Tag Archives: taxco

Vegan in Mexico: Taxco

My repeated searches for vegan-friendly restaurants in Taxco often led me to Cafe Sasha [Juan Ruiz de Alarcon #1 (In front of the Hotel Los Arcos), www.cafesasha.com]. Unfortunately, upon arriving in Taxco, I discovered from the front desk of the hotel we stayed in that this restaurant had been closed. I was thoroughly disappointed, and resigned myself to a lack-lustre gastronomic experience for my stay there. This story has a happy ending, so please read ahead.

A typical street in Taxco:

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A cheese-free pizza with vegetables, available easily in Taxco:

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A fruit cart vendor:

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The friendly receptionist at the front desk then told me this, which I somehow managed to understand as follows:

“Even though Sasha is closed, there is another restaurant now in its place…”

“Soy vegetariano! soy no como carne, queso, leche, huevos…” I claim with not a little distress, trying to impress upon her the gravity of the situation here. The only vegetarian restaurant I knew about was closed, and this was a grave scenario in my books. Not to mention that we were tired, hungry and ready for lunch, a recurring symptom in as many days.

At this point, I don’t blame you for thinking that I place too much importance on my food and that I am probably making a mountain out of mole hill. While I do confess to dramatizing a little bit and the reality is that I can content myself with fresh fruit juices, bread, jam and fruit if it boils down to that, the truth is that one soon tires of eating such fare. Of course, this was 8 days into our trip and I had been reasonably well fed so far; so I didn’t have much to complain about. 

Anyway, back to our little conversation. 

“The other restaurant Sotavento is just down the street, and they have vegetarian food” said the receptionist. She wrote down the name on a piece of paper, and I took it despite being skeptical about the availability of vegan food.

True to her words,  Sotavento turned out to be on the first floor (US 2nd floor) right next door to our hotel Emilia Castillo. On the ground floor, they had a menu propped. On quickly scanning the menu, I lost interest upon spotting several cheesy-pasta items, not being in the mood for pasta with marinara sauce. But, we did return much later for a lovely dinner…

A little grocery store in the monstrously huge Taxco market (a must see!)

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We walked further along Taxco’s steep and tiny streets and quickly arrived at the zocalo (the center). We zeroed in on a tiny pizza place located in the zocalo. You have to navigate through a building and a flight of stairs to get in here. Mario’s pizza has a patio area, a very friendly waiter who spoke a little English and was very helpful in putting together a pizza with cheese on one side and no cheese on the other side (my side:)). I later discovered that there are several pizzerias in Taxco, who are perfectly willing to make you a pizza with tons of vegetables with no cheese, and I found out, quite tasty ones at that.

Later that night, we decided to get sotavento another chance. Not only was the restaurant open late (until 11pm), but the owner spoke very good english and assured me that she can put together a meal for me with plenty of vegetables – these vegetables were not even on the menu! I asked her to include as many veggies was possible. What resulted was a plate of four enchilladas stuffed with rice and vegetables, smothered with green sauce, topped with lettuce and avocado. Accompanying this was some really awesome salsas and the best bread I’ve had till date in Mexico. It goes to show how easy it is to easily skip past something without truly knowing what lies beneath. I was so full, I brought back leftovers to the hotel room!

At Sotavento, the bread and the salsas (the little white stuff is not vegan)

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You can barely see the enchiladas beneath all the lettuce, avocado and the salsa verde. I added pico de gallo on the top as well.

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Restaurant Information:

  1. Sotavento, Benito Juárez 12, Taxco, Guerrero, Mexico
  2. Mario’s pizza, zocalo, Taxco, Mexico

Traveling as a vegan In Mexico

I recently visited Mexico on a whirlwind 10 day trip. Given its such a big country with so many wonderful things to see and do, we – my husband and I, decided 10 days can only take us to a couple of places. This trip took us to Mexico City, Oaxaca and Taxco. This was my first international trip as a vegan and I was determined to stick to my lifestyle choice as much as possible. I had researched quite a bit and went armed with the knowledge of some vegetarian restaurants and with a few words in spanish to indicate milk, eggs, cheese, vegetables. I’d like to think I was largely successful, though its possible that I muddled up my Spanish somewhere and communicated the wrong things – but instead of getting overwrought about it, I’ll chalk it down as a learning experience.

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I also took photographs of nearly everything I ate and kept track of places I ate them in, so that I can share them here for future vegan travelers to Mexico – I’ll provide more details in a future post. This is more a summary of my veganism in Mexico, so please bear with me while I indulge in some prose.

