Tag Archives: vegan mofo 2012

Vegan Travel: Vilcabamba, Ecuador (valley of longevity)

Vilcabamba is just awesome. Can I start my post in such a way? By the time we were done with Vilcabamba, husband and I decided that its the place to open a small, quirky Indian food cafe + B&B and settle down in our later years. Why do I say that? Because it looks like this:

and this:

Apparently the soil here is incredibly fertile and things just grow. Its way south in Ecuador, close to the border with Peru. Vilcabamba is a very popular retirement haven with middle-aged and older expatriates from English speaking countries. You’ll find them gathered around expatriate cafes discussing everything about the world. One such awesome place is Charlitos. A very unpretentious cafe with a simple international menu (mostly American) and a very friendly owner. The owner Charlie knows all his regulars and takes time to chat with the newcomers too. He told us that he’d never seen Indian backpackers before and recommended that we open an Indian restaurant there – I really warmed to the idea. :)

Anyway, he knows vegan and does a tempeh sandwich really well. Apparently, the tofu and tempeh is locally made. I was thrilled.

Tempeh sandwich with avocados from Charlitos:

Potato and pea soup:

Just uphill from the central plaza is Restaurant Katherine, another small hole in the wall cafe which is veg friendly. People are usually happy to put together something for me. In this case it was “arroz, verduras y lentejas” (rice, veggies and lentils).

Finally, after a long long time, I got to eat soy products in Vilcambamba. A tofu noodles dish from Resto. Terraza. Tofu isnt very easy to find in South America!

Tofu + vegetable noodles from Terraza:

Vegan friendly restaurants in Vilcabamba, Ecuador:

  1. Charlitos, on Diego Vaca De La Vega between Av. Eterna Juventud & Calle Sucre
  2. Restaurant Katherine; On calle sucre 12-54 & Fernando de la vega.
  3. Juice Factory, on Calle Sucre across from the park
  4. Terraza Restaurant – @ the corner across from the tourism office (oficina de turismo). Has tempeh and tofu dishes, rice and noodles.
  5. Hostal Izhcayluma just outside town has an extensive veg menu thats very popular with all types of tourists. We stayed there and had a lovely time.

Vegan Travel: Cuenca, Ecuador

Cuenca is a beautiful, colonial town in southern Ecuador. Narrow cobblestoned lanes, shady streets flanked by colonial buildings, little shops that dot these streets, a church every few streets thats a few hundred years old. All these interesting streets will culminate in a central square/plaza/zocalo where the locals will hang out during the weekends, street carts will sell local snacks and kids will run around and play with pigeons. Its the kind of place where I’d like to go live for a year or 6 months.

Thankfully, Cuenca is big enough and touristy enough to have good vegetarian food. A quick search on google will lead to plenty of results, so its really a matter of choosing the ones most convenient to you. I usually make a list of the veggie places with their addresses and phone numbers and mark them on a map (available for free at a tourist office) and if we happen to be near one during meal time, we check it out.

We stayed at Hostal Hogar Cuencana and we checked out the little international cafe just outside the hostel the day we arrived.

Bread with peanut butter, jam and cute little banana slices. Washed down with fresh black coffee. It is so satisfying to eat a comforting food like this in a foreign land.

We spent only a couple of days in Cuenca and that too was spent in two day-trips, so our meals mostly comprised of fruits, snacks and other supermarket staples like bread. But we did go to the Govinda’s on Juan Jaramillo 7-27 y Borrero for a lovely Indian-inspired meal.

A vegetable curry with coconut milk:

Stir fried vegetables with rice:

A local sweet stall. They sell a variety of chocolate, fruit, milk and coconut based sweets. I spotted plenty of fruit based sweets. I didnt buy any as I was hungry for real food.

