Tag Archives: travel

Vegan food in Cuzco, Peru

Eating vegan in Cuzco is really easy. There are tons of tourists here, and therefore, many options. 

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Sesame bar for 1 sole.

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On the Cruz Del Sur bus from Lima to Cuzco, the vegetarian option was vegan and very tasty. Simply sautéed mushrooms and some vegetable rice.

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Vegan breakfast at El Encuentro, Cuzco

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At Prasada – a small hole in the wall spot (literally!) serving very simple, delicious veg fare. Anything can be made vegan. Just ask!

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My sandwich at Prasada’s

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Lentil burger at Prasada’s

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Veg offerings at the supermarket, for those with a kitchen

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Great breakfast drinks. Just mix hot water or soy milk. Tastes great with hot water!

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One of my favorite finds: at the Chinchero market, a few ladies sell lunch for other market vendors. They bring in their food in huge pots and sell them. This was a plate of simply cooked beans and broad beans, seasoned perhaps only with salt. They had some salsa picante for those who wanted it, and I wanted it the most. :) 

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Very nice juice shop in the plaza. But this picture is only to remind you that fresh fruit and fresh fruit juice is everywhere for the hungry, healthy vegan.

Vegan spots in Cuzco:

  • Maikhana indian restaurant, Av El Sol 106 2nd floor. At avenida el sol and the main square
  • El Encuentro: 6 sole dinners at Santa Catalina Ancho 384
  • Govinda – on Saphy street
  • Prasada – 152 Choquechacha (choquechacha also has a couple of other veggie spots)
  • Om Cusco, Calle Sapphy 661. Run by the folks at Maikhana. All proceeds go to charity to feed poor children. Pay whatever you want.

Vegan in Pedro Ruiz, Peru

Pedro Ruiz is a tiny one street town in Northern Peru. The only reason tourists go there is to get to Chachapoyas or on to Iquitos. I was prepared to not find veg food here, but ALL locals knew of this place as “restaurante vegetariano”. Seriously good plate of veg lomo saltado here. Very surprised and made our day!

No pictures of food, but I have the address and the name board. South America vegan traveler – go here!

Otavalo, Ecuador

Otavalo was our first stop at Ecuador. After an interesting experience at the Colombia-Ecuador border where we tried our luck at a visa free entry and succeeded (yay!), we were quite charged for shopping at Otavalo. Otavalo is famous for its Saturday market. On this day, the entire town centro is filled with arts and crafts stalls and these stalls radially extend for several blocks. Its no surprise that this area has some of the most successful indigenous communities. The locals are proud about their culture and one way they show it is by wearing their traditional dress on a daily basis.

The arts and crafts here are quite amazing. The endless stalls of colourful scarves, intricate beads and pretty bags and baglets will make you go ga-ga. Who can resist this?

All well and good. But you’re probably wondering, what about the food. Unfortunately, I had a very unpleasant experience here. A mexican restaurant (near hostel valle de amanecer), that openly proclaimed that it was selling vegetarian food did have extremely tasty food. Despite repeatedly confirming that my soup had no animal products in it, I was aghast to find a small non-plant bit floating in my soup during our second visit to this place. My buoyant mood until then quickly plummeted and we immediately left the place. Its probably my fault – its no big surprise that soups are likely to be flavored with animal broth, so I really had no business ordering. Should have stuck to sandwiches and burritos where I could see the ingredients.

The second unfortunate thing that happened was that we were there during the new year weekend. Most restaurants that would normally have been open were closed. I cant even remember what we ate, probably sandwiches somewhere with lackluster fillings or a pizza without cheese (usually the easiest thing to get). 

The following day, we finally stumbled upon this place:

It was a small cafeteria style restaurant on the main centro. When we walked in, we saw a woman at a counter with all the food for the day in front of her. You’d pay her and she’d plate your meal for you to take to a table. Very simple and unpretentious. After yesterday, I wasnt expecting to find anything or be understood. I was glad to note, however, that she perfectly understood my request for sin-carne, sin pollo, sin queso, sin huevos. :)

A sort of potato preparation (I could only taste potatoes, oil and salt), an ear of corn, a fresh salad with lettuce, onions and tomatoes, some sort of boiled maize and roasted corn (visible to the left of the corn ear) and my perennial favorite – fresh avocados. But my favorite part was this:

Chicha, a fermented corn drink presumably made of corn or maize flour and is sweetened. It has that slightly sour, fermented taste and was really cold. Sooo satisfying. We were going to leave Otavalo and head to Quito after this meal, so it was a very great way to end our stay.

