Ujjla Manchanda and her husband Ashish weren’t always vegans. Until a few months ago, the latter used to eat chicken and Ujjla would cook it for him. But now, the city-based couple can’t imagine touching animal products, forget cooking or eating them.
“It was a mind shift, more than anything else. We read disturbing stories about how cows were ill-treated to produce more milk, and couldn’t imagine consuming it any more,” says Ujjla.
Soon after their move to veganism, the couple realised that the options, when it came to finding non-dairy vegetarian food in the city and even in India, were very limited. That’s when they decided to set up a home-kitchen and start a vegan food delivery service, called Bella Vega.
“I love cooking anyway, and we met a lot of people who were looking for places that offer vegan dishes,” she says.
Now, those in search of vegan food can call Ujjla on her phone and place orders a day in advance. Soon, she will launch a website featuring all the dishes and their price. “In India, whenever we went to restautants and asked them to make our meals without dairy products, they seemed confused,” says Ujjla.
Within an average price range of Rs 100 to Rs 400 per dish, the menu includes an eclectic mix of Lebanese and Italian food, apart from some concoctions Ujjla herself has devised. “People have liked the mashed potatoes with chilly olive oil, garlic sauce pastas, I’ve also made pesto without using cream or Parmesan cheese,” says Ujjla, who had set up a stall at the music festival, NH7 Weekender, last month.
Vegans for kids
Interestingly, Ujjla’s two young daughters also follow a vegan diet. Ask her the obvious, and she immediately insists that kids don’t necessarily need milk products in their growing years.
“The calcium that we get from milk is not absorbed by the body as it is. Also, milk is also the poorest sources of calcium,” says Ujjla, who seems to have found substitutes to most non-vegetarian dishes, in terms of nutrients. “White sesame seeds are the highest sources of calcium, so are Broccoli, nuts, tofu and soy. As for protein and vitamin B12, beans like rajma and chana can be fermented and then consumed. Lentils also provide ample protein.”