I have a new favorite cookbook, y'all. A couple years ago, pre-pandemic, I was hosting a monthly vegan potluck at Crosstown Arts, and I met a woman named Anusha. She mentioned that she was writing a cookbook, and now that book is finally here! Vegan Treasures of India features 60 homestyle recipes that span the country's regions and cooking styles.
If you're a fan of Indian food, you probably know that North Indian cooking is quite different from South Indian fare. And then there are regional dishes from West and East India. And Anusha Moorthy Santosh's new book covers them all. I especially love that this book doesn't focus on any one specific region but offers a sort of culinary tour across all of India.
I also love that the recipes call for authentic ingredients that I need to make a trip to the Indian market for. So many Indian cookbooks that are written for an American audience leave out those ingredients — like hing, curry leaves, amchur powder, and all the various dals — to make recipes more accessible. But really, with the internet, anyone can access hard-to-find ingredients. And I'm lucky enough to live in a city with multiple Indian markets.
The book is divided into dishes to share, weeknight meals, comfort food, meals for one, lunch box faves, one-pot meals, and treats (think drinks and desserts). My favorite thing so far was the Iconic Vada Pav, which is featured on the book's cover. These little besan-coated, fried potato patties are so crispy and satisfying, and the recipe also includes instructions for dry chutney and mint-cilantro chutney for serving. I had some Deep brand jarred dry chutney and some pre-made chutney that I used instead to save time, but one day, I want to try Anusha's recipes for those, too!
I've also got a new favorite breakfast in the Masala Toast. It's like a savory Indian French toast with a besan flour batter filled with chopped tomatoes, onions, garlic, scallions, and ginger. Great with chutney or ketchup!
The Refreshing Masala Lemon Shikanji was just as the name implied — refreshing! This cool drink was made with seltzer, lemon, and lots of spices, including black salt, which gave it a truly unique flavor. I love anything with black salt. Perfect drink on a summer day.
I was also lucky enough to be a tester for this book. Anusha sent me several recipes to try out as she was wrapping up her book project. It's been awhile since I made these, but I still remember how great they were. The Hearty Vegetable Ishtoo was a veggie stew with coconut milk. I loved that the recipe called for frozen mixed veggies because it made for a quick preparation. This will become a weeknight staple for me in the colder months.
The Khajur-Kaju Smoothie was a date and cashew cream smoothie that was so decadent, it felt like a dessert. But it was also totally whole food, plant-based, so it was super healthy. I enjoyed this before a workout one day, and it gave me all the energy I needed. I also tried it with added, unflavored vegan protein powder after a run one day.
And finally, the Kanda Bhajayi with Special Onion Chutney was a flavor explosion in my mouth. These little deep-fried onion fritters were made with besan flour and thinly sliced red onion, and they're dunked in a chutney made from onions, chili powder, and the frying oil from the fritters. Onion on onion? YES! Just don't smell my breath afterward.
There are so many more things I want to try from Vegan Treasures of India. A few on my list include the Earthy Beet Poriyal (stir-fried beets with chickpeas and coconut), Light Lemon Sevai with Coconut Chutney (rice noodles with lemon juice), Soothing Thayir Sadam (tempered yogurt rice), Soul Warming Thukpa (eastern Indian noodle soup), and the Layered Triangle Paratha (whole wheat layered flatbread). In fact, I think I may try to make everything in the book eventually!