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Vibrant India is a bold and exciting approach to Indian vegetarian cooking
March 30, 2017
Fresh Vegetarian Recipes from Bangalore to Brooklyn
by Chitra Agrawal
Ten Speed Press
Cooking, Food & Wine
Pub Date 21 Mar 2017
I love Indian food, but like many I find this rich and complex cuisine daunting. Vibrant India makes Indian vegetarian more approachable for the novice and provides a rich assortment of recipes that even experienced chefs will treasure.
Normally, I skip the beginning and jump straight to the recipes. Do not do that with Vibrant India! Chitra Agrawal provides one of the best introductions detailing not only spices and their origin but also uses, techniques and necessary equipment. I found the section on dal particularly useful as the varied assortment of beans have long been a mystery to me.
The recipes are not all traditional. Often they are bold modern takes on traditional homestyle vegetarian recipes - far different from the heavy oily cuisine we find in restaurants. I liked the Red Cabbage and Citrus Coleslaw (a variation on kosambri) that could be made with a wide variety of shredded vegetables. My husband loves the Vangi Baath (Roasted Brussel Sprouts and Cauliflower). I liked the wide array of stirfries - they make for a refreshing change from other Asian dishes. There are great desserts as well - I love the chia pudding.
The recipes do require you to have access to a wide variety of vegetables and spices, but once you have your kitchen kitted out things are a lot easier. You should expect to spend time prepping, but many of the recipes are finished quickly if you’ve done your homework. Vibrant India is definitely one of the nicest vegetarian Indian cookbooks I’ve had the pleasure to come across.
I received a copy of Vibrant India from the publisher and netgalley.com in exchange for an honest review.
From the acclaimed chef and owner of Brooklyn Delhi, a debut cookbook focused on the celebrated vegetarian fare of South India.
Lifelong vegetarian and chef Chitra Agrawal takes you on an epicurean journey to her mother’s hometown of Bangalore and back to Brooklyn, where she adapts her family’s South Indian recipes for home cooks. This particular style of Indian home cooking, often called the “yoga diet,” is light and fresh, yet satisfying and rich in bold and complex flavors. Grains, legumes, fresh produce, coconut, and yogurt—along with herbs, citrus, chiles, and spices—form the cornerstone of this delectable cuisine, rooted in vegetarian customs and honed over centuries for optimum taste and nutrition.
From the classic savory crepe dosa, filled with lemony turmeric potatoes and cilantro coconut chutney, to new creations like coconut polenta topped with spring vegetables 'upma" and homemade yogurt, the recipes in Vibrant India are simple to prepare and a true celebration of color and flavor on a plate. Chitra weaves together the historical context behind the region’s cuisine and how she brought some of these age-old traditions to life thousands of miles away in Brooklyn during the city’s exciting food renaissance.
Relying on her experience as a culinary instructor, Chitra introduces the essential Indian cooking techniques, tips, and ingredients you’ll need to prepare a full range of recipes from quick vegetable stir frys (corn, basil, and leeks flavored with butter, cumin, and black pepper), salads (citrus red cabbage and fennel slaw with black mustard seeds, curry leaves, and chile), yogurt raitas (shredded beets and coconut in yogurt), and chutneys and pickles (preserved Meyer lemon in chile brine) to hearty stews (aromatic black eyed peas, lentils, and greens), coconut curries (summer squash in an herby coconut yogurt sauce), and fragrant rice dishes (lime dill rice with pistachios). Rounding out the book is an array of addictive snacks (popcorn topped with curry leaf butter), creative desserts (banana, coconut, and cardamom ice cream), and refreshing drinks (chile watermelon juice with mint). Chitra provides numerous substitutions to accommodate produce seasonality, ingredient availability, and personal tastes. The majority of recipes are gluten-free and vegan or can be easily modified to adhere to those dietary restrictions.
Whether you are a vegetarian or just looking for ways to incorporate more vegetarian recipes into your repertoire, Vibrant India is a practical guide for bringing delicious Indian home cooking to your table on a regular basis.