Moving to Oxford after a year of working in Shoreditch, I
prepared myself for the fact that my lunchtime jaunts and street food offerings
were going to become less interesting. No more pop-up Oatley stalls or free
vegan doughnuts on my way to the office… sob. However, I was actually amazed at
how much vegan food has exploded here since I was a student several years ago.
For a place associated with extreme privilege and a lot of
famous dead white men, Oxford is a surprisingly diverse city, with people from
around the world attracted to the university, and a lively scene in East Oxford
in particular for every kind of food could ever want. As could be expected I’ve
been eating my way through all of the new (and better established) places that
do vegan nosh and am happy to report my favourite below.
Happy Friday Kitchen
Happy Friday Kitchen is the first all-vegan diner in Oxford. In spite of some backlash online when it was first established, it’s now thriving and is loved amongst omnis as much as us plant-munching folk. Happy Friday Kitchen isn’t what most people would think of as vegan food. Specialising in proper American-style junk, it has a menu of burgers and pizzas to cure any hangover, not to mention a great range of brunch options. Better yet, it’s home to a gorgeous little pooch.
The Coconut Tree
The Coconut Tree is one of the most raved about restaurants
in Oxford for good reason. Situated on the charming St Clements Street, it’s a
cosy place that is always packed to the gills. It has a huge range of vegan
options that you can order tapas-style to share with friends. My favourites are
the pineapple curry, fat sister (a rich pumpkin curry) and the
melt-in-the-mouth breads. They also do a great range of cocktails and are
Also on St Clements, Pan Pan was a surprise discovery because they don’t advertise their vegan options well. However, with enquiries it turns out they actually have a huge menu of pan-Asian food to sample. I loved the grilled aubergine and bibimbap, and the sesame salad is a fresh and zingy option if you’re trying to keep things light. For some reason, they don’t advertise their vegan options on Deliveroo either – an oversight they could easily rectify to get more business.
Rachel’s is a charming little Vietnamese café next to the Oxford
Tube bus stop for London. It’s therefore perfect for grabbing a quick steamed
bun or pastry snack if you’re off to the city. If you have more time, though,
it’s a perfect lunch spot. I’m now completely addicted to their peanut satay
tofu Bánh mì. They also serve plant-based coffees and have a range of sweet and
savoury traditional snacks.
The Fir Tree
‘The Feast Without the Beast’ is legendary in East Oxford. An all-vegan Sunday roast, it is so good it even attracts hordes of meat-eaters, with tables often booked up ahead of time. There’s a traditional nut roast, but my favourite is the mushroom wellington with a side of cauliflower cheese. They also have a range of rich sweet treats for afters including chocolate mint slice, snix bar and a homely treacle tart. The homely and friendly and atmosphere and very attentive chef make for for a perfect cosy Sunday.
The Rusty Bicycle
Just up the road from the Fir Tree is The Rusty Bicycle, another much-loved haven among locals and students alike. They have a large garden space, and cute little cabins you can cuddle into with your friends. Their vegan options are a bit junky but delicious, and they’ve expanded this year to include two burgers and two pizzas as well as a healthy salad option. The ‘simply red’ pizza may seem a little plain, but the dough is everything. The Leaf Not Beef burger is a sloppy delight for meat-eaters as much as the vegan crew.
Chiang Mai Kitchen
An unassuming place tucked down one of Oxford’s many little
alleyways, Chiang Mai kitchen does some of the best Thai food I’ve ever had in
England. They have a whole separate vegan/vegetarian menu that you can request.
My favourite is the red tofu curry with lychees.
While I don’t generally promote chain restaurants, Pho has
become such a favourite it couldn’t go without mentioning. While there are
several vegan options and a whole new vegan menu as of January 2020, I always
go back to the ‘Spicy Green Pho’.
Ramen fans will know that it’s often hard to find vegan
options. While there’s only one on the menu, Shoryu’s miso and shitake broth
with tofu really hits the spot and makes it easier to dine with omnis. The wakame
seaweed salad also makes a great starter.
This little yellow café on New Street is another great lunch
spot which remains packed out all through the year. With a good range of salads,
soups, sandwiches, smoothies and cakes and customisable vegan options, it’s one
I keep returning to, not least for the chocolate coconut slab.
The Gardener’s Arms
Tucked away down a little street in upmarket Jericho, I’d
never have found The Gardener’s Arms if it’s reputation hadn’t preceded it. It’s
a cosy little pub with all that old-man feel you want, but unusually, with an
all veggie/vegan menu. The food isn’t out-of-this-world, but it’s pretty
reasonably priced for Oxford and it’s a luxury to have a huge range of options
in a pub setting, especially during the summer when you can take advantage of
the large garden.
Gloucester Green Market
If you’re as big a fan of street food as I am you have to check out the Gloucester Green market, which is open from Wednesday through to Saturday and has a surprising number of options catering to vegans. My favourites are the momos (below) and the arepas from the Venezuelan van.
As Oxford has increasingly become a centre for climate activism, I’m hopeful that the growing vegan market will continue to boom. More and more people are choosing a more sustainable way of living and thinking about the impact of their dietary choices. While it’s great to see the big chains fighting to be the next big vegan thing, I’ve always been amazed at the range of independent restaurants and cafes in Oxford. Let’s show them some love – and as ever, please let me know about anything that I’ve missed!
What comes to mind when you think of Amsterdam? For most of
us, probably coffee shops, canals, and the infamous red light district. But as
a city that is a centre of culture and progressive values, Amsterdam is also a hub
for vegan foodies. It wasn’t just easy to find options, but the food was of a
really high standard everywhere we went.
It’s worth noting that it’s not very budget-friendly as a
city: I way overshot mine and the main reason was the cost of food. So if you’re on a tight one it may be worth
loading up on bread and snacks before heading out to eek out the cost.
If you are able, though, here were more options for eating
out than I could work my way through in one weekend, but here were my
For breakfast: Rainbowls
For a healthy start to the day in a city where detox is often very necessary, head to Rainbowls for a scrummy smoothie bowl served in a coconut. A bit on the pricey side, but they’re made fresh in front of you and there are so many delicious combinations. I went for a chocolatey one (because even when being healthy who can resist) and my friend went for the zingy mango passion fruit number.
For the munchies: Vegan Junk Food Bar
If you’re ravenous from your flight or need to cure your munchies, Vegan Junk Food Bar will surpass your wildest dreams. There are several locations around the city and even so there were queues spilling out of the doors to get in. Thankfully it moved quite quickly and we were soon sat in an ultra-hipster restaurant overlooking the highstreet.
I went for the ‘Pink Bratwurst XXXL’ which really WAS XXXL. I don’t usually go for hotdogs but this was great, loaded up with sauce and fried onions and served in a terrifyingly pink bun. My friend went for the Kapsalon – fries loaded up with vegan doner, chillies, onions, and slathered in sauce.
To recharge: H.eart/h
Probably my favourite place, H.eart/h is a great chilled out place to hang out and recharge after dashing about trying to see as much as possible. It’s bright, clean and subtly bohemian, with a selection of alternative and ethical fashion for sale as well as a menu to die for. Ever had a falafel waffle? If not you NEED to try it.
