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My vegan pregnancy in India

I am a happy mom to a highly energetic 15 month old baby girl. After all our travels, we settled down and had a super cute cherub in 2015. I had a wonderful pregnancy in India filled with supportive family, friends, coworkers and bosses, for which I am eternally grateful.

I was vegan for my entire pregnancy and veganism is still pretty young in India. During my time there veganism got a lot more exciting in Bangalore, but that is a story for another day. Expectant mothers need a steady supply of nutrients and we tend to get serious about it especially when there is a little bub to consider.

How does a vegan pregnant woman in India get all her vitamins and minerals? Read on.

Finger Millet (Ragi)

Finger millet or Ragi is India’s blessing. Its abundantly available all over the South, is eaten almost daily in some form or the other in Karnatake state and is really cheap. Less than 50 cents for a kilo! Killer prices.

It makes up for the lack of availability of things like quinoa, steel cut or rolled oats (quick cooking oats is available aplenty). Its a rich source of calcium, protein, iron and many other things!

It does have an acquired taste. There are tons of ways to eat it – as rotis, dosai, idli, ragi balls or ragi mudde (not my favorite, but definitely a nutritional storehouse). I enjoy drinking it as a porridge with some soy milk and sweetener mixed in. I recently discovered that you can mix some ragi & water/milk in your rice cooker and set the timer (if available) to make it when you are ready. Cool isnt it?

100 grams of Ragi (about 3 ounces) has about 350 mg of calcium. Thats a little more than from a glass of milk. A tall glass of ragi porridge cooked with a bit of calcium fortified soy milk is a great way to start the day. I made it a point to have ragi in some for the other every day during my pregnancy. My weight gain was healthy, my doctor was not concerned and I had the energy to work until the day before I gave birth.


When Quinoa costs 500 rupees for 250 grams ($8 for 8 ounces), its time to look for alternatives. Amaranth seeds are a complete protein like Quinoa. Its being lauded here on Huffington post. The seeds are not easily available in India, but the flour is very easy to obtain on department store shelves.


India has a phenomenal collection of cooking greens, each with distinctive tastes. All the leafy greens mentioned below are super high in Calcium and offer enough variety to keep the palette from getting bored. Agathi takes a bit getting used to, but remember that 100 grams of the food contains a whopping 1130 mg of Calcium. Its hard to eat 100 grams of the greens in a single sitting, but I’ve often had made into a soup with tomatoes, onions and some lentils. Delicious!

  • Moringa leaves (murungai keerai) – easily available in local produce stalls. I dont see it much in supermarkets though.
  • Agathi keerai – Not easy to obtain. However, every local market will have a greens seller who can easily get it during their next produce run when asked.
  • Fenugreek leaves – Easy to find and easier to grow! I am now growing fenugreek leaves in an old salad box filled with some soil and got a seedling in just 3 days!

Soy Milk

Soy milk is available in most established large chain supermarkets, even in suburbs of metros. They come in various flavors. Mango and pistachio are particularly flavorful. Typically the unsweetened version is not calcium fortified. However, the sweetened flavored versions in some brands were fortified with calcium. Soy milk brands in India to try are Staeta or Sofit.

Shelcal HD

Super cheap source of Calcium supplements easily available in even the smallest, most rural pharmacy. The HD variety also contains Vitamin D.

Vitamin B12

While there are many contradictory articles on this controversial topics, I strongly urge all vegan pregnant women to take a B12 supplement. In India, doctors prescribe a Iron, folic acid and b-complex supplement to all expectant mothers and this contains 5mcg of B-12. I often supplemented this by NUROKIND OD which contains 1500 mcg of Mecobalamin. Its incredibly cheap, Rs. 4 per tablet and need not be consumed every day. Its a sublingual tablet (place under your tongue until it dissolves) about every 3-4 days. Nurokind OD is an easily available Vitamin B-12 supplement across India.


In the US, DHA supplements are typically a part of the prenatal tablet. But they are usually not vegan. In the US, I have easy access to Deva’s DHA supplements, but this is not available in India. I hope this changes soon, since there are so many vegetarians in the country and this will definitely be popular. I took a DHA supplement that my doctor prescribed, knowing its not vegan. Not ideal, but not a risk I was willing to take.

I saw this vegan DHA tablet, but its pretty expensive!

I think I covered most things about a vegan pregnancy in India. I would still like to talk about some over the counter products that are accidentally vegan and easily available in most large cities.

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!

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.

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.

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)

Popayan – UNESCO city of gastronomy

Popayan is a beautiful white-hued town in Southern Colombia. Its a charming colonial city with its white facade – all white colored buildings – in the old town area. I highly recommend a visit to this place if you are travelling in Colombia. Soon after arriving at our hostel, I also discovered that Popayan is appointed as a UNESCO city of gastronomy. While Colombia is incredibly charming in many ways, I wasnt wowed by the food there – a decided lack of spice and vegetarian options led to rather bland experience during meal times, but that was not the case at Popayan.

