A traditional Gujarati dish called patra is made with colabasia leaves in India, which are lovely large green leaves. Here’s an example of a traditional recipe which has nice step by step pictures.
I’ve adapted the recipe to use collard greens that are rich in bioavailable calcium and other important nutrients and easily available in North America and omit frying with oil. I like my patra hot and freshly steamed, no oil necessary.
Wash the collards after cutting the thick stems
Then make a Chickpea flour paste:
1 cup chana flour 2 tsp salt ½ tsp cayenne pepper (marchu) ¼ tsp dried turmeric (hardar) ¼ tsp garam masala 1 tsp cumin and coriander powder (dhanu jeeru) pinch baking soda
Add water to form a paste and apply on the collard leaves. It should be a little thicker than pictured below.
Stack the leaves on top of one another, with the largest leaves farther back.
Roll them up and steam them for a long time. I steam them in the Instant pot, about 15 minutes manual pressure cooking. You could use other steamers too.
Below is how they look after i steamed and cut them. You’ll see some prettier versions on the more professional recipe sites, but they taste just as good if they’re not as tightly wrapped.
You can adjust the seasonings per your taste. Sprinkle on some sesame seeds or coconut flakes if you like.
I was born in the state of North Carolina in the US. Every meal I had up until about four years ago had body parts, animal secretions or both in them. This is still seen as normal, especially in the south of the country. You see, in the south, there is a whole culture, one where people proudly display stickers andlicense plates on their cars and trucks with pictures of happy pigs along with the word “barbeque”. There are billboards on the sides of roads advertising things like steak, cheeseburgers, chicken, tacos, fish, milkshakes… On and on it goes, billboard after billboard after billboard, all of them screaming out to us, “In the name of our profits and your desires, participate in this violence!”. The same message over and over again one after the other. Not only do we have billboards screaming these messages at us, but, for some reason, the advertisers seem to think the more body parts and secretions they put between two slices of bread, the better these things they are advertising will be to those that consume them. In actuality, there is a culture of more (more violence/more harm) equals better, and many restaurants in the country are cashing in because of it.
About four years ago I went vegan. Why? I saw footage from a film called “Earthlings”. This film is not for the faint of heart, as it dives deep into the dark details,showing us what goes on in the hidden places that the meat industry, dairy industry, and fishing industry need to thrive. By the way, a little sidenote here about the dairy industry, something that is important to know: the meat industry and dairy industry are tied together, not exactly two separate industries as many seem to think, they are pretty much one and the same. More here on that.
Now, back to the film… What changed my heart, the thing that went deep into me, was seeing a cow in a slaughter chute on her way into the area of the slaughterhouse where they put a bolt through her skull. Can you imagine the fear she was experiencing, the trauma? I couldn’t help but think of the smells, the sounds, the things she saw, what was happening inside her mind and body because of all this. I didn’t know what to do with what I was deeply experiencing due to this, so I did the only thing I knew to do, I paced the floor. Back and forth. Back and forth. Back and forth. My whole body felt like it was quaking. That day I made the decision to never participate in any of these things again, and I never did. Fast forward to the year 2020. This is where Jainism enters the picture.
Dr. Brianne Donaldson, scholar of Jainism, recently wrote an article about the cultural blindness of our response to slaughterhouse workers. In the Covid19 pandemic, the mental health of farmers was deemed worthy to support. However, “essential” slaughterhouse workers are traumatized every day.
As she says, ” If killing animals is this traumatic, why have anyone do it? Far from “essential” business, slaughterhouse work destroys animals and corrodes the well-being of people. Since nearly all humans living in the industrialized world can live well and healthy without animal flesh, the time has come to transition away from a practice widely acknowledged to be a source of personal trauma and social harm.”
She also gave an engaging 40 minute interview the role of animal agriculture in the Covid19 pandemic.
As Dr. Donaldson describes, it is often immigrants and refugees that work in slaughterhouses. Back when I worked on refugee health, I, too found that the resettlement agencies in NC had placed the refugees from Asia into slaughterhouse jobs.
I try to eliminate both plastic packaging and eat local and vegan. This quiz tells us that it would take 11 years of minimizing plastic to achieve the same climate benefiting effects as going vegetarian. We know that going vegan is even better! Here’s the reference
The article accompanying the quiz makes the important point that we can choose to prioritize those actions that make the most impact on the climate; in addition to choosing a vegetarian diet, limiting airplane trips, having less children. They also note that those in the US and Canada contribute far more to climate change than those in India. However, authors of the Lancet article cited in this NY Times piece suggest that poor people in countries such as India NEED animal protein. Iron deficiency anemia is an example of a micro-nutrient deficiency that people recommend meat eating to address; however that can create iron overload in a way that plant iron in green leafy vegetables and nuts do not. While Jains will not make these arguments for eating meat, we do the same regarding milk. It is the type of argument that a Jain sadhvi made about why she does not recommend veganism to the community. “They don’t have access to green smoothies”, was her variation on the theme.