I’d been craving vegan sushi and had some of the prettiest I’ve ever seen, as well as raw beetroot ravioli. Everything is very artfully prepared and fresh, but it’s worth noting that the options are all quite light so I needed a couple to get full; the choices aren’t cheap, so you might have to splash the cash a bit. However, the food was tasty and the atmosphere lovely enough to make it worth it if you want somewhere to hang out for a few hours, or it would be the perfect spot for a date night.
On a budget: Maoz
You’ll see Maoz all over the city, and while it might seem like just another falafel shop, there’s a twist: it’s ALL vegan. No worrying about your wrap being slathered in sauce – and the sauces are really good. It’s not mind blowing but it’s a great cheap option when you’re on the go or on the way back from a night out.
For a healthy option: Deshima
Deshima is a cosy spot where the food is all natural, organic, and macrobiotic. There’s a Japanese influence to their changing ‘plate of the day’; I opted this and got sweet potato rice, tofu and veg stew, pumpkin tempura, cucumber, wakame and radish salad, pickles, and veg in a peanut sauce. Yum! They also have fresh vegan sushi rolls and raw cakes and a huge selection of teas. Just the place to nourish yourself before your flight home.
There are a plethora of other places I didn’t get time to try; the Dutch Weed Burger I’ve heard consistently good reviews for, as well as Alchemist Garden and a branch of the ubiquitous chain Loving Hut. Time to book another trip? I think so.
It will surprise no one who reads this blog that travel and
food are two of my favourite things. But when others find out I’m a vegan, they
get wide-eyed. But what do you eat?
The concern isn’t misplaced. Travelling as a vegan is
certainly a challenge. All the more so if you’re really into your food and
don’t want to end up just eating rice. But it is possible.
When I first started out I had no clue – which is why I ended up slipping back to vegetarian a lot of the time in the year I spent travelling through South and Central America. But two years in and after many more adventures, I’ve become somewhat of an expert in how to find vegan food in the most unlikely seeming places.
Friends that are vegetarian and vegan often bemoan how poor the food is that they’ve eaten on their travels. Others have avoided travel all together because they fear how difficult it is. But while it can be challenging and there are odd days where you may only eat bread and bananas, I’ve also eaten the best food of my life since I started travelling and went vegan. So here are my top tips for finding vegan food on the road:
Download the Happy Cow app. You have to pay but it’s the best £3 I’ve ever spent. If you’ve never heard of it, Happy Cow is a website that keeps a record of where to find vegan and vegetarian food around the world. While there’s an online version, the app is much better. You simply load it wherever you are and it comes up with a list of restaurants/cafes/shops that sell vegan food within a nearby radius. It marks whether they are vegan, vegetarian, or omni with vegan options, and users can upload photos and review of food they’ve eaten there. Happy Cow is the single biggest reason that I’ve eaten phenomenal vegan food in little Latin American pueblos where others have only been able to get rice. It often is hard in mainstream restaurants, but if you know where to go, there’s a vegan community around the world just waiting to be found. I even use it in the UK whenever I go somewhere new!
Get on instagram. Yes I know it’s not for everyone and can be very artificial, but it’s also a mine of information about food. More specifically, food porn from the places that you want to travel to. Just type in the place you’re going with the vegan hashtag e.g. #vegancusco or #veganamsterdam and you’ll be flooded with inspiration from places other travellers have eaten. Following other foodies on insta has also inspired me to go on my own travels specifically because the vegan food there looks so good!
Read and subscribe to vegan travel blogs. Yes, like mine, which you can subscribe to in the sidebar of this page or the footer. I know I’m biased, but a huge amount of my travel research comes from reading other people’s blogs. There’s a whole world of us out here on WordPress and beyond. My favourites include (probably the longest running and most comprehensive) The Nomadic Vegan, Cook the Beans and Veggie Vagabonds.
Cook your own food: apart from being good for
your budget, staying in hostels or Airbnbs with kitchen facilities gives you
much more power over what you eat. While you still have to shop for
ingredients, you can buy rice, vegetables and pulses pretty much anywhere in
the world. Better yet, you can learn to veganise local recipes. Which brings me
on to my next point:
Try to find a vegan cooking class. Learning about places through their food is one of my favourite ways to discover the culture of somewhere new, as well as try new vegetables, fruits, spices, and herbs. Most destinations with some level of tourism will run cooking classes in the bigger cities, and many will offer a veggie or vegan option or be willing to adapt to you if you ask. I recently took great specialised vegan classes in both Thailand and Bali. In this way you also learn what goes into the options in the local menus and know what to ask to remove or substitute if need be.
Try to learn a bit of the local language. We all
know it’s often hard enough to explain veganism even in your own tongue, but it’s
even worse if you’re expecting the waitress or cook to understand you when you
don’t speak the local language. Learning some key phrases might not convince
someone of why you don’t want to eat things that come from animals, but it often
helps to explain how to adapt food for you.
Not good with languages or moving around too
much to get them down? Download the Vegan
Passport from the Vegan Society. This handy app can be downloaded to your
phone and includes phrases to explain your food preferences in 79 languages!
Don’t be afraid to ask for something not on the
menu if it’s a simple dish. While I try to find the excellent veggie
restaurants on Happy Cow, sometimes there’s no other option than somewhere with
a local menu that is exclusively meat based. But if you ask nicely, again while
they might not understand why, most places can make you plain rice and veg,
pasta, or something with potatoes. It’s awkward but better than going hungry.
While veganism is not a universally understood word, many people understand that Buddhists and people of the Jain faith do not eat food that comes from animals. Sometimes it’s worth claiming it as a last resort. Or if you’re in Asia, often finding local eateries around temples is a good way to ensure your food is animal-free. It’s also worth knowing that Hare Krishna communities have restaurants around the world – even, I was surprised to find, all over Latin America – and with their peace-driven and minimalist ethos, you can be sure anything that you eat in a Hare Krishna place will be both vegan and very affordable.
If all else fails, just load yourself up with snacks. It’s always a good idea especially on long travel days where you’re unsure whether you’ll get a rest stop or be able to find anywhere to cater to you if you’re going off the beaten track. Bananas and nuts are the best bet and you can find them in most parts of the world.
So don’t be afraid to travel as a vegan, and whatever you do don’t resort to eating rubbish food unless you really have to. Do your research and follow the steps above and you’ll find that it’s much easier than you think. Better yet, share where you’ve found good food and become a part of the vegan travel community. Whether it’s through blogging, instagram, or becoming a Happy Cow Ambassador, it’s a great way to give back and to make vegan travel more accessible to everyone.
I had been drooling over pictures tagged #veganbali for several months before I booked my flights. Say what you like about intstagram– it’s superficial, artificially constructed reality, etc. etc. BUT it is an incredibly useful resource to me in terms of a. Finding delicious vegan restaurants or recipes and b. Getting travelinspa and fuelling my wanderlust. One of my top tips for new vegan travellers would be to get on ‘the gram’ – because it’s now one of the easiest ways to do research into vegan travel- literally just follow the #vegantravel hashtag and you’ll be flooded with pics to make your tummy rumble of interesting food from all around the world.
As such I had made a huge list in my iphone notes of places I had to eat at before my plane even landed in Indonesia. Even eating three meals a day I didn’t manage to make everywhere- and I certainly didn’t have time to make it round the whole island. A lot of places I went to were so small they didn’t seem to have names or weren’t somewhere you’d find on google maps- such as the place I had this traditional curry, below. But here are my highlights of vegan eating in Bali.