At one time, we were walking down on a busy street after a meal and I spotted a restaurant selling a “vegano almuerzo”. I was bummed to have missed it. I didnt get a picture, but I got their brochure and here is their address:

Vegan meal in Cuenca, Ecuador

Nectar Veg Cuisine tea house & gallery, Benigno Malo 10-42 between Gran Colombia and M. Lamar streets. Phone: 2844-118. Nectarcuisine@vegemail.com

Vegan Travel: Banos, Ecuador

Banos is one of our favorite destinations from South America. Just to give you an idea, its nestled in a beautiful green valley, surrounded on all sides by mountains, one of which happens to be an active volcano. Its also Ecuador’s adventure capital. The term Banos literally means baths – the town has a natural spring for that very purpose. Yes, the Banans (?) sure do like to live on the edge. If you take a bus ride into Banos from any nearby city/town, say Quito or Latacunga, you’ll feel like you have left something weighty behind you and something heavy was just lifted off your shoulders.

The small town is brimming with backpackers and friendly locals who work in the adventure industry (rafting, paragliding, ziplining, mountaineering, biking etc.) and is home to an expatriate population too. Needless to say, veg-friendliness abounds in this little green hippie town. Here is what Banos looks like:

Pretty awesome, isn’t it? Now that you are there, you can eat this:

or this, among other delicious goodies at Casa Hood, which is owned by an expatriate-local couple. There is a small library from where you can choose to read a book while you wait (I nearly finished a novel, I made that many trips here!). I chatted with a friendly staff member here and she said they were considering bringing in some vegan baked goodies at some point.

The other awesome place at Banos is El Paisano (Vieira near Martinez, Banos, Ecuador), which is run an incredibly friendly Ecuadorian gentleman who also happens to be an artist. You can see his colorful and vibrant artwork displayed on the walls of his restaurant, also for sale. He is very clear about dairy-free dishes and will plate you some really yummy goodness.

His dishes are rich in vegetables and lentils and minimum seasoning, so it feels really fresh and healthy. 

Last but definitely not the least is Meeting Point cafe. The owner German has traveled extensively (even to India) and returned home and opened a cafe. German has coffee, food, free wifi and is great company especially when he has time to chat. 

Vegan pasta made just for me. It looks very simple, but it had all the right things – some olive oil, lemon, salt, pepper and mushrooms. 

Banos has many vegetarian friendly restaurants, thanks to its international crowd. At the same time, the prices arent backpacker friendly on a sustained basis. However, with a market like this, we chose to cook most of our meals in the hostel kitchen. 

Another little cafe that I spotted, but they were never open the time I was there. Just across the street from Casa Hood. Maybe they are open now?

Vegan granola!

Bolero, an instant barley drink, caffeine free and hermetically sealed. Didnt try this out, but this would be something I’d carry in my pack for instant nutrition.

The Produce of Ecuador

It is my firm belief that the best part of being vegan is the fresh produce we get to enjoy significantly more than non vegans. While travelling, especially backpacking, its very thrilling to be able to walk into the market on market day, pick up just the vegetables you need for just one meal and cook it into a delicious meal. I have noticed this time and again in hostels that the kitchen is the most crowded space. Many backpackers enjoy cooking a meal so its imperative that you know how to cook with just one pot or one pan and are able to clear the kitchen quickly enough. One of our favorites – stir fry fresh produce from market with minimal spices and eat it with bread, rice, noodles or just plain!

These pictures are from the amazing town of Banos in Ecuador. Its Ecuador’s adventure capital. The scenery is spectacular and the town has a very strong veg food scene – unfortunately, I still cant find my food pictures from here  I’ll be posting some food pictures and restaurant information in my next post.

Banos, Ecuador. You cant visit Ecuador and not go to Banos if you like the mountains.

Vegan Food in Old Town Quito, Ecuador

One can always heave a sigh of relief when entering a capital city while looking for veg*n food. I combine vegetarian and vegan here as both are equally challenging. After a not so stellar experience in Otavalo, we headed down to Quito on New Years day and settled in a hostel. We’d eventually discover that all the (vegetarian) restaurants would be closed that day. Thank God for chifas! A chifa is a chinese food joint named so in some countries in South America. A chifa will always be open, come rain or shine, be it a Sunday or a New Years Day. Not unlike in the US where we’d be on a road trip during christmas weekend and would only eat Chinese food. At a chifa, you can always get “arroz con verduras” or “tallarin con verduras”. Just dont forget to add “sin huevos” and the other “sins..”. There was a Chifa right next to our hostel, so dinner was taken care of.