Picanteria Centenario

Otavalo, Ecuador

A vegetarian plate cost $3

Located next to Indigo Hostel on Calle Sucre (near Calle Sucre and Salinas, away from the centro)

Sol De India, Cartagena, Colombia

Sol De India is a lovely vegetarian restaurant run by Hare Krishna followers in the heart of the city. They are centrally located in the San Diego district (in fact, two blocks from another vegetarian restaurant). They have a set lunch and an a la carte dinner which includes items such as masala dosa (!!!). I didnt get to try the dosa, sadly. The set lunch can cost 8000 COL or 10000 COL depending on the number of dishes you can eat. They have a very cool A/C room and a lovely courtyard. The food was simple and very tasty.

Our set lunch consisted of a juice (jugo naturales en agua), a soup made with maize flour, a plate with 4 dishes – rice, a salad, a lentil dish and a vegetable dish. For 8K, it was a great and filling deal.
Find them here on Happycow.
Address:
Calle Tumbamuertos, 38-43 
Cartagena Colombia 0057
318-3607190
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A trip to the Russian River

I love traveling to Northern California, the part of California north of San Francisco. Over the past couple of years, I have made several trips here. I am specifically referring to Marin, Mendocino, Sonoma and Humboldt counties. The towering redwood forests, the rugged and wildly beautiful pacific coast, towns with more organic produce stands than there are McDonalds, the liberal and progressive air, I love it all. But the one thing that I really look forward to is the food. This is the land where you can walk into a restaurant and ask for a vegan dish and no one will blink an eyelid. There are all-vegan restaurants and there are all-organic, all-local restaurants. There are cute grocery stores and mega co-ops that will delight the inner-hippie in you. We found ourselves headed that way for a weekend of relaxation in June, to enjoy the sun and to celebrate our anniversary. We had a lovely little cottage booked in the old river town of Guerneville, formerly a lumber town, but now a touristy town for those seeking solace in the calm environs of the Russian River or the nearby Sonoma coast.

San Rafael, the bustling suburb north of San Francisco is a convenient place to stop for a meal, if you’re headed from the south. San Rafael is home to Sol Food, a Puerto Rican restaurant with a million great reviews on yelp. We love the simple, homestyle food served here and try to go here whenever we are in the area. Community style seating, plenty of vegan options, an amazing mango iced tea and a vibrant ambience complete the picture.

My mango-orange iced tea in a huge mason jar and a fizzy drink:

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House hot sauce, which we liberally doused our food with for extra zing:

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A really fresh salad, fried plantains, vegetable guisado (stew) of zucchini and mushrooms and a slice of fresh avocado, served with white rice:

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Pink beans with olives, served with rice, avocado, salad and plantains:

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Vegan Tembleque, made with coconut milk cream. One half is drizzled with mango sauce and the other half with cinnamon. The mango sauce and sweet coconut cream combo is genius! The spoon cuts into this dessert like a knife, its that thick and lucsious.

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One of the best things about staying in a vacation rental where the hosts live on the premises is that you can simply walk up to them and ask for recommendations for things to do. Our gracious host recommended Peter Lowell’s a mostly-organic, mostly-local restaurant in nearby Sebastopol. We were not the least disappointed.

When we spotted the macro bowl on the menu, we really didnt have to think further. A meal in a bowl is one of our favorite ways of dining. Especially when it comes with great healthy goodies. Tofu, tempeh or seitan? Oh yes, bring it on!

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The bowl (and the plate) We got a hot stone bowl. So my plate now has tempeh, white beans, root vegetables, kale and brown rice, all topped with a miso ginger sauce. The miso ginger sauce was so right, I asked for seconds.

I still have one more restaurant to feature here and while I truly enjoyed all restaurants on this trip, Gaiaís Garden wowed me. The Santa Rosa establishment, located next door to a bustling co-op market with a community oven, has a strictly vegetarian, largely vegan buffet. Befitting its name, the restaurant has a green vibe, with plenty of plants and green decor.

Coconut tapioca pudding, a dal like I have never tasted before, salads so good that I had two:

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Vegan chili spotted during a relaxing coffee break in downtown Guerneville, CA

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Vegan cookie and a soy latte:

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Last but not the least, was the meal we put together in the comfort of our cottage on a lazy Sunday morning. Fairly easy to transport, this meal came together in a few minutes:

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Pre-cooked brown rice from trader joes, crumbles of Amys vegan burger, fresh guacamole, a sauce made of hummus and tahini. all spiced with my favorite hot sauce from trader joes.