I ate my favourite meal of the whole holiday at Genius Cafe. This Indonesian take on tacos blew my tastebuds and I gobbled them up way too quickly. Made with tempeh with crunchy corn, onions, and pineapple, slathered in a mix of creamy and spicy sauces, and a zing of lime, I could eat these every day.
I usually stay in hostels when I travel so I’m used to a breakfast buffet that is uninspiring to say the least, often with no options for vegans apart from plain toast. However, Abian Harmony hotel was a budget hotel stay with friends where on top of the included breakfast buffet you could order anything you liked off the breakfast menu, included in the price of your stay! (Which was only around £25 a room). The vegan option was a tofu scramble with peppers, mushroom, radish, and tomato, served on a roasted pumpkin with toast. This wayyy exceeded my expectations and kept me full til lunch (rare).
Being a smaller island off the coast of Bali, the options
were a bit more limited here as there weren’t really any all vegan restaurants
in the area that we were in. However, a lot of places had vegan options or
would make something vegan for you if you asked. Any cafe would do you a
smoothie bowl (see the dragonfruit bowl below) but do make sure to ask that it
doesn’t contain milk, yoghurt, or honey.
‘The bar’ may not have had an inspiring name but they did
have this delicious healthy yogi bowl- some much needed lightness after trying
a delicious but heavy local tempeh curry.
Often mistaken for the capital, which is actually Denpasar,
Ubud is nevertheless the tourist capital and therefore overrun not just with
foreigners but with enough vegan restaurants and yoga centres to fulfil all
your wildest snowflake fantasies.
Earth Cafe was probably my favourite- their menu was so huge I was literally in agony trying to decide between the array of options. I really enjoyed their sushi rolls, rice paper rolls, and Arabic salad, as well as all the smoothies. Their service was fast and they also had a cute wholefoods and fair-trade ethical shop below the restaurant.
Falafel Warung made the best falafel I’ve ever eaten- you know globalisation is real when an English person can be saying that about a Middle Eastern food while in Southeast Asia. ‘Warung’ is the local word meaning eatery, and we did go to many little local eateries during the trip, though annoyingly since they’re not tagged in google maps I can’t remember all their names. ‘Falafel warung’ therefore sounds like a contradiction in terms, but this little street joint was so friendly and I’d have gone back if we had more time.
Pissari Bali Cafe had lots of local food with vegan versions, as well as Mexican and European. I really loved the satay tempeh plate and nasi goreng (an Indonesian stir fry).
If you fancy an ice cream (and in that heat, you will)
you’ll be pleased to know that the premium gelato place- which has stalls on
Monkey Forest road and in the craft market- has several vegan options. I tried
the bounty and my friend went for the snickers.
The restaurant called ‘Garden Cafe’ that is a part of the Taksu Spa/yoga hotel complex was a bit more of an upmarket one and had a feel to it that was too western to my liking. That said they had various delicious vegan options including a jackfruit rendang curry, raw tacos, and an interesting take on a vegan cheesecake.
In the heat of the city, and with travel burn out I was really craving a cold iced latte, but was trying very hard to resist the omnipresent Starbucks. Atman Cafe turned out to be a gorgeous spread of a cafe/restaurant that did a really lovely almond latte with natural syrup sweetener, and they also had a yogi and hippie sort of jewellery shop to the side.
If you’re heading out to the Tegallalang Rice Terraces (and why wouldn’t you be?) and need a spot of refreshment after hiking up and down the iconically steep slopes, By Cafe is your bet for an array of vegan drinks, smoothie bowls, and plant-based cakes with a view.
Another thing I’d really recommend doing while travelling is taking cooking classes. If, like me, you like to connect to local cultures through your tastebuds, it’s a really good way to understand different ingredients and ways of cooking. While cooking classes are not hard to find, it’s sometimes to as easy to find places that do recipes that are either naturally vegan or can be veganised.
Pembulan Farm Cooking School was everything you’d dream of and easily the best travel-cooking-class-experience I’ve had. About an hour outside of Ubud, you can be picked up from your hostel and taken to a beautiful farm in the rolling countryside. We were guided around the gardens in which fruit, vegetables, spices and herbs grew naturally and organically, and collected all our ingredients for the class in a straw basket, while the teacher explained what the new things were.
We then spent a wonderful day cooking up a whole feast of a five-course meal, that included: sweet and sour tempeh, sweetcorn fritters, mushroom parcels wrapped in banana leaf, a vegetable and tempeh curry, and black rice pudding. It was one of the highlights of my trip and I’d urge anyone with foodie bones to make sure you book a day in your Bali travels to visit this place.
Canggu was not really my scene. While I like the hippie vibe, overall it felt too Western, too fashionable, and too expensive for my liking. That said I enjoyed the beach time and I really loved Serenity Eco Guesthouse. A natural complex built around a big pool, this little guest house is built on sustainable principles, is all vegan, and runs multiple yoga classes a day. Yes I’ve become that sort of person. Their restaurant was a little too healthy for my liking to eat at every day, but it did provide delicious and natural included breakfasts and a huge menu.
To satisfy my junk food cravings I went to Plant Cartel. This cartel is my sort of [v]gang and I really enjoyed the loaded nachos, while my friend went for the Mexican salad. They also had mouth watering giant burgers, tacos and more.
At Avocado Factory you can live out all your millenial snowflake inclinations by munching ethical avo on sourdough, with a plant-based latte through a plastic-free straw, while looking over the ubiquitous rice fields.
You cannot go to Canggu without visiting Mad Pops, an iconic plant based ice cream shop where I was literally spoiled for choice. I’d been craving mint choc chip but not found any vegan options for months, so I opted for a cone stacked with mint, salted caramel and peanut butter ice cream. Balance, right?
In the heat of the day I did find that my appetite tended to wane until evening and then come back in full force. The Shady Shack’s portions are ideal for when you want to roll two meals into one. Don’t be too green for my giant burrito that was absolutely packed. I also really loved the creamy sauces here.
One aspect of veganism I hadn’t considered- apart from cosmetics, initially- was ink. A lot of vegans are, being slightly alternative folk, also tattoo lovers, but I had no idea that a lot of inks aren’t vegan. Bali turned out to be a rather expensive place to get a new tat (even more so than London), but a lot of their shops are certified vegan. I’d really recommend BabaYaga tattoo studio, where I got this beautiful and elegant leg piece, cruelty free, to round up my trip and serve as a lifelong memory of Indonesia.
Even eating my heart out I didn’t manage to get round
everywhere on my list, and new places are popping up all the time. If anyone
went anywhere I didn’t get the time to get to, please let me know about it!
London has recently overtaken Berlin to be named the ‘Vegan Capital of the World’. Take a tour round the streets of East London in particular and it’s easy to see why. Moving here after a year of struggling to find animal-free food in Latin America, I was inundated with signs for vegan food and plant-based fare on every street.
From Shoreditch’s hipster central to the resplendent junk fare in Hackney, it’s a haven for every hungry vegan, and also home to Vegan Nights, the UK’s only monthly vegan event that turns into a dance night later on. The list of venues is endless, but here are a few of the top places to visit if you’re in the area:
Boxpark is stereotypical millennial central, but this means a plethora of interesting eats, many of which are vegan. Once home to the (sometimes in-)famous CookDaily, which has now moved to Hackney, it maintains a surprising number of vegan options under one roof.
