Cultivated foodPlant-based food

Would you like to try a vegan beef fry?

Many Malayalis cannot survive without meat or fish. Some say they “cannot even imagine” rice without fish curry or fry.

KOCHI: Many Malayalis cannot survive without meat or fish. Some say they “cannot even imagine” rice without fish curry or fry. In the worst-case scenario, the least they would settle for is an omelette.
However, of late, there have been widespread campaigns against cruelty towards animals in the meat industry. But, though these videos of cruelty on various social media platforms induce feelings of guilt, it is hard to let go of that scrumptious chicken curry or live without beef roast and porotta, echo nonvegetarian foodies.

A lot of hands, however, go up when asked about exploring alternatives to meat. Sally Varma turned to a completely plant-based diet around six years ago. “I have been guilty of eating meat since I turned 12. That was the first time I saw a guy slaughtering a hen. My sister, who was with me, stopped eating meat the next day. But it took me years to say enough is enough,” she says.

Sally says the main problem is that most people doesn’t consider farm animals to be living beings. “Those who call themselves animal lovers, think of dogs or cats. Farm animals are unfortunately considered products,” she says.


people are unaware of the harmful effects of animal agriculture. “Every year, 80.5 billion animals are slaughtered for food around the world. Large-scale deforestation is done to make room for the farms and growing crops to feed them,” she says. 

So, the self-proclaimed lover of all things chicken, now only eats plant-based products. “For a sustainable future, it is important to revamp the ways of animal agriculture,” she adds. “Going plant-based is not that expensive. I consume mainly south Indian dishes, which are already plant-based,” says the assistant manager at the farm animal protection department of Humane Society International/India. 

Alokparna Sengupta, MD of the organisation, says: “The problem can be addressed to an extent with cultured meat also known as clean meat. We have signed an MoU with the Indian government.” The Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology and the Humane Society International are developing “lab meat” using animal cells. “Once the meat is developed, FSSAI will do the necessary tests. It is actually animal meat grown in the laboratory, so safety wouldn’t be an issue,” she says.

Meanwhile, the concept of plant-based meat is finding many takers in Kerala, though it is at a nascent stage. Anishya Soman, a techie and food blogger, has experimented with many plant-based meat products available in the market. “Most of the products were soya-based,” she says. 

“The ‘chicken roast’ I made using one of the clean meats was really good, the texture was very similar to actual chicken. The taste of plant-based meat won’t be exactly similar to actual meat. It is good but is expensive. For 250g of mock meat, I had to pay about Rs 250.”

Nayana Premnath from Thiruvananthapuram, who is based in Bengaluru now, is a regular consumer of plant-based meat and dairy. “I am a chai lover. So, now I make tea with soy milk. I am completely accustomed to the taste now,” she says.

Nayana also turned to plant-based meat due to environmental concerns. “I love ‘chicken nuggets’ made with plant-based meat. You just have to fry them up as usual,” she says. “It is easier to source such products in metro cities.”

Exporting veg meat

Due to the rising popularity of such products, various Indian companies have started plat-based meat production. One Indian company, Greenest even started exporting plant-baed meat to the US. The same company also launched the country’s plant-based mat buger a year ago. Actor Anushka Sharma and Indian skipper Virat Kohli has  also jumped on the veg-meat train. They have invested an undisclosed sum in a vegan meat start-up. 

Chayakkada with a twist

Sneha Shenoy of Cherthala runs a ‘variety’ tea shop, Vinod Cafe, with her family. The signature combo here is porotta and beef fry. ‘Beef fry’ made using homemade plant-based meat, that is. “My mother prepares the plant-based meat using soya. It tastes very similar to beef and people find it difficult to identify the difference,” says Sneha. “We call it the vegan fry. We also have cutlets with plant-based beef, they are yummy.” All credit for the ‘vegan beef fry’ goes to Sneha’s mother, Sandhya. “I tried making mutton-like soya meat. But that didn’t click. Vegan beef, however, is a hit.” she says. “We plan to sell frozen chunks of our homemade beef, as there is an increasing demand.”

Is meat necessary?

Generally, there is a belief that human beings require meat to stay fit. But what happens when you decide to go for a plant-based diet? According to the chief dietician at Medical Trust Hospital in Kochi, Nydin Poulin, meat is the best source of protein. “For protein, amino acids, Omega-3 fats, and Vitamin B 12 are needed. Of these, Vitamin B 12 is only found in animal products. So it is essential to include meat, eggs, and milk in your diet. For those who abstain from eating meat, lentils are an alternate source of protein, especially soybeans,” she says.

