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Off to Greece!

passports

The time has come and I’m about an hour away from leaving for the airport and heading off to Santorini!  While I’m there for the next 10 days or so I’ll be moving everything over to Instagram and Vegan MoFo-ing over there, so please follow me on Instagram (handle is @theveganword) for live updates from Santorini/food porn/travel porn.  You can expect shots of the most beautiful sunset in the world (that’s what the island’s famed for), Greek vegan food (hopefully eaten in the sun and with a view of the sea) and more.

See you over on Instagram!  (Follow me here)

This post is part of my Hungerlust series. Hungerlust. That insatiable craving for both food, and travel. Preferably combined. And vegan, naturally. My Vegan Month of Food (MoFo) theme this year is all about feeding it. We’ll be doing a journey around the world (airfare not included – sorry!) from the comfort of our sofas – or desks, wherever you happen to be sitting.

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Packing Your Vegan Suitcase

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It’s time to hit the road!  At least for me…  I’m off to Santorini, Greece tomorrow and naturally I haven’t finished packing!  I have, however, started packing my ‘vegan essentials’.  A good vegan traveller always brings nutritional yeast with them, right?  Or maybe that’s just me…  Here’s what’s in my vegan suitcase!  What are your must-haves?

Nooch

Yep, this is totally going in my bag.  We’re renting a small studio apartment with a little kitchen, so we have the option of cooking if a) everything shuts on Sunday (I suspect it might) b) we’re hungry between 2 and 6pm (apparently this is siesta time and literally everything is shut) c) we don’t feel like eating out and want something cheaper and/or healthier.  Naturally, a staple of my vegan kitchen is nutritional yeast.  For toast, pasta, in soups, on popcorn…the list could never end.  Well, except for cereal. I don’t put it on my cereal, even if the back of the carton suggests it (seriously, it does!).  My boyfriend, despite not being vegan and therefore being outside the usual nooch target market, has developed such a love for the stuff that I often catch him eating it by the teaspoonful straight out of the jar.  So it’s a big must have for our holiday kitchen, too!  I’ve ordered a jar for our trip.  Just hope he doesn’t eat it all in the first day!

 

Soy milk

I have a feeling this is going to be hard to come by in Santorini (although I could be wrong).  At any rate I always find it helpful to have a ‘starter carton’ for that first day when you arrive jetlagged to the apartment and really want a coffee but are feeling too exhausted to go to the supermarket.  I’ve packed two, just in case there aren’t any shops selling it in Santorini.  Although I have a feeling the two cartons (they’re just one liter) might not last long, which brings me to the next thing…

 

Powdered soy creamer

I picked this up in Prague at Bioobchod, a health food shop, for under a Euro per packet, and it’s come with me on all my travels since.  It seems like it will last forever until 2016 so I’ll just have to go back to Prague when I run out (or in 2016).  Perfect for taking to cafes with you, or when you run out of soy milk (see above).

 

Spice mix
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Okay, so this one’s a little weird but I like to bring spice mix with me when I go on holiday.  If I’m only staying in an apartment for a couple of weeks, I don’t want to go all out stocking the kitchen, so usually I bring a spice mix with me (and just buy a bottle of olive oil when I get there and I’m ready to start cooking!).  Last year in Sicily I brought an Italian spice mix, and I’m doing the same even though I’m going to Greece because I’m hoping the Mediterranean flavours will still work, plus I always have Italian spice mix in the kitchen… Of course, if I find good, cheap spices there I might pick some more up!

 

Vegan sunscreen

I read that a bottle of sunscreen/sun cream costs 20 Euros on Santorini!  But I’m not worried because I was planning to bring some vegan sunscreen anyway.  I usually use Superdrug brand!

 

Chocolates
chocolates

I may have done a big chocolate order as soon as I found this new vegan chocolate shop the other day…  But it was also timely because I don’t expect I’ll encounter a lot of vegan desserts in Santorini and now I’ll have some vegan sweets to have after dinner if I fancy it. :)

What’s in your vegan suitcase?

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Postcard-ready.  That’s the best way to describe Prague.  I don’t think I’ve ever been to a place that exuded more Old World Europe charm.  On my free walking tour (if you’re travelling around Europe, you should definitely check these out – pretty much every city has one, and it’s paid on a donation basis; usually the guides are pretty great and you can find them through Google or your hostel), the guide told us that Prague was Hitler’s favourite city.  While that might not sound like a good thing, it meant that Hitler banned the Luftwaffe from bombing Prague.  He had designs on the city, and planned to make it his capital and rule over all of Europe from its fairytale castle.

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Thanks to Hitler’s infatuation with the city, Prague has one of the best preserved centres in Europe (also a UNESCO world heritage site).  There are of course a few architectural blemishes from the Communist era (read=incredibly ugly, squat grey buildings) but those tend to be outside the beautiful city centre.

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The city blew me away with its architecture.  The food didn’t quite blow me away, but I did find a few good places to eat, so if you’re in Prague check these places out!

Moment Cafe
moments

This was definitely the highlight of my trip to Prague.  Moments is a completely vegan coffee shop/cafe.  It’s fairly small and it’s the perfect sort of place to grab a light lunch or a coffee and cake and sit down to while away some time on the wifi.  Know that it’s a cafe and a lunch/coffee place with a relaxed vibe, not a dinner place or the place to take a romantic date.

