Product of the month: Explore Asian

I know, I know, I’m late with this month’s favorite, but I’m going to try and stick with my plan of reviewing an innovative new product every month.  Given my current obsession with cooking, it should come as no surprise that this month’s favorite is a food. More specifically, it’s a kind of pasta. A low-carb, low-sodium, high-protein, gluten-free, absolutely delicious vegan pasta!

I whipped this up last week (recipe on the way): fresh prawns, asparagus, cherry tomatoes, Persian Feta and mung bean fettuccine. That’s right, those green noodles are made entirely of organic mung beans and water. No processed carbs, no gluten, no eggs. They’re vegan and even qualify as raw. Most importantly, they are absolutely delicious! They cook perfectly al denté and, unlike many refined flour pasta substitutes, they could easily pass for the real thing. How awesome is that?

exploreasianpastas

It gets even better: Explore Asian, the New Jersey-based company behind this innovative product, makes not just one, but five different kinds of bean pasta. I haven’t had a chance to sample their edamame, soybean or adzuki bean spaghetti but I recently used the black bean version in a stir fry and was thrilled with the results.

To understand why this is a truly groundbreaking line of products, lets take a look at how regular fettuccine stacks up against Explore Asian’s mung bean version.

Fettuccine (literally “little ribbon” in Italian) is a flat thick noodle made of egg and flour. It’s popular in Roman cuisine and holds up well with thick, hearty sauces, making it a popular choice for Alfredo and Carbonara.

If you look at any nutritional chart for fettuccine, the “standard” serving size is 2 oz dry noodles or 1 cup cooked. The reality, however, is that most restaurant portions you’ll encounter are far larger.

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A 2 oz serving of dry mung bean fettuccine contains more than three times the fiber, nearly three times the protein and 30% fewer calories than regular fettuccine. On top of that, the mung bean version contains almost no sodium and very little fat.

80% of the calories in regular fettuccine come from carbohydrates vs. 37% in mung bean fettuccine. The bulk of calories in the mung bean version actually come from protein (55%) which, amongst other benefits, requires more energy to metabolize and keeps us feeling full longer.

Now, meeting our protein requirements (between 0.8 – 1gm per kg of weight) isn’t a big deal for those of us who eat meat, but for a vegetarian, vegan or someone committed to a raw diet, it isn’t as easy. As I mentioned earlier, this is a product that qualifies as “raw” because the process by which it’s made involves extruding mung bean dough at temperatures lower than 120F. In fact, the noodles can be eaten simply after soaking in water for 36 hours. No heat needed.

Photo by Fresh Beet

Photo by The Fresh Beet

The bean version is also packed with fiber (45% of RDA), and with vitamins A, B, C and E. Made from the mighty mung bean, it is also rich in folate and in vitally important minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium. A nutritional powerhouse, mung beans are native to India where they’re popular in fresh salads , as a side vegetable dish and in lentil stews. Mung bean flour can also used to make rotis and pancakes, while in China and East Asia, mung bean paste is often used in desserts. Mung beans have been credited with reducing cholesterol levels and heart disease, supporting liver function and promoting healthy hair, nails and skin.

So, whether you’re gluten sensitive, pre-diabetic or simply trying to eat low-carb and healthy, this is an amazing product to incorporate into your regular meal rotation. It truly is a guilt-free pasta.

Where can I get my hands on this?

If you’re in the US, you should be able to find Explore Asian products at most natural stores and at Whole Foods and even Costco. You can also order directly from their website. The bean spaghettis are priced at an affordable $30 for a 6-pack. Here in Sydney, I was able to get the black bean spaghetti and mung bean fettuccine from Kemenys, a specialty wine and food store in Bondi Beach. I haven’t looked farther afield but reckon you’d be able to get it at most natural food stores here as well.

So, what are you waiting for? Get ahold of some bean pasta and get cracking with those delicious recipes!

