Om Rishikesh, Ayurvedic Plant-based Chef
Every month we’ll be highlighting a member from The Collective—a diverse group of individuals who are inspired by the love and wonder of Ayurveda. This month the spotlights on Om Rishikesh, an Ayurvedic plant-based chef based in L.A. who has been practicing Ayurvedic cooking for +9 years. Learn how he got his start as a chef, his favorite spices to incorporate into his dishes, and how to recreate his delicious Rose Chai that compliments our date + grain bites.
How did you get your start as an Ayurvedic chef?
I started cooking while I was living as a student monk at a Hare Krishna temple in New York. As monks, one of the services we offered to the community was teaching cooking demos at NYU and Columbia University. We would feed 100-150 students twice a week. As you can imagine cooking for these programs were quite the production! Hence, as part of the “monk” training, we learned how to cook to help make food for the students and for the daily sustenance of the ashram peers.
At the Krishna temples, cooking is a meditative activity to express Bhakti or devotion for the divine. It became apparent to me while practicing this art that creating beautiful, tasty dishes gave me joy and a sense of purpose; I took this as my main service for many years to come and became acquainted with the beauty and versatility of vegetables and spices.
A big part of the life of a monk is “Svādhyāya” or daily study of scripture. Ayurveda is part of the Vedas—the scriptures revered by the followers of Vaishnavism and that is how I first learned about it.
As my time as a monk was coming to an end, I started working as a sous-chef for Divya Alter of Divya’s Kitchen’s non-profit organization “Bhagavat life” to help create meals for her clients. I fell in love with her style of cooking. I’ve been practicing Ayurvedic cooking for 9 years now.
Seems like you’ve traveled all over the world! How has your traveling inspired you when it comes to creating new recipes?
I love to incorporate Ayurveda into world cuisine. You see, Pittas love to be challenged—it’s part of our psyche! So everywhere I go and try new dishes my brain is already thinking of how to "Ayurvedize" the meal I am eating!
Your favorite dish to make?
My favorite dish to make is Dahl! It makes me feel at home. Not that I grew up eating Dahl but it reminds me of my monk temple days and that’s where my heart’s shelter is. I also love making an Ayurvedic carrot marinara lasagna recipe that I developed.
What’s your go-to spice(s) and ingredients that you like to cook with?
My go-to spice is coriander! I basically use it in every savory dish I create. Whenever I am exploring new recipes and it calls for garlic and onions I replace them with freshly ground coriander. Coriander is a beautiful floral spice that doesn’t take over the flavor of the whole dish in comparison to cumin and is also cooling (perfect for my pitta nature).
My favorite ingredients are greens! Kale, chards, spinach and collards are amazing when cooked with cumin, coriander and turmeric! Leafy Greens are full of iron and calcium.
3 tips anyone could use to incorporate Ayurveda into their everyday life?
The 3 tips to incorporate Ayurveda into everyday life would be:
- Eat freshly made meals. Food that is made fresh is naturally Prana filled! In Ayurveda, Prana’s healing energy is in its full potential and you can benefit most from it. The longer food sits in the fridge it loses its healing power and it just becomes fuel for the body.
- A few minutes of daily meditation or a few deep breaths before meals. Breathing is our constant companion. e use it to stop, gather our mind and give ourselves some love through gratitude or simple awareness.
- Incorporate spices in your diet! Use cardamom, cinnamon and cloves when you make sweets and use cumin, coriander, fennel and turmeric in your savory dishes! These spices will not only make your meals extremely tasty but they are also important in Ayurveda.
Your favorite OJAS STUDIO flavor?
My favorite OJAS STUDIO flavor is the Vata inspired bites. In my opinion, cardamom and cinnamon are the best combos to make sweets tasty.
Om's Rose Chai with Almond Milk Recipe
After years of tasting all different kinds of Chai and being surprised by how sugary the drink is usually served, I developed my own recipe. Not too sweet or too spicy, and made from scratch. Do not use Chai mixes! When a spice is ground and stored for too long the delicate element of ‘prana’ fades away and with time they will lose their vibrant color and sharp fresh smell.
When I tried the OJAS STUDIO bites, I immediately thought of eating them while sipping on this aromatic Rose Chai. I use organic edible rose petals instead of the traditional caffeinated black tea. Brew this beautiful tea and nibble on some OJAS STUDIO date & grain bites for a lovely snack.
- 6 cups of filtered water
- 1 Ceylon Cinnamon stick (2 inches long)
- 6 Cardamom pods, crushed or 1 tsp ground Cardamom
- 5 Cloves, or 1/2 tsp ground cloves
- 1 Tbs Fennel seeds
- 1/8 tsp Nutmeg, freshly ground
- 2 Tbs Organic Ginger root, minced
- 3 Tbs Organic edible roses
- 1.5 Cups fresh Almond milk** or vegan milk of choice
- Bring the water to a boil and add all the spices. Allow the chai to simmer for 10 minutes
- Turn the heat off and add the dried rose petals and allow to steep for 5 minutes
- Strain the chai through a colander
- Serve hot and add a splash of plant milk
Fresh Almond Milk
**Or use your favorite almond milk brand!
- 1/4 cup almonds, soaked overnight or for 30 min in boiling water
- 1.5 cups water
- Drain and rinse the soaked almonds
- Place the almonds in your Vitamix or high-speed blender along with the water
- Blend on high for 2 minutes
- Strain the milk through a nut-bag or a few layers of cheesecloth into a large measuring cup
Follow Om on Instagram (@cookingwithom) and shop his favorite OJAS STUDIO date & grain bite flavor—Cardamom, Cinnamon & Walnut, inspired by the Vata Type!