There’s a beautiful park just across the street with its lovely views of a perfect row of townhouses.  The day I was there they only had a couple of food options, but I had a lovely caramelised leek tart and salad with a delicious slice of apple cake.  It was light and perfect for having just gotten off the plane.  I was actually a bit disappointed when I saw the leek tart on the menu; ‘how exciting can a leek tart be’?  Well, unbeknownst to me all this time, when caramelised, leek transforms into something amazing and the tart was gorgeous.  Given how amazing caramelised onions are, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised!

Radost FX Cafe
+ How to Find Vegan Breakfasts

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This place is not vegetarian or vegan, but I went there a couple of times because it was the only place I found in Prague that did a vegan brunch.  Often, finding breakfast can be the hardest part of finding vegan food on the road – I find a lot of restaurants don’t open until lunch or dinner, and places serving up traditional breakfasts often don’t offer a vegan option.

If you’re staying in a hotel or B&B that offers breakfasts you can usually get them to make you a vegan breakfast (email or call a week or so before you go because they might need to get special ingredients in for you!).  If you’re staying in an apartment, airbnb or hostel with a shared kitchen, buy some plant-based milk for the fridge and cereal or oatmeal and make your own breakfast – you’ll save money and won’t have to worry.  If you don’t have a kitchen, I’d suggest either buying a pack of small UHT cartons of soya or almond milk (you know, the ones that don’t need to be refrigerated) – one for each morning you’ll be there, plus a carton of cereal.  Or, just grab some fruit and nuts from the nearest supermarket and keep those in your room. Before you go, Google the name of the city + vegan breakfast or name of the city + vegan brunch, and if you do find a place like Radost FX that does vegan brunch, grab it!!  First of all, you don’t always get that chance.  But second, a leisurely brunch screams vacation!

Radost wasn’t the best vegan brunch I’ve ever had, but this combo of spiced potatoes and guacamole (plus a soya latte – was so happy they had soya milk!) made me really happy, because I was happy to have brunch.  It’s a strange place, because it’s a small cafe upstairs and a nightclub downstairs, which gives it an unusual vibe for a restaurant!

LoVeg
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LoVeg was a huge disappointment.  Perhaps I just went on an off day and ordered the wrong thing – and I have to admit, the menu was very limited so I didn’t have much choice, but I was quite disappointed after reading so many good reviews.  I arrived around 2pm for lunch, found it completely packed.  When I asked if there were any seats upstairs, the host quickly told me they were completely full, but I should come back in about half an hour.  I went to a tea shop nearby and lingered for longer (just in case) and went back about an hour later.  They were still jam-packed, and this time the host told me I’d just have to wait, when I spotted a seat in the corner and asked about it.  They seemed really confused about whether the table was free (which was a bit odd) but in the end decided it was, and seated me there.

This is where the disappointments really started to roll in.  The reason I’d chosen LoVeg was to experience a bit of veganised traditional cuisine, but they were out of all the Czech dishes that day.  So I ordered a mushroom risotto – that was obviously a mistake, as I’m not a big fan of mushrooms and this contained three types but at that point it was the only vegan item left on the menu.  The waiter warned me it would take a long time to prepare, and advised me to order hummus as a starter.  I’m glad I did, because he really wasn’t joking when he said it would take a long time.  If I hadn’t had that hummus, I probably would have ended up eating my own finger.  Now maybe I’m just being a bit snobby here, but I am sick of hummus as the go-to vegan option in restaurants.  I actually really love hummus, far more than most; in fact at university I went through a year-long phase where I ate hummus every single day.  You can ask my roommate.  Our shared mini-fridge was never without it.  We were always fully stocked.  But at this point, I’m pretty sick of hummus being the default vegan option in most restaurants, so I have to admit I was pretty bored with this starter.  The mushroom main that followed was a disappointment to me, too, although I imagine the seasoned mushroom lover would enjoy it.

Bioobchod

This is a health food shop, which used to be all vegan but sadly isn’t any more.  I found it really useful for picking up little snacks here and there, as the I.P. Pavlova location was near my hostel, and I got a very handy single serving packet of vegan pate there (which I had, along with bread, fruit and potato chips on the train I took from Prague to Vienna).  I also discovered one of my favourite travel products ever: powdered soya creamer for coffee.  It was under a Euro per bag, so I bought a couple of bags and have been using them on my holidays ever since – perfect for taking with you because it’s small, doesn’t count against your liquid limit and you can use it anywhere you can’t get soya milk for your coffee!

Maitrea
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Given the wealth of good reviews about Maitrea, I feel like I definitely mis-ordered here.  I can’t for the life of me remember why I ordered a tomato sauce pasta dish (so boring!) but from what I recall, it sounded much more exciting on the menu, but as a vegan option arrived with most components taken out.  (Sometimes it’s very disappointing at restaurants when they simply remove non-vegan items from a dish, but don’t replace it with anything!)  They had replaced the cheese on top of the pasta with mix of black and white sesame seeds, which I frankly found a little confusing…  But I’ve heard so many good things about the place that I feel like it must be better than my experience there.

Estrella
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This was a hidden gem of a tiny bar, outside the main touristy bits.  It felt a little bit strange as they were gearing up for a private party that night and therefore the restaurant was technically closed – but they very nicely let me eat a quick meal there before the party.  I had a tasty Thai curry, and even if I felt slightly strange being the only person in the restaurant, the curry made up for it!

 

Have you been to LoVeg or Maitrea?  Did you have better experiences?

