Vegans on a Plane: Turkish Airlines

Turkish Airlines is a great option for #vegan #travelers. #govegga

Last spring when I was planning Steven’s and my trip to Vienna and Prague, Turkish Airlines kept popping up with seriously unbeatable prices. (I think we ended up paying <$600 round trip from DC to Vienna.) Despite the rather long layover(s) at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport, I ended up being glad we opted for Turkish — this is one airline that still treats its economy class passengers well. Here’s some of the special treatment you can expect on Turkish, even in economy:

  • Hot towels at the beginning and end of your flight
  • An amenity kit, including toothpaste, a toothbrush, an eye mask, slippers, and a few more doodads
  • Turkish Delights just after takeoff (this sweet is often vegan; not sure about the vegan-ness of the ones they serve)

Plus, they have more than respectable food! Turkish is well-known for having a bona-fide chef on board; although she/he primarily serves the business and first-class cabins, you’ll see her/him helping out during meal service in economy, too. I was extra impressed that they offered a full meal service on our relatively short flight from Istanbul to Vienna, meaning we arrived at our destination with full bellies. That’s always welcome!

One downside to booking on Turkish? You can’t reserve seats or request a special meal online. Instead, you’ll need to call their booking line ahead of your flight to make that happen. Every time I make the vegan food request, I always fear this is the time it fails and I’ll be left meal-less. Happily, that was not the case on these flights — although I was a little disappointed that the special meals aren’t delivered early, as is usually the case!

Here’s a sampling of what we ate on Turkish.

As you can see, the presentation was pretty standard for airplane fare. But nearly everything tasted pretty darn good. I most enjoyed the white beans in tomato sauce, that phyllo-wrapped savory pastry, and the fresh, piping hot bread.

So, the verdict? Vegan food on Turkish Airlines is tasty and plentiful. Now go ahead and book your flight!

Vegan on the Go: Cape Cod

Vegan on the Go: Eating #vegan on #capecod

Last month, my partner Steven headed north to Cape Cod to spend a week soaking up the sunshine with his mom. He kept me well-apprised of all the vegan food he found during his stay, and given the plentiful options available for veg-friendly folks, I knew I needed him to write up a review of everything he enjoyed on his trip. So, here it is: Steven’s report on where you can find vegan food in Cape Cod. All words and photos are Steven’s. 

(Side note — how sad is it that I grew up in Rhode Island but have never been to Cape Cod?! Yikes! Maybe next summer…?)

Pearl restaurant -- how to eat #vegan on #capecod.
Pearl

Our first stop was Pearl, a classed-up beachside seafood place right near Mayo Beach. After verifying that the veggie burger was vegan, I ordered it with a side of hand-cut potato chips. The burger itself was nothing to write home about, and I erred in ordering it again on a return trip (even when I added the sriracha slaw). The hand-cut fries, on the other hand, were absolutely fabulous — piping hot, crispy, and nice and thick while still being wonderfully crunchy.

JD's Pizza -- how to eat #vegan on #capecod.
JD’s Wood Fired Pizza (aka JD’s Sports Bar)

Provincetown is probably the most veg-friendly town on the Cape, and my mom and I stopped by JD’s Wood Fired Pizza for lunch during our visit. I ordered the primavera pizza, which featured peppers, snow peas, zucchini, onion, summer squash, mushrooms, sundried AND cherry tomatoes, and a big old pile of arugula. I have a bad habit of always ordering Daiya on pizza when it’s available, and this veggie powerhouse definitely didn’t need it. Thankfully the chef had a light hand with it. The crust was crispy and delicious, and while I could have done with some tomato sauce, it was a great pizza.

Grab 'n Go -- how to eat #vegan on #capecod.

Grab ‘n’ Go Health Bar

“Vegan Soft Serve” was written on the sandwich board outside this shop, so I had to stop in. The only flavor was chocolate, and although it was not especially unique, I always appreciate vegan soft serve — and this one came with purple sprinkles!

Box Lunch -- how to eat #vegan on #capecod.

