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A vegan diet is a strict diet in which a person does not eat any type of animal product, including meat, fish, poultry, dairy, honey, or any other items that come from an animal in any form. Although following a vegan diet can limit certain types of cuisine that rely heavily on meat or dairy, Indian cuisine tends to be based around vegetables and grains flavored with aromatic spices. Indian vegan food generally removes ghee, a traditional ingredient in which butter is melted and the foamy part is separated and discarded. It may use tofu, a product made from soybeans processed into blocks or sheets, in place of other more traditional dairy and meat products.
One common type of Indian vegan food is curry. Curry is a mixture of vegetables, grains, or other ingredients and is similar to a stew or stir-fry. Since the ingredients of a curry can be easily customized without negatively affecting the taste or texture of the dish, vegan versions of curry can be incorporated into a vegan diet with little effort. Vegan curries may include mixtures of chopped potatoes, chickpeas, eggplant, or cauliflower, simmered in liquid and flavored with turmeric, curry powder, cumin, or other spices.
Many traditional Indian recipes use paneer, a type of cheese made by heating milk until it curdles. Paneer has a soft, creamy texture and is often mixed with cooked spinach for an Indian dish known as paneer palak or combined with peas for mattar paneer. For a dairy-free replacement for paneer, some types of Indian vegan food make paneer-based dishes using tofu. When tofu is cooked, it softens into a soft texture that is similar to paneer. Tofu also does not have a strong taste on its own and tends to absorb the flavors of other foods it is cooked with, so swapping tofu for the paneer may ensure the dish is vegan without providing a distracting taste that overwhelms from the more traditional Indian flavors.
Another type of Indian vegan food is dal. Dal is a dish that is primarily made from lentils that are simmered in liquid until softened and seasoned with turmeric, cumin, cilantro, cayenne, or other spices. Even if dal is prepared in its traditional manner, it is vegan and usually does not require any substitutions in order to fit into a vegan diet. This dish can be served with rice or other cooked grains for a complete vegan meal.
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