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Cookbook Review: Vegan Richa's Indian Kitchen

By Richa Hingle: Traditional and Creative Recipes for the Home Cook

Vegan Richas Indian Kitchen

I'm delighted with Vegan Richa's Indian Kitchen cookbook! I love Indian cooking, but I get tired of having to first veganize any recipe I borrow.

Thank you Richa Hingle for taking traditional Indian cooking vegan, and for going a step further, adapting Indian cooking techniques to North American tastes!

My go-to Indian cookbook up until now has been Lord Krishna's Cuisine - The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking, by Yamuna Devi.

While Lord Krishna's Cuisine is an excellent classic Indian cookbook, Vegan Richa is much more accessible for North American home cooks.

For one thing, Richa's cookbook is about 1/4 the thickness of LKC. Which means that it's not a complete reference to Indian cooking, although it does cover the basics well from breakfast through dessert.

Vegan Richa's recipes use onion and garlic liberally, while LKC does not, as in Indian spiritual traditions, those foods are thought to detract from higher states of consciousness.

Not that I've ever been able to tell the difference! But I'm not fond of onion & garlic, and I've gotten used to cooking without them.

Lord Krishna's recipes often call for asoefetida, a very stinky spice which subs for the flavors of onion and garlic to some extent. I give that a pass too, along with hot chili peppers.

In the Vegan Richa recipes I tested, I left out onions, garlic, hot peppers (using just a pinch of cayenne), tomatoes - and everybody loved the dishes I made. If I lacked a spice, I just left it out, or used something else.

Richa Hingle

The point is that whatever your tastes, you'll find Vegan Richa's recipes very accessible and adaptable. The cooking techniques count for a lot, and even if you only use some of the flavorings, you'll get delicious results.

Traditional Indian cooking is almost infinitely different from North American cooking! It's also very vegetarian and highly adaptable to vegan.

Incredibly spicy, flavorful and vegetable rich, Indian food consists mainly of side dishes and snacks, relishes and sauces which are served together in separate dishes to make meals traditionally eaten with fingers or scooped up using flatbreads.

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In India, rice is THE staple food, but Indian rice is not just rice - there are so many varieties of rice, and hundreds of ways to prepare and eat it.

For me, the most valuable thing about Vegan Richa's Indian Kitchen cookbook is that she builds a bridge between culinary traditions that are worlds apart.

Author Richa Hingle very helpfully explains the differences between Indian and N. American approaches to cooking and eating throughout the book.

She also takes N. American vegan tastes into account, incorporatings foods and cooking techniques not usually found in Indian cooking, such as quinoa, tofu and baking.

Many of her recipes have lengthy ingredient lists, so essential to tastiness, but greatly simplified compared to other Indian cookbooks.

In Chapter One, which explains the spices, foods and kitchen tools of Indian cuisine, Richa says, "The combination of spices, herbs, and ingredients used in Indian cooking is what makes each dish unique. The extensive set of ingredients also makes the recipes flexible for substitutions and omissions."

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In India, breakfast consists mainly of savory or sweet foods and snacks that can be eaten at any time of day, while in N. America, breakfast foods are usually unique to breakfast.

Vegan Richa's Breakfast Chapter gives a nod to that with recipes such as Savory Pan-Fried Fried French Toast (not your Mom's French toast!), Spicy South Indian Tofu Scramble, Mom's Chickpea Flour Pancakes and Savory Oats Hash - all containing vegetables and spices of course!

Most of Vegan Richa's recipes are vegan versions of traditional Indian recipes for Indian menus combining a number of dishes. BUT! She also offers a chapter of one pot meals and casseroles - one of the mainstays of N. American cooking.

Roasted Cauliflower and Radishes

My sample recipe, Roasted Cauliflower and Radishes, Pg. 62, is a simple vegetable dish combining the western technique of roasting with Indian spicing. The whole family loved this dish, and it introduced us to a new way of eating radishes that we would never have thought of on our own.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, Richa Hingle takes dairy rich Indian cooking and makes it wholly vegan. I'll try to explain briefly how radical that seems to me.

In India, in Hinduism, one of India's major religions, cows are sacred. Therefore eating their milk is sacredly healthy and deeply ingrained in the dietary traditions of India.

In veganism, which is becoming increasingly popular in Western countries, cows are cruelly exploited and dairy is horribly unhealthy. Outside of vegan diet, dairy allergies and intolerance are common.

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Richa Hingle grew up in India, where she learned traditional Indian cooking from her mother. Then she moved to the U.S., picked up N. American cooking techniques, and gradually went vegan as part of her personal evolution.

Richa has always been a home cook. She taught herself to cook vegan, marrying the traditional Indian cooking she learned from her Mom with vegan food. The result is Indian homecooking - all vegan and completely delicious!

I highly recommend Vegan Richa's Indian Kitchen for dedicated vegan cooks who love Indian food and want to learn more about Indian cooking. Richa Hingle makes it easy, which is a great gift.

Thanks again, Richa! I'll be preparing recipes from your cookbook for years to come, and making them my own.

Judith Kingsbury, Savvy Vegetarian.

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