A Delicious Butter Tofu, Red Lentil, and Spinach Rice Indian Lunch – Cooking, History, and Philosophy at Veda, Part II

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Let it be known that I have a mini foodie journal with pages inside to write down favourite meals, restaurants, and gastronomical experiences, as well as little pages that have thought-provoking food-related questions to jog those creative writing juices.  Let it also be known that I haven’t had the heart to write in it yet because the paper looks so crisp and clean and pretty and I’m scared my writing will ruin the aesthetic of it.  Instead, I’ve been jotting down messy, scrawly notes in my blue fashionista Muffymade notebook and at the moment it looks as though it went through the wringer.  Pages are coming out, there are rips and wrinkles; it’s a little beat up. 

Which means I may have to turn to my little foodie journal after all.  And for good reason because I can now easily fill out a spot on the “favourite meals” page, without a doubt.  I had one of the best meals of my life (Indian and otherwise) this past week at Veda in Yorkville and I am so amoured I want to eat here every week for the rest of my life.  It was – and is – that amazing. 

I’ve wanted to eat at Veda for the longest time.  With its bright orange restaurant front and it’s small, but welcoming and cozy-looking  interior, it was a place I knew I had to visit.  My lunch here turned out to be one of the most delicious, nicest learning experiences because as I mentioned yesterday, I got a glimpse of Indian cooking, culture, history, and philosophy at work right before my eyes and I can thank my boyfriend and Veda’s decor for that!  I learned that the Veda refers to the anthology of texts that are devoted to Indian history, philosophy, and knowledge.  Thus, the name Veda is incredibly significant to the way the restaurant integrates important historical moments in India’s food culture into their product and cooking philosophy, and, in their words, “knowledge of healthful living” (emphasis added).

One of the ways in which Veda incorporates authentic Indian food culture into their restaurant is their serving style and meal sets.  As a popular lunch and dinner option, Veda serves a Tiffin Thali meal set complete with a choice of rice, protein, and vegetable.  Now, I know that doesn’t sound out of the ordinary; getting in your healthy food groups is a good thing!  However, what makes this particular meal set significant in terms of Indian history and food culture is the way in which it is served. 

Tiffin Thali literally refers to the type of servingware it is served in and the style of meal placement.  I’ll start with the thali since there’s a story behind the tiffin which I’ll get into shortly.  Those of you who are familiar with Indian food culture will already know this, but a thali generally refers to either a round tray with different compartments that food is served on with a number of different dishes on it, or a specific type of meal set such as a vegetarian thali, a meat thali, and others.

The term “tiffin” didn’t resonate with me until after I came home though.  Then the lightbulb went off.  There was a reason why it sounded so familiar and I realized it was because I had seen it at the Leslieville farmers’ market when I bought my lentil samosas from Tiffinday Inc., the Indian vegan catering company in Toronto!  The tiffin thali meals are served on a roundish, oblong stainless steel tray with adorable little stainless steel bowls to hold the vegetables, and the protein and meat. 

The cute stainless steel bowls are Veda’s nod to India’s historical, cultural past with food because tiffins are “food containers in transit”, so to speak.  Tiffins were used as a mode of delivery, bridging the gap of food accessibility between urban and suburban areas in India.  Tiffins were, and are, containers that are often stainless steel to be clean, convenient, and environmentally-friendly used to deliver take-out in and food in a quick and efficient way.  Hence why Tiffinday, as an Indian catering company, has the appropriate name that it does.

I’ll talk about Veda’s other menu items in greater detail next time, but I really want to focus on my tiffin thali because it was so delicious and memorable.  During my first meal here, I had the tiffin thali meal ($6.86) with spinach basmati rice, red lentils, and – wait for this – BUTTER TOFU!  OH.MY.GOD.  You all know I love butter chicken.  But butter tofu?!  I have NEVER come across butter tofu before and I was in absolute conniptions because I love tofu and I was so happy that there was a vegetarian protein option as delicious as THIS!  I added a giant piece of naan for an extra $0.99 and practically rolled down the street after my meal.  The portions are fantastic and so filling and the prices are incredibly reasonable, especially compared to other Indian places in the city.

The spinach basmati rice was light and fluffy with pieces of cooked, wilted spinach and cumin seed in it, and the red lentils were so delicious because it was a mildly spicy cross between a daal and paste.  The red lentils were so nice and thick and it was the perfect consistency to dip naan in it (and speaking of which, the naan was soft and chewy and scrumptious) and to mix the rice in.  And the butter tofu?  Creamy and soft and savoury and all sorts of amazing.  The tofu, cut into cubed chunks, was perfect because it wasn’t rubbery or mushy, and the butter sauce was rich, smooth, and full of rich tomato flavour.  I could eat a whole plate of this without even batting an eye.  I loved the textures and consistencies of the food, from the airiness of the rice, to the crunch of the cumin seeds, to the thick chili-like red lentils, and silkiness of the butter sauce over the tofu.  The food is mildly spicy so you’ll definitely feel some heat, but not so much you’ll need to chug liquids down or mop your forehead.  It’s the type of spicy that’s yummy and clears up your sinuses at the same time, let’s put it that way. 

Along with the spinach basmati rice, Veda has a vegetable biryani yellow rice, and vegetables include vegetable curry (broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, carrots, etc.), chickpea curry, and spiced lentils.  Butter chicken, chicken curry, and beef madras round out the meat options, and vegetarian proteins include the saag paneer (spinach cheese) and butter tofu.  I love the menu choices at Veda and I’m so looking forward to rotating my way around the different items and trying the different meals!  This was a fabulous meal and one that’s going into the books. 

*****

Veda is located at 874 Yonge St. at Davenport Rd., just north of Yorkville Ave. in the Yorkville neighbourhood.  The restaurant is located on the west side of Yonge St. and is only several blocks north of the Yonge & Bloor intersection and subway.  Their hours from Monday-Friday are 11:30am-9pm, 12pm-9pm on Saturday, and 5pm-9pm on Sundays.  They are both dine-in and take-out.