Restaurant Information:

1. Sol Food Puerto Rican Cuisine

903 Lincoln Ave

 San RafaelCA 94901

 San Rafael

2. Peter Lowells

7385 Healdsburg Ave

Sebastopol, CA 95473

www.peterlowells.com

3. Gaia’s Garden

1899 Mendocino Ave

Santa RosaCA 95401

 4. Coffee Bazaar

14045 Armstrong Woods Road

Guerneville, CA 95446-8001

mycoffeeb.com

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

Vegan in Mexico: Oaxaca & Tlacolula

Before coming to Mexico, I had done my research on vegan food in Oaxaca. I had memorized the name of the single vegetarian restaurant, after having seen it over and over on the web and in the guidebook. But on our first morning there, I was tired, sleepy and grumpy and on a empty stomach. We had arrived via an overnight bus and having deposited our things in the hostel, we had to take advantage of our wakefulness to explore the ruins of Monte Alban. I wasn’t going to make it there without food, but this was not the time to fish out our sorry map and find out where that single vegetarian restaurant was. I was going to have to make do with whatever happened by us.

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So we walked down a randomly chosen road that would lead us to the shuttle bus to the ruins. Oaxaca is cozy and beautiful and not even my grumpiness was going to stop me from taking in the charm of the town. So then imagine my surprise when I spotted THE restaurant I had read about over and over, just standing there in front of my eyes on that randomly chosen road. Visions of food floated into my brain and my husband, smart chap that he is, agreed to a meal right there and then without any protest. We walked inside Manantial, to be greeted by a breakfast special board (it was 10 AM), a cool, green and pretty courtyard, a very friendly server; in that order. The restaurant was empty, so we got to chat with our friendly server and she even spoke some english and agreed to make my meal completely vegan. I recommend the breakfast special – a main dish, a small bowl of soup or beans or a salad, agua fresca and complimentary bread, all for 35 pesos. We left the place highly satisfied.

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So we resumed walking down the road towards the bus stop and a few blocks later, what do I see again? Another vegetarian restaurant! This one was a store + cafe sort of deal, a simple layout. They have a vegetarian lunch menu, which was enough to send me into rapture. I mean, how often does one stumble upon two such restaurants within a few blocks of each other? The set menu was also priced at 35 pesos and comprised of: agua fresca (juice + water), soup, salad and an entree plate with rice and a wheat gluten based stew.

At Trigo Verde:

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Now, you’d think I have had it with my good luck. Later that night, during a relaxing stroll near the el centro, we saw an outdoor market and a little plaza near it. When I see a little plaza, I feel this need to take a quick peak. It had a few cute stores and then this little gem: Gaia organic restaurant. Unfortunately it was closed – so I vowed to check it out later and quickly bookmarked the location in my mind. I eventually proceeded to have a simple meal of lentil soup and bread there the following day. Gaia is coziness personified with a friendly owner working out of a very homey kitchen and tiny staircase leading to an equally tiny space above. 

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While I had a back up plan, almost every single place I ate in Oaxaca was stumbled upon – its a happy feeling. Here I was worried about making do with <gasp> sandwiches and cheese-less pizza’s, but fate seemed to have other plans.

If you are in Oaxaca, you will most likely go on a day trip to Mitla, another archaeological site nearby and on the way back stop at a few other places. One of these places is a village called Tlacolula. Its famous for its sunday market, but on the weekday that we went, it was a quiet afternoon. There is a main road that leads to the produce market, and on this road are shops and simple restaurants.  At this point I wasn’t sure what I’d get to eat, but I was confident as we were on this little side trip with Jaime and Sergio, two very friendly Mexicans from our hostel who were also traveling to Oaxaca. They were also adept translators; so when they ducked into one restaurant where I recognized “flor de calabaza” (squash blossoms), champinones (mushrooms) and (cauliflower) on the specials board, I decided to give it a try.

I watched Sergio and the owner of the restaurant, a lady with a very friendly, smiling face, exchange pleasantries and such in rapid fire spanish with not just a little expectation. When I finally heard Sergio tell her that I wont eat cheese, eggs, meat etc and saw the smile and comprehension on her face, I felt a wave a relief – I was in good hands. The next word from her nearly threw my off my chair. 

“Vegano?” she asked. 

“Soy vegano”…I claimed excitedly, as I had pretty much stopped using that word in Mexico. 

More rapid fire spanish followed, but Sergio translated it: “My son is vegetarian, but his girlfriend is vegan.”

Whoa! Here I am, sitting in a tidy, no-frills, family owned restaurant in a village an hour away from another small town in meat-loving Mexico and I am (indirectly) having a conversation about veganism with a local. Imagine my delight at this unexpected turn of events. I then proceeded to enjoy a warm, soft tortilla with a layer of black beans spread on it and then filled with flor de calabaza (squash blossoms). On the side, I was given fresh avocado slices. I also tried one with mushrooms and one with flor de calabaza and epazote. Agua fresca de limon helped wash this down.

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As I went searching for my host a little later to thank her for the food, (in such an informal setting, it was easy to do), she told me that she could also make me a cauliflower lasagna type of dish without the cheese! 

