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Admittedly, on your first visit you may feel overwhelmed by all the unfamiliar offerings. I suggest you hang out at the counter for a while before ordering, so you can see what other customers are getting. When you spy something coming out of the kitchen that looks especially appealing, inquire about its name and its vegan status. The most well-known sorts of Indian food are the curried stews of Northern India.

These stews are made from beans or vegetables, and are usually served over rice, or combined with crushed idlis. Equally popular is chana masala—chickpeas in a spicy curried sauce. Your Hindi vocabulary lessons here are:.


Perhaps the most nutrient-dense of all popular Indian entrees is Saag Paneer. Since Saag means spinach and paneer means cheese, this dish, when prepared traditionally, is never vegan. Not only does this meal contain cheese, a little cream is usually mixed into the spinach. But when cooking at home you can swap out the cheese for firm tofu or your favorite hard vegan cheese. A bit of cashew cream or other unsweetened vegan milk will substitute nicely for cream. Think of saag paneer as creamed spinach with Indian spices and a fair bit of oil. By far the most popular Indian soup is called dal.

Many Indians eat it daily. Dal has loads of flavor since it contains plenty of curry spices and fresh ginger. Thinly-sliced onions and minced or slivered garlic are also commonly included. Dal is usually served in a small bowl alongside a meal, sometimes eaten with a soup spoon and other times poured over rice.

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The lentils or split peas make dal among the most protein-rich dishes in Indian cooking. The fermentation gives the dosas a tangy flavor. Regular dosas are made from rice and lentils, whereas the also-popular rava dosas are made from wheat and lentils. Dosas are typically folded around a small amount of filling, most often spiced potatoes and onions. Many South Indian restaurants offer at least ten varieties of dosa, each with different fillings and spices.

If you like heavily seasoned food, order a masala dosa. One of the most popular foods in India are idlis—oblong balls or disks made from steamed ground-up white rice and urad dal white lentils with the black husk removed. They range from about the size a peach pit to as big as your palm. Idlis have little flavor, and are intended to soak up and thereby counterbalance rich Indian soups and sauces. Indians often order idlis instead of basmati rice, and mash them into their curried stews—this is quite similar to mashed potatoes and gravy, albeit with different starches and proteins.

Indian restaurant menus often list idli sambar as a single item to be ordered together. When dining at Indian restaurants, your waiter will protest if you attempt to order a curried dish or a soup on its own.

These dishes are invariably accompanied by either flatbread or rice. Flatbreads accompany a great many meals in India, and are often used in place of utensils. As an aside, this is why most Indians are in the habit of washing their hands right before eating—many restaurants in India even have a hand-washing sink in the main dining area. The two most common varieties of flatbread are roti and chapati, the former rolled flat with a rolling pin and the latter patted flat by hand just like a homemade Mexican corn tortilla. Neither roti nor chapati dough commonly contains dairy products, but these breads are often garnished with some butter or ghee after cooking.

Naan is Iranian in origin, and similar to the lavash bread served in the Middle East. Unfortunately, you should assume naan contains milk unless the waiter or ingredient label tells you otherwise.


Indian restaurants commonly serve small bowls of steamed plain white rice to accompany their meals. Fancy restaurants will use basmati rice. There are also two rice dishes, biryani and kitchari, that are served as an entree rather than as a side dish. This dish arrived in India via Muslims from the Middle East and elsewhere.

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Biryani is a bright yellow rice dish similar to Asian fried rice and Spanish paella, but with different seasonings. The Hindu populations emphasized the addition of vegetables, whereas other parts of India added fish and meat. Biryani is often made from white basmati rice, and can be prepared in any number of ways.

While it may be tough to find vegan biryani when eating out, this is an easy dish to cook vegan at home, and its unique flavors make it a must-try Indian meal. Kitchari is a widely-consumed but not widely-beloved Indian meal. Yet again, a quick Hindi lesson comes in handy. Kitchari is often served at ashrams, because most ashram food strives to be blandly wholesome. You go to an ashram primarily to loosen your attachments to sensory gratification, and nothing washes away your lust for enticing flavors like a string of boring meals.

Kitchari is also one of the key foods eaten in the ayurvedic tradition. Ayurveda is an ancient approach to health in India, and it is largely based on consuming foods and spices chosen to correct bodily imbalances. Since kitchari accommodates such a wide assortment of spices, this dish can be spiced in whatever way an ayurvedic practitioner believes will help restore balance and overcome particular maladies.

When ill, many Indians eat mostly kitchari in hopes that this food will restore their health. The best thing about kitchari is that, unlike most vegetarian Indian meals, the stuff is nearly always vegan by default. Indian Desserts. Nearly every popular Indian dessert contains dairy products or honey.

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When dining at Indian restaurants, your main job as a vegan—in fact your only job—is to avoid hidden dairy products. Since the presence of meat in Indian food is always obvious, and Indian cooking never evolved to include eggs, you just need to make sure your vegetarian meal is dairy-free, and it will be vegan. This is a stark contrast to cuisines like Mexican food , which feature a wide assortment of animal ingredients, often present in undetectable amounts.

Mexican food forces vegans to contend with lard, chicken stock, and sour cream—all of which are often impossible to see or to taste. So everything depends on clearly labeled dishes, or, failing that, communication with wait-staff who know how their food is prepared. To improve your chances of getting a meal, consider ordering papadams rather than flat bread, and ask that they not be brushed with butter prior to serving. Restaurants usually prepare papadums by either quickly frying them in oil or heating them over a flame. Soups are another hazardous choice for vegans in most Indian restaurants.

The most popular Indian soup is called dal, which is made primarily from lentils and spices. Unfortunately, this spice combination called tadka is often sauteed in ghee before being added to the soup. Some restaurants may use vegetable oil to fry the tadka, either to please vegans or to save money on ingredients.

In addition to ghee, the other common words to watch out for on Indian menus are paneer cheese and dahi yogurt. So where does all this leave us? Roti and Chapati But avoid ghee chapatis, which contain milk, and ask that they be served without butter. Obviously, your vegan options will be much more extensive at restaurants that strive to accommodate vegans.

Finally, keep in mind that many vegan restaurants have Indian options on the menu. This is in stark contrast to Middle Eastern food, which is generally wretched when served by restaurants that also prepare other cuisines. Just about every city with a sizable Indian population has at least one Indian grocery. Better yet, the prices on some of the most popular vegan items are generally excellent. If you get a chance to visit an Indian grocery, there are five items in particular—all imported from India—worth stocking up on:. The above items are only the start of your options.

Indian groceries also offer great deals on basmati rice and dried beans. You can make a simple vegan meal at home, then serve it with some Indian grocery samosas and some mango pickle, and suddenly you have a borderline feast. Also look for clamshell-packed prepared foods. These too are locally made, and included everything from dried spicy peas to desserts. Keep a special eye out for dhoklas—savory bright yellow cakes made from a batter of fermented chickpeas and rice.

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All listings for this product Buy it now Buy it now. Any condition Any condition. See all People who bought this also bought. About this product Product Information Ali and Munsif Abbasi learnt all their cooking techniques and recipes from their Indian mother. Here they reveal the dishes they have been eating for 30 years, covering everything from the equipment you'll need and what you should have in your spice cabinet, to sauces and main dishes.

Additional Product Features Author s. Ali and Munsif Abbasi learnt their cooking techniques and recipes from their Indian mother in Glasgow. Show more Show less. No ratings or reviews yet. Be the first to write a review.

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