Though, pulses generally have gas-creating elements in them, fermenting them overnight in water will help reduce them, she says. “Vegetarians and vegans can take lentils and pulses for protein,” she adds. However, she adds, for people involved in sports and heavy work, it is advised to have a protein-rich diet.


Vegan Jackfruit Tacos


  • Pulled Jackfruit “Meat”
  • 1-2 tsp oil
  • 500 gm jackfruit, cleaned
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced, (or ½ large onion)
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1½ Tbsp taco seasoning, to taste
  • A squeeze of lime juice
  • For Jackfruit Tacos
  • 12 taco shells, hard or soft
  • 1½ cups shredded lettuce
  • 1½ cups shredded cabbage
  • 2 cups pulled jackfruit
  • ¾ cup salsa
  • ¼ cup coriander leaves, chopped
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges

To cook shredded jackfruit
Heat oil in a pan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté for 6-8 minutes, until softened and caramelized. Shred jackfruit. Add shredded jackfruit to the pan with soy sauce and taco seasoning. Stir to integrate. (If needed, add a splash of water or vegetable broth to moisten.) Cook for another 6-8 minutes, until the jackfruit is cooked through and beginning to crisp on the edges. Finish with a squeeze of lime juice.

Assemble vegan tacos

Assemble hard or soft taco shells with shredded lettuce, purple cabbage, and pulled taco jackfruit. Top with salsa, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime juice. (Or use your favourite fillings).

Vegan Beef Cutlet  

By Sandhya Shenoy, Vinod Cafe


  • Potato – 500gm
  • Beetroot – 1 kg
  • Onion –  250 gm
  • Vegan beef – 250 gm
  • Green chilli – 100 gm
  • Garlic – 50 gm
  • Ginger – 10 gm
  • Black pepper – 10 gm
  • Red chilli powder – 10gm
  • Fennel seeds- 10gm
  • Meat masala – 4 tsp
  • Poha + Rava mix – equal portions
  • Cornflour – As per need
  • Corriander leaf – 10 gm
  • Oil – 1 kg

Boil the potatoes. Chop beetroot, onion, green chilli, garlic, ginger etc and mix well with black pepper, and cook it in a pan with a little oil. Mix vegan beef with fennel seeds, chilli powder and meat masala and grind it well. Add it to the cooked mixture, and add salt. Make cutlet-sized balls using the mixture. Grind poha and rava. Dip cutlet balls one by one in a cornflower-water mixture, and the poha-rava powder. On a deep vessel, add the oil and heat it. Now, fry the cutlet balls.

Eggless Omelette

By Anishya Soman


  • Chickpea flour – 1/2 cup
  • Chopped shallots – 2 tbsp
  • Chopped ginger – 1 tsp
  • Chopped green chilli – 1 tsp
  • Curry leaves – 1 sprig
  • Salt to taste
  • A pinch of chilli flakes
  • A pinch of black pepper powder
  • Baking powder – 1/4 tsp
  • Water – 1/2 cup
  • Coconut oil

Mix all the ingredients well. Add water into it little by little as you mix the batter. Whisk well, remove lumps, and make a smooth batter. Keep it covered for 5 mins. Heat up a Tawa, greased with coconut oil. Pour the batter and spread lightly. Cook one side over medium flame, and flip when done. When the other side is done remove it from the flame.   

Vegan Macaroni and Cheese

By Nayana Premnath

Ingredients You Need:

  • Carrot – 1
  • Potatoes – 2
  • Onion – 1
  • Cashews – 1/4 Cup 
  • Nutritional Yeast  – 1/4 Cup 
  • Garlic Powder – 1 Tbsp 
  • Apple Cider Vinegar – 1 Tsp 
  • Lemon Juice – 1 Tsp 
  • Vegan Milk – 1/2 Cup 
  • Water (used to boil veggies) – 1/2 Cup 
  • Salt to taste
  • Boiled macaroni – 100g 


Boil carrot, potato, onion and cashew together for 10-15 minutes till it becomes soft and mushy. Keep 1/2 cup of the boiled water aside for later. Put the boiled items into the blender. Add the garlic powder, nutritional yeast, vinegar, lemon juice, milk and boiled water.

Blend at high speed for 1.5 minutes. Add salt to taste and blend again for 10 seconds. Add the cheese sauce to a pan and let it heat up on low flame for a minute. Add the macaroni to the sauce and mix well to coat it with sauce all over. Turn off the flame after 3 minutes and serve. Optional: Add 1 Tsp of pepper if you like it a bit on the spicy side.

New Indian Express

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