by Native Foods Cafe
Anupy Singla is an award-winning journalist turned foodie turned author, and her newest cookbook Vegan Indian Cooking is a must-have for every kitchen! We caught up with this longtime friend of Native Foods and got the low down for our September Newsletter... here is the full interview!
Where are you from? I was born in India and raised outside of Philadelphia in a town called King of Prussia. It has one of the largest malls in the United States. I lived across the street. I learned English from watching Sesame Street on a little black and white fuzzy television set. My life goal is to appear on that show. I love it.
What is your sign? The scales – Libra. I am always trying to balance things – which often means I drive myself pretty crazy.
What inspired you to write Vegan Indian Cooking? I have been Vegan since I was in grad school back in the early 1990s. I’ve managed to maintain this way of eating because I’ve been raised on Indian cuisine, which is the only cuisine in the world that highlights vegetables on your plate. You don’t need meats and fillers when you eat Indian foods because the diet is so varied. I wanted to share my knowledge of delicious, wholesome Vegan Indian foods with the non-Indian world and with the Indian show them that you can make Indian easily Vegan by swapping out a few key ingredients. For example, instead of ghee (clarified butter) I use grapeseed oil. Instead of paneer (homemade cheese) I use baked tofu. But, that being said, I don’t judge how others eat. I just urge folks to eat real food, and to consider swapping out meals and dishes for Vegan-inspired options.
Do you have a favorite vegetable? If so, why is it your favorite? Hands down, it’s okra. I grew up visiting my grandmother’s garden in Chandigarh, India, and would pick okra from the plants outside and eat it raw. A well-spiced okra dish, like my crackling okra, is pure heaven. Even my husband, who does not like okra, loves the way I prep it.
Why did you decide to transition from journalist to chef and cookbook author? I made the switch because of my young girls, who are now 9 and 7. I had the job of a lifetime. But, they were suffering with packaged, bland foods. I really believe that every child’s legacy should be healthy, good food. My mother did that for me. I had to ask myself why I thought it was okay not to do that for my own children. And then the decision essentially made itself.
Do you think you will return to journalism at some point? I am forever still a journalist. I have created a business around selling products that I not only believe in, but also write about after extensive research. So, our spice line was developed after ‘interviewing’ several spice suppliers and learning about the industry. My prices were set after understanding that spices are indeed a commodity and that they cannot be exorbitantly priced. I hope to go back to television with my own show. Very few TV chefs have actual television experience – and it often shows. I want to develop a show that teaches people about food but also practices good TV skills.
From reading your blog, we can tell cooking for your family is a constant source of inspiration and a great way to experiment with recipes… what is their favorite dish? Indian Punjabi Red Beans and Rice. I love Rajmah. It’s on page 74 of my first book, The Indian Slow Cooker. Love, love, love it. My kids adore eating Rajmah.
Native Foods Cafe uses this photo courtesy of the Chicago Tribune.
How does Punjabi-style cooking differ from other Indian cuisine? Are there specific key differences? It’s a spicy cuisine known for its extensive sauces. It’s the type of Indian food most represented in Indian restaurants in the West. Because Punjab is the state in India that grows wheat, it also has a strong tradition of breads like roti and naan.
If you could only have 5 spices on your kitchen, what would they be? Cumin seeds, turmeric, coriander seeds, mustard seeds, and coarse sea salt. I could make virtually any Indian meal out of these key spices.
Do you have any pets? If so, what kind and what are their names? My daughter has fish. The goldfish she won in a fair is now so big that we have had to purchase 3 fish tanks as it grows. My daughter named it Squirmy.
If you could live anywhere, where would it be and why? That’s a tough one. I can’t say I want to live anywhere permanently. I love to travel and suck in culture wherever I go. I’ve lived in Washington, D.C., Hawaii, Chicago, Philadelphia, Japan, and Princeton/New York. I love them all. I would like to live in India rather than just be a visitor.
What is your favorite current menu item at Native Foods Café? May I just say anything and everything? If I had to pick, I would say the Scorpion Burger most of all.
Favorite Native Foods’ dessert? The cupcakes are to die for.
What is you favorite type of music? Any favorite musicians? I love hardcore Indian Bhangra. I also adore Reggae. I have always been a big fan of Bob Marley.
Do you like to dance? I love to dance and when I lived in Hawaii even danced Hula competitively. If I could do something else with my life I would love to be a dancer.
What do you do in your free time? These days between promoting two books, building a business, and my family, I have no free time. But, I do love to scrapbook. I would love to get back to it and plan to over the next year.
If you were to come back as an animal what would you like it to be? A giraffe. They seem so elegant and above all the politics of the animal world.
Native Foods Cafe, vegan, vegan food, vegan restaurant, Anupy Singla, Vegan Indan Cooking Cookbook