Box Lunch

Lunch in Wellfleet was a little tough to find, but I figured the Box Lunch sandwich shop would have something I could eat. One of the few options was the “Hum Vee,” a pretty standard wrap with hummus, tomatoes, avocado, sprouts, onions, and lettuce. Unfortunately the hummus was overly salty and there wasn’t much (if any) avocado to balance it out.

Van Rensselaer -- how to eat #vegan on #capecod.

Van Rensselaer’s

I wondered why I was the youngest person in the restaurant by about 30 years until I realized it was Early Bird dinner hours. Someone has clearly made an effort to be accommodating to vegans at Van Rensselaer‘s, as the restaurant offers an explicitly vegan fried rice bowl and a tofu provencal that can be made vegan. I got the latter along with a trip to the salad bar, which was decent — there was a kale salad that looked very out of place among the rest of the standard salad bar fare. The tofu provencal was unfortunately not as appetizing. There were zoodles for some reason, and the tofu had clearly not been prepared properly (it was limp and bland). I couldn’t resist the vegan peanut butter brownie for dessert, but it was unfortunately just as mediocre. Disappointing, given the prices here!

Joey's -- how to eat #vegan on #capecod.

Joey’s at Eat at the Fleet

Right off Route 6 is a little convoy of food trucks called Eat at the Fleet that includes Joey’s, a tex-mex truck with some solid veggie options. I got two chorizo tacos and shared some tortilla chips with my mom. The chorizo was quite good and uniquely flavored, if a little overly sweet, and the pico was awesome — the cashier told me it was from a local farm, and it certainly tasted fresh.

Green Lotus Cafe

I always have to get vegan Reubens when they are available. The one at Green Lotus was quite good, even if it wasn’t the best (that honor goes to the Reuben Royale at Liquid Earth in Baltimore). And their vegan clam chowder was awesome.

Karoo

This very veg-friendly South African restaurant in Eastham was absolutely packed on a Saturday night. I started with the West African Peanut Soup, which I often make a quick and lazy version of at home. This one featured pumpkin and carrot in addition to peanut and was absolutely delicious. I also got the Vegan Bunny — apparently “bunny chow” is a South African street food that features curried meat or vegetables inside a loaf of bread. This was more of an open-faced sandwich, with flavorful and savory curried veggies, a pile of delicious sweet potato fries, and two buns in there somewhere.

Shoreline Diner -- how to eat #vegan on #capecod.

Shoreline Diner

Whenever Kelly and I drive up to Rhode Island to visit her family, we see the sign for Shoreline Diner — but it’s always past midnight and we can never make the time to stop. On this trip I vowed I would make it. On the drive over I deliberated for awhile between a breakfast dish (Berries and Cream French Toast) and something more savory, and in the end decided on the Tempeh BLT Club. Crisp, flavorful, and filling, this sandwich included both tempeh and veggie bacon. I was in protein heaven.

MIchael Angelo -- how to eat #vegan on #capecod.

Michael Angelo

There’s apparently a thing in Connecticut called Salad Pizza. When my cousin told me he was ordering pizza from Michael Angelo, I responded in the classic vegan way — “Don’t worry if the pizza isn’t vegan, I’ve got leftovers, I don’t want you all to have to go out of your way.” Of course, they responded like family should, by calling to check that the pizza was vegan and making a delicious salad, fresh salsa, and guac for sides. Salad pizza is, much like it sounds, is simply a chef salad dumped on top of a pizza. It’s very strange and very good, and never comes with cheese anyway, so I didn’t have to feel bad about depriving them.

Cookbook Review: Made in India

One of my favorite library-related pastimes is browsing the cookbook section. In the past, I limited myself to checking out vegan cookbooks only — but then I realized that I was doing myself a disservice. Now I’m happy to grab any cookbook that appeals to me, and Meera Sodha’s Made in India: Recipes from an Indian Family Kitchen appeals on many levels.