EatChay, known for it’s bao buns and Bánh mìs (below) sits alongside Biff’s Jack Shack, a ‘filthy vegan junk food’ place where you can get realistic chicken wings in multiple fiery sauce options, as well as some seriously stacked burgers.
If you’re nursing a hangover, there’s none better than What the Pitta to serve you up a feast of mock-donor wrap stuffed with fake donor meat, salad, and tahini. It’s a beast but it’s so worth it.
If you fancy something on the sweeter side, Nosteagia also offers several vegan options of its iconic bubble cones. This is a really intense treat if you’re feeling pudding for lunch, or otherwise a seriously scrummy snack to share with a friend.
Brick Lane is generally known for its curry mile, but the area is waking up to the surrounding vegalution. While many of the curry houses now explicitly advertise vegan options, it’s also home to multiple all-vegan places including VeganYes, a curious Italian/Korean fusion. Mooshie’s burger bar is definitely worth a visit, with a big selection to suit your vurger tastes. Canvas Cafe is a wonderful vegan cafe-cum-social project that offers mental health support groups, creative sessions, and the chance to gift a meal to someone who can’t afford one.
On the sweeter side of life, Vida Bakery sells VEGAN RAINBOW CAKE, (hallo, snowflake heart attack)! Also worth knowing is the fact that Crosstown doughnuts does multiple vegan options.
On a non-food note, Fifth Dimension is also a friendly vegan tattoo place. It’s also home to the Boiler House weekend market, which usually has multiple vegan options, and of course, Vegan Nights.
Is an event that usually takes place once a month, on the
first Thursday of the month, though this can vary. The first time I walked into
vegan nights, my mind was blown. It was the biggest vegan market I’d ever seen,
with the most incredible spread of stalls offering food from around the world,
and I knew I didn’t have to ingredient-check any of it.
Apart from fresh, hot food and cakes there are also stalls like KindaCo that sell artisan cheese you can take home to enjoy the next day, and ethical products like soy wrap (to substitute for cling film) and vegan fashion.
As the night warms up and the drinks are flowing, it turns
into a dance-night with inevitable dance offs, and if you’re very lucky, the
chance to meet another tasty vegan.
Also in the area
…and worth noting are Essential Vegan Cafe, which has a really nice vibe if you just want to sit and work for a while with an oat latte and delicious cake. Vurger is, IMHO, the best vegan burger in London.
Lollipop in Spitalfields is great, and there are also various options in the Spitalfields Market itself- including Merkamo Ethiopian, a favourite lunchtime treat. If you fancy something healthy, Redemption offer the most beautiful and filling Buddha bowls, non-alcoholic beverages and desserts.
Newer haunts include the expensive but TOTALLY SICK Genesis, which serves milkshakes that are pure chocolate fudge, deep-fried avocado tacos as well as healthier options like turmeric-roasted cauliflower. Unity Diner was set up as a non-profit by vegan god Earthling Ed. While I’ve only been for a coffee, the menu looks amazing, and given the amount of hate it has got from anti-vegan protesters, we should all totally be supporting this business.
The Black Cat Cafe was the first all vegan cafe I went to in London and I’m so glad I did. Another social project run by volunteers (damn these vegans are all good humans), it also has affordable prices and a super chill and friendly atmosphere.
Temple of Seitan is where London’s vegan junk scene started. With it’s mock wings, stacked burgers, and seriously fatty mac n cheez, it’s the perfect place for when you’re feeling wicked. Another bit of home comfort can be found at Sutton and Sons, which made headlines as the first all-vegan fish and chip shop.
CookDaily (mentioned earlier) has re-homed to Hackney where you can still get all the old favourites, including noodles, curries, and a good old English breakfast. I have a bit of a weakness for this place and can’t stop going back.
The Spread Eagle is an all vegan pub and another headline-grabber. Home to former street-food vendor Club Mexicana, their popularity is not surprising. I love their light but tasty tacos, washed down with a vegan cider, and the staff are as ever for this sort of place, cool, friendly, and alternative.
No doubt, if you have landed in East London you’ve landed on
your feet as far as finding vegan grub is concerned. So what do you think?
Which are your favourites? Did I miss anywhere? Do get in touch and let me
know- I’m always looking to try new things.
Thailand is a haven for vegan eating on a budget. Or at
least it would be if it wasn’t for that damn fish sauce in everything.
I love street food, and no doubt it helps you to save your money for the really exciting things when you travel. In Bangkok, though, with the exception of the mango sticky rice (below) that is sold on every street corner for 30-40 baht (making a delicious breakfast for less than £1), by and large I was unable to trust that seemingly vegan street food really was.
No problem, though- there is no shortage of vegan and
vegetarian restaurants where you can be sure what you’re getting is not only
fish free but delicious.
My number one recommendation for Bangkok is May Kaidee. This is a vegetarian restaurant and cooking school that also has locations in Chiang Mai and New York. The first time I visited I was ravenous after a long plane journey. I decided to start my trip with a classic Pad Thai. Because I was hungry I also got a ‘starter’ of deep fried tofu in peanut sauce.
It was phenomenal value, not least because when my ‘starter’
came it looked like this!
Huge! And for about £1.50. The deep fried tofu was perfect –
crunchy on the outside, soft in the middle, and the peanut sauce, wow.
The Pad Thai also really hit the spot. And for two huge courses (that meant I didn’t need to eat for a good twelve hours) with a couple of beers it only set me back around £7.50!
Take their cooking class
I would also strongly recommend their cooking class if you have the time to take an afternoon out. After tasting the food I signed up for one the next day and spent a hugely enjoyable afternoon learning how to make Tom Yum soup, Massamam curry, Pad Thai, and mango sticky rice. Then I didn’t need to eat again for another twelve hours after staggering back for a nap!
The teacher was incredibly funny and upbeat and made what would otherwise have been a nice enough afternoon one of my favourite parts of the trip. Although it’s a vegetarian cooking school they can easily make the food vegan if you let them know by using coconut instead of egg.
My other favourite haunt, Ethos, is just a few doors up. What was wonderful about this place is the extremely chill vibe they have created. Close to the main strip but tucked down a quiet alley, it’s an oasis of calm that serves up smoothies, salad bowls, and Thai dishes that are guaranteed to be vegan. You sit on giant cushions that are sprawled around the low tables. There’s a bookcase and a constant stream of friendly nomads to keep you entertained if you fancy a couple of hours of down time. I recommend the smoothies and the homemade tempeh with peanut sauce.
I’d heard great things about Mango but I must say I was disappointed. I had forsaken my favourite breakfast of mango sticky rice because I was preparing for a day of sight-seeing and a long journey and wanted something that filled me up.
However, I found the service slow, and the food unremarkable. I decided to go for a ‘chocolate smoothie bowl’ with granola and fruit that I hoped would be substantial but quick. As a solo traveller I was completely ignored while the owner tended to the needs of couples around. I actually had to seek them out to place my order after being ignored for twenty five minutes and then at the end to even attempt to pay.
It took an hour to get in and out which would have been fine if the food was fantastic, but when it arrived it, although it looked insta-worthy in its presentation it turned out to be a small fruit salad with a thimble-full of a chocolate drink and some cheap cereal bites that you can buy on the street for about 10 baht. This cost over £6. Total waste of money and time, and the attitude annoyed me too.
Perhaps I just got a bad day and bad luck because other people’s meals looked fantastic, and it generally gets rave reviews. If you’re only there for a short time I’d recommend May Kaidee or Ethos over here in a heartbeat. Or better yet, be braver than me and push more street stalls to make you something vegan!
