Tag Archives: indian

Vegan Food in Old Town Quito, Ecuador

One can always heave a sigh of relief when entering a capital city while looking for veg*n food. I combine vegetarian and vegan here as both are equally challenging. After a not so stellar experience in Otavalo, we headed down to Quito on New Years day and settled in a hostel. We’d eventually discover that all the (vegetarian) restaurants would be closed that day. Thank God for chifas! A chifa is a chinese food joint named so in some countries in South America. A chifa will always be open, come rain or shine, be it a Sunday or a New Years Day. Not unlike in the US where we’d be on a road trip during christmas weekend and would only eat Chinese food. At a chifa, you can always get “arroz con verduras” or “tallarin con verduras”. Just dont forget to add “sin huevos” and the other “sins..”. There was a Chifa right next to our hostel, so dinner was taken care of.

The following day, I eagerly dragged my husband to the local Govindas restaurant in Old town, Quito. To my complete and utter delight, I discovered not one but THREE vegetarian restaurants on the same block!! All had set lunches for under $4!! If you are in Quito, I implore you to walk around the block that has Govindas and check out all three places before you decide on lunch.

Govindas and Kalpa Vriksha are both Hare Krishna restaurants right next to each other. Go up the hill and turn left to find a nameless vegetarian restaurant. Deal?

The meal at Govindas. Comes with soup and juice.

The premises also has a small Krishna temple:

The other Hare Krishna resto right next door. Why are there two restaurants right next to each other serving the same kind of food?

Go uphill (your legs will show you the way) and turn left to find this no-name veg almuerzo(lunch) place:

And to me, the crowning glory of our stay in Quito – finding authentic Indian food. I was craving and dreaming chole and and was so so happy to finally find it at an Indian restaurant in Quito. Indian restaurants in this part of the world are a rarity, so when a Russian girl at our hostel told us about this place, we walked 30 minutes to the La Mariscal district in Quito. When I say ‘we’, I am usually the initiator of food related activities and my husband just obliges.

Great India Restaurant, Quito, Ecuador; E4-54 Calle Calama between Calle Juan Leon Mera and Amazonas

Spinach and Beluga Lentils with Quinoa

During a recent visit to Rainbow grocery in SF, I picked up some beluga lentils. These tiny, black lentils cook quickly and dont loose shape. I had eaten beluga lentils before, but never cooked them myself. My fail-safe way of trying out any new variety of dal or any new type of green leaves is to cook them together – like a spinach-dal. When served on a bed of quinoa, it makes for a highly satisfying and nutritionally balanced meal.

Once the lentils are cooked, this dish comes together in 15 minutes. There used to be a time when every greens ‘n’ dal I would make would comprise of onions, tomatoes, ginger, garlic and tons of dry spices, with the same formula used over and over again. But lately, I’ve come to realize that omitting a bunch of these ingredients and simplifying the process leads to a highly flavorful and vibrantly green entree. 

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Ingredients (measurements are very flexible)

  • Chopped Spinach, frozen – 1 1lb. packet (of course you can use fresh)
  • Tomato – 1, medium sized, chopped (~ ½ cup)
  • Green chilies – 1, minced (I used a super-sized serrano chilie)
  • Fresh Red chilies – 2, minced (optional)
  • Ginger-garlic paste – 2T
  • Beluga Lentils – ¾ cup
  • Salt – to taste
  • Oil – 1T
  • Asafetida – A pinch

Directions

  • Cook/pressure cook beluga lentils in sufficient water to cover it. 
  • Heat oil in a pot and oil is hot, add ginger-garlic paste; stir it around.
  • Add asafetida, minced chilies and tomatoes; stir and let cook in medium heat.
  • Add spinach and about ½ cup of water and cook for about 5-7 minutes, until spinach is soft and mixture is bubbling.
  • Add beluga lentils and salt to taste and cook for 5 more minutes.
  • Serve hot with quinoa or rice.

Methi Chole With Cashew Cream

A while ago, I had made Methi Malai Matar (fenugreek leaves and peas with cream) using soy creamer and having loved it, I had bought frozen methi leaves with the idea of making it again. When I saw the Vegan Mofo Iron Chef challenge to make something with chickpeas, I wanted to give it a shot. I also wanted to cook with Methi leaves this weekend, so I decided to make a ‘Methi Malai Chole’ instead. Not terribly original, I know! But I love chickpeas and doing something for the Iron chef challenge sounded like fun!

Having run out of soy creamer, I used cashew cream instead of malai. I had soaked cashews in the fridge overnight and the resultant cream is so potent, just a little goes a long way! I had also soaked the chickpeas for about 16 hours, so thanks vegan mofo for the chance to do a bit of stress free cooking on a Sunday morning. My husband is warding off a jet lag by sleeping, so its a quiet morning!