This is our cultural blind spots at work. We can summon the will to transform our agricultural system to cultivate a greater variety of plants, and to reform our economic system to ensure that people have access to enough quantity and variety of food, including a variety of sources of plant proteins and sufficient micro-nutrients, including iron. Let’s not fall into the trap of assuming that traditions of cruelty and convenience are the only way to meet human needs.
We have just posted the Jain declaration on the climate crisis as a new page. Please read and consider it and on this day of Samvatsari for Svetambar Jains, consider if you’d like to endorse it and make any commitments. There is an endorse button at the top of the page. Above for illustrative purposes only. This is not the pledge associated with the Jain declaration.
Sailesh Rao of Climate Healers places our going vegan as the #1 thing we can do for the plant.
The book Drawdown and its associated website gives details of solutions in all different sectors.
My co-author, Sudhanshu, also describes the top 8 items you can do to address the climate crisis. Continue reading →
At the last JAINA convention in 2019, I had the great honor of meeting and interviewing Shree Charukeerthi Bhattarak Panditacharyavarya Swami about ahimsa as the guidine principle for Jains to should consider veganism. He explains the lineage of other monks and teachers such as Chitrabhanuji that have inspired him. His gentle style “No force”, is a beautiful example of how we can encourage each other.
Vegan Jains went to India in November 2019 for a trip that combined medical care volunteering near Hyderabad, visiting a palliative care organization in Trivandram, visiting tourist sites up the Kerala coast, including the Mata Amritamaya Ashram, and then visiting family in Mumbai. From the traditional vegetarian food which had plenty of vegan options to unique vegan restaurants, to hotel breakfasts and specialties made by family, we found that those who catered to travelers had all heard of the word vegan, family was accustomed to preparing food vegan, and the level of spice and oil, as well as food safety when eating out were bigger concerns than veganism.
We flew Air India on the way and were pretty disappointed by the bland food on the long transpacific flight. However, I was delighted when upgraded to first class on the Delhi-Hyd leg AND, they had extra vegan meals so i could eat a nice Indian dinner. Arriving at the Novotel airport hotel, the breakfast buffet offered temptations that flew right in the face of eating with restraint! Made to order split mung crepes, called pesarattu, as well as the more usual south Indian specialities of idli and dosa, as well as North indian breads such as cauliflower parathas along with fruit and nut loaded oatmeal, toast with vegan bread, soymilk and juice and all manner of international dishes left me full for the day.
Eating with our fellow volunteers in rural districts around Hyderabad, we were able to avoid the yogurt (curd in India) ladled up by our colleague in the photo at the top, and still enjoy the dal, squash,mixed veg curry, chappati, rice and peeled cucumbers. There was a whole article on how Hyderabad was voted the most vegan friendly city in India and at the end of the trip we got to go to Smar Alec’s, an all vegan restaurant.
This is a guest post by Sunny Jain an MBA Candidate who is a leader in US Young Jain Professionals
I’ve heard the story one too many times of my vegan friends
abandoning their diet while visiting India either due to misinformation or
perceived difficulty. Some would say it’s too difficult and would rather just
enjoy food there, and others falsely believe that the dairy industry in India
is humane (would be interested in educating you if you’re one of those people
spreading fake news).
Before my trip to India, I decided that I would be the one to
break this mold and wouldn’t give in like everyone else does, and I readied my
battle armor as I boarded my flight.
10 days in, I found being vegan in India extremely reasonable
and not as awful as I originally thought it would be. In addition to eating
lavishly and trying almost any and every street food I laid my eyes on, I had
the opportunity to attend Mumbai’s first and largest vegan food festival.
Here are a few tips I want to share with those who plan to remain vegan while in India:
Dealing with Aunties and Uncles
Don’t hesitate to speak up and tell them in advance what you can
and can’t eat. To them, it’s like some unusual variation of the Jain diet
that they may not entirely comprehend
Aunties are notorious for being pushy and persistent when it comes
to eating home-cooked food, but they’ll respect your dietary restrictions
without question (at the end of the day, you’re the guest and they want to
cater to you!)
Just say: “no doodh (milk) and no ghee (butter)”
By default, food labeled “vegetarian” in India doesn’t have eggs
in it, so it’s just a matter of avoiding butter and milk
The Plane Ride to India
When purchasing to your flight, you’ll have an option to request a vegan meal. Depending on the airlines, you may have to do some digging and click the “Extras” tab to select a special meal type, ask for VGML, this is an international airline code for vegan meals.