 

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vegan miam

If you’ve ever looked up vegan travel blogs or guides to various cities as a vegan, you’ve probably come across Vegan Miam.  I’m really excited for today’s interview with this insanely well-travelled blogger!  Rika of Vegan Miam has  been all over the world and is living proof that you can eat amazing vegan food anywhere.  On her site, and in our interview below, you can practically taste the amazing vegan food through her photos.  For more of her beautiful photos, recipes and stories of her travels you should definitely check out Vegan Miam and follow Rika on Instagram.

I am so glad I got a chance to interview Rika! Check out our interview below:

How long have you been vegan? How many places and where have you traveled since you’ve been vegan?

I’ve been vegan for about eight years and that was when I met my sweetheart Doni. Hamburg was the first international trip we took together as vegans (in 2008) and I remember these delicious vegan burritos and burgers we had in St. Pauli (district of Hamburg). We’ve been traveling together ever since and spent considerable time in Asia, Western Europe and Oceania. Whenever possible, we like to stay at least a month to get a better understanding of the local culture. You can view our past, current and upcoming travel schedule here or follow our current travel updates on Instagram here.

Vegan Hamburg

Vegan Hamburg

Vegan Hamburg

What’s your favorite place or places you’ve traveled as a vegan?

This is a pretty tough question. We always manage to enjoy wherever we are at that moment but Thailand is our favorite food destination. It’s affordable, tasty, culturally aware and open to vegetarian and vegan diets and the food is often made to order so even non-vegan restaurants are able to accommodate.

Vegan Pad Thai

We also enjoyed the vegan Colombian cuisine in Bogota, where we got to try all sorts of delicious empanadas and a variety of plantains.

Vegan Colombian Food

Munich is a wonderfully laid-back city, Valencia (Spain) had more grocery options than anywhere we’ve been, Paris always has the best bread and Philadelphia never disappoints with HipCityVeg and Vedge.

HipCityVeg

Vedge

What was the best vegan meal you’ve had while traveling? How did you find the restaurant?

Pumpkin Curry with Brinjal Roti, made vegan upon request, from Flying Fish Fiji at the Sheraton Fiji Resort. We contacted the property prior to our stay to inquire about their ability to provide vegan dining options during our stay and we were impressed by their ability and desire to accommodate our needs and provide a variety of options. Combine the special efforts made to accommodate us with the delicious ingredients and the beachside sunset ambiance and we would be hard pressed to recreate this special meal.

Vegan Fiji

We have also had some remarkably good and memorable meals on Air New Zealand, including vegan sausages, gnocchi and even a soya panna cotta!

Vegan Air New Zealand

What was the hardest place to be a vegan? How did you find food? What did you eat?

The hardest place was in fact still quite easy. Buenos Aires is the place that stands out to me, we visited some wonderful vegan restaurants in Buenos Aires but you will find that most of the vegan options are concentrated in a few neighborhoods and if you aren’t in those neighborhoods your options become very limited. Also, the grocery stores don’t have the same wealth of fresh produce options we found in Peru or Colombia. We used a combination of online resources (scouring blogs mostly) and just getting out and walking around to find everything we needed to still have an enjoyable stay, albeit with a bit more effort. We ate out occasionally but cooked a lot in our flat mostly. There are a lot of Italian ingredients in Buenos Aires so we made quite a few soups and pasta dishes actually.

 Rica Bowl with Lentil Stew, Miso-Mustard Tofu and Patacones

One of our favorite home-cooked meals in Buenos Aires: Rica Bowl with Lentil Stew, Miso-Mustard Tofu + Patacones (Recipe here)

Where are you planning on going next and what vegan places will you be checking out?

We will be attending the Vegetarian Festival in Thailand this month along with brief stops in New Zealand and Jakarta. This will be our second time to attend the festival, which is a religious celebration that represents spiritual cleansing and is celebrated throughout Thailand. You will see roads and temples packed full of street-side vendors and the adjacent lots turned into vegan smorgasbords.

Vegetarian Festival Thailand

If you had to give some advice to a new vegan planning their first holiday as a vegan, where would you tell them to go (and what would you tell them to eat?)? Any advice you’d give them?

Always contact your hotel/resort in advance about dining options, most of them can accommodate you or even treat you well with a nice vegan breakfast like our stay at the Mandarin Oriental Manila.

If you are staying at an apartment or via Airbnb, make sure you have a list of common groceries (Just google grocery in different languages + name of city) and health food shops nearby to pick up some food, you might get hungry or want a drink after a long flight instead of looking at the map for vegan restaurants – who knows they are closed or not.

Happy Cow is a good resource to find vegan food, but I would not recommend relying on them too much since their maps and addresses aren’t always correct, it’s a good reference and starting point though. Always double check with few sources such as local vegan/vegetarian forums and directories and look for recent blog posts regarding your destination. For instance, we walked to three restaurants in Buenos Aires that were listed on Happy Cow and they were all closed, bummer. It’s always good to have a backup in mind and just pay attention to your surroundings, I can’t even count the number of times we have found a place serendipitously.

If you are traveling to a non-English speaking country make sure you have a list of ingredients in the correct language such as eggs, whey, dairy, lard, etc. Use a dictionary if you have to but google translate works a treat. If you are in Asia, of course, “bonito, fish sauce, shellfish, etc.” They are also useful if you are reading a product with ingredients on the back. Please note, not many countries understand the word, ‘vegan’ since it’s not widely known. You will need to explain that you’re a vegetarian and list what you cannot eat.

