Vegetarian Meal
Da Lazy Chef

A Six-Taste Vegetarian Lunch

South Asia, particularly India and Sri Lanka, are known for their vegetarian meals. So, what is our concept of a vegetarian meal? I recently made a six-taste vegetarian lunch.

Defining Vegetarianism

According to some data, up to forty percent of India’s 1.4 billion people are considered vegetarians though the numbers might be going down.

But who is a vegetarian? Typically, they would avoid anything non vegetarian and that includes eggs. And avoiding non-vegetarian food means even a piece of meat or egg in their fried rice will be avoided. They are strictly vegetarian. They would consume dairy products, which are avoided by vegans.

Dhal Curry (file)

There are also those who avoid non vegetarian food except for eggs.

On a side note, there are also non vegetarians who only eat chicken, goat, fish and seafood, avoiding beef and pork.

Interestingly, I have met Hindus, particularly in Bali, who eat pork but avoid beef, because cows are considered sacred in the religion.

My Weekend Lunch Specialty

Usually, my weekend lunches are special because those are the only days I have fresh cooked meals. And that means there is something non vegetarian – chicken, beef, mutton or even seafood, fish or dried fish.


But time to time I go for a total vegetarian lunch, at least for one of the weekend days.

And so recently one weekend I decided that I wanted to have a full Indian/Sri Lankan style vegetarian meal.

The Six Tastes

A traditional meal is supposed to have a diversity of tastes. According to some, a traditional vegetarian meal should encompass all six tastes – salty, sour, bitter, pungent, astringent and sweet.

Note that ‘hot’ as the taste that comes from chili is not here. It is perhaps because chili was not part of south Indian traditional meals until it was introduced to India by the Portuguese in the 16th century. Until then, the pungent taste came from black pepper.

 As well, in Sri Lanka generally the sweetness as a dessert is added after the main meal while in India, they tend to have something sweet before starting the main meal.

Check my post on the (south) Indian way of enjoying a vegetarian meal.

Some ayurvedic practitioners say the six tastes ensure the meal is balanced which in turn keeps the body and emotions balanced and healthy.

A South Indian restaurant vegetarian meal
A South Indian restaurant vegetarian meal

In addition to the contrast in tastes, I also like to have a contrast in colors in the dishes.

So, here is what I cooked:

  • Okra spicy and tangy (tamarind paste added)
  • Dhal
  • Spinach sauteed
  • Cucumber yellow curry (just turmeric and coconut milk)
  • Bitter gourd fried and mixed with diced chilies, onions and ground pepper and this brings salty, sour and pungent tastes.

Side dishes:

  • Fried chilies
  • Fried papadam
  • Pickles
  • Yogurt

Of course, I did have a dessert to complete my lunch.

Bon Appetit!

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