Tarka Dal: A Delicious Vegan Lentil Treat

Maybe you don’t know this about me, but I LOVE Indian food. I didn’t always, though. Back in 2003 I was visiting D.C. for a training session right before I began working on the upcoming Presidential election and we were treated to dinner at this little family owned Indian restaurant. This was my very first time eating Indian food and to say it was disappointing would be a massive understatement. It was bland and tasteless and awful.

It wasn’t until 2006 when the hubs and I moved to Los Angeles that I had Indian food again and this time it blew my mind. Seriously guys, blew my mind! Anarkali is the name of the place that turned me into an Indian food addict. The first time we visited, I talked with the owners about the different types of curry and the heat levels, and even what was in the delicious spiced tea they served. It was…transformative. From that moment on, I learned everything I could about Indian cuisine and back then I was a huge carnivore–literally and figuratively–and it hasn’t stopped.

The difference is that now that I’m on a plant based diet, I have to plan a little more because you can’t just soak an animal protein in yogurt and toss into a sauce. But then I discovered the beauty and variety of the lentil. Packed with protein and low in calories, this is one of the vegan superfoods of our time. Dramatic much, right? Seriously though, lentils are the BOMB.

Enter, tarka dal.

Sesame Pineapple Cauliflower & Rice

One of the first things any new vegan must learn is the beauty of food substitutions. If you love tacos, which I do, then you have to get on board the bean or tofu train to replace that meat. If you love burgers which, again, I DO, then beans and lentils will become staples in your pantry. The same is true for all kinds of dishes that include animal products.

But thanks to the pervasiveness of Facebook, I’ve found another great substitute in certain meat dishes. Cauliflower.

Now before you scrunch your face up and making gagging puke noises, hear me out. Cauliflower is a sturdy beast. It is super filling for how few calories it has (25 calories per 100 grams or 150 calories for a medium sized head), but it is also an amazing source of vitamins C, K and B6. Oh, and did I mention how it’s mild flavor makes it perfect in all kinds of dishes. In fact, don’t be surprised to see our cauliflower buffalo “wings” or the cauliflower and chickpea curry that’s in constant rotation in our house when the weather turns cold…which it now has.

So I came across a Sticky Pineapple Cauliflower recipe on Chocolate Covered Katie and I wanted to try it out so bad but before I had the chance, the hubs beat me to it! I was (not so secretly) pleased about it because he’s much better at adhering to set recipes than I am, and he’s much better at the whole presentation aspect which makes for better pictures.

Since he followed her recipe to the letter, minus serving it inside the pineapple because she must have wicked knife skills to achieve that, there’s no point rehashing the recipe here. Check out Katie’s link above.

Spicy Tahini Rice Bowl

This recipe was inspired by The Stingy Vegan but because we live in Germany right now, where you can’t get every vegetable on the planet year-round, we had to improvise.

vegan rice bowl

The good thing about this dish is that it is much heartier than it looks. We used wild rice because it’s delicious, hearty and packed with vitamins and nutrients. And I quick-pickled the vegetables with lime juice, champagne vinegar, brown sugar and fresh lime juice. Bok Choy is something I learned to love right before we left the United States thanks to a family friend who introduced me to the wonders of Cambodian cuisine. In this recipe, it was cut into quarters and charred in a pan with minced garlic and ginger.

Thai Spring Rolls

Thai spring rolls_01
Thai spring rolls with shrimp and basil

Food, for me, has always been about more than sustenance. In college food was a treat from the special reservation-only shrimp or steak dinners to my Wednesday takeout while I watched Dawson’s Creek. I would rush home from Mock Trial practice, place my order for pizza or grinders (those are super delicious warm sandwiches on the tastiest toasted bread you have ever sank your teeth into), get into my comfy clothes, pop a vodka cranberry into a glass and get giddy when the first strains of Paula Cole’s “I don’t wanna wait” started.

I don’t think the food had much to do with it considering my love—even today—of Dawson’s Creek, but whenever I think of that time the food always plays a role.

Today though, when I think of food I think of the event surrounding a new dish. The first time I tried Indian food I was in Washington, D.C. after a week of DNC training. The food was awful and it would be about 3 years before I ate a good Indian dish. The first time I ate sushi was in 1996 before it was “all the rage” because I read some chic lit novel and it sounded delicious and sophisticated to a teenage girl eager to be an adult. I have tons of these, but I won’t bore you with them all lest I use up all the space on the internet!

Ah, I lied…there’s one more. But it’s relevant, I swear.