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Apr 19, 2012 04:24 PM

HELP! Cooking with very specific diet restrictions??

So, cooking for a loved one, on a very restricted diet. This person especially loves Indian food (particularly lentil/dal or bean soup, and vegetable curry or sabji).

This loved one is dealing with these dietary restrictions:
-- NO SALT - of any kind, even rock/sea/black salt
-- NO SUGAR - but a tiny amount of honey or sucanat is okay
-- NO OIL - except a very tiny amount for frying spices (typical of Indian food)
-- No vinegar of any kind
-- No alcohol of any kind
-- No lemon or lime juice (allergy) - a tiny amount of other citrus juice is okay
-- No veggies of the allium family (onions, garlic, chives, leeks, etc.)
-- No mushrooms of any kind
-- No meat/fish/eggs (vegetarian for ethical/religious reasons)

I'm really struggling especially with how to make Indian food without salt; that's by far the toughest challenge. The no-onions I can get around with asafoetida (hing) - a spice commonly used by Hare Krishna devotees (who don't eat garlic/onions) to replace the onion/garlic flavour. Other items can be skipped entirely. But how do you get around omitting salt in Indian food??

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  1. How about soy or some anchovie paste for that salt undertone, I do that a lot.

    1 Reply
    1. re: treb

      I you can't eat salt you can't use soy sauce or anchovy paste -- both are high in sodium.

    2. try tamarind to replace the sour/pungent flavors of citrus & vinegar.

      and if there aren't concerns about limiting potassium, you can use a small amount of salt substitute like NoSalt.

      1. Increasing the quantities of very pungent, aromatic spices (especially cumin) should help. I also find that it's easier to cut out salt in dry curries and stir-fries, since the vegetables take on a bit of blackened/charred flavor. A good example of that is one of my favorite side dishes from Raghavan Iyer's 660 Curries - the "Saucy Eggplant and Green Tomato," which is vegan, salt-free and has only a little bit of oil (which you could easily cut down on).

        Also, sumac and mango powder are good substitutes for citrus.

        1. great call by kathleen on subbing sumac or amchur powder for citrus.

          @jennieblue, you might also want to confirm that the vinegar restriction includes organic raw apple cider vinegar. some people who can't consume the other varieties are okay with it.

          1. Another way to tackle this would be to ask the person for a couple of recipes they do enjoy. Then simply tweak the seasoning to bring in some Indian spices.
            Their stews can become your kormas.
            Their baked dishes can become your tandooris.

            Don't forget that Indian food is very diverse (not limited to the northern dishes we usually eat in North America) - so open the scope up to a wide range of dishes/flavours... Southern dishes especially are quite spicy, so using a good amount of chiles might allow you to forego the other more "subtle" notes.