So good! Thanks for sharing this.
As for coming close but not being the “real thing”. What’s helped me a lot is shifting my cuisine to make dishes that are fundamentally vegan, instead of “veganizing” the dishes I was used to. The latter can still be delicious but you always have the comparison, which you are completely freed of when it comes to for example an Indian lentil stew, Spanish gazpacho, or Ethiopian bayenetu.