So you all know that I’m not vegan. I’ve been fully vegetarian since the New Year’s Day of my twentieth year—I’m now 31—but I eat milk, cheese, and eggs. (I especially heart milk and cheese! I think this is genetically required upon one’s birth in the great state of Wisconsin.) When I can afford it, however, I prefer to purchase as many natural and vegan non-food products as possible, such as makeup, shampoos and other body care items, cleaners, etc. I don’t buy or wear fur, of course, and the only time I buy leather is for shoes… which I’d like to get away from doing as well. Overall, I think veganism is a compassionate and worthy pursuit that I may try and follow more strictly in the future, depending on how I fare without the aforementioned beloved milk and cheese.
Needless to say, there isn’t a vegetarian meetup here in town, so I warily joined the vegan meetup group instead. (I actually joined a few years ago, under a different group leader, solely because they were having an all-vegan dinner at a local Indian restaurant, Taaza, for, like, $12/person.) I say warily because I wasn’t sure how people would react to my lacto-ovo and not so radical ways. I don’t know if you know this, but some vegans are pretty hard-core about their beliefs. Lol Anyway, the Taaza outing was two years ago, and I hadn’t been back to a meetup since.
But suddenly there was this alluring call for a “delicious—and spicy—home cooked 5-course Indian feast,” lovingly prepared by the hosts, a young Indian couple, and a few meetup members… all for only $5! I shit you not! Somehow I plucked up the gumption to attend this, my first vegan meetup in two years. And, thankfully, everyone was very nice, and in fact it was a mixed group of both vegetarians and vegans. Overall, it was a lovely evening despite my initial trepidation and general grouchiness because of it being Valentine’s Day weekend.
Oh, and did I mention the food was incredible? Even without the presence of milk or cheese? Yep.
On the menu was:
- Sambar (Vegetable and Lentil Stew), family recipe
- Palak “Paneer” (Spinach with Tofu), found in Indian Cuisine Made Easy by Laxmi Jain and Manoj Jain
- Channa Masala (Chickpea Curry)
- Vegetable Pilaf with Quinoa, family version of an online recipe
- Tomato Saar (Tomato Soup), family recipe
- Dhokla (Yellow Steamed Cakes)
- Papadum with Cilantro Chutney
- Along with some rice, of course
By gracious permission of the hostess, here is her family’s sambar recipe. I will also put up her pilaf and saar recipes to follow, and I’m hoping to get the fudge recipe.
Sambar (Vegetable and Lentil Stew)
Source: Nagini Paravastu Dalal and her mother
- 2 tsp oil
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 1 cup lentils (you can use green split peas, red lentils, or brown lentils)
- 3 cups of water + 1 cup for presoaking daal
- 1 large tomato, diced
- 5-10 curry leaves** (optional)
- pinch of turmeric
- hand full of cilantro leaves
- ½ head of cabbage, chopped (or you can substitute an equivalent amount of other veggies like green beans, carrots, and radish)
- ~1 ½ Tbsp Sambar powder* (or can substitute curry powder)
- ½ Tbsp of tamarind paste*
- salt to taste
- pinch of asafetida* (optional)
*Can be purchased in Indian grocery store.
**Will need an alternative source for this, since it’s hard to find curry leaves in the
store. Leave it out if you don’t have it.
- Soak lentils in water for 30 minutes.
- In a heavy bottom pot, heat oil. Add mustard seeds. When the seeds start popping, cover with a lid, turn off the heat, and let popping finish.
- Add lentils, tomato, curry leaves, turmeric, and cilantro to the heavy bottom pot. Cook with 3-4 cups of water. Simmer until a paste consistency is achieved. Stir frequently, and add more water as necessary to keep food from burning on the bottom of the pot.
- While the lentils are cooking, place the cabbage or vegetables in a microwaveable container, add a bit of water, and cook in microwave until tender. Heating time depends upon the vegetables used.
- Add the cooked vegetables to the heavy bottom pot. Add the sambar powder and tamarind paste. Mix together.
- Add the salt and asafetida. Add a bit of water if necessary to achieve desired consistency. Add more sambar powder if you want it a bit spicier.
- Boil for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, before turning off heat.
- Serve warm.
- Madhur Jaffrey recipes: Curry Easy (telegraph.co.uk)
- 40 Mumbai Foods you cannot leave without trying. (fondoffood.blogspot.com)
- imabonehead: My Kitchen Snippets: Nyonya Vegetable Curry (mykitchensnippets.com)
- imabonehead: Indian Dal Nirvana | Steamy Kitchen Recipes (steamykitchen.com)