First, it’s beautiful. The cloth-covered hard-bound cover bursts with color, including a sweet elephant illustration. Inside the book, the photos themselves are lovely and generous. Second, it was the runner-up in this year’s Food52 Piglet cookbook tournament, a wholly enjoyable competition wherein food writers, cookbook authors, and others review two cookbooks and select a winner, with that book advancing to the next round. Given how highly Made in India placed (and the words of enthusiasm bestowed upon it by its reviewers), I knew it merited at least a check-out from the library.

made in india -- cookbook review

Made in India stands out in my stack of library books.

What I found when I cracked open this book is an homage to home cooking, Indian-style. Sodha manages to make dishes you might’ve only ever eaten in restaurants seem utterly doable at home. I’ve renewed this book three times (the limit, alas), and I don’t want to give it back. It’s going on my Christmas list for sure.

Yes, there are recipes for meat in here. But there are also veg-friendly recipes a-plenty, and the techniques Sodha shares can easily be applied to meat-free cooking. I do have a few vegan Indian food cookbooks already, but I think this one outshines them. I loved everything I made from this book.

What I cooked

  • Badshah kitchari (p. 159). If you’re looking for a way to dress up your rice, this might just be the answer. Tender basmati and a few tablespoons of whatever dried lentils you have on hand meet cinnamon, garlic, onion, and a handful of other spices, and the result is a nuanced rice dish that just about stands on its own as a main.
  • Bateta nu shaak (p.63). A testament to the transformative power of spices on relatively humble ingredients, this Gujarati potato and tomato curry is dead simple and tastes like much more than the sum of its parts.
  • Chana dal with golden garlic tarka (p. 162). “I think I could eat dal for every meal,” said Steven, as we sat down to a bowl of this gorgeously golden dal for a late Sunday lunch. As if this dal isn’t luscious enough on its own, Sodha’s garlic tarka adds another dimension of flavor to bring this seemingly simple dish over the top. (Check out the photo below.)
  • Green beans with mustard seeds and ginger (p. 181). I didn’t think this recipe would work. But when Sodha asks you to mix tomato paste into your green beans, just do it. Yes, it will look a little strange and you won’t be sure if it’s supposed to clump up like that. But the end result is a super-tasty spin on green beans and a great way to make them a much more filling side dish.
  • Hot flaky paratha (p. 198). Truth be told, I’ve always been a little intimidated by Indian breads. But I decided to try making parathas because there’s no rise time and they seemed pretty straightforward. A soft dough is rolled out, dotted with canola oil and flour, folded, sprinkled with more oil and flour, folded again, then finally rolled into a long, irregular triangle before being cooked briefly on a hot skillet. The result is a rich, flaky bread you’ll want to use to scoop up all your curries. It took me a few tries to get the skillet heat and cooking time right, but once I did, these came together beautifully.
  • Jyoti’s peanut soup (p. 169). If you’re thinking, “Hmm, isn’t peanut soup typically an African recipe?” then you’re right on the money. This recipe comes from a woman who was raised in Uganda, before Idi Amin banished the country’s Asians. Instead of using premade peanut butter, you’ll need to roughly grind roasted peanuts yourself, resulting in a thick, creamy, yet textured soup.

What I loved, beyond the food itself

  • Sodha’s voice. It’s friendly and welcoming, yet confident; it’s personal, yet not self-centered. She’s sharing her family recipes from a place of love and respect without straying into sappy sentiment, and it works so well.
  • Her method for perfect basmati rice. Although I’ve never been one to bemoan rice cookery, my technique was not exactly failproof. Sodha introduced me to a no-fail method for basmati rice that I’ll use for years to come.
  • The design. I already mentioned the beautiful cover, but the rest of the book is also infused with this colorful, charming aesthetic. From the bold illustrations that introduce each chapter to the just-styled-enough photos, this book pleases the eye in every way.