Thanks so much Rika!  If you want to follow along on Rika’s travels too, you check out her travel schedule over on Vegan Miam here.  Just be prepared to drool over the food photos and develop a case of itchy feet seeing all the amazing places she’s been/is going!

*All photos credited to Vegan Miam, with thanks for letting me use them for this post

This post is part of my Hungerlust series. Hungerlust. That insatiable craving for both food, and travel. Preferably combined. And vegan, naturally. My Vegan Month of Food (MoFo) theme this year is all about feeding it. We’ll be doing a journey around the world (airfare not included – sorry!) from the comfort of our sofas – or desks, wherever you happen to be sitting. 

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Vegan London Travel Guide

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Visiting London?  You’re in good company, it’s the most visited city in the world (at least in terms of international visitors).  Looking for where to eat as a vegan?  There are so many vegetarian and vegan places in the city, you won’t have trouble finding places to eat!  In fact the biggest issue here is choosing *where* to eat.  Here I’ve compiled a list of my personal favourites, after having sampled most of the vegetarian eateries in London.

Vegan Restaurants & Shops

These places are fully vegan (yay!) and my favourites.

Manna (Primrose Hill)
Manna’s the oldest vegetarian restaurant in London and for a number of years now it’s been completely vegan. It’s a little on the pricier side (around £12-15 for a main course/entree) but the food is good and the ambiance is lovely – perfect for a romantic date!  Would recommend the ‘manna meze’ which is a plate of 3 starters served as a main.

Itadaki Zen (King’s Cross)
Japanese vegan (the first in Europe, apparently!).  Be warned that this is a specific style of Japanese cooking which doesn’t use a lot of spices, so some people find it on the bland side.

Loving Hut (Archway)

IMG_0638A Chinese restaurant with an absolutely huge menu (we’re talking hundreds of items), plus the non-vegans I’ve taken there all said the vegan meat was very realistic.

Cookies and Scream (Camden Lock market)

IMG_0534This market stall/cookie bar is pretty much the best thing ever.  Cookies! Brownies! Vegan! Gluten free!  Oh, and did I mention MILKSHAKES?  You can blend ANY cookie into a vegan milkshake! And add in bourbon vanilla sauce or homemade toffee sauce or homemade salted caramel mix!  Oh, and there’s this totally amazing marshmallow-topped brownie, and if you heat it up in a microwave or oven it goes all gooey and in the centre and ohmygod.  Need I say more? No! Just go there!

Vx (Kings Cross)
Vx is London’s vegan shop – you’ll find lots of interesting vegan cheeses, doughnuts as big as your face and other yummy junk food here.  Also, t-shirts, shoes, and bags.

Ms. Cupcake (Brixton)
London’s first (and so far only) vegan bakery, Ms. Cupcake makes amazing cupcakes. And other baked goods. But if you’re going to a cupcake shop you should really have at least one cupcake.

Vegetarian Restaurants

The Gate (Islington and Hammersmith)

IMG_2750Long-standing vegetarian restaurant in London (open since 1989) and now with a second location.

Mildred’s (Soho)
A favourite in central London, you should definitely get a burger here.  But be warned that you may have to wait a long time for a seat – it’s popular and gets really busy, and they don’t take reservations!

Tibits (Piccadilly Circus)
This buffet in central London is my ‘go-to’ place when I have visitors because there’s something there to please every palate.  Warning: don’t let your eyes exceed your stomach, or get too greedy, because it can get expensive quickly – it’s pay by weight!

The Gallery Cafe (Bethnal Green)

IMG_6909The Gallery Cafe is a social enterprise cafe that does loads of events as runs exhibitions for up and coming artists.  Oh, and they do a great full English breakfasts and waffles with chocolate sauce if you have a sweet tooth like me.

Coach & Horses (Soho) or Smithfield Tavern (Smithfields/Barbican)
If you want a ‘typical’ English experience…  These two sister pubs serve up traditional English fare like sausages and mash (mashed potato), tofush & chips (their version of vegan fish & chips) and Coach & Horses do vegetarian and vegan versions of a Sunday roast.

Non-Vegetarian Restaurants

Otto Pizza (Notting Hill)

IMG_2944A pizza place that does cornmeal crust pizzas (be warned, they are tasty but very hearty and filling, so only go for 2-3 slices!) and typically has 2 or 3 vegan options.  They make their own cashew cheese!  It doesn’t take like any cashew cheese I’ve had elsewhere, but it’s good, and they usually do some really interesting and different flavour combinations on pizzas.

Morito (Farringdon/Angel)

IMG_2376A tapas place on Exmouth market which has a lot of vegetarian and vegan options (and is willing to veganise anything vegetarian on the menu) – including a vegan dessert, at least when I went!

Budget Options

Markets
Your best bet for a budget lunch option (usually £5 or under) is going to a market like Camden, Borough and Spitalfields/Sunday Upmarket on Brick Lane, all of which have vegetarian and vegan stalls!

Picnic in St James Park

IMG_1386You can have a lovely picnic in any of London’s parks (provided the weather’s good) but I’d recommend St James as my favourite, particularly for visitors to London.  It’s got beautiful lakes surrounded by weeping willow trees and views of Big Ben.  Stock up on supplies from a supermarket (tip: Sainsbury’s label own brand products which are vegan!).

