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Thursday, February 16, 2012

‘Organic Sansar’ Vegan-friendly Store, Indore

It is all organic and largely vegan. This post is about Indore’s first organic food store – Organic Sansar.

The Big Picture

To put things in perspective, organic farming has been practiced in India since ancient times. Simply put, organic farming is a method of growing crops that excludes the use of synthetic inputs such as pesticides, chemical fertilizers, genetically-modified seeds, hormones, antibiotics, and so on and instead uses organic wastes and beneficial microbes or biofertilizers as manure, and crop rotation, biological pest control, and mechanical cultivation as some of the techniques to grow the crops. Post Independence, the “Green Revolution”, to support India’s growing population and meet food deficits created by natural (and human-made) calamities, had introduced hybrid seeds, chemical fertilizers, and chemical pesticides to the vast expanses of land acquired for cultivation.

However, this project was neither “green” nor revolutionary as studies conducted by one among the forerunners of the organic movement in India, Navdanya point out. Stress caused to the farmer by the loss of control over land, income, and decision-making in the early years of the green revolution, to farmer suicides owing to the combined effects of first, globalization and then, genetically-engineered seeds, (source) rendered the “revolution” quite bloody.

By and by, more studies emerged that confirmed the decline in soil fertility and nutritional value of crops due to this “green” revolution. During the 1980s, a call was sounded to usher in a chemical-free green revolution, a “revolution” in the true sense of the word. Since then, the path has been fraught with many struggles; nevertheless, it has been an uphill path leading us back to our roots.

You can click this link for a compilation of the benefits of food obtained through organic farming practices from the wonderful blog, veg4planet.

Organic Sansar Brief History

Organic Sansar was initiated by Mr. Ashish Kataria and his younger sibling, Mr. Manish Kataria in late 2010. Both Ashish and Manish hold University degrees in Business Management with Ashish having specialized in Agribusiness and Manish in Information Technology. The brothers are well versed with organic farming techniques. They have chosen to combine their formal education with their vision of a healthy society to give birth to Organic Sansar. Through Organic Sansar, the brothers strive to drive home the message of the power of organically-grown food. All products at Organic Sansar are certified organic and are obtained from over 150 project locations where nearly 3,00,000 certified farmers are currently producing over 300 crops. You can view all the certifications by clicking this link on the store website.

So, when Mr. Manish Kataria, wrote to us with an introduction to his store, the information was much appreciated. What we appreciated the most was that Manish had made a special reference to the vegan products at his store. And well, most of them are!

Organic Sansar Products

Here is a glimpse of the products available at Organic Sansar: grains (includes red and brown rice), pulses, spices, cooking oils (coconut, flaxseed, groundnut, mustard, sesame, soya, sunflower, and extra virgin coconut oil used by many vegans as an ethical and extremely healthy, tasty parallel to ghee), juices, jams, pickles, jaggery, organic herbs, dry fruits, green tea, and so on. Besides, Organic Sansar also has on offer organic-vegan hair care solutions and body soaps. For the detailed product list, you can click this link on the store website.

Organic Sansar Contact Details

Please click this link on the store website for the address and telephone numbers of the store and the store timings. Think Organic. Think Vegan. That is where the Earth is headed!

“Most chronic illnesses have been earned from a lifetime of inferior nutrition, which eventually results in abnormal function or frequent discomfort. These illnesses are not beyond our control, they are not primarily genetic, and they are not the normal consequence of aging. True, we all have our weakest links governed by genetics; but these weak links need never reveal themselves unless our health deteriorates. Superior health flows naturally as a result of superior nutrition. Our predisposition to certain illnesses can remain hidden.” ~Dr. Joel Fuhrman, M.D., Author Eat to Live~

For more vegan-friendly stores reviewed in this blog, you can click this link.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

‘Tomatina’ Vegetarian Multi-cuisine Restaurant, Bangalore and Mysore

For more vegan-friendly restaurants reviewed in this blog, you can click this link.