San Francisco has a reputation for liberal thought and
progressive values. It’s therefore no surprise that it is also a leading light in
vegan cuisine. From bowl-themed health and wellness inspired cafes to veganised
Asian dishes and some serious junk, you could eat in a different place in San
Francisco for a month before you ran out of options. Here are a few of my favourites:
For the health
Nourish Café is your best bet for giant bowls of wholesome goodness. They’re a little on the pricey side but they’re gargantuan enough that you won’t need to eat for the rest of the day. The original nourish bowl is stuffed with quinoa, yams, avocado, sprouts, hummus, cucumber, mixed greens, tomatoes, beet sauerkraut, sunflower seeds, hemp dressing, and I added mock marinated tuna as a topping for extra protein.
Another great choice was the bibimbap bowl with tofu,
carrot, pepper, avo, cabbage, bean sprouts, mixed leases, cucumber, cherry
tomatoes and jasmine rice. Tip: If you’re going with a friend and
fancy a sweet treat in the form of a smoothie-bowl or one of their raw cakes
afterwards, maybe split both to save enough room (unless you’re feeling extra
hungry). They also sell health drinks including kombucha on tap.
If you’re venturing along the coast, Café del Soul in Santa
Rosa also does an amazing array of vegan salads and this seriously green ‘hummus
If you’re craving a brunch that will fuel you for a day of sight-seeing, Andana Fuara is your best spot for breakfast burritos, vegan huevos rancheros, French toast, and giant stacks of pancakes.
For when you’re on
Ike’s sandwich shop can be found in multiple locations both in San Francisco and if you’re venturing out in the rest of California. It’s worth noting it as a stop-in on a road-trip since options on the road can be limited. They have a huge menu of vegan sandwich options with mock meats. My favourite were the ‘turkey’, mozzarella and avocado, and the ‘go sharks’, with mock chicken, buffalo wing sauce, lettuce and tomato.
Gracias Madre has an authentic vibe, killer cocktails, and sources all of its organic ingredients locally. I got the Flautas de Camote with sweet potatoes, caramelized onion, guacamole, cashew nacho cheese and black beans, with a side of margariiittaaaa!
For the best Asian
San Francisco has a huge Asian influence in its food and culture
as it became home to migrants from China and Japan in the 1900s. The fusion of
this and the hippie vibe means that you can get some of the most authentic and
incredible eats in vegan versions all over the place!
Indochine’s pot-sticker dumplings were the perfect combination of crisp, doughy, and flavourful. Their signature clay-pot with mock prawn is also a must-try dish.
Golden Era is one of the top-rated vegan Chinese places and for good reason. The ‘lemongrass deluxe’ is one of their specialities with mock chicken and broccoli in a spicy lemongrass sauce. I really enjoyed the fried bananas with soy chocolate ice cream for dessert. Better yet, they’re extremely affordable, so if your wallet needs a break from some of this city’s high prices it’s a good spot for a bargain dinner.
Mister Jiu’s is not a vegan spot but it has several vegan options and is simply put the best Chinese I have ever eaten in my life. This sort of place would normally be way out of my price range, but if you’re lucky enough to have a friend to treat you or if your wallet is bigger than mine it is well worth forking out a bit more for this kind of taste experience. There’s no greasy ‘vegetable chow mein’ here. We munched through fluffy mushroom bao buns, Szechuan tofu, carrot and peanut noodles, bok choi, and my surprise favourite dish, crispy scarlet turnip cakes. The cocktails also pack a punch.
For sushi, you have to go to Shizen. At risk of sounding repetitive this was the best sushi I have had in my life! I never used to be into sushi since I stopped eating fish as a kid and previously vegan versions were pretty bland. The game has upped, particularly in London, over the last few years as the demand for both Japanese and vegan food has increased, but I’ve never had anything like these sushi rolls. Even my ardent carnivore friend was impressed! The rolls we tried were:, ‘secret smile’ with sweet potato tempura, avocado, spicy tofu, roasted pepper, sesame mustard and seaweed pearls. Then: ‘secret weapon’ with marinated eryngii mushroom, avo, spicy shredded tofu, pickled jalapeño, pickled pineapple, sweet shoyu and habanero sauce. Finally, the ‘colonel’s pipe’, with smoked beets, cashews, creamy tofu, asparagus, avo, sweet mustard, and orange zest.
For something a bit different:
Ethiopian food has surged in popularity in the trendy corners of London in the last year. It also makes a splash in San Francisco. I’ve got really obsessed with it recently since it’s delicious, naturally vegan, affordable and so healthy. This veggie banatu combo from Tadu Ethiopian included a delicious stew (top left) I’d never had before. It was a huuuuge meal for a bargain price.
For serious junk:
Another non-vegan place, but a good one to check out in non-vegan company, Tony’s is known as the best pizza in San Fran for good reason. Better yet, the chef has started to include vegan cheese as an option on the vegetarian pizzas to veganise them! Unfortunately when I went they had run out, but I still really enjoyed a cheese-less feast with crunchy fried onions and scallions. Tip: better than the pizza was the fried dough ball starter. Giant crispy but fluffy light dough balls you could crack open and stuff with a bruschetta veg mix. I think I died and went to carbed our heaven!
If you’re in Haight Ashbury and you’ve got the munchies, Vegan Burg does some pretty satisfying burgers. My standards for vurgers are pretty high after spending a year sampling the best Shoreditch has to offer, and IMHO these weren’t quite up to the standard of Vurger or Mooshies. The BBQ burger was a bit bland, but I really enjoyed the fake fish with tartar sauce for something a bit different. It was crunchy, sour, and satisfying.
So all in all this is why I left San Francisco a few pounds heavier! Have I missed anything? Feel free to get in contact and let me know your favourite foodie finds there.
It seems like EVERYONE is talking about veganism right now.
A once niche market is exploding everywhere – not just in hipster spots in Shoreditch, but
every high street in the UK and every supermarket is bursting with vegan food,
products, magazines, you name it. It’s hard to say right now whether the UK is
more divided over Brexit or the new Gregg’s vegan sausage roll (though I expect
there is a high correlation between each side on both issues). I’ve been vegan
full time for over a year now, and I was in transition and mostly vegan for the
year before that. But why?
Well, apart from enjoying looking smugly down my nose at everyone
else (obvs) and the added bonus of knowing our very existence raises the blood
pressure of Piers Morgan on a daily basis, there are some really solid reasons
why so many people have made the transition, turning veganism from a fringe
movement to a full on vegalution within just a few years.
I should just say in advance that I don’t judge anyone for eating meat and dairy (although I obviously don’t like it). We have all grown up eating this way and it’s all we’ve ever been told is normal, natural, and until recently all that has been available in a Western diet. There are so many things that are messed up in the way we’re accustomed to living out lives that we don’t see the behind -the -scenes of, and this is just one of them. I was guilty for years, even as someone who was vegetarian since childhood ‘for the animals’ of being blind, and then resistant to knowing, how abusive the dairy industry was because I really loved cheese (and god, I’m not too holier- than-thou to admit that I miss it). I didn’t want to give it up, or to have my life made any more difficult when I felt I already went out of my way enough to ‘do the right thing’. But now this choice is getting easier and ever, and the reasons for it, when I read about them, were too compelling to ignore. So here we go:
The animals.Dairy is scary. Milk and eggs are natural by-products which animals need to get rid of anyway, right? So animals don’t die for dairy? Wrong.
