Not all superheroes wear capes, some wear aprons. Meet Priyansh Parekh, a young Dubai-based vegan chef and planet warrior, who is turning eggs and meat green with just one aim, to save the planet.
It was the shock he felt by the destruction caused during the 2019 Amazon rainforest fire that inspired the young Indian student to go vegan. Why? Because the fire was a result of human activities like clearing lands for farming and cattle rearing.
A student of design at the University of Melbourne, Parekh began his journey from being a vegetarian to turning vegan in 2020. His Instagram account, @theprunchkitchen, was born that year. The unique name is a portmanteau or a mix, of the first three letters of his name – Pri and brunch, Parekh explained to the Food by Gulf News team.
COVID-19 had started to make its presence felt, so he started juggling online classes and developing vegan recipes, preparing for pop-ups, and evolving his kitchen.
“I missed the lockdown phase where everybody was cooking up a storm and posting on Instagram, because I was stuck in Australia, where I had no access to a kitchen,” he said. However, this gave the budding vegan chef an opportunity to work on his website and branding with his friends.
Eggs the vegan way…
Scroll through his Instagram feed and see shakshuka, fried chicken, beet burger, shawarma, gajar halwa pancakes (Indian carrot pudding) and many global meat dishes, in their vegan avatar.
Veganism is essentially vegetarianism without any dairy products.
The traditional sunny side up eggs in shakshuka, a North African and Middle Eastern dish, against a base of red tomatoes, look like “I want to take a bite right now” kind of tempting. But, it is surprising to see how this 21-year-old chef recreates shakshuka, egg free. Instead, he recreates eggs using tofu and halved yellow cherry tomatoes.
So the next time someone says what’s shakshuka without eggs? Say, a vegan shakshuka!
A user, @nsgg_vegan commented on the vegan shakshuka post: “I had to look twice.” To which Priyansh replied: “It really is a show stopper.”
Family and “showing love”
Born and raised in Dubai, Parekh’s family roots are tied to Gujarat, a state in Western India. Like many cultures and traditions passed on, his appreciation for food is home grown.
As a kid, the young chef recalls that his lunch boxes were always well compartmentalised, with varieties of food every day, making other children want it too. He recollects food menu being curated for dinner parties and a homemade snack served to every guest who visited their home, be it for a few minutes. “That’s the way we show love.”
It does not come as a surprise that last year he curated a nine-course fine dining menu to celebrate his dad’s birthday. And with his two very successful and overbooked pop-ups in Dubai, hosted recently at Huna – a space for collective homegrown restaurants in Dar Wasl mall, Parekh is now gearing up to create a new menu.
Testing food recipes and researching ingredients is serious business and his Instagram highlights has a whole section dedicated to it. “I research on the internet and kitchen; putting up things that are new, inspired by culture and crediting them, testing recipes with time marks, ingredients and different variations of it”, he said.
Parekh wants to inspire meat eaters to change their food habits. He recreates popular meat recipes and vegan-ises them.
Inspiring meat eaters
This zoomer (a word for members of Generation Z) is making his way to his target audience – non vegans. He wants to inspire meat eaters to change their food habits. So he curates simple plant-based recipes and engages with his growing Instagram followers. “I am enjoying the slow organic growth at the moment. I like the intimacy I share with every follower because somewhere I know each one of them.”
To saving planet, one green recipe at a time.
Recipe: How to make vegan shakshuka
- 3 medium tomatoes - diced
- 1 red/yellow bell pepper - diced
- 1 medium onion - diced
- 4 cloves of garlic - chopped
- 2 chopped chilies (optional) - chopped
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp chili powder
- 1 tbsp coriander Powder
- 1/2 tbsp cumin
- Salt to taste
For recreating the egg white and yolk
- Yellow cherry tomatoes - halved
- 300 gms Tofu
- 2 tbsp plant milk
- 1 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1 tsp black salt
To make the tomato base:
1. In a frying pan, heat olive oil on medium heat.
2. Add onions and peppers - saute till onions are translucent.
3. Add chilies and garlic and continue to cook till the raw smell disappears.
4. Add tomatoes and all the spices.
5. Mix and leave on low heat - bring to a simmer.
6. Blend the tofu in a blender. Don't make it completely smooth - keep it slightly chunky.
7. Once the tomato gravy is cooked - use a spoon to create small wells in the pan for the "vegan eggs".
8. Scoop a spoonful of tofu mix into the wells and top with a halved cherry tomato.
9. Sprinkle some salt and pepper to taste.
10. Add a lid over the pan and cook for 2 to 3 minutes to soften the cherry tomatoes.
Serve in the pot it was cooked in, drizzle with some olive oil (optional) and top with fresh cilantro. Serve the shakshuka with some toasted bread.
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