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From the acclaimed chef and owner of Brooklyn Delhi, a debut cookbook focused on the celebrated vegetarian fare of South India.
Lifelong vegetarian and chef Chitra Agrawal takes you on an epicurean journey to her mother’s hometown of Bangalore and back to Brooklyn, where she adapts her family’s South Indian recipes for home cooks. This particular style of Indian home cooking, often called the “yoga diet,” is light and fresh, yet satisfying and rich in bold and complex flavors. Grains, legumes, fresh produce, coconut, and yogurt—along with herbs, citrus, chiles, and spices—form the cornerstone of this delectable cuisine, rooted in vegetarian customs and honed over centuries for optimum taste and nutrition.
From the classic savory crepe dosa, filled with lemony turmeric potatoes and cilantro coconut chutney, to new creations like coconut polenta topped with spring vegetables 'upma" and homemade yogurt, the recipes in Vibrant India are simple to prepare and a true celebration of color and flavor on a plate. Chitra weaves together the historical context behind the region’s cuisine and how she brought some of these age-old traditions to life thousands of miles away in Brooklyn during the city’s exciting food renaissance.
Relying on her experience as a culinary instructor, Chitra introduces the essential Indian cooking techniques, tips, and ingredients you’ll need to prepare a full range of recipes from quick vegetable stir frys (corn, basil, and leeks flavored with butter, cumin, and black pepper), salads (citrus red cabbage and fennel slaw with black mustard seeds, curry leaves, and chile), yogurt raitas (shredded beets and coconut in yogurt), and chutneys and pickles (preserved Meyer lemon in chile brine) to hearty stews (aromatic black eyed peas, lentils, and greens), coconut curries (summer squash in an herby coconut yogurt sauce), and fragrant rice dishes (lime dill rice with pistachios). Rounding out the book is an array of addictive snacks (popcorn topped with curry leaf butter), creative desserts (banana, coconut, and cardamom ice cream), and refreshing drinks (chile watermelon juice with mint). Chitra provides numerous substitutions to accommodate produce seasonality, ingredient availability, and personal tastes. The majority of recipes are gluten-free and vegan or can be easily modified to adhere to those dietary restrictions.
Whether you are a vegetarian or just looking for ways to incorporate more vegetarian recipes into your repertoire, Vibrant India is a practical guide for bringing delicious Indian home cooking to your table on a regular basis.
About the Author
Chitra Agrawal is the author of Vibrant India: Fresh Vegetarian Recipes from Bangalore to Brooklyn and the founder of Brooklyn Delhi, an award-winning Indian condiments line. Since 2009, she has been serving, writing about, and teaching her family's vegetarian recipes from India with a slant on seasonality and local ingredients. Chitra writes the popular recipe blog The ABCDs of Cooking, teaches vegetarian Indian cooking classes at Brooklyn Kitchen, Brooklyn Brainery, and Whole Foods, and hosts pop-up dinners throughout New York City with creative Indian-inspired menus. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, Food & Wine, Saveur, and Zagat, among others. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.
“Chitra Agrawal’s Vibrant India is a beautiful personal history and distinct guide to vegetarian South Indian cooking. Her perspective as a second generation immigrant shapes her approach to South Indian cuisine, making this book both a definitive guide for the home cook and an inspiring family narrative.”
—Preeti Mistry, owner of Juhu Beach Club
“Vibrant India is exactly what my cookbook shelf has been missing all this time. Chitra's fresh, enticing, and accessible recipes are certain to transform the way I cook, from rethinking salad and yogurt to really understanding the principles of South Indian vegetarian cooking and its key ingredients.”
—Lukas Volger, author of Bowl
"There is so much I love about this book: the family history; the glimpse at life and daily cooking in South India; but most importantly the recipes. They're poetic in their beauty and simplicity, surprising and yet perfectly intuitive. This book opens up a world of sublime vegetarian Indian food that I didn't know existed."
—Louisa Shafia, author of The New Persian Kitchen
“Already a successful entrepreneur for her delicious pickles from Brooklyn Delhi, here Chitra shares her deeply personal story of her family's journey from Southern India to Brooklyn. In Vibrant India, her first cookbook, she explores colorful and flavorful recipes passed down through generations. Chitra is truly a mistress of spices and shares her knowledge with proficiency and detail. There’s no better way to discover how delicious the world of Indian vegetarian cooking is than through this book.”
—Nik Sharma, food writer, cook, and photographer
"Chitra Agrawal takes us inside a true South Indian kitchen, lovingly rendered for the everyday household. The results are gorgeously simple, bold—and yes, vibrant—flavors that anyone can lend to their cooking."
—Cathy Erway, author of The Food of Taiwan and The Art of Eating In
"In Vibrant India, Chitra grants the reader not only an intimate look at the food of her family, but also an invaluable master class in the flavors and pantry of South India. Bold yet balanced, and touched with modernity, her food celebrates the diversity and breadth of the cuisine. On a personal level, as I share some of her background, Chitra has given me failsafe renditions of the recipes I crave from my childhood; her shredded carrot and lentil salad hits all the notes it should, the idlis are perfect, and the lemon peanut rice a new staple in my home. And as expected, her deft hand with chutneys and pickles—condiments that will elevate any meal—is worth the price of admission alone."
—Tara O'Brady, author of Seven Spoons
"Chitra Agrawal is the perfect tour guide for this fascinating journey into the heart of South Indian home cooking. Through family stories and detailed recipes, written with such passion and clarity, she reveals dishes steeped in tradition but refined for a modern audience. You'll want to dive right in and experience this amazing balance of sweet, sour, bitter, spicy, and savory flavors."
—Diana Kuan, author of The Chinese Takeout Cookbook
"... Agrawal offers page after page of hits with dishes such as steamed lentil and herbed dumplings, root-vegetable and Asian-pear salad, stir-fried corn with basil and leeks, and the must-try cardamom oatmeal cookies with dark chocolate and raisins. ... There’s enough variety in this superb debut to please Indian-cuisine newbies and veterans, and Agrawal’s dishes are hearty and flavorful enough to please even the toughest carnivore at the table."
—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review