Plant-based fish fillets to potato cheese, Chennai's vegan kitchens are upping the ante on flavour experiments

Here is a curated list of some of the newest and most curious plates that the city has to offer the plant-based food community
Plant-based fish fillets to potato cheese, Chennai's vegan kitchens are upping the ante on flavour experiments

If you’re thinking about going vegan, there couldn’t be a better time to do it than right now. Previously, reasons to make the switch included animal welfare and lactose intolerance; but COVID-19 seems to have only added momentum to this lifestyle choice. Kunal Mutha, CEO of Singaporean plant-based beverage brand Only Earth, which launched in May this year, says, “The pandemic has accelerated the growth of plant-based products in India as consumers have become more health-focused and have become conscious eaters. By 2025, the plant-based milk market is projected to cross the USD 60 Million mark.” From big industry players to the humble home chef, here is a curated list of some of the newest and most curious plates that Chennai has to offer the plant-based food community.

<em>Plant-based chicken</em>
Plant-based chicken

Soya got some chicken? 
These plant-based meats look like the real deal. And impressively, boast a shelf life of 12 months. Moky, a startup which was launched in December last year by former software professional Sasi Dharan (26), prepares chicken chunks with a bite and texture suited to whip up a crispy  Chicken 65 or homestyle biryani. “We use pea and soya protein isolates, coconut oil, ragi and wheat flour,” the founder reveals some of the base ingredients. Thaw just like regular meat. Look out for variants like Fish fillets as well as Delhi’s popular street food Soya Chaap. Frozen and non-frozen options available. 250 gms at INR 200, 1 kg at INR 750. Order online.

<em>Veggie thin crust pizza with garlic white sauce made with cashew cream</em>
Veggie thin crust pizza with garlic white sauce made with cashew cream

Tofu fighting 
Lasagne made with tofu and cashew ricotta. Plant-based fish curry prepped with banana blossoms and coconut milk. Gluten-free pizza with bases crafted out of sweet potato topped with vegan mozzarella. Aakaariyaa’s vegan menu delivers an assortment of cuisines to your doorstep. Founder and holistic health coach Deepali Nichani (22) tells us that she relaunched her three-year-old venture last year, going completely vegan because she couldn’t serve foods she didn’t eat herself. After hits like her ‘sushi sandwich’ made with grilled tofu, pickled ginger and radish and vegan mayo, look out for her millet-based pasta bowls with options like Mac and Cheese, Sun-dried Tomato and Lemon Garlic Alfredo launched earlier this month. Available by subscription or from the ready-to-order menu. Order on Instagram. Pizzas at INR 450, lasagne at INR 400, sushi sandwiches at INR 580.

<em>Peri peri spiced sesame seed cheese</em>
Peri peri spiced sesame seed cheese

Open sesame
You’ve likely heard of vegan cheeses made of cashew. But Shalini Padmanabhan of The Veganator takes it a step further for the benefit of those with nut allergies. Launched earlier this week, order an artisanal platter of her dairy-free and nut-free alternatives like creamy potato cheese and semi-soft sunflower seed cheese with jalapenos for a hit of tang and beet water for a touch pink. Use on crackers, grilled sandwiches and pizza. “My personal favourite is our sesame seed cheese with a dab of peri peri spice,” Shalini shares. Apart from its depth of flavour, she says, it also serves up a host of delicious health benefits. “A hundred grams of sesame seeds provide 975 milligrams of calcium. 100 ml of milk offers only 125 milligrams. Sesame seeds also contain essential phytonutrients that help in lowering cholesterol levels, apart from strengthening bones,” says Shalini who works in collaboration with nutritionist Shiny Surendran. INR 250 to INR 350 for between 150 gms and 250 gms. Shelf life: 10 days. Order via Instagram.

<em>Oat milk</em>
Oat milk

Oat of milk?
Architect Sahana Raj (29) began to start making almond milk for her diabetic dad a few years ago. And this is what led to the start of brand Nutmilk Chennai with eight flavours including Vanilla almond, Oat raisin and Oat coconut milks, nearly a year ago. “In comparison to boxed milk which has only two to four per cent almond/oat content we use a 15-17 per cent almond/oat content in our milk,” says Sahana. For hygiene purposes, she tells us that these are delivered by their own delivery team in thermal insulated bags filled with ice packing. With the pandemic encouraging more people to eat healthy — Sahana just dropped a brand new section of nut butters (almond, peanut, hazelnut and chocolate hazelnut) and granola (with nuts, berries, oats, wheat bran and amaranth) is planned in the coming weeks. Nut milks at INR 250 to INR 400 for 500 ml, nut butters at INR 350 to INR 650 for 250 gms and granola at INR 300 to INR 400. By subscription or order a day in advance, via Instagram.

Planet right
Singapore-led Only Earth hopes to counter climate by encouraging folks to change their diet. “Food production accounts for 26 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions,” points out Kunal Mutha, CEO of the recently launched plant-based beverage brand. To be a part of the solution, the entrepreneur and ironman athlete turned vegan two years ago and conceived this brand. The ethos behind their products is that while we need food and can’t stop producing it, we can change how we go about it. “We dedicate 83 percent of our farmland to livestock which provides only 18 percent of our calories,” Kunal adds. While no farmlands are used for their dairy-free products (currently oat and coconut milk), this is no small operation. Their clean ingredient list includes oats sourced from Scandinavian countries, coconuts from Thailand and almonds from Europe (almond milk is planned for early October). Available online. 
One litre priced at INR 300.


<em>Mocha Chocolate Vrappie</em>
Mocha Chocolate Vrappie

Coffee break
What happens when you put together a barista husband and a wife with lactose intolerance? Vegan frappés, that’s what. Uma and Jeya Suriya began their outfit Wegun with plant milks back in 2019, but it wasn’t until this year that they began rolling out plant-based beverages like Mocha Chocolate Vrappie (locally sourced coffee beans and a blend of hazelnut, cashews and almonds) and Gulkand Lassi (cashew and almond milk). “Our lassis and buttermilk tastes exactly the same as the dairy ones,” says a proud Jeya. With something new on the menu planned every month, also look out for their recently launched cheese blocks (made of cashew milk and no oil) in flavours like oregano, peri peri, tandoori and sun-dried tomatoes. INR 150 for 75 gms. Barista Blends and Vrappies at  INR 100, Lassis at INR 75. All 200 ml. Shelf life of milks are three days; lassi, buttermilk, curd, cheese are two weeks.

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