It was a cool, lazy evening in November last year when we had walked into the six-day old, all vegetarian, extremely vegan-friendly restaurant, Tomatina in Bangalore. The Master Chef and the Manager had greeted us warmly and approached us to inquire what we may like to order. We took the opportunity to share with them that we are vegan; what would they have for us? We were delighted that our request was instantly understood by the Master Chef who had a stint in a hotel in The Maldives serving vegan food to European guests. He offered to make us a customized vegan platter that evening. Despite feeling very satisfied with the food, we felt we hadn’t quite had enough of Tomatina… but why?

The Tomatina menu is quite vast actually and frankly, we felt quite overwhelmed by the possibilities. We returned to Tomatina a couple of times more and the last trip was made with a Bangalore-based vegan friend, Isabel. We were very lucky to have Isabel this time for she helped us decide what to order including the possible permutations and combinations that we can make, with her exemplary understanding of world cuisine! What came off it was an extremely enjoyable and fulfilling dining experience. Below is a firsthand account of the lunch by Isabel accompanied by photographs; we hope it will help you get some useful pointers on how one can do a little tweaking in the menu to get vegan food almost anywhere.
What I liked about Tomatina was the extensive menu. Diners are spoiled for choice – there are the usual Indian dishes (mostly North Indian and there's even a Jain section), a great selection of Pan-Asian dishes (many with tofu!), and Mediterranean dishes including fresh salads. The Master Chef is familiar with vegan and was happy to make suggestions and veganize the dishes for us.

Veganized Tomato Basil Soup

We started with a Tomato Basil Soup that was too sweet for my taste but I find that soups served in India are usually on the sweet side. We were excited to try the Tomatina Special Salad because of its unique ingredients – cherry tomatoes with tri-color melon balls, basil leaves, and rocket (also known by its Italian name, arugula). Few restaurants have rocket on their menus so whenever I come across it, I always order it without fail. But we were out of luck, rocket was not available so we settled for the Greek Salad that was veganized for us by omitting the feta cheese. The salad of cucumber, red-yellow-and-green peppers (capsicum), red onions, and black and green olives was fresh and delicious.

Veganized Greek Salad
Veganized Sizzler
Phad Taohu Med Mamuang and MethiRoti

The Master Chef encouraged us to try a Sizzler that he customized especially for us. The zucchini, carrots, and tomatoes were grilled to perfection. This was served with a vegetable cutlet, baked potatoes, and French fries. We also tried the Methi Roti sprinkled with sesame seeds. It was crisp and delicious.

For the main course, we ordered the Phad Taohu Med Mamuang – a Thai dish with cashew nuts in a spicy gravy and some rice. The tofu was tender and the vegetables were not overcooked, but just right.

Thank you, Isabel! And for more information on Tomatina, you can click here for the link to the restaurant website.

How to reach Tomatina

Tomatina currently has two operational restaurants, one each in Bangalore and Mysore. For the complete address and telephone numbers of the two restaurants, you can click this link on the Tomatina website. Tomatina is open from 11am till 11pm, all seven days of the week.

Menu and offers from Tomatina

You can click here on the Zomato website for the online version of the Tomatina a la carte menu. The restaurant also offers a buffet lunch from Monday to Friday available between 12noon and 3:30pm. The buffet costs Rs.225/- per person. Besides, Tomatina also offers an all-vegetarian banquet hall that provides food and other services for personal events and corporate gatherings. 

USP of Tomatina

Multi-cuisine vegetarian restaurant, extremely vegan-friendly with a vast range of dishes to choose from! Many dishes are already vegan while most are willingly veganized by the very courteous, knowledgeable, and helpful staff. The Master Chef is familiar with vegan cooking. The quality of the vegetables is very high; most of it is procured fresh from the Namdhari’s farms. What is even better is that if you’re throwing a vegan party for your friends, you could call Tomatina one day in advance and they can whip up some amazing vegan dishes for you. Being Vegan has never been easier.

A cultural shift towards a plant-based whole foods diet would have enormous benefits. For the vast majority of people, it would mean far healthier lives. It would not only mean less heart disease, fewer cancers, and far less obesity; it would also mean far more vibrant, thriving, energetic, creative people. It would mean there was less fear of growing old and fewer families broken apart by the premature death of loved ones. For immense numbers of people, it would mean less suffering and more joy.” ~John Robbins in his book, The Food Revolution~ (John Robbins was the heir to Baskin-Robbins, the world's largest ice cream company; but he rejected it to live according to his own values.)