Vegetable Roti

Sri Lankan Street Food - Vegetable Roti

If you ever talk to anyone who’s been to Sri Lanka… and especially if you talk to someone from Sri Lanka, just mention Vegetable Roti and you’ll see their face light up. It’s practically impossible not to have tried them, and it’s even less likely to not love them! They are made and enjoyed pretty much everywhere in Sri Lanka, from North to South and East to West, coast to countryside to hill country. It’s also one of those classics, that despite their popularity, you just almost never find outside of the homeland. Unless you make them yourself… or have someone make them!

Most of the few, good Sri Lankan and South Indian restaurants that I’ve found in Europe and North America don’t have stuffed roti quite like the original. One exception is in the delicious and awesome Tamil and Sri Lankan neighborhood in Paris, near the La Chapelle metro stop. That’s actually probably where I first had them, and got to try Sri Lankan food for the first time, many years ago.

Since it’s so hard to find Vegetable Roti outside of Sri Lanka, and I (unfortunately) can’t just teleport myself to the island paradise whenever I want to, I was determined to make a convincing, authentic recipe. And when making my Sri Lanka vegan cookbook (with recipes inspired by the 10 weeks I spent exploring the island) there was no question about it. I knew I had to include a Veg Roti recipe! After watching roti being made at least 50 different times by street vendors and in restaurant kitchens, taking lots of notes, studying the technique, making my own recipe wasn’t that difficult.

To be honest, making roti dough takes some practice and experimentation. It’s important to let it sit for at least an hour in a moderately warm place. And I always start with less water and very gradually add more. Learning how to get just the right texture and springiness for the dough is like with any bread-making. I refined this recipe over several weeks, had it tested by a dozen friends before publishing it in the cookbook, and continue to use it whenever I want to make vegetable roti: at home, for dinner parties, cooking classes, as a picnic snack, etc.

Sri Lankan Vegetable Roti with Tamarind Chutney

Vegetable Roti are Sri Lankan “Short Eats”

What’s a Short Eat? Simply put, snacks and appetizers and street food. There is a rich culture in the Sri Lankan tradition of grabbing a few snacks from the street vendors, hole-in-the-wall snack shops, neighborhood take-out bakery, and mobile bakery tuk-tuks. In addition to the classic roti, Short Eats also include all the many fried rolls, vada, baked snacks, bread and much more.

Short Eats are typically enjoyed between meals or as a small meal – on the way to work, on the bus, on the train, at the office, wherever and kind of whenever. They’re everywhere and make a quick breakfast. Or small lunch. Or a mini-dinner, before – or even in place of – a big dinner. The bakery tuk-tuks drive around in the morning and evening – often with their trademark ice cream truck melodies playing funny variations of Für Elise. Yes, really. It’s awesome, and for the rest of your life you’ll start drooling when you hear Beethoven.

Vegetable Roti

stuffed with potatoes, carrots & leeks

recipe from The Lotus and the Artichoke – SRI LANKA

makes 4 to 6 / time 45 min +

roti dough:

  • 1 1/2 cups (200 g) flour (all-purpose / type 550)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) water
  • 2 Tbs vegetable oil
  1. Combine flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add water and 1 Tbs oil. Mix with fork and knead with hands until smooth and elastic, 3–5 min. If batter sticks to hands, knead in more flour. If too dry, add slightly more water.
  2. Add another 1 Tbs oil and knead another 5 min.
  3. Separate into 4 to 6 pieces. Knead and form into balls. Lightly coat balls with oil and place on plate, cover with plastic wrap. Allow to sit in a warm (not hot) place for 1 hour.

vegetable filling:

  • 2/3 cup (80 g) leeks or spring onions or 1 medium onion finely chopped
  • 1 medium (80 g) carrot peeled, grated or finely chopped
  • 1 large (140 g) potato peeled, grated or finely chopped
  • 1 Tbs vegetable oil
  • 1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp coriander ground
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper ground
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder or paprika ground
  • 5–6 curry leaves and/or 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 3–4 Tbs water (more as needed)
  1. Heat oil in a large pot or pan on medium heat. Add mustard seeds. When they start to pop (20–30 sec), add ground coriander, black pepper, chili powder (or paprika), and curry leaves and/or curry powder.
  2. Add leeks (or onions), grated carrot and potato, turmeric, salt. Cook partially covered, gradually adding water, stirring and mashing regularly, until vegetables are soft, 7–10 min. Remove from heat.
  3. Uncover dough. Briefly knead a ball. On a greased surface, press flat and roll out or continually flip and stretch to form a long, wide strip. Wrapper should be almost 3 times as long as it is wide and about 1/8 in (3 mm) thick. Knead some oil into each dough ball if too firm and not stretching easily.
  4. Spoon about 3 Tbs filling onto one end. Fold over repeatedly in triangles until sealed. Transfer to lightly greased plate and continue for others.
  5. Heat a large, heavy frying pan on medium high heat. Place filled triangles on pan and press down lightly. Fry on both sides, until brown spots appear, 3–5 min each side. Arrange standing up on edges, pressing down lightly and leaning together to brown edges, 2–3 min each end.
  6. Continue for all rotis. Serve with chili sauce, chutney, or eat plain.

 

Cabbage Coconut Curry

Sri Lankan Cabbage & Coconut Curry - Gowa Mallum

Just one week into my ten weeks of travels through Sri Lanka, I had the opportunity to go in the kitchen at Mango Garden in Kandy, Sri Lanka to help prepare the New Year’s Eve dinner. The head cook showed me how to make a number of amazing vegetarian (vegan) Sri Lankan curries and dishes, including this one. I also learned how to make Pol Sambol for the first time, always awesome Beetroot Curry, fantastic Leek Curry, Dal Curry (of course), Green Bean “Bonchi” Curry, and Snake Gourd Curry (which can be made with any squash, such as Zucchini.) Continue reading

Pol Sambol

Pol Sambol - spicy coconut chutney

Pol Sambol is one of those amazing Asian condiments that is easy to make and super satisfying. It adds a spice and heat kick to any dish and is great (and essential) with Sri Lankan curries.

The best Pol Sambol is made with fresh, grated coconut.

In Sri Lanka, fresh coconut halves are shredded with a hand-turned grater. Alternately, the coconut can be cut into chunks and grated with a box grater or hand grater, which takes considerably more time. If you don’t have fresh coconut on hand, any good dried, desiccated, grated coconut works well. Just soak it in hot water and press out the excess moisture after about 10 or 20 minutes before mixing with the spices and other ingredients. The red color is determined by how much paprika, chili powder or red chili flakes are used. Don’t be bashful or you’ll get a bland, pale Sambol! Increase the ground paprika to get more red color in your coconut chutney, if you’re going skipping the heat and don’t want to use chili.

The onion and garlic are not absolutely necessary for Pol Sambol, but the flavor and freshness is more intense. An ayurvedic version of the coconut chutney is made simply by omitting the onion and garlic. Which is how I prepare Pol Sambol about half the time.

I’m not sure when the first time was that I had Pol Sambol…

Maybe on my first trip to South India, or at at Sri Lankan restaurant in Berlin. But I do know that I had it dozens of times in the ten weeks of backpacking and travel in Sri Lanka. Unlike many dishes, it didn’t vary much from place to place, family to family. Traditionally, Pol Sanbol is often made with dried fish, such as Maldive fish flakes – quite common Sri Lanka. Obviously for a vegan version, I skip that. Continue reading

Watalappam

Wattalapam - Sri Lankan Spiced Coconut Custard Pudding

Watalappam is a traditional coconut dessert enjoyed in Sri Lanka.

This luscious custard is spiced-up with cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom, often with a hint of vanilla, and a smattering of nuts or dried fruits. The taste reminds me of a spicy, aromatic Indian cup of chai. But cold, coconutty, and soft! As with all recipes, everyone has their very own version. The Tamils make it different than the Singhalese, and the Muslims have another delightful variation.