To produce milk, cows, like humans, have to have recently given birth – it doesn’t just naturally come out of them all the time. So, to maintain a supply of milk dairy farms have to forcibly inseminate cows (which is basically inter-species rape). Like human mothers, the cow brings her baby to term, gives birth, bonds with the baby. The baby is then taken away from her so that humans can take the milk that was made for them. Baby boys are killed, baby girls are bred into the same system of abuse. The mother cow mourns the loss of her child just as we would. Can you imagine having your baby taken away from you? She is then pumped with hormones and her milk is taken from her for the next few months. Then she is impregnated again, her baby is taken away again, and the system repeats. There is no ethical milk, no such thing as free-range. Cow’s milk was never meant for human consumption. Why would we consider drinking milk from other animals (cats? pigs?) to be gross, but assume that cow’s milk is meant for us?
While there are scales of abuse in the industry, and supposedly UK farms conform to higher welfare standards than the rest of the world (though I’ve seen some horrendous videos of treatment of animals in UK dairy farms), there is just no way to produce milk without actively engaging in this process of abuse. ‘Organic’ does not mean ethical. Cows can naturally live for 20 years, but in the dairy industry she will only make it until six before her abused body is worn out and she is culled for meat. Not so natural after all. Realising this fact also helped me to understand vegetarianism is an illogical position; by consuming dairy, you are contributing to the meat industry even if you think you’re boycotting it.
And what about eggs? They’re chicken periods, right? So they come out all the time without harming the bird? Well, yes, if you have a pet chicken. But we go through 32 million eggs every day in the UK. To feed this drive, chickens are bred to lay hundreds of eggs per year, whereas in the wild they would have around 12, about the same amount a human female has a period to maintain a reproductive system. And more birds are needed, so hundreds of thousands of baby chicks are born every day. The cute yellow fluffy things, right? But what use are the boys, who will never give eggs? None. So the male chicks are killed by the most convenient way possible, which can include gassing, or even being thrown into a giant blender. Yes, seriously. There is no such thing as ‘free range’ – this happens at a ‘happy egg company’ and it happens at all large scale egg companies. And even if you say you only buy locally – will you check every item you ever buy and eat that has eggs in it? Every cake, every pastry, every shop-bought sandwich on the run? The only way to not participate in this abuse is to get out of eating eggs completely.
The environment. There is a building body of conclusive scientific evidence demonstrating that the meat industry is the highest contributor to climate change, is a huge factor in wide-scale destruction of the rainforests, and is not sustainable for long-term food production. A plant-based diet is the only diet which can produce enough food for everyone without destroying the planet. What about soy being damaging to the environment? I’m asked all the time. Actually, the VAST majority of soy (about 75%) is produced for cattle feed. Which produces less calories and contributes even further to carbon emissions. If we took out the cows, we would need less soy because we could produce more food for more people with the same resources. Climate change is already causing devastation, loss of livelihood, and taking lives around the world every day through extreme weather and destruction of resources. We cannot afford to be flippant about this. Going vegan is the best thing you can personally do to contribute to reducing climate-change right now, and if we don’t, we seem to be very close to hitting a crisis point soon where it actually becomes necessary to avoid extinction.
Reducing extreme poverty and malnutrition worldwide. If skipping meat for more meals meant you could make sure someone else doesn’t go hungry, isn’t that the easiest way for the average person to contribute to end global food poverty? Meat production being a less effective use of resources is not just theory, it is a large part of the reason why there are so many people dying of malnutrition on our planet right now, while others have an excess of calories. (Here are some other reasons). SO much more land is needed for breeding animals, for meat which is exported for wealthier people to eat. A report in this scientific journal demonstrates that a meat-based diet uses 160 times the resources of a plant-based one. So, for every one hundred people that go plant-based, the resources could be freed for up to 16,000 more people to have enough to eat.
Health. There’s a myth that you need to eat meat and dairy to be healthy and maintain a balanced diet that fulfils all your nutritional needs. Not only is this not true, but meat products, particularly red meat and processed foods, have now been recognised by the World Health Organisation and cancer charities as carcinogenic. There is a clear link between eating meat and getting bowel cancer, the second deadliest cancer in the UK. It increases your risk of developing colorectal cancer by 18% and pre -menopausal breast cancer by 22%, as well as pancreatic and prostate cancer.
Meat and dairy are also very high in
saturated fat, which is linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and erectile
dysfunction. In fact, scientific studies have shown that high meat intake
directly contributes to developing type 2 diabetes.
So not only does it kill the planet to produce it, it’s actually killing you
too. And people say vegans are extreme…
But what about dairy? We’ve been told our
whole lives to drink milk, that dairy is good for you and full of calcium. But
the reality is, cow’s milk is produced biologically to make little cows grow up
fast. It’s not meant for humans. Which means that by ingesting cow’s milk (a
baby cow growth formula), we actually ingest a huge whack of hormones that are
not meant for our species. It’s not really surprising that so many people are
‘lactose intolerant’. As the saying goes, you’re not lactose intolerant, you’re
just not a baby cow, bro.
So what of the alternatives? The protein
question is one I’m asked all the time. The good news is, it’s incredibly easy
to get enough protein as a vegan. Animals that people eat for protein actually
have to get their protein from somewhere too – plants.
We can just skip going through an animal to get it. Apart from the
booming market in meat substitutes, there are all natural and high-nutrient
foods like beans (kidney, black, edamame, uduki, soy etc.), pulses like
chickpeas and lentils, nuts, seeds, and nut butters, and even peas, rice, and
oats actually contain a surprising amount of protein, and are very low in
saturated fat, particularly compared to meat protein. Calcium is found in a
huge array of leafy green
veg as well as fortified foods. The only thing you can’t get in a vegan
diet is B12 – but I just take a supplement
and that’s that. Easy. I’ve never eaten a more healthy, nutrient dense diet and
I consume considerably less saturated fat.
It’s more accessible and cheaper than ever before. There was a time when being vegan meant your only option when eating out was a side-salad or chips, and making the choice was a real sacrifice that made eating socially really difficult. This is no longer the case. I admit that it is only since the vegan movement started to boom in 2016/7 that I decided it was easy enough to hop on board by trying Veganuary thinking it would be just a ‘one month challenge’, but when I realised how easy it was, I made it permanent. The majority of restaurants now cater to vegans and will help if they don’t have something on their menu already.
The fact that it’s gone mainstream means it’s also cheaper than ever. The idea that a vegan diet is only for pretentious middle-class people is a myth. Doesn’t everyone deserve to eat well? The majority of naturally vegan foods are cheap anyway (I eat a lot of oats, rice, veg, beans, chickpeas). However, if you are into substitutes (I love a big burger or fake fish finger every now and then), these are now either at or close to price parity with animal products. Case point, I have a vegan friend who only earns £10k a year! If you think about it, meat and cheese are actually really expensive, so you might find eating more vegan meals helps rather than hurts your wallet.
It’s delicious. There’s no reason why in this day and age eating vegan means just soggy soy and brown rice. I don’t find it a sacrifice, and if anything I’m eating better and more interesting food than ever. Going vegan has inspired me to expand my cooking repertoire and try loads of new recipes and ingredients I’d never heard of before. From seitan to nooch, jackfruit, banana blossom, and almond butter, there’s a world of food to discover.