Outside London…

Terre a Terre

IMG_5120If you’re in London awhile and fancy a day out Brighton, only an hour outside London, is a seaside town famous for its vegetarian and vegan options, and alternative scene.  You can easily spend the day checking out the shops, antique stores and all the veggie places.  Don’t miss Terre a Terre, an amazing vegetarian restaurant, while you’re there.  They’ve got loads of inventive dishes – always with very unusual descriptions – and eating there always feels like a culinary adventure.  Worth the trip for their churros alone.

This post is part of my Hungerlust series. Hungerlust. That insatiable craving for both food, and travel. Preferably combined. And vegan, naturally. My Vegan Month of Food (MoFo) theme this year is all about feeding it. We’ll be doing a journey around the world (airfare not included – sorry!) from the comfort of our sofas – or desks, wherever you happen to be sitting.

Do you think I missed anything?  (I’m sure I forgot somewhere!)  Have you been to all these places?

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Somewhere just outside a cloud forest, in a small house in a Costa Rican valley that serves food through the kitchen window to people sitting on picnic tables outside is a tiny ‘restaurant’ which served as a setting for what was the most unusual place I’ve ever (yet) eaten a vegan meal…

A few years ago, I went to Costa Rica and stayed in an amazing eco lodge/B&B, where I was not only extremely well catered-for in terms of meals, but also made to feel like a member of the family.  I went to yoga with the family that owned the lodge, I went for breakfast in town with them, I even went with them to a hot springs water park below an ACTIVE VOLCANO when their kids had the day off!  (Seriously, if you’re ever in Costa Rica, check out Casa Amanecer.  You will feel so welcomed!)  This was the view from the breakfast spot:

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It was so tranquil that for the first time in my life, I found myself going to bed at 9pm and waking up at dawn…or maybe that was just thanks to the rooster!  I ate some really great homemade meals at Casa Amanecer, and they also took me for what was potentially the best breakfast of my life at a restaurant in the small village nearby.  It was a little cafe run by Nicaraguan refugees who made me the most amazing gallo pinto with sides of fresh tomato salsa and fried plantains.  If you’ve never had gallo pinto, it’s rice and beans…I know that sounds boring…but it’s absolute magic!  It’s got some sort of crack magic sauce in it (it’s this stuff called Salsa Lizano).  But definitely the weirdest location for any of my meals in Costa Rica was the place outside the cloud forest.

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One day, the lovely folks at the lodge helped me arrange a tour of a cloud forest.  A cloud forest is sort of like a rain forest but…um…cloudier?  Apparently while rain forests experience a high level of rainfall (duh) cloud forests are pretty much perpetually covered in fog, and loads of moss (thanks wikipedia!).  It was really cool.  The guide really wanted to speak in Spanish, and I wanted to practice, so we did the whole thing in Spanish which means to this day I can’t really tell you what I saw in there (and certainly not in English) but I can say it was definitely a surreal place.

After leaving the cloud forest, I had another surreal experience when we stopped off at this tiny restaurant for lunch.  It was a restaurant being run out of this woman’s house, and had only three things on the menu.  I was fairly dubious about vegan options there, and sure enough there weren’t even vegetarian options on the menu, but after I asked about vegan options and asked what I could and couldn’t eat she made me a basic lunch of vegetables, rice and beans.  It wasn’t the best lunch I’ve ever had by any means, but it proved that you can eat vegan anywhere, if you just ask (and explain what you can/can’t eat)!!  She was more than willing to make me a vegan meal once I asked.  It also led to a really long conversation with my taxi driver about how he wanted to stop eating meat, so I was encouraging him to think about his dietary choices.  I think he was really shocked that someone could not only cut out meat but also eggs and dairy and still be alive, so I’m glad that we met and he could see that I am very much alive.

So if you ever end up in a cloud forest, or even on a glacier or anywhere else strange in the world, just ask if they can make you a vegan meal, and explain clearly what you do and don’t eat.  If you don’t speak the local language, having some phrases written down will really help!  You might be surprised what they are willing to whip up for you.

 

What’s the weirdest place you’ve ever had a vegan meal?  I’m curious!

This post is part of my Hungerlust series. Hungerlust. That insatiable craving for both food, and travel. Preferably combined. And vegan, naturally. My Vegan Month of Food (MoFo) theme this year is all about feeding it. We’ll be doing a journey around the world (airfare not included – sorry!) from the comfort of our sofas – or desks, wherever you happen to be sitting. 

THE VEGAN INBOX

Find out what 5 things you should be doing before your next trip! Sign up for free updates, exclusive content & discounts!

No spam, ever. Spam isn't vegan.
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lemon pancakes

It’s Sunday.  Sit back, relax and have a big stack of lemon pancakes (or at least imagine!). Make yourself a big soy cappuccino (sprinkled with chocolate shavings, of course!) or your favourite tea, and let’s take a quick trip around the world…from the comfort of our own screens.

This isn’t the post I’d planned for today, but it seemed appropriate especially when I woke up today and realised I’ve been pushing myself a little too hard recently.  It’s Sunday and it’s time to relax and unwind from our week.  There’s nothing better than a bit of armchair travel.  No need to get up from your comfy sofa, or even change out of your pyjamas, get inspired with some of my favourite vegan travel posts I’ve seen this week:

Just One More Spoon: Five Vegan Eats in Tokyo
This just made me want to go back to Tokyo. Now!  Not helped by the fact that my friend from Tokyo visited London last week.

Vegan Nom Nom’s American Roadtrip
A classic American roadtrip with a vegan twist, this MoFo series on Vegan Nom Noms is full of vegan finds all over the US.