I invented a vegan version of the coconut custard, and I added some variations of my own– including fresh (or frozen) berries. I often top it with dark, rich, sweet coconut blossom syrup (AKA palm syrup) which is extremely popular in Sri Lanka – and recently gaining popularity in Europe and the Americas. Sometimes I top the custard with blackstrap molasses or dark agave syrup, or some fresh fruit and nuts and maybe a bit of homemade fruit syrup, like I do with my vanilla muffins (also in The Lotus and the Artichoke – SRI LANKA cookbook.)

There’s actually a good story with the first time I had Watalappam in Sri Lanka. It highlights the need to stay cool, and remember that how we react in unexpected situations always influences how others perceive not just us as people, but whatever groups of people with whom we are associated – as foreign tourists, guests, citizens of particular countries, …and as vegetarians and vegans. In my travels, I try to be modest and respectful, and traveling vegan certainly comes with challenges here and there. Usually it’s much easier than others imagine, but I guess experience, a fair amount of luck and communication are all important factors.

One night I was invited to dinner at home with a Sri Lankan family in the small, charming town of Midigama.

Midigama is on the south west coast of Sri Lanka, and known for several great surfing spots, and I wanted to check it out. Sharani and her husband, a local tuk-tuk driver, lived with their two small children – and a funny green parrot that could talk – on a narrow, unpaved road a few minutes walk from the beach. She cooked for the better part of an afternoon, and by time dinner was ready, we were super hungry and totally curious what kind of deliciousness awaited us. Everything smelled fantastic! And then dinner was served: 5 Sri Lankan curries… including stir-fried Bonchi (green beans), spicy sautéed Brinjal (eggplant/aubergine), Carrot Curry, Dal (lentil) Curry, Soymeats Curry, and of course papadam, rice, and a simple salad of cucumbers and tomatoes.

After we finished eating, Sharani asked, “Do you like Watalappam? Sweets? Want to try?”

I was immediately curious, and asked her to describe it. “Made with coconut. Like a pudding. But very special flavors!” I tried once more, politely, to find out how it was made. “With eggs? Milk?” “No, no. Coconut!” “Butter?” “No, no. Coconut. And sugar! Palm syrup.” At this, she slid her chair back from the table, dashed to the kitchen, and returned with a chilled tray covered with plastic foil, which she was peeling back as she walked. Continue reading

Deviled Chickpeas – Kadala Thel Dala

Deviled Chickpeas - Kadala Thel Dala from The Lotus and the Artichoke - SRI LANKA vegan cookbook

This is another one of my favorite, quick-and-easy Sri Lankan recipes. I tried many versions of this spicy chickpea curry dish all over Sri Lanka during my 10 week adventure all across and around the island.

You can serve it as a main dish, but technically it’s a short eat (the Sri Lankan term for snack or appetizer or small meal.) Like most short eats, it’s a common snack from street food vendors, but also appears on restaurant menus and is often available from many take-out places… and on buses as a cheap finger food snack – in it’s much drier variation.

Traditionally it’s not served in a curry sauce, but is made “dry”. (This is something I found a lot in India and Sri Lanka — also with dishes such as Vegetable Manchurian or Gobi 65, and such.) I like cooking Kadala Thel Dala all kinds of ways, but usually make it without a really runny, liquid-y curry. Limiting the amount of chopped tomatoes (and cutting larger pieces) as well as using enough grated coconut (to soak up liquid) gets the chickpea curry to desired consistency. Note that rinsing and draining your chickpeas very well before cooking will help, and adding a few minutes of stir-frying on high, while constantly stirring, will also get rid of excess liquid.

Like my Jackfruit Curry, this dish is very popular with all types of eaters, it can be made spicy or not spicy (great for kids!), and is an excellent introduction to Sri Lankan flavors. It’s another one of my go-to recipes for dinner parties, cooking classes, cooking shows. I make it at home pretty often, too.

In addition to being in my third vegan cookbook The Lotus and the Artichoke – SRI LANKA, it’s been published in several vegan magazines in Germany. It’s such a simple and satisfying recipe. Also I love this photo! The little green hand-painted demon guy is on a decorative wooden thing I picked up at a shop in touristy – but gorgeous – Galle Fort, not too far from Unawatuna, and where we spent our last two weeks on the southwest coast in the beach village of Dalawella. Continue reading

Sri Lankan Jackfruit Curry

Jackfruit Curry Dinner from The Lotus and the Artichoke - SRI LANKA!