We stayed at the Park life hostel, where the owner turned out to be a fount of information about local food. Not only that, the owner’s girlfriend is vegetarian, so he knew all the vegetarian hotspots. The hostel is charming with a tidy kitchen, so do try staying here – you can always cook something delicious if you dont feel like eating out.

At the hostel, you’ll find information on the notice board on what to eat! There is a tiny corner shop called “La Fresa”. Ask around and people will point you to it. As you get closer, dont worry that you might miss it. Its the busiest shop at the corner. Its nothing by a small room with a few tables and a very down to earth look. But the people standing in line patiently are testament to the fact that something really special is being served here.

Potato empanadas with Aji de mani (peanut-chili sauce). Its out-of-the-world. We started with a small order, and then quickly got another, and another, and another. I was ready to come back again and again, but sadly we could go only once. At least go once, please! The picture does no justice to this dish. You just have to take my word for it. And the word of other Popayans!

Another vegan delight that you’ll find in other places in the region. The Bocadillo! Its a great snack to carry on a hike or a day trip. Its Guava mixed with panela or sugar. The one mixed with Panela is far superior, but the sugar version is easier to find. Get some and you’ll feel glad for the sugar rush when you’re really hungry.

Bocadillo with panela – I found this in a tiny store in Silvia market and requested the propreiter to repeat the word so many times, she must have thought me wierd.

Bocadillo from the supermarket, Exito:

The owner at Park Life will tell you about this little unassuming French restaurant tucked away just a few blocks from the main plaza. Amazing veg*n friendly food at very un-French prices. Great for a special meal after the rigors of backpacking.

Street carts selling fruit can be found anywhere – you’ll never go hungry, my fellow vegan.

Colored popcorn! I didnt try it, but couldnt resist taking a picture.


Vegan Food in Cali, Colombia

Cali, Colombia is a huge city. Way bigger than we anticipated. Therefore, our time there was extremely limited. We were eager to move on to the next small town on our journey – Popayan. Before we left Cali, we visited a lovely Hare Krishna restaurant called Salud Vibrante.

Salud Vibrante is located at Av. 6N No. 13N-17, about a 25 minute walk from the hotel Inter Continental. Its a small, unassuming place. So it may be easy to miss. Its across the street from a massive blue building (see pic below).
Cost for set lunch: 6000 COP (a really sweet deal)
Includes: juice, soup, entree plate and dessert (fruit)
The lunch was awesome! There is also a small counter selling something that looked suspiciously close to potato bondas! Unfortunately, I was too stuffed to try. 
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Veg food in Medellin – Hari Om Vegetarian Restaurant, Medellin, Colombia

Hostels are a great place to discover good restaurants. Sometimes we stumble into cool vegetarian/vegan recommendations. We found a humble flyer for Hari Om vegetarian restaurant tucked away on a busy notice board filled with hordes of other pamphlets. It was a good fifteen minute walk, but totally worth it. It is run by Hare Krishna followers with a bit of an ital vibe thrown in and is open until 9 PM in the night. Not open on Sundays I think. 

Hari Om is on a busy street, a bit hard to find (the street numbers dont make any sense). But please do persist, ask around and find it. It would be great for them to have more customers and the food was delicious and people who run it are really friendly. The atmosphere is colorful, cosy and cheery.
The set meal for lunch (menu del dia) costs a very inexpensive COL 6500 for the following:
  • Juice
  • A bowl of hearty bean soup
  • A huge plate filled with a salad, brown rice, a TVP entree, and a fruit based dessert (banana with cinnamon sauce).
  • A small cup of berry sauce
Walk it up from Metro Estadio or Suramerica
If you’re staying near or visiting La Setenta (Carrera 70), its close by from there.
Carrera 66b Circular 4 7MedellínAntioquia
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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.
Calle Tumbamuertos, 38-43 
Cartagena Colombia 0057
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Hostel Cooking: Vegan Pulao

I love cooking in hostels. Shopping for produce in a foreign country and using those ingredients to whip up a meal is an aspect of travel I enjoy quite a lot. South America is no exception, I came mentally prepared to cook a lot in hostels.

Rice is plentiful in South America, so when we stayed in a well stocked hostel, we made good use of the kitchen and whipped up a veg pulao. I was really happy to spot these tiny sachets of spices in the market and we got some cumin (comino) to use in our pulao. It was a bit bland, but we got by with what we have.


I cook with whatever is available. In this case, I was glad to find some oil to cook with. Since we are backpacking, we are hesistant to buy anything that’ll require us to transport it.

We bought onions, tomatoes, peas, cauliflower, beans, rice and cumin powder from the store. We soaked the rice while cutting all the vegetables.