In Pictures: Street Foods of Hong Kong

Curry Fish Balls

Mini Clay Pot Pudding

Egg-shaped Mini-cakes

White Sugar Cake

Lo Mei

Stuffed Treasures

Rice Noodle Roll

Imitation Shark’s Fin Soup


Baked Vegan Samosas


1 large potato, about 9 oz, diced
1 tbsp peanut oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
4 tbsp coconut milk
1 tsp hot curry paste
3 oz peas
juice of 1/2 lime
25 samosa wrappers or 4 x 2-inch strips of filo pastry
oil, for brushing
salt and ground black pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
  2. Bring a small pan of water to the boil, add the diced potato, cover and cook for 10-15 minutes, until tender. Drain and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the groundnut oil in a wok or large frying pan. Add the shallots and cook over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 4 minutes.
  4. Add the chopped garlic to the wok and cook for a further 2 to 3 minutes until the shallots are soft and golden.
  5. Add the drained diced potato, the coconut milk, curry paste, peas and lime juice to the wok.
  6. Mash the mixture coarsely with a wooden spoon. Season to taste with salt and pepper and cook over a low heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside until the mixture has cooled a little.
  7. Lay a samosa wrapper or filo strip flat on the work surface. Brush with a little oil, then place a generous teaspoonful of the mixture in the middle of one end. Turn one corner diagonally over the filling to meet the long edge.
  8. Continue folding over the filling, keeping the triangular shape as you work down the strip. Brush with a little more oil if necessary and place on a baking sheet. Prepare all the other samosas in the same way.
  9. Bake the samosas for 15 minutes, or until the pastry is golden and crisp. Leave them to cool for a few minutes before serving.

Makes 25 samosas.

Source: Vegan Cooking

The Carrageenan Controversy

Monica Reinagel wrote . . . . . .

Carrageenan has been used in traditional food preparation for hundreds of years and is an ingredient in many organic and vegan foods. But now critics are calling for a ban. Is carrageenan safe? Nutrition Diva sorts through the evidence.

Carrageenan has been the subject of a lot of controversy and several of you have asked me to comment. For those who may not be up to speed on the topic, let me start with a quick overview..

What Is Carrageenan?

Carrageenan is an extract from a red seaweed commonly known as Irish Moss. This edible seaweed is native to the British Isles, where it’s been used in traditional cooking for hundreds of years. It’s also widely used in the food industry, mostly as a thickener and gelling agent. You’ll find it in ice cream, cottage cheese, non-dairy milks, jelly, pudding, and infant formula. Unlike gelatin, which is made from animal products, carageenan is appropriate for vegans.

Who would have thought that this ancient, natural, plant-based ingredient would become center of a swirling controversy? But it certainly has. Some scientists have presented evidence that carrageenan is highly inflammatory and toxic to the digestive tract, and claim that it may be reponsible for colitis, IBS, rheumatoid arthritis, and even colon cancer. Equally respected scientists have detailed the reasons that this evidence is flawed and misleading, concluding that there is no valid reason to ban its use.

Are the Charges Against Carrageenan True?

For example, the anti-carrageenan folks point out that carrageenan is routinely used to induce inflammation in animals as a way of testing various anti-inflammatory drugs. While this is true, the protocol calls for injecting carrageenan into the animals, not feeding it to them. There are many substances which are harmless when eaten but would be irritating or dangerous if injected.

It’s also claimed that feeding carrageenan to lab animals induces severe intestinal inflammation and ulcers. However, an independent review of these studies found that the substance used was not food-grade carageenan but a degraded form that is known to be toxic.

For every seemingly irrefutable point, there seems to be an equally valid counterpoint.

Yes, say the proponents of a ban, but food-grade carrageenan is degraded into this more harmful form in the human digestive tract! However, studies have failed to confirm this effect. The charges go on (and you can click on the links if you want to read more), but it seems that for every seemingly irrefutable point, there is an equally irrefutable counterpoint.

The whole controversy eventually led to a petition to the FDA to remove carrageenan from the list of ingredients that are “generally recognized as safe.” After reviewing the evidence, the FDA opted not to change carrageenan’s designation.

But all that happened over 10 years ago, so why are we still talking about it? Because the controversy has not gone away. Individuals continue to report dramatic improvement of long-standing digestive issues when they eliminate carageenan from their diets. Activists continue to call for a ban. The food industry continues to defend its use, citing the conclusions of scientists and government agencies. What’s a consumer to do?

Is Carrageenan Safe?

Based on the fairly extensive evidence that’s been put forward, I don’t think that carrageenan is toxic or carcinogenic or even particularly inflammatory for the vast majority of people. That said, it also appears that the substance may cause problems in some susceptible individuals.

I have a close friend whose baby daughter spent several harrowing weeks in the hospital suffering from severe ulcerative colitis. The doctors were actually starting to talk about a colostomy for this toddler! Fortunately, she recovered–due in no small part to her parents’ determination to find non-surgical solutions. Among other things, they eventually identified carrageenan as a trigger and eliminated it from her diet. I’m happy to say that she is now a healthy and thriving 8-year-old (with an intact and functioning colon!).

