At home, Kelly and I have adopted a mostly non animal protein diet. I would not describe ourselves as vegans, since we do occasionally eat some dairy or meat, but these days, that is the exception, not the rule. We know that while traveling we need to be flexible, but also that India has lots of vegetarian options. In fact restaurants here are labeled as either veg. or veg. and non-veg.
One of the reasons we wanted to learn more about Indian cooking is that most people here are in fact vegetarian and we were excited about finding some tasty dishes we can make back home, as much of the Indian food we’ve had in America has been decidedly non-vegetarian.
In India if you want to eat meat, you have to seek it out. Generally this will be chicken and a little less commonly, lamb, which is probably goat as they use the term lamb for the meat of sheep and goats interchangeably. I have not seen beef anywhere and you wouldn’t want to eat it here anyway – Indian cows are scavengers eating the trash off the streets.
Cows are sacred in Indian for a number of reasons. For one, the cow is revered as Nandi, the mount of Shiva. For another, cows provide essential dairy products used in all the cuisine.
India is a vegetarian’s dream, but if you are a strict vegan, you would have a very hard time. The concept of veganism is completely alien to Indians. Almost every dish will have dairy in it in at least one of the following forms: paneer (home made cottage cheese – kind of like Indian soy), yoghurt, khee (clarified butter), and occasionally cream. In fact, dairy is considered by Indians to be an essential part of a healthy, nutritious diet.
It will be an interesting challenge when we get home to see if we can adapt some of these recipes to be made without the dairy, but I am looking forward to trying.