East: 120 Vegan and Vegetarian Recipes from Bangalore to Beijing, written by Meera Sodha, features a wonderfully diverse collection of modern recipes inspired by flavors from throughout East Asia. A few highlights include Sweet Potato Cakes with Kimchi Mayo, Seeni Sambol Buns, Dorayaki Pancakes with Blueberry Cream, Chickpea Flour Fries with Chile Sauce, Beet and Yogurt Rice, and so much more. I will also be sharing her recipe for Silken Tofu with Pine Nuts and Pickled Chiles following the review.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Flatiron Books in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link, I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Meera Sodha is a home cook and food writer currently based in London. She was born in Lincolnshire to Ugandan Indian parents and developed a love for cooking as a way to keep her family’s food traditions alive. She writes regular columns for the Associated Press and The Guardian and has been featured in Food 52, Borough Market, and The Pool. Meera is also the author of Made in India and Fresh India.
Meera begins with a short introduction and a primer on how to use the book. She has put together a fun and exciting collection of recipes inspired by her personal experiences and food she enjoys cooking for family and friends. Scattered among the chapters are also individual guides on working with noodles, rice, and tofu with notes on portion size, cooking instructions, and photos to show the different varieties. Following the recipes, you will find brief descriptions on notable ingredients, a list of online suppliers, and favorite books from other food writers for further reading.
The chapters are divided into the following: Snacks & Small Things, Salads, Noodles, Curries, Rice, Tofu, Flour & Eggs, Legumes, Sides, Condiments, and Sweet. There is also a dedicated contents page with the recipes categorized based on quick dinners, breakfast, picnic, seasonal options, and more.
The photography is provided by David Loftus with illustrations by Monika Forsberg. Most of the recipes are accompanied by a full page photo, usually of the finished dish. Measurements (in the US version) are listed in US Customary. Titles are written in English. Each recipe has a headnote with background information, personal stories, serving size, notes, and helpful tips.
Silken Tofu with Pine Nuts and Pickled Chiles
I knew this Silken Tofu with Pine Nuts and Pickled Chiles would go into the regular rotation from the very first bite. The delicate, silky texture of the tofu pairs so beautifully with the salty sauce and crisp pine nut pickled chile topping. I absolutely love the contrast in color as well. Inspiration for this recipe came loosely from a silken tofu dish Meera had at the restaurant, My Neighbours the Dumplings, in east London.
Silken tofu is the most creamy and fragile of the different tofu types. I have been able to find it in the refrigerated section of most larger grocery stores and markets with East Asian ingredients. Be very careful when handling the carton to keep the block intact. Meera states, “To remove it from the carton in one piece, use a steady hand and a pair of scissors to slice along the carton edges. If you’re using it for any other reason, you needn’t be quite so cautious. As with the other types of tofu, you’ll need to drain the water from it: place the tofu on a plate and leave for 10 minutes or so, then tip the water away before using.” If the tofu does tear (mine did slightly on one side), try to piece it back together as best as you can.
Keep an eye on the pine nuts as they cook in the skillet. They quickly go from toasted and fragrant to burnt.
I also made Meera’s Onigiri Stuffed with Walnut Miso; Paneer, Tomato, and Kale Saag; Summer Pilau with Tomato, Coconut, and Cashews; and Rose Strawberries with Strained Saffron Yogurt.
Inspired by Shuko Oda’s walnut miso at her restaurant Koya in Soho, London, balls of steamed rice are filled with a rich walnut miso mixture. I especially love how easily they come together for a quick and flavorful lunch/snack. Instead of wrapping the onigiri with a strip of nori, the kids opted to place dinosaur-shaped nori pieces on either side of each rice ball for a bit of fun.
This Paneer, Tomato, and Kale Saag is another incredible meal that I just couldn’t stop eating. Curly kale is pulsed in the food processor until finely chopped, then simmered with onion, ginger, garlic, tomatoes, chiles, fried paneer, and spices. It is perfect served alongside whole grain chapattis or naan. My grocery store was out of paneer, so I ended up making my own and that just added to the incredible flavors in the dish.
I made the Summer Pilau with Tomato, Coconut, and Cashews at the end of August with the last of the garden grape tomatoes. This rice has such a wonderful contrast of flavors and involves minimal prep work/time. The basmati rice is simmered with coconut milk, fresh curry leaves, cinnamon, onion, garlic, green chiles, cashews, and grape tomatoes. Meera recommends serving it alongside a fresh green salad.
The Rose Strawberries with Strained Saffron Yogurt was such a light and refreshing dessert. It does take some planning ahead to allow the yogurt and strawberries to rest, but doesn’t require much effort. Yogurt is strained for 4 hours to thicken, then flavored with saffron, cardamom, and sugar. Immediately before serving, it is topped with strawberries that have marinated in rose water and lemon juice.
East is a great pick for those looking for new and exciting ways to work with vegetables and vegetarian ingredients. Most of the recipes come together relatively easily and are perfect for weeknights. There is a great range of dishes from appetizers and snacks to soups, salads, mains, sides, and desserts. Everything is vegetarian, but you will also find plenty of vegan options and many can be made gluten-free by switching the soy sauce for tamari.
While most of the ingredients are readily available in larger American grocery stores, a few items that may require further searching such as curry leaves, black mustard seeds, Sichuan peppercorns, dark soy sauce, tamarind paste, galangal paste, lemongrass, gochujang paste, Thai basil, and Chinkiang black vinegar.
Silken Tofu with Pine Nuts and Pickled Chiles Recipe
Excerpt from East
Silken Tofu with Pine Nuts and Pickled Chiles
- 14 ounces silken tofu
- 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
- 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1/2 tablespoon agave syrup
- 1/2 tablespoon canola oil
- 2 green onions green part only, finely sliced
- 1/4 cup finely sliced cilantro
- Remove the tofu from its packaging, put on a plate, and leave for 10 minutes or so, then tip the water away. Place the drained tofu on a nice serving plate with a lip, as things are about to get saucy.
- In a medium-sized bowl, combine the sesame oil, vinegar, soy sauce, agave syrup, and 2 tablespoons of hot water. Whisk with a fork to mix.
- Put the canola oil into a pan over a high heat and, when hot, add the green onions, pine nuts, and pickled chile peppers. Fry for 2 minutes, stirring every now and then, being very careful not to burn the mixture.
- Very carefully (as it may spit), tip the hot pine nuts into the sesame oil mixture along with the cilantro. Mix well, then pour over the tofu and serve.