot, add the oil and swirl to coat the pan. Turn the heat down to medium, add the ginger and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant and turning golden. Add the fungus, kohlrabi, snake beans, carrots, quinoa and tofu and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes. Push all the ingredients to one side of the pan and pour the cooking sauce into the empty space. Swirl to coat and cook until caramelised and sizzling, about 20 seconds. Mix the sauce through the other ingredients and add the coriander, spring onion and Vietnamese mint (reserving some for garnish) and stir-fry for no more than 25 seconds.

Place the cos leaves on a serving plate and spoon in the filling. Top with the bean sprouts, lime leaves, sesame seeds and a grind of pepper. Garnish each lettuce cup with Vietnamese mint, drizzle some of the dressing over the top and serve with the dipping sauce on the side.

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