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Imagine stepping into a store filled with alluring succulent foods, fresh produce, and lustrous processed meats; but alas! You're a vegetarian. Worse still, you're an Indian vegetarian. The vast collection of every imaginable type of meat becomes your dietary foe. Cue the dramatic music! The truth, though, is far from this exaggerated scenario. Being an Indian vegetarian in the USA isn't as complicated as it may seem, and I'm here to break down why it can be just as delightful and uncomplicated as it is back home.
First, let's get one thing clear: being a vegetarian means you might have to fend off those juicy hamburgers, hot dogs and those tantalizing steaks graced with the perfect char marks. But who said vegetarian food can't be just as enticing? Granted, as Indians, we have an impeccable palate honed by the diverse and rich cuisines of our homeland. However, the US is the land of variety, and discovering exciting vegetarian food, while maintaining our roots, is a challenge I delight in every day.
From picking ripe avocados and buying tofu to honing recipes for delightful veggie burgers or spinach and chickpea stew, the possibilities for Indian vegetarians here extend far beyond the humble 'aloo gobi'. The diverse range of vegetables, pulses, cereals, and vegan products available here can make any Indian vegetarian feel like a kid in a candy store!
Although the art of Indian vegetarian cooking pre-dates any modern vegetarian movement by centuries, specific pantry staples serve as the very essence of our cuisine. The holy trinity of Indian cuisine- turmeric, red chili powder, and coriander powder is readily available in most big supermarkets and Indian grocery stores. Lentils, legumes, grains, and cereal staples like rice and wheat are also very accessible. Add a generous splash of our myriad of spices, and even a pumpkin starts masquerading as an exotic curry.
Investing in essential Indian spices does not just add aroma, flavor, and color to our meals, but forms a crucial part of our lifestyle itself. Remember those funny-looking, incredibly aromatic powders your mother or grandmother used to conjure up the most delicious dishes with? They are your secret weapon!
Over the past few decades, Indian stores are mushrooming all over the United States. In fact, in certain neighborhoods in my home city Seattle, you might mistake the hustle and bustle for a busy bazaar in Mumbai or Delhi. There's a therapeutic familiarity to be found in wandering among aisles filled with Indian groceries, alongside fellow customers, who remind me of friends and family back home.
From ready-to-eat meals, snacks, spices, and dairy products to fresh Indian vegetables like okra and bitter gourd—the Indian store is my vegetarian lifeline in a land far removed from my native place. While essential Indian items remain reasonably priced, exotic ingredients might push your weekly grocery budget a bit. Still, these outlets are a boon when I find myself reminiscing about the comforting aromas of Indian food that used to fill my mom’s kitchen.
Well, eating out in the USA as an Indian vegetarian might seem like bracing yourself for a quest. However, the journey is full of exciting twists and teasing flavors. Many restaurants, cafe chains, and fast-food joints have exciting vegetarian menus. From a deconstructed 'falafel bowl' in a fast-casual Mediterranean joint to a truffle-infused mushroom pizza in a gourmet Italian place, your veggie-eating heart might just skip a beat!
Consider yourself lucky if you live in diverse cities such as Seattle, New York, or San Francisco. These cities teem with vegetarian and vegan eateries that celebrate plant-based food in all its glory. But even in smaller towns, you can find vegetarian options pretty easily.
One day, I found myself looking for a sweet after dinner. Well, that's hardly surprising, given Indians like me cannot quite resist the urge to end meals with something sugary. I hunted through the kitchen for ingredients. Marley, my companion cat, observed me with curious eyes. "Guess I'll have to get inventive!" I said to Marley, who was decidedly nonplussed.
After fussing around for a while, I managed a rather decent homemade version of the beloved Indian dessert 'Sheer khurma' using spaghetti, sugar, and almond milk. A touch of cardamon turned it into a memory-infused delight that I still remember with an affectionate chuckle. You see, sometimes when the craving for certain Indian food hits, a bit of creative adaptation is a savior.
Staying close to our Indian roots in a foreign land requires a balance of creativity, exploration, and slight adaptation. It's all about embracing the new while holding onto your cultural heritage. Being an Indian vegetarian in the USA is an exciting journey, and I'm loving every bit of it. The food adventure continues, with Marley and me relishing every bite. Who said being a vegetarian is unexciting? Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a kitchen to raid for tonight's dinner!