The following day, I eagerly dragged my husband to the local Govindas restaurant in Old town, Quito. To my complete and utter delight, I discovered not one but THREE vegetarian restaurants on the same block!! All had set lunches for under $4!! If you are in Quito, I implore you to walk around the block that has Govindas and check out all three places before you decide on lunch.

Govindas and Kalpa Vriksha are both Hare Krishna restaurants right next to each other. Go up the hill and turn left to find a nameless vegetarian restaurant. Deal?

The meal at Govindas. Comes with soup and juice.

The premises also has a small Krishna temple:

The other Hare Krishna resto right next door. Why are there two restaurants right next to each other serving the same kind of food?

Go uphill (your legs will show you the way) and turn left to find this no-name veg almuerzo(lunch) place:

And to me, the crowning glory of our stay in Quito – finding authentic Indian food. I was craving and dreaming chole and and was so so happy to finally find it at an Indian restaurant in Quito. Indian restaurants in this part of the world are a rarity, so when a Russian girl at our hostel told us about this place, we walked 30 minutes to the La Mariscal district in Quito. When I say ‘we’, I am usually the initiator of food related activities and my husband just obliges.

Great India Restaurant, Quito, Ecuador; E4-54 Calle Calama between Calle Juan Leon Mera and Amazonas

Easy and low cost Vegan pizza

This is my first post for vegan Mofo even though it began yesterday. But I am now at a remote no-signal area in Coorg and could not get any signal anywhere even though I had the post composed yesterday! That said, here is some yummy, cheap, quick and easy vegan pizza. 

Vegan Mofo is a superb concept where vegan food bloggers blog all through the month (October this time) barring weekends and connect with fellow vegans from around the world. This great event is organized by the folks at the amazing Post Punk Kitchen! I am participating too because I love PPK, veganism and reading great vegan blogs. There is usually a theme to this event. My theme this time is very simple – its more a goal really – I just plan to put up my pictures and vegan-food-related information from South America by the end of Mofo. Not terribly exciting, I know. However, I hope the next vegan who goes to South America will find my information useful. I really doubt I’ll post 20 times this month – thats jut far too prolific for me, but I’ll do my best.

After four amazing months in South America, I am now living in Bangalore, India. Its been very exciting meeting the local vegan group here through potlucks, group lunches and other impromptu meetups. Being vegan here is easy and not so easy at the same time. The most basic south indian dishes are all vegan, so one never goes hungry. However, eating out with friends is more complicated – since I am always ordering the same things. I recently went to a five star restaurant for a birthday lunch and ended up passing on most of the dishes on the pre-fixe menu as they were all dairy heavy. Until the Chinese food came out. :)

Anyway, one thing I miss the most about being in India – vegan pizza with daiya! I’ve just moved here from the bay area, California where daiya cheese was available widely. My favorite hangouts there were z-pizza in Mountain View and Patxis in Palo Alto. No Daiya for me now.

Recently Swami decided to buy some Margherita pizza from the store. He was concerned about my dinner, so I promised him that I’d make one for myself. So I just decided to whip up this really cheap version at home using store bought pizza base. Each base costs only Rs. 10/- and I topped it with organic tomatoes and an impromptu tofu-mint sauce. The verdict – he liked mine more than his cheesy version, despite having left it in the oven a tad too long!

What you need:

  • Whole wheat pizza base from store
  • any pizza sauce
  • fresh tomatoes, sliced
  • basil leaves – fresh or dried
  • tofu sauce

tofu sauce: blend together: one packet firm tofu, a handful of mint leaves, salt, pepper and a tablespoon of lemon juice. I then garnished the pizza with dried basil flakes.