East: 120 Vegan and Vegetarian Recipes from Bangalore to Beijing

A Healthy Start to the Year

By Naomi Bussin

Recipes are often authentic, or simple, but not both.  Yes, spice blends are best if the spices are freshly toasted and ground, but that may not be practical.  Sure, homemade sauces and condiments may add to your dinner, but you might not want to make them.  And, in Winter 2021, our options for eating food that we didn’t cook ourselves are limited.  What to do?

I got you.  New cookbook by UK’s Meera Sodha is both authentic and simple. It covers a span of cuisines “from Bangalore to Beijing”, including India, China, Sri Lanka, Japan, Malaysia and Indonesia.  The recipes are based on the author’s travels and from recipes gathered from ex-pats.  Although she is not vegan, she writes a vegan column for the Guardian newspaper, which piqued her curiosity and ingenuity in creating plant-based recipes from traditional favourites.  The other key piece of information is that the recipes are pretty fast and easy.  The ingredients are generally obtainable from supermarkets in Toronto at least, and she gives you options for workarounds if they are not.

The recipes are not divided by cuisine, but by the main component, such as salads, noodles, rice, tofu, flour and eggs and legumes.

I don’t have a steamer, but I want to make mushroom bao buns with pickled cucumbers – those soft steamed buns that are so delicious, filled with a mushroom, soy and peanut butter filling.  Thai salad with grapefruit and cashews has those sweet, sour, salty and spicy Thai flavours and with store-bought shredded vegetables, it’s easy as pie. For a heartier dish, she has included a recipe for green onion and ginger noodles which is based on a great dish from Momofuku which I used to order (in the before time).  If you can find paneer (some supermarkets have this Indian cheese), there is a sheet pan roasted paneer aloo gobi, a lighter, oven-baked version of the traditional dish.

We made honey, soy and ginger braised tofu which was spicy and sweet in a good way, and served it with rice and broccoli.  Easy and delicious, I will make this again.  I baked my tofu because I hate the splatter from frying it.  We also made udon noodles with roasted red cabbage and cauliflower, spiced with curry powder and lime.  Loved the roasted vegetables but our udon noodles were mushy, need another brand.  We also made paneer, tomato and kale saag, which was a lighter version of traditional saag paneer that I found easier to eat.  I liked it a lot and ate the leftovers with added chickpeas.  My general comment with these recipes is that you should add greater quantities of spice than suggested (depending on taste of course).

There are lots of choices, and I was impressed by how accessible the book is.  If you have the time or the inclination to cook the long way, go for it.  If you’re looking for something new but want the short way, start here.

Naomi Bussin is a lawyer, mother of three and an accomplished cook. Food is her favourite subject and she reads cookbooks in her spare time.