Important: You must request a vegan meal 24 hours in advance before the flight or you will be out of luck
If that happens, just let the flight attendant know (they’re usually super accommodating and will find something for you – even if it’s as little as providing you with snacks and fruits/vegetables during the flight)
The vegan meal I received was delicious: quinoa rice with tofu and red sauce, a fruit cup, salad with vegan ranch dressing, bread, and vegan butter
It was so fire that I took a photo of it just to share on social media
If you’re able to survive the first connecting flight, the airport in Amsterdam has great vegan options
Soy Milk (“Soya Milk” in India)
The first thing you’ll want to do when you reach in India is get a
hold of soy milk wherever you’re staying
This is important because you’re going to be offered chai
multiple times a day so it’s good to let them know in advance to make it with
One option is to either ask your family in India to get some in
advance before you arrive, or you can buy some yourself
Soy milk is very accessible and readily available
Can be found at almost any decently big grocery store. If you
can’t find it at a location, just walk next door because all the grocery stores
tend to be next door to each other
I found regular unsweetened soy milk, chocolate soy milk,
hazelnut milk, and rice milk
When converted to USD, you’ll spend about 6 bucks a box
I would recommend getting a few extra boxes to last your time there. Vegan milk doesn’t spoil so it makes sense to stock up
SoFit Soya Milk is a famous Indian soymilk brand endorsed by John Abraham
Pau Bhaji is a staple street food you’re going to want to indulge
in. However, it’s usually served drowning in butter
I watched in disgust as a street vendor tossed entire slabs of
butter (un-human amounts) into the Pau Bhaji, and used another slab of butter
to wipe down with pau
There’s legit more butter swimming in it than actual bhaji
Fortunately, there’s an easy workaround which will allow you to enjoy street Pau Bhaji without the animal cruelty. It is completely acceptable to demand Pau Bhaji with no butter (remember: they’re catering to you, not vice versa). Tell them what you want, and 9 times out of 10 they’ll deliver
In their continuous process of making and replenishing bhaji, they’ll just serve you bhaji from the batch they cook before adding butter. This goes for pau as well.
Indian McDonald’s and Burger King
Request any veggie burger or wrap and subtract the cheese and mayonnaise
I would choose a food item that comes with other stuff like tomatoes and lettuce so you don’t end up with a plain burger with just the patty and onions (those burgers are already pretty simple as is)
If you’re a daring and adventurous foodie like I am, try out the Maharaja Mac
Ask a nearby Aunty about which desserts have ghee or made with milk. Should knock out about 75 percent of your options, but you’ll always find something worthwhile
For me, it was Kaju Katri and fresh Jalebi cooked in oil
Avoid sweets with Warakh (the silver coating on top) because it’s associated with animal cruelty
Vegan Friendly Indian food
Below are some great food items I tried in India which are vegan
South Indian food
Home Food (Moong, Daal, Sabji)
Burger King Burgers
Pau Bhaji (without Butter)
Feeding Biscuits to Stray Dogs
This is something I wish I realized early in my trip and recommend
to all my friends
Purchase a few packs of biscuits and carry it around wherever you go
Comes at about 10 rupees at any stall or store (converts to mere
pennies in USD)
As you travel and explore the city, hand biscuits to any stray dogs
These poor dogs on the streets are malnourished and hungry/thirsty,
and will gladly accept any food you give them
You can just place them on
the floor and make a kissing sound to get their attention
Jain ascetics are increasingly recognizing the violence inherent in dairy products and speaking out.
In this video, Sadhvi Vaibhavshree discusses the question “Being a Jain and a follower of nonviolence, should I consume milk or not? I am confused as my family and I do want to drink milk and I am not sure what to do.” Her talk is in Hindi. Thanks to Prof. Pankaj Jain for rendering the translation (to which i have made minimal changes, including re-ordering her ideas to emphasize her “big reveal”).
You will be surprised today. I am going to reveal a big truth for the Jain society. In the Jain sutras, dairy products are called vigai and are prohibited in our shastras. Even root vegetables are actually not prohibited in our texts. In the 16th and 17th chapters of Uttaradhyayan, Sthananga Sutra, dairy products are prohibited. It is mentioned that such products cause sexual desires so a spiritual seeker should avoid them. An ascetic consuming milk or yogurt cannot remain an ascetic and will become sinful. However, today, our Jain society does not renounce milk that is a product of five-sensed beings but some of us do renounce root vegetables that are products of one-sensed beings. We should prioritize avoiding the violence to five-sensed beings before worrying about violence to one-sensed beings. We make excuses about nonviolence but refuse to change our habits of consuming dairy products. I am sorry to say this. If one wants to practice nonviolence, start from self, be free from attachments and aversions, and avoid the stress. When we commit violence to ourselves, we also commit violence to the entire universe, according to Lord Mahavira in Acharang Sutra. Violence to one is violence to all.