What I didn’t quite love

  • The index. It’s not comprehensive. Sodha includes multiple recipes for eggplant, but check E in the index and “eggplant” isn’t even listed. Personally, I like to use an index to find inspiration when I have a particular ingredient on hand, but that’s not possible with this book.
  • The directions, on occasion. Some recipes could’ve used a little clarification. For example, I’d never made parathas before I attempted Sodha’s recipe and technique. And while I found it mostly easy to follow with solid results, the last paragraph included this line: “Check for any uncooked [dark] spots of dough, then take off the heat…” Okay, but what do I do if I find those dark spots? Cook the whole thing for longer, or maybe press down on the dark spot so it gets more targeted heat? Some expert advice would’ve been much appreciated. I had a similar issue with the green beans — I wasn’t sure what to do when I added the tomato paste; it didn’t blend into the beans easily and seemed a little out of place (though, as previously mentioned, it tasted great). More direct instruction would have been lovely.

To sum up, I loved this book. It’s a joy to read through slowly and a joy to cook from, a perfect marriage for a cookbook.  This is a book that I would happily find space for in my home.

If you’ve used this book, let me know what you think!

Note: This post contains an affiliate link. If you purchase something through my link, it costs nothing extra for you, but I get a few pennies. I’m not looking to make a fortune, just to cover hosting costs. :)

Chewy Vegan Coconut Cookies

Let’s not talk about the fact that Labor Day weekend has come and gone, okay? Instead, let’s talk about chewy, melt-in-your-mouth rich vegan coconut cookies. The kind of cookies you could bring to a gathering of even the staunchest omnivores and feel good about. The kind of cookies that you just want to keep on eating and eating and eating, even when your stomach groans in protest.

I’ve made these cookies three times in the past few weeks, twice to share at events, and they haven’t let me down. I’ve basically veganized this recipe, toned down the fat and sugar just a bit, and tweaked a few other things to my taste. I highly recommend using shredded (not flaked!) coconut — it seems to melt into the cookies, providing them with coconutty goodness, without those noticeable flaky bits that might distract from your eating pleasure. (I buy it at Wegmans, but Amazon also carries shredded coconut from Bob’s Red Mill.) Adding the coconut early on helps it soften up and become infused with the creamed sugar and butter. The result is a true delight.

chewy vegan coconut cookies

 

Almost as good as the final product? The fact that this recipe is so, so easy — you can make it in a single bowl, plus a small one for mixing up your flax egg. I use my KitchenAid stand mixer, but a hand mixer or even good old-fashioned elbow grease will do the trick.

If you’re feeling decadent, I bet these would be amazing drizzled with chocolate… but I’ve been too impatient to try that!

Chewy Coconut Cookies
Makes ~18 cookies

  • 6 T Earth Balance buttery sticks, softened
  • 1/2 C brown sugar
  • 1/4 C white sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 flax egg (1 T ground flax mixed with 3 T warm water)
  • 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 350˚F and have two cookie sheets ready to go. (You can line them with parchment paper if you’d like; it’s not necessary, but if your sheets are finicky, feel free to try it.)

First, make the flax egg by whisking the ground flax with the water until combined. Set aside.

In your stand mixer (or using a hand mixer or your own brute strength), cream together the Earth Balance, sugars, and vanilla until well combined; it should take two to three minutes. Pour in the flax egg and mix for another 15 seconds or so.  Add the shredded coconut and mix on low until it’s folded in to the creamed butter and sugar.

With the stand mixer (if using) off, add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, then mix on low until all ingredients are incorporated. It should take just a minute.

Scoop rounded tablespoonfuls of dough onto your cookie sheet, leaving about 2″ between each cookie. Press down slightly. Bake for 10 minutes, and let cool for another 5 before removing from the cookie sheet.

Enjoy!

chewy vegan coconut cookies

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through my link, it costs nothing extra for you, but I get a few pennies. I’m not looking to make a fortune, just to cover hosting costs. :)

Back to Basics: How to Cook with Tofu

back to basics -- how to cook with tofu; how to use tofu

The very first time I cooked tofu was, to put it mildly, an unpleasant experience. I’d been a vegetarian for nearly five years at that point and really should’ve known better, but alas: I made the classic error of purchasing silken tofu instead of regular tofu. (Not sure why that’s such a big no-no? This post is for you — read on!)