Vegan Food in Hoi An
This really just made me want to go to Vietnam and eat all that lovely (and inexpensive) food up.

Vegan Miam’s Vegan Taiwan on Instagram
Vegan Miam is posting some seriously amazing Taiwanese dishes on Instagram, which, along with writing up my travel article on Taipei, just made me desperate to get back to Taiwan.
In case you missed them, my Vegan MoFo theme is on travel, and in addition to tips and articles I’m posting some recaps of vegan journeys I’ve been on around the world, so far:

Summer in Sicily, Or a Love Letter to Laura (What To Do as a Vegan Traveler When All Your Options Run Out)

Is This the Easiest Place to Travel as a Vegan? (Taipei)

Vegan Vienna
Travel posts on other sites (not vegan, but definitely inspiring):

A Place Like Zadar
Summer seems to be finished here in London (even though I don’t want to admit it), but the photos of Zadar, Croatia made me practically feel the sunshine on my arms.

Adventure is Where You Are
A great reminder that adventure is a mindset and potentially a way of life, not just something we experience for a couple of weeks a year when we’re on vacation.

Happy Sunday and happy (armchair) travels!

What have you read this week that inspired you?

 

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Vegan Vienna

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Vienna and I got off to a bad start.  There were bedbugs in my hotel, the hotel manager gave me a hard time about moving rooms and then gave me one that was just a few degrees off Hades and to boot, it wasn’t in the safest area.  But Vienna slowly won me back over with its beautiful architecture that made me feel like I had stepped into an old world European postcard (see picture above for my case in point), and its food scene which turned out to be very vegan-friendly.  Vienna is also home to:

  • a vegan ice cream shop
  • two vegan groceries
  • a vegan clothing shop, selling clothes, bags, shoes & makeup
  • a vegan bakery and cafe
  • a vegan wine bar (which I somehow either grievously overlooked, or it’s new since my visit)

For a city of its size in Central Europe, that’s no mean feat.  I mean, we don’t even have a vegan ice cream shop in London!

Veganista ice cream

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Veganista is a completely vegan ice cream parlour that offers inventive ice creams made from soy, coconut milk, rice milk and oat milk.  They have flavours like cookies and cream (pictured above), almond coconut (also pictured above), orange-saffron and basil.  So good.

Vegan groceries

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Vienna has not one but two vegan groceries – a branch of Veganz, a vegan supermarket chain from Germany, and Maran Vegan, which I checked out.  The photo above is a small portion of Maran Vegan’s MASSIVE vegan meat section, which included such unusual selections as vegan tuna, fishsteak and shrimp.

Vegan bakery and cafe

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Vienna is famous for its cafe culture, and its history of various writers, philosophers and political minds meeting in its coffee shops and changing the future of humanity from there.  It’s practically illegal to go to Vienna and not visit one of its famous cafes and sit there, have a coffee and soak up the atmosphere.  Some of the old cafes look like palaces inside.  It’s definitely a must do.  Unfortunately, most of the traditional cafes don’t offer soy milk or any vegan baked goods.  So, go to a famous old cafe and have an espresso, but when you want some cake later, head to Happy Cakes, which offers vegan cakes and coffee!

Want further proof how vegan-friendly Vienna is?  I went into a cafe near my hotel and got a soy latte, then asked if they could make vegan breakfast – and they told me they had soy yogurt on site!  They made me this yogurt and granola which was good although I was slightly confused by the presence of the parsley garnish in my yogurt.  I was also a bit surprised to see radishes and celery on my plate – not my usual breakfast fare!

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Vienna’s Attractions

Wondering what else to do in Vienna? Wander around and admire the architecture – that below is a shopping centre/mall, believe it or not!

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Or, get standing tickets to the opera for 3 Euros (3!).  And of course, admire the architecture:
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Or you can do my favourite thing in Vienna: get some Veganista ice cream and walk around admiring the architecture.  Best of both worlds!

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joey flicking the vs

Today I’m starting my vegan traveler interview series.  All of September, I’m super excited to bring to you interviews with some very well-travelled vegans about their best and worst travel experiences, their favorite vegan foods from the road and more.  Today’s interview is with the lovely Joey from Flicking the Vs.  If you haven’t checked out Flicking the Vs yet, you should!  In addition to finding out about Budapest‘s Napfanyes Etterem after drooling over her pic from there (I later ate the potato wraps she recommended – and they were amazing!), I had never heard of a garden ruin bar until I read her post, and I am really happy I got to experience one!  So without further ado, here’s my interview with Joey:

How long have you been vegan?  How many places and where have you travelled since you’ve been vegan?
I’ve been vegan for around five years, and since then I’ve been to France, Belgium, India, across Central America (from Mexico down to Panama), Croatia, the US, the Netherlands, Hungary, Spain, Italy, Finland, Denmark and Egypt – some of that was for work, and some for holiday.

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What’s your favourite place or places you’ve travelled as a vegan?
Budapest is certainly up there – a surprising amount of vegan places (most of them phenomenal), including one of the best raw places I’ve been to. It’s just a beautiful place to stroll around in: we kept stumbling onto deserted sunlit squares with tiny pubs ready to feed us beer – the very definition of happiness.
I love Paris for similar reasons, and I think the vegan dining scene is only getting better: the Gentle Gourmet Cafe always gets good write ups, and it’s on my agenda to visit for the next time I’m there! I’ve got a lot of fond memories of Central America too, but that was a budget trip, and meant a lot of eating home-cooked food in hostels kitchens. We still managed to get some good scran though – usually from a small cart serving up cheap goodies, often plantain or refried bean based. I still get misty eyed thinking about tostadas.