So, when you find your way to Mitla next time and are traveling independently by public transport or shared taxi (a tour bus will not stop wherever you want), take a little break in Tlacolula, stroll around the lazy afternoon market, get a cool drink and slurp it down on a shaded bench in the centro, shielded by the scorching sun and then have a lovely vegan meal at.

Restaurant information for Vegan food in Oaxaca & Tlacolula

Restaurant Manantial, Tinoco y Palacios 303, Oaxaca

Trigo Verde, J.P. Garcia #207, Oaxaca

Gaia Gastronomica Natural, Antonio Labastida #115, Plaza Las Virgenes, Oaxaca

Los Comales Restaurante, Avenue Juarez #32, Centro, Tlacolula De Matamoros, Oaxaca

Vegan in Mexico: Mexico City

Here is a rundown on the vegan food we ate in Mexico City. Since I have so much more information, I have decided to split the information according to city.

1. Vegetarian Madero (Madero 56, 1St floor, Col Centro)

 

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Veg Madero is conveniently located a short 5-minute walk away from the Zocalo. After a tiring day of sight seeing in the zocalo, start walking down Madero Street towards Parque Alameda. Veg Madero is on the top floor of an unassuming building on Madero 56. It leads to a surprisingly charming interior featuring live music and a steady local clientele. Check out the daily special at the entrance – usually there are vegan options right here. Dont miss out on the agua, which is an unlimited supply of fruit juice mixed with water, a great way to beat the midway heat. Closes early by US standards (by 7 or 8 pm), so dont plan for dinner without knowing the timings.

2. Vegetariano Yug (Varsovia 3-B S/N, Col. Juarez, Mexico City, DF 06600)

This restaurant is in the Zona Rosa area, just off Paseo De La Reforma, near the Bosque De Chapultapec and the American Embassy. Its convenient if you are visiting the Museum of Anthropology and nearby areas; or if you are staying in the Zona Rosa/Condesa/Roma Norte (which you should certainly consider). It closes early. There is a vegetarian buffet for $92 pesos (as of April 2011). There is soup, different types of salad, bread, fruits and at least 3-4 entrees, rice and a variety of sauces. While the food was good, we still felt the price was a little steep at 92 pesos per buffet. They also have a small store which sells soy milk, soy milk powder and other natural foods.

 

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3. Nirvana Restaurant (Puebla 120, Colonia Roma, Mexico City, DF)

 

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This was hands down the best meal we had in Mexico. It was and to date, remains unforgettable. The way I go on, you’d think I had a gourmet meal in a fine dining establishment. Nothing could be farther than that picture. We walked down a highly residential block, and our hungry stomachs thanked us when we finally stumbled upon Nirvana’s storefront. There is a two car garage outside the store front and door at the side which looks like it leads into a house. So imagine our surprise when we walked in to a cool and tranquil space filled with plants and a little garden out in the back. There is a yoga studio on the top floor and members of the yoga studio drop by for lunch. We paid for our food upfront and got two plates, a bowl and a glass, to be reused for subsequent helpings. Here is a list of what we ate:

  • Salads: Lettuce, Grated carrots, bean sprouts, alfaalfa sprouts, wheat berries, fresh watermelon, fresh papaya
  • Soup: mushroom + barley soup
  • Entrees: flavored rice, spinach stirfry, seitan + red pepper stirfry, pinto beans
  • Aqua fresca: guava, mango
  • Sauces + Dips: red chilli paste in oil, green salsa, a very deliciously creamy coconut chutney, green chutney

Needless to say, my husband and I drowned into a food coma after this meal, the sheer simplicity of which blew us away.

4. Vege Taco (Carillo Puerto 65 at Alberto Zamora; Coyoacan, Mexico, D.F)

 This inexpensive, unassuming hole-in-the-wall taco stop has an extensive taco menu, with dishes of varying sizes. I had about 4 single tacos here and they were all really tasty. The menu is all vegetarian, so ask to hold the cheese and cream. I had been wanting to try these bite sized tacos ever since I got to Mexico, but would tend to hold off on it if there was a mountain of meat next to it. I am happy that my wish was fulfilled. I highly recommend a trip to Coyoacan, check out the artisan’s market there and have some tacos while you are at it.

 

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Even if you are not close to any of these restaurants, there are some fun things to eat. Fresh fruit platter at a late night restaurant, Los Morales on Amberres Street:

 

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Freshly squeezed orange juice on Calle Genova, right next to the Insurgentes Metro Station:

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Coconut paleta (ice pop made with water) from a crowded ice cream stand in Coyoacan:

 

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And of course, the failsafe alternative, a veggie sandwich (minus the cheese and mayo)

 

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For many many more options, check out vegetarian restaurants in Mexico City found on HappyCow and VegGuide. Some of the restaurants in the VegGuide listing are closed – Gaia, Govinda, Vegetariano Karl etc. come to mind. However, 100% natural is an excellent alternative and can be relied upon.

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.