There I was, a college senior excited to be mostly off the meal plan and to cook for myself at the townhouse I shared with two of my best friends. My college was in walking distance of a lovely co-op, and I’d purchased the tofu with stars in my eyes, ready for a meat-free meal I’d share with my friends to wow them. As I basted the slices of tofu with barbecue sauce, their squishy jiggliness should’ve been a dead giveaway that something was amiss. “Maybe they’ll firm up in the oven,” I thought.

Of course, there was no magic firming action, and my baked tofu slices came out just as jiggly as their unbaked selves… except they now had a very thin, chewy crust of barbecue sauce on them. Not exactly the gourmet dinner I’d been envisioning.

Needless to say, this was not a meal I shared with my friends.

Seven years later, I’ve come a long, long way in my tofu knowledge. It’s now a staple in my kitchen, and I use it every which way, in all its forms, for savory and sweet recipes alike.

So today, let’s get back to basics and talk all about tofu! Read on for tips on how to cook with tofu, which type to use, and how best to take advantage of everything this beautifully neutral protein has to offer.

Green beans and tofu in a spicy sauce -- how to cook with tofu.

A much better use of tofu.

What is tofu?

Simply put, it’s bean curd. Less simply put, it’s “a food made by coagulating soy milk and then pressing the resulting curds into soft white blocks.” (Thanks, Wikipedia.) It’s been used for thousands of years in various East Asian cuisines, and happily made its way to the western world in the late 19th century. That’s good news for us western vegans, because tofu is high in protein (with about 40 grams in a 14 ounce block) and often calcium (because it’s frequently treated with calcium sulfate, a coagulant).

Tofu comes in a few varieties, which can be hard to keep straight at first.

  • Silken tofu. This is very soft and almost gelatinous in texture. It’s quite delicate; silken tofu falls apart easily and easily blends into something like a cream. (And it’s what I mistakenly used in place of regular firm tofu!) Within the category of silken tofus are different levels of firmness. For example, you can find soft silken tofu and firm silken tofu, but remember that any kind of silken tofu will be softer and more delicate than regular firm tofu. Silken tofu is available in both shelf-stable and refrigerated varieties. I personally use them interchangeably.
    • Shelf-stable silken tofu comes in small boxes and doesn’t need to be refrigerated. You can keep it in your pantry for quite a while.
    • Refrigerated silken tofu needs to be, well, refrigerated. The block of tofu is packed in water in a sealed plastic container.
  • Regular (firm) tofu. This is much hardier than silken tofu and almost grittier. It’s always refrigerated, packed in water in a sealed plastic container. The most common varieties are firm and extra-firm, although you might see super-firm. You can also find sprouted tofu, which is made from soybeans that were allowed to sprout first.

Where can I buy tofu?

Good news — most grocery stores sell tofu. Even big-box chains usually have at least one variety. Fresh tofu needs to be refrigerated, so it’s typically shelved by the dairy or veggie section. (If the store sells faux meats, they’ll usually be here too.) Shelf-stable silken tofu is typically housed with the Asian foods. (Mori-Nu is the most common brand.)

At health food stores, co-ops, and other specialty stores, you might want to check the faux-meat/non-dairy section to find refrigerated tofu. Just ask if you can’t find it! Shelf-stable tofu will likely still be alongside Asian ingredients.

At Asian markets and some health food stores, you might get lucky enough to find fresh tofu. You can get it in the refrigerated section, usually stored in a big bucket filled with so-called tofu water. In this case, the store will usually have plastic bags available for you to transport the tofu. (You could also bring your own container.)

Finally, recall that not all silken tofu is shelf-stable — in other words, you might find silken tofu in the refrigerated section, right alongside the firmer tofu. Always double-check the label, or you might end up making a mistake similar to my college-era error! ;)

What kind of tofu should I use?