What was the best vegan meal you’ve had while travelling?  How did you find the restaurant?
The Honduran super baleada. It’s basically a huge burrito-like creature of pancake dimensions, stuffed with whatever veggies and beans to hand. On the island of Utila is a tiny, sweaty restaurant that serves up the best, and the owner greets you with a welcome normally reserved for the return of a long lost child. I couldn’t get enough of the super baleada vegetariano sin queso. The restaurant didn’t have a name, and it was recommended to us by a kind soul the day we arrived. We went there every day for a week.

What was the hardest place to be a vegan?  How did you find food?  What did you eat?
Probably Dubrovnik and the nearby area. There was one great veg*n restaurant there, Nishta, but that was it in the way of veg-based dining. There weren’t any of the usual staple vegan-fallback options like Chinese restaurants either, as far as we saw. Food was mostly picked up at supermarkets for cooking at home or taking out with us. That said, it’s a beautiful place and I’d recommend any vegan go there – just don’t expect to be wowed by the food.

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Where are you planning on going next and what vegan places will you be checking out?
It’ll be somewhere in the UK – I never get bored of going to Brighton and Bath, as much as for the vegan places to eat as because they’re great places. My favourite place to eat in Brighton has to be Iydea, for cheap and extremely cheerful lunch (excellent cake too!) If you’re feeling flush, Acorn in Bath and Terre a Terre in Brighton do some good higher-end vegan stuff. I still dream about Terre a Terre’s afternoon tea. You get that feeling like a toddler on Christmas morning when you see three tiers of vegan cakes and tiny savouries heading towards you.

Next year I’m hoping to make it Croatia again, though this time to Zagreb – from what I can see, it has a bit more in the way of vegan food than Dubrovnik (and another branch of Nishta, which is good news for anyone). Further afield, I’m dreaming of Chile or Canada.

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If you had to give some advice to a new vegan planning their first holiday as a vegan, where would you tell them to go (and what would you tell them to eat?)?  Any advice you’d give them?
Not exactly rocket science advice, but Happy Cow is always a good starting point, as is a general Google or Twitter for suggestions. I tend to stay in apartments rather than hotels, so if there’s no handy vegan-friendly place nearby, you can throw something together for tea in the apartment. I’m also overly attached to picnics – I love wandering around the local supermarket for bread, fruit, veggies, nuts, weird snacks and oddments in tins, then dragging it to the nearest park. A translation app is always handy – for the obligatory ‘I wonder if that means whey here?’ moments. My other tip is equally stupid, but has really worked out well for me before – ask the restaurant. I’ve ended up being dragged to omni places in a group and fearing the worst, but then finding the place was incredibly accommodating and being fed all kind of vegan goodies. Helsinki was like that for me – I always assumed Finland was really meat and fish obsessed like the UK, as indeed it is, but I had some amazing vegan food there.

Check out Flicking the Vs, or follow Flicking the Vs on Twitter if you want to hear about Joey’s adventures in Zagreb next year (and potentially Chile?), as well as her fearless kitchen experiments (I love her coverage of new and unusual ingredients!), restaurant experiences and more.

*All photos credited to Flicking the Vs, with thanks for letting me use them for this post

This post is part of my Hungerlust series. Hungerlust. That insatiable craving for both food, and travel. Preferably combined. And vegan, naturally. My Vegan Month of Food (MoFo) theme this year is all about feeding it. We’ll be doing a journey around the world (airfare not included – sorry!) from the comfort of our sofas – or desks, wherever you happen to be sitting. 

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This post is part of my Hungerlust series: Hungerlust. That insatiable craving for both food, and travel. Preferably combined. And vegan, naturally. My Vegan MoFo* theme this year is all about feeding it. We’ll be doing a journey around the world (airfare not included – sorry!) from the comfort of our sofas – or desks, wherever you happen to be sitting. 

*Vegan MoFo=month of food, a month-long vegan blogging challenge

vegan mofo 2014 logo

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After yesterday’s article about what was nearly the hardest place to be vegan (don’t worry – the story ends well, thanks to a woman called Laura), I thought I’d cover the easiest place to be vegan – or at least the easiest place I’ve been.

Taipei, Vegan Capital?

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Exotic temples filled with smoky incense and traditional Chinese lanterns coexist with modern skylines, while incredible vegetarian Buddhist cuisine at every turn makes Taipei one of the easiest places in the world to be vegan.

When you think of the world’s most vegetarian-friendly cities, New York, London, and Toronto probably spring to mind. But Taipei? A veg capital? It was never at the top of my list of places to eat vegan until I visited a few years ago and realized just how easy it is to find veggie food there. So easy, in fact, that after three weeks in Taipei I began to wonder if I’d have difficulty re-adjusting to finding vegan food at home in London.

