[Photo Courtesy: Richa Hingle]

Richa Hingle’s life took quite the turn while being on the road to recovery after a surgery. The software professional started a food blog, “Vegan Richa”—and before she knew it, she had a huge fan following. Today, Hingle, who lives in Seattle, regularly publishes recipes and her easy-to-follow instructions with step-by-step photographs makes her blog unique.

The blog, which consists of vegan recipes, has not only Indian food but also various fusion recipes. Hingle shares that her transition to vegan was gradual.

“I chose to be vegan when I realized how I was giving profound love and compassion to one animal (my adopted dog) and causing death, and eating another animal or animal product,” the blogger said. “Meat and dairy industries are not only responsible for torture and death of 59 billion animals per year, but they also affect the environment, the planet, and one’s own health. Animal agriculture is the leading producer of greenhouse gasses causing climate change, much more than fossil fuels.”

Once she became aware of these issues, she slowly started to transition into a vegan diet. And once that process was complete, she even eliminated animal products from her home, clothing, accessories, etc.

With her blog getting popular, publishers began approaching her for a cookbook. After much discussion, Hingle decided to make her debut with an Indian fusion recipe book—“Vegan Richa’s Indian Kitchen” was published in May 2015. It has been the number one best seller in the Indian Category on Amazon U.S. since its launch. Chana masala (chole), gobi aloo,  butter sauce with seitan or vegan chicken, makhani sauce, malai kofta and gobi musallam, are a few of her popular dishes.

richa-hingle-book[Photo Courtesy: Richa Hingle]

Hingle has made her recipes easy to follow for someone new to the Indian cuisine. “It can be a problem sourcing traditional ingredients in the U.S.,” she explained. “So, I try to use locally available spices and produce more, which makes some of the dishes more fusion than authentic.”

She is visibly excited and surprised at the huge response she has received for her blog. “I didn’t think it would take off this well,” Hingle confessed. “I was not vegan when I started the blog but went vegan in the year after starting the blog—the [target] demographic has been the same since then. I am posting more recipes, taking feedback from readers on what they like, and taking better photos—and the rest is organic growth.”

Indian food is largely based on wheat and dairy, so it was initially tough to get readers who follow her vegan recipes since they break all the conventional Indian culinary norms.

“I use substitutes for the dairy in the recipes, like nondairy milk (almond milk, cashew milk, oat or other nut milk), cashew cream for cream, cashew or coconut cream in ice creams, refined coconut oil or other oil for ghee or butter and so on,” she explained. “I have vegan paneer, vegan ras malai, and gulab jamun recipes in my book.  Indian food is largely dependent on dairy, hence, India is the largest exporter of beef in the world. More than 10 million male calves are killed per year, i.e. one every eight seconds, because of the demand for dairy consumption and no use for the male calves. This is on top of the fact that dairy cows live less than a quarter of their natural lives because of constant pregnancies and [thus] end up becoming beef. Dairy is also linked to allergies and cancers. Many people realize some or all of these in the U.S., India, and other countries and appreciate the alternative options. The options allow us to continue to eat the same favorite foods, but with a dairy substitute.”

As for her plans for the future, Hingle hopes to write more cookbooks. Furthermore, she is not just a vegan blogger, but also someone who supports a lot of causes and charitable organizations. One organization she supports is VSPCA, which takes in cows and calves saved from slaughter (as well as many other domesticated animals, such as dogs and cats), has a wildlife program to the save turtles, and also has a meals program where they feed the homeless and poor with free vegan meals. Hingle also supports Karuna Society, which offers free care for stray and abused animals, cattle rescue, and has a wildlife program to reduce conflict between the wildlife and humans and rehabilitate injured bears, elephants, leopards etc.

Additionally, the blogger is involved with Wildlife SOS, which eliminated the dancing bears in India and is now working to eliminate the use of elephants in circuses. They have also been rescuing many tortured and abused elephants from circuses and the tourism and entertainment industries. Hingle also supports Old Dog Haven, which takes in senior old dogs and fosters or cares for them, as well as Asha for Education whose mission is to catalyze socio-economic change in India through the education of underprivileged children. Their projects deal with educational issues from pre-primary schooling to professional education in locations from urban slums to isolated rural areas.