To avoid mishaps, follow these general tips:

  • If using a recipe, heed the author’s advice! Any quality recipe will tell you what kind of tofu to use. It’ll usually be written like “extra-firm tofu” (meaning the extra-firm variety of the regular kind) or “soft silken tofu” (meaning the soft variety of the silken (usually shelf-stable) kind). So you need to know the kind (regular vs. silken) and the level of firmness (e.g., soft, firm, extra-firm).
  • If a recipe calls for extra-firm regular tofu but you can only find firm, don’t sweat it. You can usually substitute a softer tofu by being a little gentler with it and making sure to press it. (More on that below.)
  • In general, savory recipes use regular tofu (because the tofu is a specific component of the meal, designed to stand on its own) whereas sweet recipes use silken (because it’s going to be blended up to create a creamy texture, like in a pudding or cream pie). This is not a hard and fast rule, of course, so always read the recipe and ask the author if you have questions.
Eggless tofu sandwich -- how to cook with tofu.

Tofu for lunch.

How do I prepare tofu?

  • Press it. If you’re using firm or extra-firm regular tofu, the recipe might call for it to be pressed. Why would you do this? Well, pressing the tofu squeezes out the excess liquid, improving the texture and getting the tofu ready to soak up more delicious marinade or seasonings. Is it necessary? Strictly speaking, no. But it does tend to improve the overall consistency and mouthfeel, especially when it’s a main component of your meal. How do you do it? There are a few methods:
    • The old-fashioned way. Wrap a block of tofu (the regular, refrigerated kind, remember?) or individual slices of the tofu in either a regular towel or paper towels. Put it on a shallow plate and put something heavy on top of the wrapped tofu. People often use books for this. The goal is to squeeze and drain all the water you can. The longer you press your tofu, the better, but if you don’t have 24 hours to spare, any time at all will help.
    • The new-fangled way. Get yourself a fancy-schmancy tofu press! There are a few designs on the market, but I use a Tofu Xpress Gourmet Tofu Press. It served me well for years, although recently the plastic spring housing broke and I’ve yet to replace it. There are some simpler, less expensive options available (like this EZ Tofu Press), but I can’t vouch for them personally.
  • Freeze it. When you freeze tofu, the texture magically changes into something a little more toothsome. Simply take regular tofu out of the package, drain it, press it (or not), and freeze it in a freezer-safe container. When you’re ready to use it, thaw it in the fridge for about 8 hours ahead of time. (You can also try to thaw it in the microwave if you’re short on time, but I don’t recommend this.)
  • Marinate it. People like to describe tofu as a sponge because it’s always ready to soak up delicious flavors. I personally find that description a little off-putting, but it’s also spot-on. You can use any marinade or flavor combo you’d like (see below for suggestions). Here are some tips for infusing your tofu with as much flavor as possible.
    • Slice or cube the tofu to increase surface area. Marinating a whole block won’t be as efficacious as marinating individual pieces.
    • Use a fork to poke tiny, not too deep holes so the marinade has more of a chance to permeate.
    • Start marinading as early as possible, but don’t sweat it if you only have 15 minutes. It’s better than nothing, and it’ll still help!

How do I cook tofu?

Pshhh, don’t cook it at all — eat it raw! Just me? Okay then. If you’re set on cooking your tofu, here are some basic methods.

  • Bake it. You can’t go wrong with baked tofu. I like to bake marinated cubed or sliced tofu at 400˚F for 20-30 minutes, flipping once on each side. To get nice crispy edges, be sure to use a shallow pan (better yet, one without rims) and use a little oil or aluminum foil underneath the tofu.
  • Dry-fry it. If you’re avoiding oil or just want a super-simple way of preparing tofu, this is the method for you. At the end, you’ll have chewy, golden-brown tofu. Keep in mind, though, that this is for plain tofu, not flavored, so it’s best in a recipe with lots of other flavors going on. This is the method I use.
  • Pan-fry it. Unlike the previous method, this one uses a little oil and works great with marinated tofu. It couldn’t be simpler: Heat 1-2 tablespoons of your favorite oil (vegetable, olive, or coconut all work, although coconut will add a little flavor) in a nonstick or cast-iron pan, then add the tofu and cook for 7-10 minutes, flipping every so often, over medium. Every pan and every stove is different, so keep a watchful eye on your tofu as it cooks. You don’t want it to burn, but you do want it to start crisping up. Once you get the hang of how your setup works, you can adjust the amount of oil and heat level.
  • Scramble it. Vegans freaking love scrambled tofu. It’s a protein-packed stand-in for eggs that can be prepared so many ways and with so many different flavor profiles. I’ll include some recipes below, but at its core, scrambled tofu is just what it sounds like: crumbled tofu mixed with seasoning and often additional liquid, cooked like you’d cook scrambled eggs.
  • Grill it. Got a grill? You’re in luck — tofu stands up well to heat! Marinated tofu is great on the grill, but make sure to keep the slabs nice and thick so they don’t fall apart. You can also use it in kebabs with lots of veggies! For tofu cooked directly on the grill, make sure the grill is well-oiled and opt for lower heat and a longer cooking time (~20 minutes should do it). Remember to flip occasionally, especially if you want sweet cross-hatch action.
Marinated Tofu Sandwich -- how to cook with tofu

