Sometimes, when I first open a new cookbook, there’s something that gets my pulse racing, makes me hungry, and makes me want to cook. With my review copy East: 120 vegan and vegetarian recipes from Bangalore to Beijing by Meera Sodha, it was the chapter devoted to tofu. A whole chapter just for tofu! Not that surprising considering this is a plant-centric cookbook based on Sodha’s vegan column for die Guardian. But I like tofu and it was exciting to see it used in several dishes here. The book is vegetarian rather than strictly vegan as it expands on what she has written for the column and the dishes are inspired by flavors from South, East and Southeast Asia. It aims to be a practical cookbook for getting meals on the table in a reasonable amount of time. The Tofu chapter first caught my attention, but to be honest I want to do pretty much everything in each chapter. The “Snacks and Bits” chapter features celery peanut won tans with Chilean soy sauce that are simply cooked before being topped with sauce, and the potato dosa with pea coconut chutney looks crispy and delicious. For noodles, Mouth-Numbing Noodles with Chile Oil and Red Cabbage and Food Court Singapore Noodles are on my shortlist. There are curries for every season, and the summery green Thai curry with aubergine, zucchini and snow peas will be on my warm-weather plans. From the rice dishes, I immediately tried the Brussels sprouts Nasi Goreng and was delighted with the marinated, sliced Brussels sprouts on top. Of course, one of the other first things I made from the book was a tofu dish. The tofu braised with honey, soy and ginger was sweet and spicy. Some others I’ll be trying out soon are the colorful chile tofu with peppers and chilies and the spring vegetable bun cha with pickled cabbage. There are also chapters for legumes, side dishes, spices and sweets, but I want to tell you more about a salad dish.
The forbidden rice salad with blistered broccoli and miso dressing looked fresh, crispy and full of flavor, and it was. In the book it is made with broccolini, but I had just gotten regular broccoli from my CSA and used that. First the rice was boiled, drained and left in a colander covered with a towel. The dressing was a puree of cashews, fresh ginger, white miso, oil and lemon juice. The broccoli had blistered in a pan, as had the snow peas, which I used in place of snow peas. To put it all together, the rice was spread out on a platter, shredded red cabbage was layered with sliced watermelon radish, thawed edamame, avocado wedges, and the blistered broccoli and peas in my case. Finally, the dressing was drizzled over it.
The magic of pureed cashews made the dressing thick and rich, and the lemon, ginger, and miso flavors paired well with a variety of salad ingredients. This combo worked particularly well here with chewy rice, crunchy radishes, and bubble veggies. Like all the recipes in this book, the mix of flavor and texture brings loads of fun to the plate.
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