The holidays are stressful and difficult for many of us but perhaps more so for vegetarians and vegans who often must fight with family members over the menu or face a dearth of options for dining out. This year, Yashoda Naidoo will serve a full vegan meal at Annapurna Chai House. We spoke about her decision to remain open on Thanksgiving day and about the details of the restaurant's prix-fixe menu.
I hear you're planning on serving a fully vegan meal on Thanksgiving. That sounds like a real challenge. What made you decide to do it?
The reason I'm doing it is that last year it was my friend's birthday on Thanksgiving. She said she couldn't do lunch so I said I'd take her to dinner and I swear there wasn't a single place open. We drove all over town looking for someplace where she could eat meat and I could get something without. We ended up at [a steakhouse]. She ate and I picked off the salad bar.
I know. I said [to myself] this year I'm going to serve a Thanksgiving dinner for people like myself. I mean, where else do you go? Even Flying Star and Frontier were closed!
I think vegetarians and vegans often feel frustrated and alienated on “Turkey Day.”
You're right that vegetarians and vegans feel alienated on this day and some of us don't want to cook. [Annapurna] is a place where vegetarians and vegans can feel safe eating—there's no animal stock lurking in any of the dishes.
The appetizer on your menu is tofu pakoras. What is a pakora?
A pakora is a vegetable dipped into chickpea-flour batter and fried, kind of like tempura. These are vegan and wheat-free as well for the—I think I can say this—for the freaks who can't eat wheat. After that, for the main dish we've got acorn squash and quinoa with carrots and celery. Then there's basmati rice with—I know you're going to ask me about this—with delights.
OK. You got me. What are delights?
Almonds, raisins and coconut. It's like what we call a pilau or pilaf.
You're serving rice pilaf, vegetarian lasagna and yams with greens on this menu. It sounds like very traditional American food.
Well there's no cheese or wheat in the lasagna. We use spelt noodles and several sauces. One with tomato, one with artichoke and one with vegetables. Yams and greens we make here every week.
For dessert you're serving pumpkin pie and cranberry rice pudding. I presume those are made without eggs or milk?
We never use eggs at the restaurant!
Of course, it's just that pumpkin pie and rice pudding are two desserts that usually contain eggs and milk. But I guess you could use soy milk in place of regular?
Yes, soy and rice milk.
Do you plan on staying open and cooking on other holidays?
Yes. We're doing Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, special reservation-only meals.
Will they be vegan or just vegetarian?
I don't know. I'll have to think about that. We might have options, like tofu or cheese pakoras.