A tasty way to enjoy marinated, pan-fried tofu.

Okay, sold — I’m ready to cook! What are some great tofu recipes?

Yes! Here’s the fun part. These are some of my favorites.

  • Scrambled tofu. There are two main styles: egg-like and, well, tofu-like.
    • For a classic vegan tofu scramble, start with this recipe (yes, you can use soy sauce instead of the shoyu). Once you get the basic method down (sauté veg, add tofu and spices, scramble till your preferred level of doneness), you can play around with ingredients and flavor palettes. Try this one for a full-bodied scramble packed with veggies, or this red-curry version for something Thai-inspired.
    • For a more scrambled-egg-like tofu (one that doesn’t included added veggies and works great as a side dish for brunch), you just can’t beat the Tofuevos recipe from Vegicano. (Tip: reduce the soy sauce if you’re salt-averse.)
  • Tofu that stands on its own. Ready to show off your mad tofu-cooking skills? Read on!
  • Tofu that shares the spotlight. Tofu is an integral part of these recipes, but it works alongside other ingredients to create a final product that’s greater than the sum of its parts.
  • Tofu that’s masquerading as something else. This versatile protein easily plays many roles.

Where can I learn more?

Books, duh. Here are some you should check out from your library. (I haven’t personally read or used them all, but they seem worth a look!)

  • 101 Things to Do with Tofu by Donna Kelly and Anne Tegtmeier. I owned this book for a while and was impressed by the range of recipes. It’s vegetarian, not vegan, but many of the recipes are easily veganizable.
  • The Great Vegan Protein Book by Celine Steen and Tamasin Noyes. The dynamic duo is at it again with recipes that focus on protein — and unsurprisingly, many of them feature tofu. We own this cookbook and it has quite a few neat ideas.
  • Making Soy Milk and Tofu at Home by Andrea Nyugen. I know, I know — we just covered how to use tofu at all, never mind how to make it from scratch! But this looks like such a neat deep-dive into soy-based foods, and I’d imagine that homemade tofu has a depth of flavor unmatched by its store-bought counterpart.
  • The Tofu Cookbook for Vegans: 50 Vegan-Friendly Tofu Recipes by Veganized. (Yeah, I dunno what’s up with that byline either.) This is a bit of a wild card, but I love the idea of a cookbook dedicated solely to vegan tofu recipes. If you try it out, let me know what you think!
  • Tofu Cookery (25th Anniversary) by Louise Hagler. I’m almost ashamed not to have at least looked through this book — it’s a bit of a legend. Even Isa Chandra herself name-drops it on occasion!

But isn’t soy bad for you?!?

