Eating vegan in India is not an unusual thing especially if you are vegetarian. A large part of traditional Indian vegetarian cuisine is actually vegan. In fact, the traditionalcuisine of my community is vegan if you do not consider those recipes that use milk or ghee. Butter in our cooking, is mostly served on the side whenever it is used. Milk is mostly used in making sweets which are not really daily fare but festive fare. The ghee that is used not so frequently is easy enough to replace with oil.
Yet, consciously eating vegan is not something that is “normal” in India, though there a small steadily increasing number of Indians who are now vegan. If you’re not sure what being a vegan entails, veganism a lifestyle choice where people do not eat any food (or use anything) that is of animal origin.
This means apart from not eating meat, fish or eggs, vegans also do not use honey, milk or any dairy products including cheese butter and yogurt. Many also do not use sugar if it has been processed using animal products.
Westlandrecently sent me a copy of The Vegan Kitchen: Bollywood Style by Anuradha Sawhney which is publicised as India’s first ever vegan cookbook. Since a lot of the food I cook is Palakkad Iyer fare, a large part of our diet is vegan though we are vegetarians. Naturally, I was interested to see what this book was all about.
The author of the book, Anuradha Sawhney, turned vegan when she was diagnosed with lifestyle induced health problems that required her to take prescription medications. She chose to make a change in diet habits to bring her down her use of medication and improve her health.
The Vegan Kitchen is a collection of 50 vegan recipes mixed with some Bollywood glamour. Each one of the recipes in this book have been collected from various well known Indian celebrities in and around Bollywood including Vidya Balan, John Abraham, Hema Malini, Wendell Rodricks, Sushmita Sen, Kalpana Lajmi, Dilip Kumar, Om Puri.
One thing that caught my eye was that the unusual cover of the book as it lists all the recipes in it! The recipes are of course, divided under various chapters in the usual manner expected of a cookbook with forewords from two internationally known doctors as well as fitness expert with details about a how a vegan diet can help reverse heart disease, manage diabetes and reduce obesity and also promote fitness.
The recipes in the book mostly use ingredients that usually found in the Indian kitchen. They are quite simple to cook and dish up and most are accompanied by photographs of the dish. Each recipe is also accompanied by a photograph of the celebrity who contributed the recipe. I found the celebrity photographs to be of much better quality than the photographs of the food which ought to have been the focus of the book, in my opinion.
While the book has a nice variety of recipes, I personally was a bit disappointed with the selection of recipes. While there a few unusual recipes, a lot of them are of food that many of us are already quite familiar with.
I would have been excited to see vegan food beyond the usual Sambhar, Rajma, Mixed Sprout Salad, Hummus, Brown Rice Poha, Palak Raita, Methi Pulao, Kashmiri Dum Aloo, Date-Walnut Muffins, Fresh Fruit Extravaganza (just fresh fruit salad with lime juice!) and Gaajar Ka Halwa.
About the Author :
Anuradha Sawhney has been an active campaigner for animal rights and environmental issues and is considered an authority on animal rights issues in India. She headed the PETA India office for nine years. The Femina magazine ranked her amongst their 50 most powerful women in India. She has won many awards for her work, and been published in many major newspapers and magazines in India as well as internationally.
I always try out at least one recipe from the books I review and one recipe in this book that was new to me, was the Assamese Boror Tenga which is a tomato curry with lentil dumplings. This particular Tenga (which is Assamese for a tangy curry) is also known as “Boror Bilahi Tenga” where the “Bora” refers to the dumplings and the “BIlahi” are tomatoes. Traditionally, the dumplings are pan-fried or deep-fried but in this recipe they’re steam cooked for a more healthy approach.