If you have unresolved digestive issues, you might want to eliminate carrageenan for several weeks to see if it makes a difference.

Based on this and other reports, I think anyone with unresolved digestive issues might at least want to experiment with eliminating carrageenan for several weeks to see if it makes a difference. If it does, what more evidence do you need? Eliminating carrageenan is not difficult, although it can be a bit of a hassle.

However, it would appear that, for the vast majority of individuals, carrageenan is well-tolerated and not a cause for concern.

Source: Quick and Dirty Tips

FDA Select Committee on GRAS Substances (SCOGS) Opinion: Carrageenan

GRAS – Generally Recognized As Safe

The available information on the oral administration of undegraded carrageenan at levels greatly exceeding the daily human intake, reveals evidence of possible adverse effects on the gastrointestinal epithelium. Extensive recent investigations of carrageenan and the pathogenesis of gastrointestinal changes indicates the susceptibility of the guinea pig to ulcerative colitis when fed relatively high levels of carrageenan in the diet. The work suggests that the occurrance of ulcers in the large bowl of animals is a species-specific phenomenon where feeding of carrageenan can induce ulceration in the caecum and proximal colon of the guinea pig which to date, does not appear to occur in the rat, mouse, hamster, pig, squirrel monkey, or man.
Recent reports on the oral administration of undegraded sodium and calcium carrageenan of known quality to pregnant animals reveals fetotoxic effects, with or without frank teratogenic effects, in some species at levels that do not greatly exceed the average daily human rate of intake. These effects appear to be dose-dependent.

While carrageenan exhibits no mutagenic effects as measured by the host-mediated and dominant lethal assay procedures, significant abnormalities appear to be induced in the anaphase figures of human embryoic lung cells in tissue culture at dosages that are slightly above average daily human intake.

It is of further concern that parenterally administered carrageenan is reported to inhibit the activity of complement, exert cytotoxic effects on macrophages, suppress delayed hypersensitivity reactions in some tuberculin sensitive animals, activate factors causing procoagulant activity in human blood platelets, increase vascular permeability, and liberate kinin in vitro, all of which point to the possibility of the generation of toxic effects that could cause adverse responses following the oral consumption of carrageenan if, during pregnancy or in the presence of infectious challenge or metabolic disorder, appropriate amounts of carrageenan should be absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract.

The Select committee has been informed that additional animal feeding and teratologic studies are soon to be initiated on commercial carrageenan and on several of the separated polysaccharide components of carrageenan. The Committee’s opinion should be reviewed once the results of these studies become available.

The Select Committee has weighed the foregoing and concludes that:

While no evidence in the available information on undegraded carrageenan demonstrates a hazard to the public when it is used at levels that are now current and in the manner now practiced, uncertainties exist requiring that additional studies should be conducted.

Page Last Updated: 02/11/2015.

Source: FDA

Read more

Shopping Guide to Avoiding Organic Foods with Carrageenan . . . . .

Even Small Reductions in Kidney Function May Damage Heart, Blood Vessels

Even small reductions in kidney function are associated with heart and blood vessel damage, according to new research in the American Heart Association’s journal Hypertension.

“Even in very healthy people, a small reduction in kidney function from normal to just a bit below normal was associated with an increase in the mass of the left ventricle, a change that makes the heart stiffer and impairs its ability to contract,” said Jonathan Townend, M.D., senior author of the paper and professor of cardiology at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham in Edgbaston, United Kingdom.

For years, it has been known that people with long-standing kidney disease are at increased risk of heart disease.

“Mild chronic kidney disease is common, affecting over 10 percent of the U.S. population, so if kidney disease really is a cause of heart disease it may be a major public health problem,” Townend said. However, since kidney disease patients commonly have other risk factors, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, the direct effect of diminishing kidney function on the heart has been uncertain.

To look for a direct link, the researchers tracked an extremely healthy group of people – living kidney donors – to see whether the decreases in kidney function that occur after donation were associated with heart and blood vessel changes.

Researchers compared 68 kidney donors (average age 47) with 56 controls (average age 44) through the first year after surgery. Compared with controls, the researchers found that kidney donors had:

  • An expected decline in kidney function (as measured by the glomerular filtration rate and the appearance of the protein albumin in the urine).
  • An increase in the mass of the left ventricle, a strong predictor of heart disease risk.
  • An increase in measures of heart damage apparent in blood tests, such as troponin.
  • No difference in blood pressure.

“This is evidence that reduction in kidney function itself leads directly to measurable adverse effects on the heart and blood vessels, even without other risk factors. More research is needed to know just what aspects of reduced kidney function are responsible for the effects,” Townend said.

As for kidney donors, the researchers urge them not to worry about the new findings.

“Kidney donors are already highly selected as healthy individuals. Our paper has shown that kidney donation causes very small adverse effects on the heart and blood vessels that took careful and accurate measurements to detect. We do not yet know if these effects are maintained over the long term. Even if there is a small increase in your long-term risk of heart disease after donation, it is still likely that you will be at lower than average risk, Townend said.

Researchers suggest that all people discuss heart disease risk, and ways to lower it, with their physicians if medical tests indicate reduced kidney function.

Source: American Heart Association

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