Exploring Indian Cuisine with Sheil Shukla

We had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Sheil Shukla about his work, food, traditional Indian culture, and Asian American and Pacific Islander Month. We hope you enjoy this interview.

Tell us a little about your work and career.
My name is Sheil Shukla, DO, and I am a board-certified internal medicine physician at Northwestern Medicine in Illinois. I’m the creator behind @plantbasedartist on Instagram and the author of the vegan cookbook. plant based india (published in August 2022), which was named one of The New York Times Best Cookbooks of 2022 and Nominated for the 2023 James Beard Foundation Book Award.

As a doctor, what do you imagine is the way forward to encourage people to include more fruits and vegetables in their diets?
As a primary care physician, I believe one way to encourage greater consumption of fruits and vegetables is to educate the medical community about the benefits of a plant-based diet. When patients hear this information from their doctors and other healthcare providers, I think many may be receptive to it. I believe it is more important now than ever to combat the diet and nutrition misinformation that permeates social and traditional media.

What key message would you like to share with our audience about nutrition and public health?
Nutrition plays an incredibly powerful role in public health. Beyond increasing awareness of the benefits of a plant-based diet, I believe more resources should be directed toward widespread access to healthy foods and addressing food deserts. Additionally, I look forward to the day when medical providers are equally equipped to counsel their patients about nutrition as they do about pharmacotherapy.

What are some plant-based ingredients and vegan dishes that you would like to highlight as traditional to your culture?
The wide variety of spices and legumes is undoubtedly a highlight of Indian culture. Not only are these ingredients incredibly rich in nutrients, but they also form the backbone of plant-based Indian cuisine. Some of my favorite spices include cumin, coriander, fennel, and turmeric, and some of my favorite legumes include mung beans, black chickpeas, and red lentils, all of which are used widely in Indian cooking.

What does AAPI Month mean to you and how important is it to the work you do?
AAPI Month draws attention to the incredibly diverse and vibrant AAPI community. For me, it means learning from those around me and sharing more about my culture and heritage with others. We are all better when we share and grow together.

Please tell us a little about your book, plant based india.
plant based india documents my culinary heritage: the recipes and techniques that have been passed down in my family for generations. It highlights the vegetal aspects of Indian cuisine, in a way that is accessible to the Western kitchen and pantry. My cookbook includes over 100 hearty Indian and Indian-inspired recipes that I developed and photographed myself.

Gājjar No Halvo Baked Oatmeal

Serves 2 to 4
Preparation time 10 minutes
Time to cook 30 minutes

Gājjar no halvo, also known as gājjar kā halwā, is a dessert made from grated carrots slowly cooked in milk and sugar. Its comforting warmth will calm you on any cold day. A nutritious dessert rich in anti-inflammatory compounds, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids, this dish outperforms even the largest breakfasts. Putting everything in the oven makes the process much easier. Feel free to top with warm non-dairy milk and a splash of maple syrup after baking to thin the consistency and sweeten it.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (100 g) old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax seeds
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • A pinch of grated nutmeg
  • 1½ cups (360 ml) unsweetened soy milk or other non-dairy milk
  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed (about ¾ cup/180 g)
  • 2 carrots, grated (about ¾ cup/75 g)
  • 5 Medjool dates, finely chopped (about ½ cup/75 g)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla paste
  • ⅓ cup (40 g) chopped raw nuts, such as almonds, pistachios, or walnuts
  • Unsweetened soy milk, heated
  • A pinch of ground cinnamon

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C).
  2. Mix oats, flax, chia, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and nutmeg in a large bowl until well combined.
  3. Add the soy milk, bananas, carrots, dates, vanilla and half of the chopped walnuts and mix until well combined.
  4. Transfer mixture to an 8 to 9-inch (20 to 23 cm) round, square, or oval baking dish. Sprinkle with the remaining nuts and bake until the oats and carrots are tender, about 30 minutes.
  5. Serve hot with a little warm soy milk and a pinch of ground cinnamon. Store leftovers in the refrigerator for a few days and reheat with more milk as needed.

Recipe of Plant-Based India: Nutritious Recipes Rooted in Tradition © Dr. Sheil Shukla, 2022. Reprinted with permission from The Experiment. Available everywhere books are sold. theexperimentpublishing.com

For more information from Dr. Shukla, check out www.sheilshukla.com and @plantbasedartist on Instagram.

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