Yash Chhabra’s Buffet Of Vegan Flavors

New cookbook by Yash P. Chhabra of Rajput Indian Cuisine boasts 100 plant-based recipes from Cauliflower Manchuria and Onion Pakora to tandoori, lentils, rice, bread, desserts and more

By: Betsy DiJulio | November 1, 2023

Sometimes it takes a while for an idea to, well, marinate. In the case of Dr. Yash P. Chhabra’s new cookbook, it took 15 years. But it was worth the wait for the man behind local favorite Rajput Indian Cuisine.

When I transplanted myself to Virginia Beach in 1990, there was not a single Indian restaurant. Not. One. This Mississippi gal had fallen hard for the cuisine in my adopted town of Nashville where Sunday lunches found me slipping into a booth in a darkened downtown storefront infused with the perfumed aromas of exotic spices and strains of unfamiliar atonal music.

Here in Coastal Virginia, with no such establishments nearer than D.C., there was only one thing to do: purchase an Indian cookbook and teach myself how to create this unrivaled culinary repertoire. For that, I turned to Julie Sahni’s Classic Indian Cooking. Were I again to find myself in a community with no restaurants specializing in this tantalizing gastronomy, it would be to Chhabra’s 100 Indo Vegan Recipes that I would turn.

Chhabra (pictured above, center) is quick to insist that he is not a chef, rather a philanthropic entrepreneur who came to the U.S. more than 25 years ago, studying lodging and food management at Norfolk State University after earning a business degree in Punjab.

While he may not consider himself a chef—and is quick to acknowledge the influence of celebrity chefs like Dr. Vijaya Stallings and Harpal Sokhi, along with his mother, Suman—he has built a reputation as an award-winning recipe developer since 1999 and a decorated restauranteur of Rajput Indian Cuisine, first in Norfolk, followed by locations in Suffolk and Chesapeake. With honors bestowed on him by prime ministers of India, Chhabra serves as head of six different corporations while also maintaining an active social media presence.

In this book, dedicated to the author’s father, the late Sh. Harkesh Chhabra, are 100 recipes, as the title suggests, of plant-based soups and stews, small plates, vegetables, tandoori, lentils and beans, rice, bread, desserts, and vegan shots. There are even gluten- and soy-free recipes, as well as ayurvedic recipes, which are those related to a Hindu system of medicine. Chhabra developed many of these dishes for his restaurants’ monthly Vegan and Vegetarian Buffet Nights which began in 2004 and, later, by popular demand, became Vegan Nights.

The recipes hail from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bengal, Bhutan, Lahore, Myanmar, Nepal, North India, Pakistan, South India, and Sri Lanka and are noted as such. Chapter dividers feature cute graphic illustrations while 50 mouthwatering photos accompany recipes like their most popular dish, Cauliflower Manchuria, and Onion Pakora, otherwise known as the lightest and crispiest fritters in any hemisphere.

There are a number of different reasons why people adopt or even dabble in plant-based cooking. As these recipes attest: it tastes delicious. But other cooks look to the health benefits of a low-fat plant-based diet as advocated by the likes of Dr. Neal D. Barnard, President of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and an adjunct professor of medicine at George Washington University.


New cookbook by Yash P. Chhabra of Rajput Indian Cuisine

Chhabra and Barnard have teamed up over the years for a variety of educational programs, demos and cooking shows. “Here you will find recipes that will broaden your outlook,” Barnard writes in the forward to Chhabra’s cookbook, “enrich your palate, and lead you not just to delicious foods but to precisely the ‘medicine’ you may have been looking for.”

Whether you are an omnivore, a strict vegan, or somewhere in between, you will likely succumb to the mesmerizing magic that is pan-Indian cuisine stirred up in the head and heart of Yash Chhabra.

Learn more at PaulChhabra.com or RajputOnline.com.

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