Veganism has steadily gained popularity in India over the years. However, many still prefer being a vegetarian than a vegan due to different reasons. One of the reasons could be lack of availability and affordability of plant-based groceries in the market. This is the point when most of the commoners give up on vegan diet. But as they say, every problem has a solution.
“A vegan doesn’t have to be a deep-pocketed person. Like everyone, a common man also deserves to lead a healthy and a cruelty-free lifestyle. That’s why one of our main goals is to manufacture a range of affordable vegan products that are easily available at market,” says Shalin Talajia, founder and CEO of Grabenord, a brand, known for its wide range of vegan products available offline and online across India.
In a dairy loving country like India, lack of plant-based dairy substitutes poses another challenge for vegans. Even if some of them are easily available at market not many can afford it on regular basis. Talajia, who is planning to expand Grabenord products with new milk alternatives, more variations in cheese blocks, meat alternatives, Kefir, Kvaas, Tepache, and much more, says that despite having a vast food industry for vegans, there is still a dearth of plant-based dairy options which can easily be found and ordered.
“That is why plant-based dairy substitutes are the most demanding products as dairy is an integral part of our daily diet. So, in order to cater to the needs of people, we have launched vegan cheese and butter so that people can order it from anywhere across India and prepare anything without compromising on taste and health,” he adds.
Amid these limitations, having right kind of culinary skills can also come handy to explore new vegan delicacy with budget-friendly plant-based milk alternatives. “With time, people would realise that even with limited resources, one can make a scrumptious vegan dish with right amount of ingredients and products. For instance, potato milk and peanut milk, which I recently used to create a recipe, are not at all expensive. So, one can add these super- healthy dairy alternatives in their daily diet without thinking much about the cost,” says celebrity chef Nishant Choubey.
While some lag behind due to unavailability of products, many are unaware about the health issues of consuming animal dairy.
“The base problem is dairy as it contains hormones. And there are people who are not even aware that they are lactose intolerant because many of them have this perception that vegan dairy alternatives do not have adequate amount of calcium and vitamins but that’s not true,” says Talajia, adding that the plant-based dairy products have adequate amount of nutrients as the dairy products contain and it is not only healthier for adults but for kids too.”
Elaborating further on this, chef Choubey says that consuming animal dairy could be harmful for our heart health as it is the large source of saturated fats which even tends to increase the cholesterol level. While on the other hand, if you consume plant-based dairy alternatives, it would add a fresh flavour to your dish while providing bunch of health benefits. “One of the most versatile, nutritious and affordable plant-based dairy alternatives is coconut milk which can easily be made at home and can be bought from a supermarket too,” explains chef Choubey, who thinks coconut milk is something that existed much before the inception of veganism in India as most of the household have used coconut milk in some dish or other.
Food alternatives to overcome meat cravings
Another challenge for someone switching to vegan diet is to overcome the meat cravings.
“I believe most of the taste, in a non-veg dish, comes from the ingredients and the veggies that we use in preparing that particular recipe,” says Ritv Kapoor, Founder of People of Tomorrow, a 100% vegan restaurant.
Kapoor, who doesn’t only follow the path of veganism but believes in environmental sustainability as well, further says, “There is a myth that plant-based food cannot bring out the rich flavour without using dairy products or meat so once people experience the world of vegan food, they would understand how vast the concept is. Besides that, a lot of my customers are non-vegetarians who are eager to try out our exotic vegan food.”
For people who are still wondering about their meat cravings, they have other options too.
“There are mock meats available on restaurants, cafes, markets and we are soon launching plant-based chicken nuggets, fish curry etc. that are healthier and tastier at the same time,” Talajia informs.
Alongside having mock meats available at markets in frozen or ready-to-made forms, one can invent new recipes at home to satiate their taste buds with regular vegetables, fruits and other ingredients.
“The presence of jackfruit, yam, vegan nutritional yeast flakes are making a significant presence to ensure the same. They have the correct texture and strength to replace craving of meat, says the celebrity chef, who has invented these vegan cuisines like jackfruit galouti with apricot chutney, coconut malai spaghetti with Peperoncino, Khao suey and many more that a meat lover can’t miss out.