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Vegan Friendly: Thali and Chaat at Sattvik Foods in Miramar

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PHOTOGRAPHY by
Kelly Bone
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The Short and Skinny

At Sattvik Foods the menu flutters through a well-honed collection of curries and rice, offering only a few options each day. Lay your trust in Kanta Jina’s spice-tempered pots and pans and follow her around the metal thali, because they’re all good.

The Vibe

Counter height tables line the walls leading to a small window overlooking the open kitchen. Here, the women of Sattvik Foods can been seen stirring pots of daily dishes like sesame aloo and turia patra—ridge gourd stewed in colassia leaves and topped with gram noodles.

The space has the feel of a catering kitchen, which reflects the fact that half of the meals produced here are delivered to local businesses. Kanta can most often be found overseeing the kitchen with deserved confidence, though you might also see her wiping down tables, chatting with customers, or demonstrating the joys of eating Pani Puri.

A televised menu displays the daily selection of Indian street foods, called chaat, which span an impressive range of regional flavors. Beneath the menu, the counter is crowded with containers of house-made morsels ranging from masala cashews to sweet bhakarwad—deep-fried pinwheels of spices and dough—begging to be taken to-go.

The menu was recently upgraded to denote the vegan dishes after Kanta’s 19-year-old vegan daughter lamented the difficulty of navigating menus. “Having been in a similar position with vegetarian food when I first immigrated to this country, it doesn’t feel good to feel excluded when you’re with a cuisine you love or want to explore,” Kanta said. “I want to make sure that all my customers know that they are welcome and celebrated here.”

The Food

The menu circles India, presenting simple dishes from the Punjab in the north to Andhra Pradesh in the southeast.  “When a dish is just a few ingredients, the quality of the ingredients is important. That’s what we love at Sattvik: showing people that simplicity can be flavorful too,” she explained.

Kanta’s talents shine not in spite of, but because of, the simplicity of her recipes. Many Indian dishes we have grown numb to—like chana masala (stewed chickpeas) and aloo gobi (potatoes with cauliflower)—come to life in a simmer of her vibrant, custom-blended garam masala and fresh curry leaves.

Dishes are build on seasonality, with a menu of more common proteins and carbs, like chickpeas and lentils, punctuated by more distinctive Indian vegetables, like karella (bitter melon) and turia (ridge gourd). Chilli and oil are used sparingly, and many of the spice blends—like the dabeli masala and pav bhaji special masala—are sourced from Kanta’s hometown of Bhuj, an area renowned for the quality and flavor of its masalas

The all-vegetarian menu is steeped in the philosophy of the sattvic diet, a doctrine of nonviolence, or not causing harm to other living things. Kanta tenders not just to the quality of ingredients—all are fresh, made from scratch, and GMO-free—but the mood of her kitchen.


“When making the food, the mindset of the chef is important, too,” she explained. “So, no anger, frustration, or negative thoughts. I cook my food with pure love and the intention that our customers will leave feeling joyful and satisfied.”

What to Order

The Mini Thali ($10) offers an revolving selection of dals, curries, and rice served with whole wheat roti or fenugreek-flecked parathas. Cabbage Kofta Curry features tender cabbage dumplings floating in a tangy tomato gravy studded with mustard seeds and Spring Onion Dal is punctuated with sweet rings of young onion and layers of chili. Her version of the chickpea staple Chana Masala trembles with cinnamon, black pepper, and smashed cardamom pods. The flakey folds of Whole Wheat Rotis are the perfect vehicle for capturing every last bit.

On the chaat menu, the Dabeli ($6) makes for a surprisingly ample snack. Two spicy patties made of peanut and potato come on a fluffy bun drizzled in pomegranate, cilantro chutney, snaps of fresh onion, and a confetti of sev (crispy chickpea flour noodles). The special dabeli masala imbues the sandwich with the bold flavors of red chili, black salt, and coconut.

The Tosata Chaat ($6) fuses Indian flavors with Mexican form. Translucent leaves of deep fried flatbread are topped with pops of potato, chickpeas, and onions and splashed with coriander and tamarind chutney and finished with a light crunch of sev and petals of cilantro. To make this dish vegan, be sure to request they hold the yogurt.

The Tosata Chaat ($6) fuses Indian flavors with Mexican form. Translucent leaves of deep fried flatbread are topped with pops of potato, chickpeas, and onions and splashed with coriander and tamarind chutney and finished with a light crunch of sev and petals of cilantro. To make this dish vegan, be sure to request they hold the yogurt.

The must-try chaat is Pani Puri ($6). Pre-loaded with potato, chickpea, red onion, and coriander chutney, the fragile puff of puri shells exist on the cusp of destruction. Just before consumption, the bites are filled with spiced water swirling with the faintly sulphuric air of kala namak (black salt). As you take a bite, the thin walls give way, flooding the palate—and just as the flavors begin to overwhelm the senses, it's over.

Pro Tip: Sattvik Foods can usually modify the Thali to be vegan. All dishes on the daily Thali are also available a la cart and can be combined with the vegan chaat menu for a hearty meal. If you want to plan ahead, the daily menus are published online at the beginning of every week.

Sattvik Foods

8650 Miramar Road, Miramar, San Diego

sattvikfoods.com

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS
Kelly Bone
Kelly Bone is a vegan food writer, photographer, and pizza nerd. She has served as a food judge at various US festivals and is part of the Vegan in San Diego team providing resources and hosting charitable vegan events in San Diego. You can follow her work on Instagram at @KellyBone or on her blog The Veg Foodie.
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