Mena Massoud’s ‘Evolving Vegan’ is a cookbook, travel guide and family homage

TORONTO — As immigrants from Egypt, “Aladdin” star Mena Massoud’s parents worked hard to establish themselves in any job they could get when they first moved the family to Markham, Ont.

His father, a satellite engineer in Cairo, first delivered pizzas in their new home city, then worked in a VHS factory and eventually managed a refurbishment centre for Rogers. His mother worked in a coffee shop.

They put in long hours on the job but when they got home, the whole family came together to relax in the kitchen and savour the aroma of his mom’s dishes: the fried onions and tomato sauce in her koshari; the cabbage of her mahashi; the eggplant in the moussaka.

“Our life at home very much revolved around food, and very much revolved around cooking,” Massoud said in an interview.

“My mom also had people over often. She was known to be one of the best cooks in our Egyptian community. So I really learned a lot from her just watching her.”

Massoud pays homage to his mother with his new cookbook, “Evolving Vegan” (Tiller Press), which has some of her traditional Egyptian, meat-free recipes as well as some of his own dishes from his plant-based diet he started in 2015.

Stemming from his Evolving Vegan company he founded in 2018, the book also has bits about his life and recipes inspired by plant-based restaurants in more than 10 cities he’s visited, including Toronto, Vancouver, San Francisco, Portland and New York.

“I wanted to show people that no matter where you travel in North America, or really the world, you can find plant-based options,” said Massoud, who also plans to create and host a travel food series stemming from “Evolving Vegan,” through his Press Play Productions.

Read the rest of the interview at the Times Colonist website!