Sri Lankan Jackfruit Curry

This is absolutely one of my favorite dishes and recipes from my SRI LANKA vegan cookbook & ebook! I make it often at home, and have cooked it up for many dinner parties, cooking shows, and it’s regularly featured at the cooking classes I do, too. It’s really easy to make and it’s one of those dishes that’s a real crowd-pleaser, for vegans, vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike.

Strangely, Sri Lankan food is still not really that well-known in the world culinary scene — and the vegan scene, but it’s popularity and visibility has improved in the last few years. It’s kind of like jackfruit itself, which only recently has started to get really hyped and celebrated outside of Asia, where it has a long tradition and has been enjoyed for… well, practically forever! I suspect as Sri Lanka becomes more popular as a travel destination, more people will fall in love with the cuisine. Admittedly, I fell in love with Sri Lankan food about 10 years before my trip to Sri Lanka — there are some amazing Sri Lankan and South Indian eateries in Paris and Berlin that blew me away!

This Sri Lankan Jackfruit Curry is made with coconut milk, and it’s really creamy and intense. Jackfruit, kind of like plain tofu or tempeh or soy chunks (TVP), takes on the flavors of the sauce and marinade. The texture and freshness are amazing, and I enjoy it much more than the soy and faux-meat variations. (Which all work in this curry mix, too, btw!) You can use all kinds of coconut milk, or even make your own. If I buy coconut milk, I always try to get organic coconut milk with no weird additives and preservatives. In Germany, my favorite coconut milk is from Dr Goerg. It’s super rich and creamy, and combined with a little hit of coconut blossom syrup in the curry, this dish gets crazy delicious!

The main thing to know about cooking with jackfruit outside of Asia is: It’s easy to find! It’s inexpensive and really nothing bizarre. Almost every Asian import grocery store I’ve been to in the US, Canada, Germany, France, England, Holland and other parts of Europe, whether big city or little town, has Green Jackfruit (unsweetened!) in a can… but the yellow jackfruit which is primarily for sweet dishes and desserts is also usable, if you rinse off the syrup and adjust the spices / salt accordingly. Green jackfruit is the unripened, slightly tougher, less sweet fruit.

I had Jackfruit Curry in at least 10 different places in the 10 weeks I spent in Sri Lanka. Each restaurant and every family make it a bit different. I’ve also made lots of different variations on this one– sometimes sweeter, sometimes spicier, sometimes creamier, sometimes with other fun stuff like greens… or even pineapple! Continue reading

Dum Aloo

Dum Aloo – North Indian Tomato Potato Curry - The Lotus and the Artichoke

This recipe and story first appeared as a guest post on Scissors & Spice. Thanks again, Lynn!

Dum Aloo is one of many unsung heroes of Indian vegetarian cooking, with paneer, kofta, and mixed veg dishes usually stealing the spotlight. If you like potatoes and enjoy creamy, tomato-based curries, this delicious wonder will win you over. Soon you’ll be cooking it regularly and looking out for it on menus.

When I lived in Amravati, India, teaching Art and English for a year at a Cambridge International School, I quickly made friends with much of the neighborhood. From the first day, I was invited to family meals and constantly got amazing offers of home-cooked lunches. It was culinary heaven!

I learned so much about traditional Indian cooking (and a lot of Hindi) from the family of one of the local vegetable cart vendors who lived down the street. In the evenings, I’d often hear a knock at the door or get a short text message, and within minutes the kitchen was alive: full of cheery voices, sizzling sounds, amazing smells, and the incredible, vivid colors of spices and fresh vegetables.

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Navratan Vegetable Korma

Navratan Vegetable Korma - North Indian - The Lotus and the Artichoke vegan cookbook

Navratan Vegetable Korma is immensely popular all over the world. It’s another one of those Indian dishes with countless variations and incarnations. Having lots of vegetables, fruits and nuts, and the creamy sauce, however, are standard features. Actually, the name “Navratan” implies (at least) 9 different ingredients. I won’t count yours, if you won’t count mine.