After spending two weeks in Shanghai and Beijing, trying to explain that I didn’t consider a dish with “just a bit of pork” to be vegan, going to Taipei was a huge relief. Because of the Buddhist tradition in Taiwan, around 10% of the population practices vegetarianism regularly (the highest percentage after India). Others practice vegetarianism at certain times of the month or for religious festivals, and many people just enjoy eating vegetarian food. Upon telling people in Taiwan that I didn’t eat meat, I was usually met with extremely positive and enthusiastic responses. Instead of the usual “But where do you get your protein?!” shtick I’ve become accustomed to in the US and the UK, Taiwanese people tended to respond with “That’s so great, good for you! I know of a couple of good vegetarian restaurants nearby, you should check them out…”

A Perfect Day in Taipei

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Even when the local population isn’t so forthcoming with restaurant suggestions, finding a vegetarian restaurant is rarely a problem in Taipei (just look for the Chinese characters 素食, which means vegetarian food). With 300 vegetarian restaurants in a city of just 2.6 million, Taipei’s vegetarian restaurants per capita exceed that of even London and New York City. For a relaxing day, get up mid- to late morning, grab some fresh fruit from a street stall for breakfast, and head over to one of the tallest buildings in the world, Taipei 101, to get a view of modern Taipei. When your stomach starts growling for lunch, wander for five or ten minutes until you stumble across a veggie restaurant, and eat there if looks good (or walk another five minutes in another direction if it doesn’t appeal). After lunch, enjoy the relaxing scents of incense and sounds of chants at a Buddhist temple. My favourites included the cute and compact Tien Ho Temple (Ximending Distrct) or the larger and more famous Longshan Temple. Spend the afternoon at one of these temples, soaking up the atmosphere of traditional Taipei, and in the evening repeat the restaurant-finding process for dinner.

Local delicacies

taiwanese sesame noodles

Taipei’s vegetarian restaurants tend to belong to one of two groups: the buffet (usually pay by weight rather than all you can eat) and the hole-in-the-wall mom ‘n’ pop place. But Taipei also plays host to a number of midrange and upscale vegetarian eateries as well. For the quintessential buffet experience, head to Evergreen  (remember to try the stinky tofu, a local delicacy—if you can stomach it, that is!). For the best of the holes in the wall, my favourite place was near Guting metro (in fact, it was just across from my hostel!).  I have no idea if it still exists, but it was great little place with a few seats, an open kitchen and one woman who was both chef, waitstaff and front of house: Sincere Vegetarian, 108 Nanchang Road, Section 2, Jhongjheng district (Metro: Guting). Don’t expect service—you’re not paying for it and you’re not going to get waited on!  Oh, and they don’t sell drinks (or at least they didn’t a few years ago), so you’re best off bringing your own bottle of water. Cheap and tasty homemade dumplings (when I visited aaaages ago in 2010, they were only NT50/$1.70 for 10) or Taiwanese specialty mahjiang mien homemade sesame QQ noodles (again, prices from 2010 were NT50/$1.70) hit the spot.  I became so obsessed with mahjiang mien that I spent days researching it when I got back to London and recreating it.

Bringing your own drink to a hole in the wall?  Wash everything down with some bubble tea, a shaken, sweetened ice tea invented in Taiwan. Taiwanese bubble tea is different than what they sell in the US—it doesn’t just refer to milk tea with tapioca pearls—it consists of sweetened iced tea, with or without milk, that’s been shaken to create foam on top. So you can easily experience bubble tea without milk–just go to any one of the multitude of tea stands that dot the capital and order an iced green or oolong tea (don’t forget to specify how much sugar you want!). For a midrange meal in a restaurant, try the delicious hotpot (price when I visited was NT120/$4.07) at Qiao Yuen / Green Acres at 6 Shida Road, Lane 117, Da-An District (Taipower metro). (Closed! Try Tsai Siang Geng for hotpot in the same area) For a post-hotpot dessert, the nearby Shida market is home to the best fruit in Taipei at the stall run by the woman local students refer to as ‘fruit auntie’.

A 10-Course Treat

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For an extra special dining experience, head over to Taipei’s swankiest veg restaurant, Yu Shan Ge. You just might rub shoulders with Taiwanese celebrities. Yu Shan Ge is frequented by many of Taipei’s pop stars, though you’re unlikely to run into them given that the restaurant is sectioned off into small rooms for a more personalized dining experience (which means you may only have 5 customers to 1 waiter!). At the time I visited, for just $30, you could experience a sumptuous 10-course Japanese-style meal (no alcohol is served here, but you will get unlimited refills on their delicious homemade sweet potato tea). Few of the waiters speak English, so be sure to come prepared with a few Chinese phrases written down explaining you don’t consume egg or dairy. Thirty dollars will buy you an exquisite dining experience, starting with a bowl of rose water in which to wash your hands, and a silver satin napkin with which to dab your mouth. It’s a fitting end to a whirlwind culinary tour of Taipei’s fantastic vegan dining spots!

 

Useful tips:

Many Taiwanese vegetarian restaurants are Buddhist, and as such don’t use egg, onion, or garlic. Some will use milk products (though mostly in desserts) so be sure to specify no dairy (and no egg, if in a non-Buddhist veg restaurant that uses egg).

Helpful phrases:

Wo chi su (我吃素) – I am vegetarian.
Wo bu chi rou (我不吃肉)– I don’t eat meat.

Wo bu chi yu (我不吃魚)– I don’t eat fish.

Wo bu chi ji dan (我不吃雞蛋)– I don’t eat eggs.

Wo bu chi han niu nai de shi pin (我不吃含牛奶的食品)– I don’t eat dairy products.  *Any native speakers want to confirm if this one is correct?

 

 

Have you been to Taipei or Taiwan?  Was it easy for you?  I’m curious what it’s like for non-Chinese speakers (I speak some Chinese).  Where’s the best place you’ve been for finding vegan food?

Want to find out what 4 things you should be doing before your next trip, plus how I use Google maps for vegan travel?



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