Krishna Shastry, 33, turned vegan in college, much before he realised the meaning of the term.
The former project manager at Infosys, Mangalore decided to go off milk after self introspection made him debate issue of animal cruelty and the ethics of animal breeding. “It was a year after I made the decision that I realised there were others like me who called themselves vegans,” he says with a laugh.
Fifteen years ago, being a vegan was no easy task. There was a lack of restaurants offering vegan options and supermarkets were unaware of a lifestyle choice that involved giving up animal products. “Going out was painful,” he recalls. “Chefs don’t feel their food is complete unless they put in some animal product or the other, be it ghee, curd, milk etc...I had to resort to cooking my
Now, Shastry never has to face another ‘eating out’ crisis. When he has hunger pangs, he simply eats at his own restaurant — Carrots, that offers an all-vegan menu. The restaurant cum store in Koramangala, Bangalore opened in May this year and is since attracting people eager to test its claim of healthy food being something other than “boring and tasteless”.
“It should taste and look good while adhering to the principle of veganism,” he says.
Carrots’ vegan inclination is proving to be the secret ingredient, making it a popular haunt for patrons. The restaurant buys organically grown produce, though they aren’t 100 per cent organic yet. Chefs don’t fry the food but prefer to steam or roast, using whole grains instead of maida.
Sugar is used sparingly but you can opt for sugar-free options like jaggery or chopped, dried fruits. They also use natural vegetable colours, and avoid buying mass produced ingredients, opting instead to make their own preservative-free sauces, dips and dressings.
“Most people assume that milk is a complete food that provides calcium but they don’t realise that it is packaged with stuff your body doesn’t need. We use different kinds of milk that provide varied nutrition, like coconut, soy, almond, cashew milk, etc,” he says.
The cuisine isn’t restricted to Indian fare though their healthy thali, made with water-based tadkas, is a big hit. Carrots serves everything from pizzas to burgers. In fact, their chickpea burger was a fast seller during a recent tasting session and will soon find mention on the menu. Shastry is on a continuous drive to expand and re-invent the menu while staying within the vegan code.
The restaurant also has a buffet system which allows patrons to pay in correspondence with the weight of the food one has on their plate. This reduces the tendency to waste food, explains Shastry.
In the coming months, the owner hopes to experiment with more raw foods going beyond the usual salad. “In India, veganism is still new and there are many versions and misconceptions about the food. Veganism has different health and environmental benefits and we are still figuring out what appeals to the public’s taste buds,” he says.