It’s no secret that this website and my cookbook feature an abundance of great Indian recipes. Indian food is one of my (many) favorite cuisines! I’ve loved it my whole life, and I’ve been cooking Indian vegetarian food for over 20 years, ever since that first paperback copy of The Higher Taste back in ’91. I also discovered many great recipes during my extended visits to India. It was tricky to decide which recipes to include.

One of my youngest brother’s best friends (and a generous supporter on Kickstarter, not to mention all around great guy) made it clear to me how happy he’d be to get a recipe for his favorite Indian dish: Vegetable Korma. It’s a pleasure to share this with you, B!

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Vegan Paneer Makhani

Vegan Paneer Makhani - North Indian - The Lotus and the Artichoke - Vegan Recipes from World Travel Adventures

I could talk about Paneer Makhani for hours. I have so many stories about and memories of this dish, mostly from my visits to India, but also from great Indian restaurants around the world and the many variations of it.

This dish actually parades about under many names. This is true with many incredible Indian recipes. Anyone who’s been to more than two Indian restaurants or eaten at home with Indian families understands this. In fact, I’ve found myself in passionate debates and confusing conversations revolving around these naming issues! Every family has their own idea of what a dish is and isn’t, what it’s called, and what it contains. Or doesn’t. Imagine trying to get a concise definition of pizza, with all it’s shapes, colors, toppings, and flavors – You start to get an idea how complicated the naming game is.

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Poha – Indian Breakfast

Poha - Indian Breakfast - The Lotus and the Artichoke - Vegan Recipes from World Travel Adventures

On my first two visits to India in the early to mid-2000s, I had idly or dosa for breakfast almost whenever possible. I’m a huge fan of South Indian breakfasts. Unlike most North American and European breakfasts, which tend to be on the sweeter side (think: cereal, toast with jam or even chocolate spread, pastries, muffins, pancakes), Indian breakfasts are typically spicy and savory… and did I mention: delicious?

Amazingly, it wasn’t until my third and fourth trip to India that I got to know the Indian breakfast hit, poha. These kinds of things happen if you’re too focused on your favorite dishes and foods! That’s why it’s so important to try new things. Be open to suggestions, take chances, and enjoy invitations to home cooked meals! I encountered poha so late in the game probably because it’s much more of a family dish – prepared at home kitchens across India. It’s less likely found on restaurant menus. That said, some hotels (code word for restaurant on the sub-continent) and breakfast spots do offer poha.

The best poha I ever had, as with many Indian dishes, was not at a restaurant, but at a home. A very special home in fact, where I was welcomed and treated like family. If you’ve been following my stories on this blog, you know I lived for a year in Amravati, India – deep in the state of Maharashtra. I had amazingly generous and attentive neighbors, and my host family was particularly endearing and kind.

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Vegan Lassi with Saffron & Mango

Indian: Vegan Lassi with Saffron and Mango - The Lotus and the Artichoke - World Travel Vegan Recipes

Many years ago, on my first India trip, I stayed for several days in the city of Jaipur – The Pink City of Rajasthan. I recall walking for hours, mesmerized by the people and the loud colors and fantastic, flowing saris and shirts. I was constantly taking photographs. I remember riding with insane auto-rickshaw drivers along the crowded, dusty streets, weaving around pedestrians, bicycles, beggars, and cows. Just like in all the books and movies.

I’d only been in India for a few weeks at that point, and I was still very much in New Arrival Mode: The first two to four weeks of being in India – everything is an overwhelming assault on the senses. You’re in near-constant amazement at how wild and vivid life can be. The circus and overloaded charm fade (somewhat) after a few weeks, but usually one or more things happen every day that remind you: you’re in a very different world.

Next to only perhaps seeing the Hawa Mahal, and trekking around some of the old forts, my favorite experience in Jaipur was at a small café that was famous for their saffron lassi. I remember retreating from the hot sun into the shade with my journal and heavily marked-up guidebook, sliding my tired self into a plastic chair, and sipping this amazing, glowing, pink-orange chilled treat. The flavor was intense, exotic, new to me. That fresh saffron lassi straight from the fridge was the best thing in that moment. I contemplated how many I would need to order and drink before it would be too much. I stayed long enough to need a second one, and then got on my way of exploring the streets further.