It is no surprise that Mexico is a largely meat-based culture, which makes it a challenge even for vegetarians, much less vegans. Add to this their love of cheese (queso) and milk products (leche) and milkshakes (licuados), it appears a vegan will have a difficult time. Don’t let this stop you from visiting this wonderful country – with some planning and forbearance, its possible to be vegan. There will be times when it feels highly frustrating when you have been walking all day and an empty stomach is surely a recipe for disaster; and all you can see around you are food carts serving huge quantities of meat fried in large oil-filled pans, which you have no intention of going near.

Here is how you can be a vegan in Mexico:

Fruits are your friends – cut fruits, fruit juices and fruit sorbets

Fruits are everywhere in Mexico. While its not the primary component of a meal and not the protein giver, its an incredibly easy way to keep you satisfied until you can find proper lunch or dinner. Street carts and just-off-the-road stalls that sell cut fruits, fruit juices, fruit ices abound all around Mexico. Grab some fruits whenever you come across them; or buy some apples from the market (which is very likely a walking distance from the hostel). Bananas are great too, but tend to get mushy over the course of the day. So apples are best for storing. Alternatively, freshly made fruit juices are also easily available. Fruit juice without any added water or sugar is called “jugo” and with added water is called “agua”. Agua is unlimited in some of the buffet restaurants I went to.

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Quesadillas/Enchilladas need not always have cheese

While its true cheese is a primary component, I have had both these dishes without cheese. When street stalls or market stalls are the only options, I tend to look for places that pre-prepared stuffed tortillas just waiting to warmed up when buying. I found a lady selling an enchillada that only had mushrooms (champinones) stuffed in it, among other things. She had all these other stuffed items too, like parathas, but in various shapes and sizes. Some had cheese and some had meat. My enchillada was deep fried and not healthy at all, but it tasted good with the hot sauce she gave me and I was set for the night, food wise. Which is what really matters, as we had an overnight bus journey ahead of us. And it only cost 12 pesos ($1.03).

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Street food is really really easy to find and can be an ally!

Our days were packed with checking out the sights, so we usually had one good meal a day in a restaurant and depended on street food, fruits, snacks etc. for the rest of the day. It sort of worked out well. Some street food to try:

  1. corn – roasted or boiled, served with salsa picante
  2. fruits – see above
  3. any food stall that doesnt look too meaty (you’ll know it when you see it) – if your spanish is good, they might make you a taco with nopal (cactus) or flor de calabaza (squash blossoms). Ask if the beans is cooked with lard (mantequilla de cerde). If in a market, keep walking around until you find a stall that looks good. There are so many different types.
  4. potato chips – yes! they sell potato chips in tiny plastic baggies and add a generous amount of salsa picante to it. I loved this.
  5. nieves (ice lollies) – They are like sorbets or fruit ice. Ask for “sin leche” (without milk). I tried mango, mamey, tamarind, tuna (prickly pear) and loved them all.

Create a vegan spanish cheat-sheet

If there is one thing that can help beyond anything else, its to know spanish. My spanish was limited to very few words, and I never regretted it more, despite carrying a phrasebook. If I go back tomorrow, I’d go armed with a cheat-sheet specifically created keeping my dietary concerns in mind. People are friendly and often willing to help, if only we can communicate our needs clearly. Some phrases I’d be sure to learn for a future visit:    

  • how is this cooked? (this is tricky – easy question to ask, but I am sure I wont understand the answer…)
  • what are the ingredients?
  • Is this made with oil? or lard? or butter?
  • does this contain… (cheese, milk, eggs, butter, lard, chicken stock…)?
  • can you please make this without…. (milk, cheese, butter…)
  • what vegetables do you have?
  • I dont eat …. (milk, cheese, eggs….)
  • create a list of ingredients that cannot be eaten
  • also very useful – create a list of fruits/vegetables commonly eaten at the destination

Research Veg Friendly restaurants

Happycow and VegGuide are good starting points to make a handy list of veg friendly restaurants. I created a PDF of restaurants from these sites and other sites and uploaded them on the Kindle, making it easy to refer while walking down. It also helps to know approximately which area they are located in. Its not always practical to go to these restaurants, especially when they are not close to sightseeing spots. On the other hand, you may just be walking down a totally random street and recognize two restaurants from your prepared list (Iike I did in Oaxaca!). Mexico has vegetarian and vegetarian friendly restaurants, at least in the cities, we just had to research them a bit.