Text and images by Elaine Ng @ Makansutra
Some of us might have proudly conjured vegetarian dishes liberally peppered with common aromatics like garlic and onions for our friends who do not consume meat. But do you know this does not mean all vegetarians will welcome them?
Unbeknownst to many, there are vegetarians who do not take alliums vegetables like garlic, onions and scallions. More than a few of us would have scratched our heads at this; especially since these common aromatics do not look or taste like meat in any way.
In certain scriptures, eating garlic and onion causes people to be more passionate than desired, which includes anger and lust. As such, it could be a distraction in serious religious life, explains Mr Srivas, a Hare Krishna devotee of 13 years.
This is generally observed by Buddhists and Vedic Dharma (Hindu) followers. “Those who want to advance spiritually should abstain from onion, garlic, mushrooms and the like. We also don’t take spicy or really hot stuff as these cause agitation to the mind and body,” says Mr Srivas.
Such vegetables are considered tamasic (the mode of ignorance) and rajasic (the mode of passion). The former lowers one’s consciousness contrary to attaining higher divine awareness as an aspirant follower would be liken to aim towards, while the latter distracts him from devotions. Garlic, for one, is a natural aphrodisiac.
Religious reasons aside, these “aromatics” are often the cause of bad breath and repulsive odour in our perspirations too. “You wouldn’t want to scare your friends or students away when you share Buddhist scriptures and teachings, would you?” quips devout Buddhist Mr William Soon, who shares one practical reason as to why vegetarians should avoid garlic and onions.
Ancient Taoist sage Tsang-Tsze also writes that the five fragrant, spicy or scented vegetables of the onions, garlic, leeks, chives and spring onions have adverse effects to our lungs, heart, spleen, liver and kidneys respectively.
However, modern medical studies have onions and garlic prized for their health benefits. Take the garlic for example. Pungent as it is, contains antibacterial and anti-fungal compound of the allicin that is activated when raw garlic is finely chopped or crushed — which unfortunately intensifies the odour at the same time.
Garlic not only keeps the vampires or boys away but what is bad for our bodies too. The bulb is also known to aid the lowering of cholesterol as well as the incidence of cardiovascular disease and cancer.
“As with everything, eat in moderation. For some people who consume too much of either, they become bloated. This is especially so for onions. That said, results may vary for individuals and a varied, well-balanced diet is recommended,” advises Mr Daniel Jason Ong, a nutritionist from The Nutrition Practice.
Regardless of the reason, if you choose to avoid alliums vegetables, ingredients like yellow beans, red dates or ginger could be used to add fragrance to your dish in replacement of the more commonly used aromatics of garlic and onions.