For something so simple, it’s hard to believe it took me so many years to figure out how to make a good lassi. The secret is the right combination of soy yogurt, water, and ice cubes. I think I’ve got it down good now, so I’m ready to pass on the recipe for my all-vegan rendition of the Indian classic yogurt shake.

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Veg Pakoras & Apple-Tamarind Chutney

Veg Pakoras (Spinach & Carrot) with Apple Tamarind Chutney - The Lotus and the Artichoke - Vegan Cookbook

Of all the famous and celebrated Indian street food in the world, vegetable pakoras are ranked at the top, along with samosas, chaats  — and perhaps dosa and idly, depending on if we’re talking about North Indian street food or South Indian street food. Is there a difference? You better believe it. But where do the two meet?

Conceptually, veg pakoras (or pakodas or bhajji or even veg fritters, depending who you ask) are something found in both North and South India, and the love and lust for them is equal. It’s not a culinary civil war as with the chapati (roti) vs. rice battle of the traditions.

With veg pakoras, the spices vary and the vegetable ingredients certainly vary, but the idea and the appreciation are shared. While we’re on the subject of pakoras: in many places in India you’ll find not just pakora made with all kinds of vegetable bits, but also fun things like deep-fried pakora-battered sandwiches and slices of bread.

In my many trips to India and especially in the year living there, I’ve had the opportunity to eat veg pakoras from hundreds of different places. I actually ate them a lot more eating out than eating at home with families. I will say, some of the street vendors and store fronts have some pretty grubby setups, and I wouldn’t recommend eating the samosa and pakoras from just any train station vendor. But still, there’s almost always a decent enough place to be found. If not… just step into your own kitchen!

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Masoor Dal

Masoor Dal - Indian Red Lentils recipe - The Lotus and the Artichoke vegan cookbook

Masoor Dal, or Indian red lentil curry, is one of the most classic dal recipes and a standard and favorite all across India — and the world. It accompanies almost any excellent Indian meal, and goes well with rice, chapati, naan, roti and all of your favorite breads. You can even serve it in a bowl with crackers or croutons and be a true East-West fusion superstar.

There are endless variations on this dal recipe. The tomato is optional but improves the flavor dramatically, going well to smooth the Indian spices and compliment the fresh ginger. Many Indian cooks make an even simpler, stripped-down version of dal, relying only on the key spices: cumin, coriander, and turmeric — possibly with a dash of garam masala. The smooth texture is obtained by cooking the lentils long enough that they literally fall apart. You can speed things up with an immersion blender, as noted below. (You might need to start with less water, as immersion blending a  hot, liquidy soup is a messy and dangerous matter.)

Even when cooking non-Vedic, I do use asafoetida and mustard seeds. Many Indian lentil and bean dishes just don’t need the strong garlic and onion flavors, especially if one or more vegetable dish you’re serving with the meal does rely on garlic and onion. Garlic quickly overpowers other tastes. I encourage you to experiment with less – or even none – and discover the true flavors of the more exotic spices.

With some practice it’s quick and simple to make and perfect when you want a nutritious meal and haven’t got much in the kitchen. You do always keep plenty of lentils, spices, and rice, right? Exactly. Continue reading

Mutter Tofu Paneer

Mutter Paneer Tofu - North Indian - The Lotus and the Artichoke vegan cookbook

Mutter Tofu Paneer is the vegan Mutter Paneer – a peas and homemade cheese-cube curry, one of the most famous and popular North Indian vegetarian recipes and dishes. It’s on almost every menu of every Indian restaurant everywhere. But every cook makes it their own special way.

I experimented with this dish several times a month for the year that I lived in India. Even if you aren’t a numbers whiz, you probably have the idea: Yes sir, Yes ma’am, I’ve cooked this dish a lot. I’ve also sampled dozens of different variations across the subcontinent and at Indian buffets throughout North America and Europe.

The best Mutter Paneer ever? No question, no doubts: at homes eating with the family as an honored guest. Indians know how to make you feel like the most welcome guest in the world. Amazing food makes it easy.