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Ingredients

  • Methi/Fenugreek Leaves, tightly packed – 1 cup
  • Chickpeas – soaked and cooked/ canned – 1.5 cups
  • Cashew Cream – ¼ cup [soak cashews overnight and blend until really smooth with enough water to achieve the consistency of heavy cream]
  • Tomatoes, chopped – 2
  • Onion, chopped – ½ cup
  • Ginger – garlic paste – 1.5 tbsp
  • Red chilis, finely minced – 3
  • Garam Masala powder – 1 tsp
  • Paprika/ Cayenne – 2 tsp
  • Oil – 2 tsp
  • Salt – to taste
  • Juice from half a lemon (optional)
  • Something to garnish – cilantro or spring onions

Directions

  • Heat oil in a wok/pot/saucepan
  • When the oil is hot, add chopped onions, ginger-garlic paste and red chilis; stir occassionally under the onions change color
  • Add tomatoes and cook the mixture for 5-7 minutes, until tomatoes are cooked
  • Add the methi leaves and a bit of water to prevent sticking.
  • In about 4-5 minutes, when the methi leaves have somewhat cooked, add the cooked chickpeas
  • Add salt, cayenne, garam masala and chickpeas and cook for another 5-7 minutes.
  • Add cashew cream and bring the heat down to a gentle simmer, for about 4 minutes.
  • Mix lemon juice and garnish with chopped spring onions.

Enjoy with carbohydrates of choice – rice, bread, rotis, quinoa, anything! According to the Methi leaves packet, 4.5 ounces of methi contains 39% of daily value of Calcium. Pretty neat!

Vegan Indian Masala Chai (Masala Tea With Soy Milk)

For someone embarking on a vegan diet, milk is one of the easiest things to replace, especially with the widespread popularity of soy milk and recently other non dairy milks. Even my parents, who live in the suburbs of Chennai in India have easy access to soy milk in their local supermarket. It took a while for me to get used to soy milk coffee (I make my coffee by mixing instant coffee and sugar with a glass of hot soy milk).

However, the one thing I never got right is the masala chai. The spicy, ginger-y, cardomom-y goodness that many Indians love to drink during the day has evaded me for a long time. My friends here in the bay area love and swear by the creamy concoction where they boil milk and water with loose tea and then spice it up with chai masala, ginger, cardamom and what not. Its hard for many people to imagine a day without chai and dont think a vegan version is possible. This masala chai is very unlike the chai tea latte that one gets in Starbucks and the like, which has a very different spice mix (I taste a lot of cinnamom in the American chai, while ginger and cardamom dominate the Indian version)

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When I attended the World Veg Fest on October 2nd, I returned with a strong glimmer of hope after having tasted a really delicious vegan masala chai handed out by one of the stalls there. It was made with soy milk and I just knew I had to somehow recreate it at home. I had tried it a few times before, but it was always bitter or too strong or just off. 

I have tried it a few times now and this is the closest I have been to masala chai that I used to drink with dairy milk. So yes, it is indeed possible to have a very good cuppa masala chai that is made vegan! The directions are a little different than using dairy milk

Ingredients (makes 2 cups of about 6-7 ounces each)

  • Black tea – 3 tsps
  • Sugar – to taste, but 3 tsps works for me
  • Water – 1 cup/ 8 ounces/ 240 ml
  • Unsweetened soy milk – 1 cup/ 8 ounces/ 240 ml
  • Cardamom powder/ Elaichi powder – ½ tsp
  • Chai masala – ½ tsp (Fromthe Indian store)
  • Ginger, freshly grated – 1 tsp

Directions

  • Pour water in a pot and bring to a rolling boil
  • Add loose black tea and bring down the heat to medium, a minute or so
  • Add chai masala, sugar, Cardamom and ginger. Stir well.
  • Add the soy milk and turn off heat in about a minute
  • Let tea steep for a little while (2 minutes) and now you can pour into mugs through a strainer.

Masala chai with vegan murukku from my mother in law (murukku usually has butter, but she made it without):

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I bet the number of ways in which masala chai can be made is likely mind boggling – so this is just one more way that works. But I am happy to note that it is possible and tastes quite like the real thing. I just need to make some for my chai loving friends now.

The Indian Chaat Potluck

Chaat is the quintessential Indian street food. Wikipedia tells me that this genre of food originated in eastern India; but I do believe majority of Indians enjoy chaat in all its glory. A little fried, a little raw, a little spicy, a little tangy and a whole lot tasty – what is not to like? My friends here in the bay area throw some truly awesome chaat potluck parties. This last weekend, we decided to celebrate the baby shower of one of us in the best way we knew – giving the expectant mother and father an Indian food potluck party!

The best thing about chaatis that its naturally mostly vegan, with the exception of the liberal use of dairy yogurt. Fortunately, the yogurt is optional and leaving it out doesnt take away from the experience one bit. In fact, many varieties of chaat dont need yogurt. As my chaat making skills leave much to be desired, I decided to stick to bringing desserts for the party.

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Oops! I ran out of some frosting. But I did have something else to make the cupcake more interesting!

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A very satisfied me:

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