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East Meets Vegan cookbook review: A feast of dishes from across Asia, all made vegan

For some people, lockdown is the excuse to spring clean the house, or write a novel, or learn a new language. For me, it's the perfect time to dig out some cookbooks and make some new dishes. A couple of months ago, I bought a copy of East Meets Vegan by Sasha Gill. The book's subtitle is The Best of Asian Home Cooking, Plant-Based and Delicious, and who could resist that? The book takes classic dishes from countries including India, China, Malaysia and Japan and makes them entirely vegan. Despite being stuffed with appealing sounding recipes, the book sat on my shelf until lockdown and all the home cooking it requires gave me a reason to dig it out again.

The first recipe I made was this bowl of Peddler's Noodles. It's quite a store cupboard friendly recipe,. The base is just TVP and some noodles, along with a few flavourings to make a broth that everything sits in. It's nicely simple to make -- definitely the sort of thing you could rustle up in few minutes when you need a quick lunch and there's not much in the fridge. The one thing that let this down is TVP -- it's a handy ingredient for bulking out meals, but it doesn't do well as the star of the show without adding a lot of flavouring. If I was making this again, I'd use some readymade mince instead.


The next thing I made was I think my favourite of the bunch: butter chicken (chicken is played by the far superior tofu). Butter chicken is one of those dishes that I've heard people talk about and drool over, but it's never something I've eaten (because, you know, chicken), so I was glad to get a proper vegan version to try. Handily, I had all the ingredients at home, which meant I could make an amazingly tasty dish without having to queue at the supermarket. I was a bit suspicious looking at the list of ingredients that it looked a bit too simple to deliver a rich flavour. I was wrong, and I'll be making this recipe over and over again.


The next plate was two recipes in one, tandoori cauliflower wings and chana masala fries. Chana masala is one of my favourite things on earth -- if I see it on a menu, I'll order it without a second thought. And then you put it on top of fries? Who wouldn't like that? The chana masala was a little bit drier than I like, so maybe I'd add some extra tomatoes next time. I loved the pickled pink onions on top too -- a bit of colour and sharp flavour.

I've seen lots of Twitter pics of buffalo cauliflower wings, but I've never quite got around to trying them at home -- I guess I always thought they were a bit too complex for lazy me to make at home.  Tandoori cauliflower wings use a similar idea -- make a batter, cook the cauliflower, then add a glaze and cook again. I don't think I got the ratio of batter to cauliflower florets right, because they were a bit on the soggy side, but I enjoyed the subtle spice taste and the joy of finally making my own wings at home.


As well as savoury recipes, there are a lot of sweet things too. One that caught my eye was barfi, an Indian fudge, made with gram flour. I couldn't resist cooking it, because gram flour is prettty much the only flour I can still find in the shops. Barfi is normally made with milk, but the vegan version used reduced coconut milk. I don't think I managed to toast off the gram flour enough, because the finished version had the characteristic beany flavour. Before it set, I tried the fudge batter, and it was fabulous -- I could have eaten it by the spoonful. I was so pleased with the finished version, but if I can find a way to make it again with the same flavour as the mixture, I'd do it in a heart beat.

 Alongside the sort of dishes you've heard of and tried before, there's lots of dishes that I'd not heard of before and was looking forward to making for the first time -- including this one, Roti Jean. Roti Jean is a mix of seasoned mince and omelette in a baguette, with cucumber and sriracha for cooling and heating respectively. The omelette needed a bit more flavour, and the mince would have been so much better if it wasn't TVP, but I couldn't not enjoy the sort of sandwich that needs two hands to pick it up. It was a complete beast, and I mean that as a compliment.


Another classic next: tikka butter beans! The butter beans are cooked first in yoghurt and spices, then simmered in a tomatoey broth. Butter beans are an underrated bean, in my very humble opinion, so I'm always going to be a fan of a dish where the butter bean gets to shine.


I love hot and sour soup. There's nothing about the idea of tofu and mushrooms cooked with soy, chilli and lime that doesn't make me happy. I feel like this is the sort of food that if you've had a bad day at work, or you're a bit under the weather, one bowl of this will pick you right up.  So much flavour in one tiny bowl, and all the citrus and coriander just woke me right up.


There's always got to be one dish that doesn't go down so well, hasn't there? Something to balance out all the rest of the good eats? This massaman curry was it for me. My love-hate relationship with jackfruit falls roughly along these lines: love it when someone else cooks it, hate it when I do. This recipe wasn't the exception to change my mind. Hope triumphed over experience and I bought a tin of jackfruit and set about making some curry. I didn't like the result. It was jackfruit, and I made it, and I wasn't a fan. If you like jackfruit, you'd probably enjoy this, but if you're a jackfruit dodger, this is maybe not for you.


That's as far as I've got in cooking through East Meets Vegan. If I'm going to be under lockdown for a few more weeks, at least I"m looking foward to cooking my way through even more new recipes.

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2 comments

  1. We are so alike here, because i too have been flicking through my cookbooks. But i love how you ahve cooked lots of recipe from one cookbook and one that i have not heard of. I grew up eating barfi, my Dad's favourite sweet. I've never made it every, so would love to try the vegan version to see how it compares. I agree with you that TVP is a handy ingredient for bulking out meals. I tried once to make Cauli Tandoori wings at home, the recipe still needs tweaking. https://allotment2kitchen.blogspot.com/2018/05/baked-tandoori-cauliflower-wings.html I will have to check out the recipe in East Meets Vegan cookbook as the coating on yours does look fabulously 'tandoored' effect. Ah shame about the Jackfruit dish.

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  2. It sounds like a great recipe book with lots of regular dishes veganised and lots of yummy cooking. I have been cooking a bit more - esp in my easter break - but I am still doing net cooking and ignoring my cookbooks - still not enough hours in my days! I have never really embraced tvp and much prefer a good home made mince - there is one on pinch of yum in a chilli that I really want to try with mushrooms, carrot and walnuts (I think). I was really taken by your photo of the tandoori cauli wings and chana masala. I am wary of jackfruit - never had an amazing jackfruit dish and yet I have a tin of it in my pantry cowering in the corner waiting for hope to translate into action!

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