Product of the Month: Vinomofo

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When we first moved to Australia, we were shocked by the prices. Coming from NYC, where you can pay $3,000 / month for a shoebox studio, you’d think that moving elsewhere would be like getting a big bonus every year. Not true.  Sydney has a reputation for its prices: skyhigh rents, inflated public transport, exhorbitant food and drink and even a bleed-me-dry coffee culture. The silver lining is that most of the time you do get what you pay for. Sydney’s real estate market offers beautiful, spacious and varied options. The city itself is clean, green and naturally stunning and many neighbourhoods have their own park(s) or, better still, beaches. The fresh produce is phenomenal, the bar for basic food and drink is extremely high and the coffee is famously delicious. In fact, there are even a few things that are cheaper in Sydney.

australia-dollars

I digress from my complaint: one thing that you pay way more for in Australia is alcohol. A six pack of beer will cost $15-$20 in Australia, vs. $10 in the US. An average bottle of wine will set you back $20. When I saw Yellowtail, the face of mass-produced Australian critter wine selling for $12.99 at my local bottle-o (vs. a paltry $6.99 in the US!), I knew the Aussie rip-off was real. Australians, of course, love their alcohol so it’s fascinating that beer, wine and spirits are taxed so heavily, representing as they do, the “sin goods”.

Australia's Hunter Valley in the spring.

Australia’s Hunter Valley in the spring.

What’s more ironic is that Australia is one of the world’s biggest wine producers, ranking 6th after France, Italy, Spain, the US and Argentina.  From South Australia’s Barossa, Coonawarra and Mclaren Vale to New South Wales’ Hunter Valley and Mudgee and finally to Victoria’s Yarra Valley and Western Australia’s Margaret River — Australia has some of world’s most revered wine regions and Australians have the wine smarts (palettes?) to boot.  So what about these prices?

Screen Shot 2014-09-02 at 10.57.09 pmMy favourite product this month is Vinomofo: an Melbourne-based startup that lets you indulge your wine obsession without breaking the bank. Vinomofo assembles epic deals on award-winning wines, sells them online with a generous serving of quirk, and ships them directly to your doorstep. Each wine carried by Vinomofo is approved by their rigorous tasting panel and the company claims that less than 2% of wines submitted to them are acccepted.  Not happy with what you got? You have 365 days to return it — “the ‘fo” will even pick up it up and cover the cost of return shipping. No annoying emails, no subscription needed, nothing but sweet, delicious wine.

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Everything on Vinomofo is sold by the case; you can choose from a mixed case or go with a single label.  You can also choose from an array of “black market” deals — all you’ll know is the grape, the region and the rating out of 100 (if worth revealing). You might get a witty blurb on why that particular case is awesome and, if it’s a mixed case, you might get a few tasting notes on each of the wines. I bought a black market mixed case recently and have been bowled over by the quality, I’m yet to find a bottle I don’t love and the whole thing cost me no more than $120. You heard me, that’s $10 per bottle.

JonStewartMindblown

My introduction to Vinomofo came from a colleague and fellow wine-lover. Four or five of us have succumbed to ordering a case every so often and splitting the spoils. We’ve poo-poohed the wines on offer at company happy hour and have resorted to bringing our own mofo’s to Friday drinks (BYOM trend? You heard it here first). Needless to say, I have a lot of wine on my desk and even more piling up at home.

Doesn't hold a candle to the 'fo

Doesn’t hold a candle to the ‘fo

Of course, after discovering Vinomofo, I tried to think of the US equivalent and had a hard time. The best I could come up with was Lot18, a New York based company with a hard to pronounce name (“lotta tea”?) and, what looks like more of a traditional ecommerce, “always on” sales model. Aside from the dryness of the website (no pun intended), the thing that’s really offputting about Lot18 is the prices: pretty much every wine featured on the landing page was priced at over $60. If I wanted to pay that much, I wouldn’t order it online. I wouldn’t pay their $12.99 for shipping with no returns (forget about a 365 day guarantee!). And I wouldn’t buy just two bottles.

I’ve been spoiled. For good. And it’s great.