For many people, the idea of living solely on a plant-based diet that sacrifices all diary, meat and fish might seem a little extreme.
Dimple Khitri, founder of delivery service Being Vegan Dubai, has taken that a step further by going raw vegan.
She’s found that eating a diet of 70 percent raw foods, with only one small cooked meal in the evening, has totally changed her life, both mentally and physically.
Now, she hopes her first cookbook, Being Rawesomely Vegan, will help others discover the benefits of this unique approach to food.
A guilt-free lifestyle
Containing 48 recipes for drinks, main courses, snacks, desserts and dips — all gluten, dairy, sugar, soy and artificial-color free — Dimple is certain that her book includes dishes to excite people of all tastes.
“Vegan food is healthy, satisfying and definitely very tasty, I actually think it’s more delicious than fast food,” she says. “It’s also great for the body and for the environment.”
She first went vegan five years ago, a decision triggered by watching Earthlings, the Netflix documentary chronicling how some of the largest industries in the world exploit animals for food, entertainment, clothing and scientific research.
“I’ve been very spiritual ever since I was a child, and seeing the disturbing scenes in that documentary caused a real change in me,” she explains.
“I’ve been vegetarian for a long time, but from that moment on I became determined to live, lead and breathe a cruelty-free life. I’ve always been a total chocoholic, but I found I would take a bite of chocolate and just feel too guilty to eat it.”
A passion project
She then started experimenting in the kitchen and baking using dairy and sugar alternatives. After receiving glowing reviews of these healthy treats from non-vegan family and friends, she decided to launch her takeaway restaurant, Being Vegan Dubai, about two-and-a-half years ago.
“With Being Vegan, our vision is to help people smoothly transition into a vegan lifestyle by offering lots of delicious options including chocolates, brownies, cakes, dessert jars and now breads and pastries that contain no refined-sugar and gluten. We’re adding to our menu all the time and we can also adapt the recipes for people with specific allergies.
“It’s a passion project designed to open the community’s eyes to the fact you can still enjoy indulgent foods whilst sticking to your values and ethos.”
Since launching her business, she’s noticed a surge in interest for vegan products, from both the UAE hospitality industry and the country’s residents.
“We live in a food capital that has so many options available everywhere: in supermarkets you can find frozen and fresh vegan options; in restaurants, vegan dishes; and in coffee shops, alternative milk substitutes,” she says.
“It’s really quite easy to be vegan these days as long as you put your mind to it and be a bit creative.”
A physical transformation
However, it was after Dimple switched to a raw vegan diet that she really noticed a vast improvement in her health.
“Your body will tell you when food doesn’t suit you, you just have to slow down and listen to it,” she explains.
“I used to have a lot of severe allergies. I was swelling up, fainting and being sick a lot. It was terrible. So, I kind of self-diagnosed myself and decided instinctively to eat a diet that was mainly raw fruits and vegetables.
“It took me about 10 days to notice a difference. My energy levels skyrocketed, my allergies were under control and my skin was glowing — my friends were all asking me which spa I was going to. Not only did I feel physically healthy but I was also happier within myself because of my cruelty-free choices.”
From restauranteur to author
Dimple used her time during lockdown to write a book featuring all the raw recipes that she had created for herself.
The selection is designed to be suitable for those who are new to cooking and appeal to people of all ages, even kids. She just recommends getting in some staples like salt, pepper, cumin, chili flakes and nutritional yeast.
“I have a nine-year-old daughter, and trust me, she gobbles up so many of the dishes in minutes, particularly the pad Thai [recipe below]. All my sauces are homemade, whether it’s thousand island dressing or pad Thai sauce. It’s all natural and additive free.”
For the hot summer season, she particularly recommends her Indian thandai, which literally means cool drink in Hindi, as well as her stuffed bell peppers and her raspberry tart.
“Anyone who thinks vegan food is boring and bland clearly hasn’t tried proper vegan,” she says.
“The only way to persuade people is to have them try it for themselves. For instance, so many people can’t believe that my cheese dip isn’t made with actual cheese. It’s a real party favorite.”
Her dishes draw inspiration from all kinds of different cuisines. Sushi, hummus, banana satay, dates ladoo and chia pudding, to name but a few, are all featured in her collection.
All the nutrients she needs
While some diets, such as keto, choose to omit carbohydrates, Dimple includes them in her recipes.
“I do try to choose ‘better’ carbohydrates like whole grains and vegetables, but I don’t believe in cutting them out entirely,” she says.
“I’m confident that I’m getting all the essential nutrients that my body requires. I feel a lot less lethargic in everyday life, and vegan food is light on the gut too. It’s really given me a new zest for life.”
Recipe: Pad Thai Noodles
Makes 950 grams
Gluten free, dairy free, refined-sugar free, soy free, artificial food color free.
- 3 cups zoodles (spiralized zucchini)
- 1 cup spiralized carrot
- 1 cup bean sprouts
- 1 cup shredded purple cabbage
- 1 cup red bell pepper sliced
For the dressing:
- 3 tbsps peanut butter
- 1 tsp ginger, garlic, chilli paste
- 1 red chili chopped
- 3 and 1/2 tbsps powdered jaggery
- 3 tbsps tamari sauce
- 2 tbsps sriracha sauce
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 2 tsps rice vinegar
- Salt to taste
- 2 tbsps chopped green onions
For the garnishing:
- 1 tsp chopped peanuts
- A few bean sprouts
- 1 red chilli chopped
- 1 tbsp chopped green onions
1 Soak the bean sprouts in water for 10 mins and then drain the water out.
2 In a bowl, add the zoodles, spiralized carrots, bean sprouts, shredded purple cabbage, sliced bell pepper. Keep aside.
3 To make the dressing, in a separate bowl add peanut butter, ginger garlic and chili paste, chopped red chilies, powdered jaggery, tamari sauce, sriracha sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, salt, green onions. Mix well with the help of a spoon.
4 Pour in the dressing onto the zoodle mix.
5 Mix well with your hands.
6 Transfer to a serving dish.
7 Sprinkle some peanuts, green onions, red chillies and bean sprouts.
8 Serve as is.
Harriet Shephard is an Abu Dhabi-based copywriter and freelance journalist with a particular focus on fitness, travel and lifestyle, which, along with good food, also happen to be her main passions when she's not typing away at her laptop.