Incredibly, my copy of Madhur Jaffrey’s book, “World-of-the-East Vegetarian Cooking,” turned 30 this year. It was one of the first cookbooks I ever bought — before my cookbook-buying habit turned into a full-blown obsession, and long before I ever imagined I would use it to cook for my children.
In some ways, the book is showing its age. The corners long ago ripped off the paperback’s front cover, and the cream-colored pages have noticeably darkened around the edges. It contains none of the eye-catching photographs that distinguish so many cookbooks these days.
And yet, as far as recipes go, “World-of-the-East” remains contemporary. In fact, I find myself cooking from it more now than I did back when I first bought it as a college student. Ingredients that in those days were hard to come by, such as fresh fava beans, lemon grass, kombu, tamarind, daikon radish and edamame beans, are readily available now.
And the treatment given to commonplace vegetables — potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, and the like — seems as fresh and appealing as ever, especially now that we can get beautiful, locally grown versions of these standbys at farmers markets.
I’d be hard-pressed to pick a favorite recipe from the book. But there is one that has become a sentimental favorite: Omelette With Bean Curd. I flipped the recipe past for decades. But on a day in 2002 (I noted the date on the page!) it suddenly caught my eye. My kids, then still quite little, had taken to Asian food with gusto, and this simple omelet, with mashed tofu, peas and shiitake mushrooms folded into it, plus a soy-based dipping sauce, seemed like a good main dish for dinner.
They loved it. It was at this point that I had to concede that my son, who refused to eat tomato sauce, ketchup, mayonnaise, yogurt and strawberry jam, could no longer justifiably be called my “picky” eater.
Over the years I’ve changed the recipe. I use edamame beans instead of peas, and fresh shiitakes instead of dried. And I’ve played around with quantities, upping the number of eggs and the amount of tofu as my kids have grown.
Any number of sides go well with this savory omelet: a plain green salad or steamed broccoli if you want to keep it easy. I like to serve it with a simple potato salad bound with just a little mayonnaise and a dash of soy sauce and sesame oil, and sliced cucumbers tossed in brown rice vinegar.
Serve with prosecco or other sparkling white wine.
For the sauce
6 tablespoons regular or low-sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons vegetable oil