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Chilli Tofu Paneer

Chilli Tofu-Paneer : Indo-Chinese - The Lotus and the Artichoke vegan cookbook

Chilli Paneer (also known by other creative spellings such as Chili Paneer and Chilly Paneer) is one of the most famous Indo-Chinese dishes in India, along with Veg Manchurian. From street carts, restaurants, and home kitchens across the continent you can find this spicy hybrid dish.

This vegan Chilli Tofu Paneer variation is easily made by substituting tofu for paneer cheese. Batter-frying with cubes before adding to the sauce and veg is a trick which adds more texture and taste to your ‘paneer’. Tofu isn’t quite as easy to find in India as fresh paneer, but while living in Amravati, India, I was able to find tofu. I experimented often in the kitchen making this stellar Indo-Chinese appetizer. Even the neighbors were impressed!

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Sindhi Bhindi Masala

Sindhi Bindi Masala : North Indian - The Lotus and the Artichoke vegan cookbook

During the year that I lived in Amravati, India. I must’ve had 30 or 40 slightly different varieties of Sindhi Bhindi Masala. Usually just referred to as Bhindi (Hindi word for okra), this spicy okra dish is North Indian in origin. The kind I learned to make in Indian kitchens is a typical, traditional Punjabi and Sindhi vegetable dish.

Bhindi Masala is a regular feature at family lunches and dinners, and was in my lunch tiffin more often than not. Every restaurant cook, every mother, every sister, every grandmother, and every hobby-cook son cooks their okra a little different than the next. Sometimes in curry sauce, usually without. Some were still a bit crunchy, some melted in my mouth. Often they were intentionally burnt and bathing in oil, others were so spicy my lips went numb and my nose started to run away. As a guest at homes and in restaurants, I usually ate this with chapati bread — along with everyone else. At home I usually make it with rice. That’s partly because I love rice, and partly because I’m just not really Mr. Chapati Master.

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Vegan Raita – Masala Potato Cucumber

North Indian : Vegan Raita - Masala Potato Cucumber - The Lotus and the Artichok

Every proper Indian meal includes a nice, cooling raita. Authentic Indian food is spicy and those who know have a yogurt-based raita on the side to cool things down if the fire alarm starts ringing.

A delicious side dish and appetizer, many a raita is just raw cucumber, tomato, onion, carrot, and/or bell peppers. I like this hybrid with cooked potatoes and cool cucumbers. It’s sort of cross between a classic vedic yogurt potato dish (which I learned from the Hare Krishnas in the 90s), more traditional Indian raita (which I learned in countless variations in India, particularly living in Amravati) and what most of the world knows as potato salad. But with creamy soy yogurt instead of regular yogurt or mayo!

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Palak Tofu Paneer

Palak Tofu-Paneer - Vegan Recipe: North Indian Spinach Curry - The Lotus and the Artichoke

Palak Paneer is another one of those famous North Indian dishes you’ll find all over India and all over the world wherever Indian food is being made and served. It’s another of my favorites (yes, yes, I have many favorite Indian dishes). It’s also known as Saag Paneer and often found with fried potatoes instead of cheese or tofu under the name Palak Aloo or Saag Aloo. Technically, Saag and Palak are different leafy greens; for our purposes spinach will be fine.

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Gobi Tikka

Gobi Tikka

Gobi Tikka is an easy, delicious recipe to whip up. It’s a blast of flavor and has a wonderful texture and the classic yellow we often associate with Indian delights. It’s one of many “pure vegetarian” Indian appetizers or mains that’s easy vegan and works well with a tiffin lunch or dinner on-the-go. It tastes fantastic with rice and also works well wrapped in or scooped up and enjoyed with Indian flatbread: chapati or naan.

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Bengan Bhartha

Bengan Bhartha - Indian - The Lotus and the Artichoke

Bengan Bhartha is an incredible, spicy Indian eggplant puree. Similar to Middle Eastern baba ganoush, it’s traditionally eaten with flat bread. My North Indian pals would never dream of eating this dish with rice, but if you’re not a chapati master yet and want to enjoy it with some Basmati, I’m not going to call the Curry Cops.

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