And speaking of the world, given my love of
travel, it’s been really exciting to try local vegan food as I roam the planet,
diversifying my palette and showing that there really are a million different
takes on a plant-based cuisine. I hope that this blog and my linked Instagram account
will inspire others by showcasing how to eat and travel vegan, with some
serious food porn along the way. Going
vegan is no longer a sacrifice, it’s just a way of living to reduce suffering,
in accordance with our planet’s limits, that still means you can eat an
incredible array of amazing grub every day – and live longer, too.
So why not try it? Even if it’s for just a
month, a week, or trying a new recipe or menu item here and there,
incorporating more vegan food into the global diet will do wonders.
When I said I was going to Iceland, a lot of people got wide
eyed when they remembered my veganism. What
are you going to eat?! Ice?
I guess it has a reputation for having a diet heavy with fish and meat, and that may be so. However, was pleasantly extremely surprised how easy it was to be vegan in Iceland. Particularly in the capital of Reykjavik, it is a well-established concept. Beyond that, though, I was still really taken aback that a lot of the service stations and supermarkets as we got further out into the sticks not only had vegan options, but they were clearly labelled to avoid doubt. Winning!
Now, two things to say about eating on an Iceland holiday. First of all, you’re probably going to spend most of the time on the road, which means cooking for yourself on a campstove. This makes things easier in that you can cook your own recipes from scratch with naturally vegan ingredients (beans, rice, pasta, veggies), and apart from this, the main supermarket that you will see everywhere (Bonus) does your whole line of vegan substitutes- milks, yoghurts, burgers, mince etc. One morning feeling particularly extravagant I even made some vegan blueberry pancakes (pictured). However, this leads to point two- everything is VERY expensive. A shop for one week of main meals cost a fearful amount, and we had to keep topping up on fresh veggies as we went.
Because of this, a lot of people in the know had brought
their own veggies and pasta etc. with them. As I’d flown on the most budget
flight possible, I didn’t really have enough luggage to do this. It wasn’t quite as bad as I was expecting given
the rep Iceland has for being expensive in general, but with the cost of also
renting your cooking equipment if you don’t have it, don’t go thinking that
because it’s a camping trip it’s going to be a budget holiday.
However- I was really pleased to find that if you needed it, the options were generally available. One particularly good campsite (at Skaftafell National Park) had several vegan dinner options in the café as well as two kinds of cake. The exception to this is in some of the further out places, where it’s worth ensuring you are stocked up with hummus, bread, and other picnic items before venturing, because even if there were vegan options available in the one café in some of the far-off stretches of road (and there generally weren’t), it will cost you about £17 for a soup. Also, it’s just too damn pretty to sit inside.
In Reykjavik, however, (probably at the start and end of your trip) you’ll be made up. Eat Co has two locations and is the perfect lunch stop for huge, healthy salad bowls, smoothies, almond lattes, and all other kinds of good-for-you hipster grub. After eating limited fresh veggies during the week due to the cost, it was great to stuff our faces with these once we got back to civilisation.
The best spot for a dinner out is undoubtedly Kaffi Vinyl.
Taking hipster chic to the next level, this place is a chilled-vibe, low-key
vegan restaurant, jazz café and record shop all in one. The prices are higher
than at home but not bad for Iceland, and for it we got a huge bowl of
delicious noodles and an Oumph! Teriyaki bowl, with a fairly priced house wine.
If that doesn’t already warm your snowflake heart, they also sell a range of
feminist and gender queer stickers. Yay!
So go forth to Iceland vegan friends, without fear of only
eating moss. Unless you want to try the traditional moss schnapps, but from
experience I would say probably DON’T 😉
Nicaragua is undoubtedly the hardest place on my Latin American adventure to be a vegetarian or vegan- the former is a barely grasped concept, and veganism really barely exists. That said, there have been some fantastic spots I’ve been while roaming the country with delicious, healthy food. Unfortunately because it is mostly gringos that go there, the prices are a lot higher than the average food in a local comedor, and I’ve mostly eaten in.
Being gringoville, Granada is an easy place to find vegan food. Although there aren’t any specialist places, most of the cafes and restaurants offer something. The Garden Café is a haven with a vegan salad comprising of cucumber, tomato, onion, leaves, hummus, chickpeas, grains, flaked almonds and pitta. They also do a chunky hummus and avo sandwich. Pita, pita also does a hummus falafel salad plate, though at great expense.
In Managua, the amazing Ola Verde has a huge range of delicious options including this lentil moussaka with an amazing cashew cheese topping. Portions are a bit small for the price, but they also have a deli counter selling the sexiest tomato hummus, natural peanut butter, tofu, and pots of pre-made couscous salads, marinaded tofu, proper dark chocolate etc. For other staples head to whole food shop La Naturaleza, which is basically the only place you will find a good range of soy based burgers, smoked tofu, and other healthy things. The bookshop Hispamer has a gorgeous café which is a haven in the city which serves the best smoothies ever and an amazing quinoa salad, which you can ask for sin queso. A bit out of town but near to my house was the Restaurante Andana, worth a cheap taxi ride for a low-cost, local style vegetarian buffet meal, which when I went included the usual gallo pinto, plantains, salad, and a veggie burger. They also do a big range of salads and smoothies.
If you are thinking of doing Spanish lessons, the beautiful La Mariposa eco hotel and Spanish school is set less than an hour out of the city in the small town of La Concha and includes vegetarian, organic, home-grown food as part of the bundled price.
In Leon head to the beautiful Casa Abierta, the most peaceful eco-hostel with a lovely relaxing vibe. Or if you’re just there for the day, still drop into their restaurant which has an all vegetarian, and largely vegan menu including salads, burritos, pastas, and really unusual smoothies. I had the falafel salad with the best vegan mayo- or if you are a veggie, my friend had the goat’s cheese topped with cashews which was also delicious, especially paired with a colibri smoothie of fresh orange, passionfruit, and basil.
Though I generally prefer independent places to chains, Casa Del Café, which is omnipotent in Managua, does an exceptionally affordable lunch menu where you can get a salad, soup, and drink for just $5 which is great when you’re on the run or need an easy, cheap place to go. Their chia pudding is also creamy and immensely satisfying. It’s also worth knowing the supermarket La Colonia does a breakfast for just 45 cordobas (just over $1) which includes gallo pinto and a tortilla (which is vegan) or if you are a veggie, also a fried egg, and a slab of Nica cheese, with a coffee.
On the whole it’s not easy- I tried to explain in multiple ways not eating meat and still got served ham- but if you can find the right places, there’s lots to choose from in Nicaragua and supporting those business supports a better, healthier, and more sustainable lifestyle- so go for it!
Costa Rica is possibly one of the most progressive countries in the world: last year, 100% of energy supplied to homes was from renewable sources, it has no army, a University of Peace, endless eco-projects, a focus on green tourism… and so naturally it also has a large veggie/vegan population. Although the average meal will cost considerably more than in other Latin American countries, the towns have an undeniably hippie vibe, and there are a plethora of little veggie and vegan cafes and restaurants to get stuck into.
Dominical is one of many such little surfer beach towns I visited on my travels, and although all the restaurants offered veggie options something kept drawing me back to Café Mono Congo. With an enormous menu of both veggie and vegan choices of various tastes, there was something for everyone. I became addicted to their giant breakfast burritos: stuffed with rice, beans, avocado, plantain, salsa picante, and a choice of egg or tofu, and optional cheese.
