“Kam heong” are two Cantonese words that translate to “golden fragrance”. This golden fragrance is a seasoning and spice blend unique to the 大排档 open-air hawker stalls of Malaysia. This sauce became very popular when paired with clams, and has since been used on all kinds of other proteins. In our vegan kam heong dish, we will be using tofu!
Kam heong has a taste profile unique to the Singapore / Malaysia region. It mixes Chinese, Malay, and Indian flavours together, using signature ingredients such shrimp paste and curry leaves. The result is an intensely flavourful and aromatic dish, all savoury, sweet, salty, spicy, and umami at the same time.
The hardest ingredient to replace for a vegan version of this dish is the shrimp paste. I used my Homemade Vegan XO Sauce instead for maximum umami. You can also try this Vegan Bagoong recipe to replace the shrimp paste. In a pinch, brown miso or fermented black beans might work as well.
If you can’t get curry leaves, this dish will lose a lot of its lustre. A possible replacement would be Thai basil leaves, but be aware that the resulting flavour will be quite different.
As this vegan kam heong tofu dish has dried chilli, fresh chilli, fermented chilli bean paste, and curry powder, it could get very spicy. You can choose to omit the fresh chilli and reduce the amount of dried chilli and curry powder.