Friday, April 7, 2017

Book Review: Vibrant India by Chitra Agrawal

I have a wide-range of cookbooks, spanning multiple countries and continents.  Surprisingly, I do not own one single Indian cookbook.  As per my Indian friends (all from the state of Gujarat), all the rich, cream heavy curries you commonly find in New Jersey Indian restaurants is Punjabi food.   This book is not that.  The recipes in this Vibrant India are based on Chitra Agrawal's mother's hometown of Bangalore, which makes this South Indian food.  Expect lighter, healthier recipes that are delicious, heavy on coconut and full of flavor.

For those of you unfamiliar with Indian cooking, she includes tips and techniques, usual tools and South Indian pantry items.  I'd add that if you're not used to Indian cooking, be prepared for longer than usual lists of ingredients.  That's mostly because of the sheer number of spices being used.  I know that scares off a lot of people that are used to more American recipes, but if you like Indian food, it's worth it to make the investment into buying these spices.

Go to your local Indian-Asian store if you want to save money....stay away from Whole Foods types places which charge a premium and a half.  As a vegan, you'll also find that Indian-Asian stores have super cheap prices on bulk nuts, beans, lentils and even garlic and ginger.

IS IT VEGAN-FRIENDLY?  Vibrant India is a vegetarian cookbook, with vegan and/or gluten-free recipes clearly labeled.  In terms of substitutions, I'd suggest (as she did in the book) coconut oil for ghee and simply replacing dairy yogurt for non-dairy (Forager is my favorite.)  There is some cheese, but again, just use a non-dairy cheese.  I didn't notice too much milk, but stock up on coconut milk for sure.

WOULD I BUY IT?  Yes, I think so.  My daughter actually isn't a fan of those creamy Punjabi style curries, so I think she'd like these lighter versions.  While the recipes in Vibrant India don't seem complicated, they do seem a bit labor intensive.  But like a lot of recipes, once you've made them a few times, it becomes old hat.  Like dumplings used to take me half the day, and now I can make the filling and bang out 50 in under 20 minutes!  So don't be thrown off by all the "make a curry paste" instructions.  I mean're just throwing stuff in a blender!

I received a free copy of this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.  There was no obligation to give a positive review, and if you read my blog, you know I'm a tell-it-like-it-is kind of girl.  I mean what I say and say what I mean, that holds true for my review.

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