They also had a zesty quinoa salad, smoky bean stew, lasagna stuffed with veggies, curry, vegan beers and cider (god I’ve missed cider), fresh smoothies, incredible coffee, and a huge fridge full of brownies, buns, tartlets and other treats. Next door was the best health food shop I’ve seen in my travels, packed to the gills with tofu/seitan meats, hummus, baba ganoush, vegan cheese, fresh local fruit and veg, wholegrains, pulses, natural treatments and anything else the ethical grocery shopper might ever dream of.
Mandala was sadly the only restaurant I had time to visit in the vast array of veggie places in San Jose, but I was not disappointed by the unusually delicate tasting (and hard to find) Thai curry. They also made the best natural lemonade (served in a hipster jar, but forgivable for the flavour).
In Montezuma, which I think may be my spiritual home, every restaurant has awesome veggie options including hummus, falafel, curries, salads etc. and so most of the time I didn’t even have to bother looking for veggie restaurants. Although it was tasty, I was slightly disappointed with the rather expensive salad at Café Organico, but they do host live music some evenings so it’s worth checking out.
The best surprise here was that the ice cream place Ice Dream which, as well as selling some delish looking dairy free sorbets, makes these vegan tofu veggie rolls which are both incredible looking and tasting- especially with the peanut dipping sauce!
In Santa Teresa, you can’t miss having lunch at Olam Pure Food. I wanted to eat everything on the menu, but being slightly hungover ordered the vegan pizza. What I got I wouldn’t exactly call a pizza- the wholegrain crust was tasty but decidedly not bread, and the tofu cheese was soft rather than melty- but nevertheless it was delicious and satisfying, and all natural.
Tamarindo was my final stop, and at Pura Vegan I ate the best red Thai curry of my life: the first genuinely spicy thing I’d had in months, rich and full of flavour, I couldn’t stop eating but I didn’t want it to end. I’m genuinely sad now thinking how I will never get to eat it again.
Given that at home my diet is mostly made up of hummus and gin, I was delighted to address the chronic hummus deficiency I’ve suffered from while travelling at the Falafel Bar, which I visited multiple times to have variations of falafel, hummus, and shakshuka. Apparently people are such fans of the place you can even by shirts and hats celebrating the falafel bar. As amazing as the food was, I’m not sure I’m enough of a falafel enthusiast to commit to a hat…. though if someone can find me a hummus hat, I’d gladly show it off everywhere I go.
The good thing in Costa Rica is, if you’re short of cash, it’s for once very easy to make the cheap food in local restaurants veggie: casadas are the omnipresent plato typico for Costa Ricans, and there is usually a version vegetariana that contains just rice, beans, plantain, avocado, eggs, and cheese (you could probably even ask to skip the dairy if you’re vegan, you’ll just get a funny look. Filling, not (too) unhealthy, and easy on the wallet, I ended up eating a lot of these… and an interesting note to leave on- apparently they are called a casada (which means married)- because the saying is that if you marry a Tico (Costa Rican) woman, that is the meal you will end up eating for the rest of your life. Could be worse!
Peru is vegan heaven. There’s a sentence I never expected I’d write. I ate better vegan food in Peru than I’ve eaten in my whole life. It may not be the traditional fare, but veganism is a well understood concept, at least in most of the towns on the backpacker trail, and there are vegan versions of most of the typical dishes- even vegan ceviche! Everything is plentiful, delicious and healthy. In Peru I was in foodie heaven.
The surprises started in Puno. Puno is a nondescript town that most travellers use just as a gateway to Lake Titicaca. It’s big, ugly, and uninspiring- so imagine my surprise when I found the best vegan restaurant (at that point) on my trip- The Loving Hut does a ridiculously cheap set lunch menu for 15 Soles (about £3.50) that includes salad, soup, main dish and pudding. Usually with these set lunches the portions are small- but here the main was so mammoth that I broke my principle of always finishing every meal. The best thing about this place is the tofu fish and meat substitutes. I’d really missed healthy protein and realised how much I rely on Quorn and tofu at home, but here they have vegan ceviche, vegan prawns and rice, tofu chicken, burritos, and much more.
The owner was so friendly and told me about the next surprise of the trip- that in Arequipa there was a vegan festival on the weekend I was arriving! With ridiculously good luck, I went straight to check it out- and it was phenomenal. I ate about three meals worth of food and finished with the best cake of my life- an amazingly rich, vegan, dark chocolate and passion fruit cake- the picture can’t convey the foodgasm.
In Arequipa I also had vegan ceviche in El Buda Profano (pictured below) which was delicious but unsatisfying compared to the Loving Hut version.
For extremely satisfying fare, head to Burger Chulls, where I got a vegan lentil burger with sweet potato fries and a passion fruit drink for just 15 soles again! (£3.50!) and couldn’t move for the rest of the evening.
Crepes are everywhere in South America, surprisingly, and have been the biggest test to my attempt to be vegan most of the time (sorry, I caved for nutella). But Le Petit Francaise will treat you to an incredibly delicious vegan batter hummus and roast vegetable crepe that is to die for. They are so nice they would probably also do you one with lemon and fruit if you asked.
Huacachina is an incredibly small town in the middle of the desert, so imagine how shocked I was to eat the best falafel of my life- in a hostel! Bananas has an incredible menu and these sexy bastards were melt-in-the-mouth delicious, and came with hummus! (I think I’ve had hummus deficiency since arriving in Latin America so I was too excited about this). La Casa de Bamboo is another hostel with an exclusively vegetarian menu, including Thai curry, falafel and incredible large breakfasts. I went three times in my two-day stay.
Lima is meant to be the best place for food, but was less inspiring for me (but I hated Lima in general). However, here I did get a vegan version of a very traditional dish called causa– avocado layered with potato, and vegetable (usually with tuna or chicken). It was creamy, salty, and very satisfying.
If Peru is vegan heaven, worship at the altar of Cusco, where a quick search on Happy Cow revealed more veggie restaurants than it was physically or financially possible for me to visit in my time there. The crown for best veggie food was removed here from the Loving Hut and rewarded to Green Point. I’ve never been so happy from food, and I get happy from food often. Again, for 15 soles, a lunch menu included salad, rich and sweet pumpkin soup, a moderately spicy and fragrant chana masala, topped with yukka (god I’ve missed curry) and a delicious banana and chocolate mousse (all vegan!). The evening options are also incredible- I had a portion of vegan lasagna as big as my head and packed full of fresh veg, while my friends had dumplings and courgetti spaghetti. In spite of my fare I got extreme food envy for the people at the next table who ordered sizzling hot tacos, my god.
Here I also enjoyed El Encuentro, which offers mainly meat substitute versions of traditional Peruvian food (which to be honest, is a lot like Chinese- meat, rice, soy sauce). And I had the best salad I’ve ever eaten in a shamanic raw vegan restaurant- which was so large it took a full forty minutes to eat!
More than these, in Cusco, vegetarian food is advertised everywhere, even at mainstream restaurants, and you can get vegan cakes at bakeries. I’m sad I didn’t spend more time in Cusco for many reasons, but the food is a large factor.
So vegans and vegetarians- don’t fear South America- go to Peru!! And add to this list of amazing, healthy, and satisfying food. Nom.