Sometimes when I first open a new cookbook, there’s something that quickens my pulse, makes me hungry, and makes me want to cook. With my review copy of 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! That’s not so surprising given that this is a plant-focused cookbook based on Sodha’s vegan column for the 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 since it expands on what she has written for the column, and the dishes are inspired by flavors from South, East, and Southeast Asia. It’s intended to be a practical cookbook for getting meals on the table in a reasonable amount of time. The tofu chapter grabbed my attention first, but to be honest I want to make just about everything in every chapter. The Snacks and Small Things chapter has Celery and Peanut Wontons with Chile Soy Sauce that are simply boiled before being topped with sauce, and the Potato Dosa with Pea and Coconut Chutney looks crispy and delicious. Among the noodles, the Mouth-Numbing Noodles with Chile Oil and Red Cabbage and Food Court Singapore Noodles are on my short list. There are curries for every season, and the summery Thai Green Curry with Eggplant, Zucchini, and Snow Peas will be in my warm weather plans. From the rice dishes, I tried the Brussels Sprouts Nasi Goreng right away and loved the marinated, sliced Brussels sprouts on top. One of the other first things I made from the book was, of course, a tofu dish. The Honey, Soy, and Ginger Braised Tofu was sweet and spicy. Some others I’ll try soon are the colorful Chile Tofu with sweet peppers and chiles and the Spring Vegetable Bun Cha with pickled cabbage. There are also chapters for legumes, sides, condiments, and sweets, but I want to tell you more about a dish from Salads.
The Forbidden Rice Salad with Blistered Broccoli and Miso Dressing looked fresh, crunchy, and full of flavor, and it was. In the book, it’s made with broccolini, but I had just received regular broccoli from my CSA and used that. First, the rice was cooked, drained, and left covered with a towel in a sieve. The dressing was a puree of cashews, fresh ginger, white miso, oil, and lemon juice. The broccoli was blistered in a frying pan as were the snap peas that I used in place of snow peas. To put it all together, the rice was spread on a platter, shredded red cabbage was layered with sliced watermelon radish in my case, thawed edamame, avocado wedges, and the blistered broccoli and snap peas. Last, dressing was drizzled on top.
The magic of pureed cashews made the dressing thick and rich, and the lemon, ginger, and miso flavors would work well with a variety of salad ingredients. That combination worked especially well here with the chewy rice, crisp radishes, and blistered vegetables. Like all the recipes in this book, the mix of tastes and textures brings a lot of fun to the plate.
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