Nope. See here, here, here, and here.

~~~

Okay — what did I miss?! Or do you feel ready to conquer tofu cookery? Let me know!

Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something through my link, it costs nothing extra for you, but I get a few pennies. I’m not looking to make a fortune, just to cover hosting costs. :)

Simple Spicy Green Beans and Tofu

Two  months ago, Steven and I bought a house. We’d been looking for for something old, with lots of character, in the country(ish).

We bought an early ’70s midcentury-inspired, contemporary-as-all-heck house in the suburbs. And we love it.

What I love perhaps most of all is having a beautiful backyard where I can garden and my pups can hang out. My wonderful parents came down to help us move, and my dad built us two raised garden beds. He also brought plants galore and taught me all about the best ways to transplant various little plantlings. (It pays to have a master gardener who spends most of his free time at a greenhouse for a dad!) We planted relatively late in the season and had a little deer-eating-all-the-baby-tomatoes incident, but things are finally starting to pick up out there. I have more basil than I know what to do with, and everything is coming in beautifully. I love it. Just look at these sweet filius blue peppers — aren’t they cute?!

Cutest lil peppers that you ever did see.

A photo posted by Kelly (@kelmishka) on

 

I also love living a mile from a wonderful weekend farmers’ market. On Saturday mornings, I walk over to the market to stock up on lush fresh veg and fruit, then treat myself to a cold-brew coffee from Brewing Good Coffee Co., a local craft coffee roaster that just happens to be run by vegans. (Their motto is “Drink coffee. Save animals.” Done.) By the time I get home, I’m extra sweaty from being weighed down by all that veggie goodness, but at least I’m caffeinated!

This Saturday, I picked up a big ol’ carton of green beans and knew I had to gobble them up right away. They starred in a spicy dish alongside some tofu and hot peppers from the garden (not the ones in the photo above). I finished everything off with a nice spicy sauce and served over brown rice. Yes, this recipe is super simple — in fact, it’s barely a recipe at all. But this time of year, when all this gorgeous produce is in its prime, I like meals that are simple enough to let the veggies shine. Plus, who wants to spend hours in the kitchen when the sun is shining and you’ve got a backyard calling your name?! :)

Green beans and tofu star in this simple, spicy vegan dinner.

Simple Spicy Green Beans & Tofu
Serves 2-3

  • 1 T coconut oil
  • 1 T freshly grated ginger
  • 2-3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 small purple cayenne hot peppers, diced OR 1-2 t dried red pepper flakes*
  • 2 T low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 T brown sugar
  • 1 tsp seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 lb extra firm tofu, cubed
  • 1 lb green beans, chopped or snapped into roughly 1″ pieces

Melt the coconut oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat, then add the ginger, garlic, and pepper/pepper flakes. Cook for about 3 minutes, or until the garlic starts to brown, then add the tofu.

Cook the tofu over medium-low for 7-10 minutes, turning every few minutes, until the cubes start to get crispy and golden. Keep the heat on medium-low so the tofu doesn’t burn.

Add the green beans to the saucepan and cover. Cook for another 3-4 minutes.

Remove the lid and pour in the sauce. Stir to coat, and cook for another minute or two until the sauce is absorbed. Serve immediately over brown rice.

*You can really use any fresh hot pepper you’d like — I just happened to have two of these little guys ripe and ready to go.

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What’s your favorite easy summer veg-forward dinner?

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Back to Basics: Making the Vegan Transition

You’ve flirted with veganism, but have never been able to fully commit. You want to try it out, but you’re not sure where to start. What if you eat cheese accidentally? What if you have a team lunch at a steakhouse and you don’t want things to get too awkward? What if you can’t achieve vegan perfection?!

basics_transition

Chill out and take a deep breath. I’m here for you. Something I’m passionate about is supporting people who want to become plant-based, and to that end, I’m writing up a series of “back to basics” posts. If you’ve been considering going vegan but aren’t sure where to begin, I’ve got your back. Read on for five tips on how to go vegan, and please email me (girlinthegarden@gmail.com) if you want to chat further. And if you’re one of my fellow long-time vegheads, rock on.

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Today, let’s talk about transitioning to a vegan diet and lifestyle. These five guidelines are not the end-all, be-all, of course, but I think they’ll help just about anyone who wants to go veg. Try them out and let me know what you think.

  1. Come up with a plan that fits you.
  2. Be prepared.
  3. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
  4. Ask for help.
  5. Know why you’re making the change.

Come up with a plan that fits you.

No two people live their lives the exact same way, and no two people will have the same exact motivations and methods when they transition to veganism. If you’re the type of person who makes decisions in a split second and dives straight in, you might do just fine ditching animal products in a single leap and becoming vegan overnight. And that’s awesome. Go you! If you know you’re that kind of person, your transition might involve less planning and more doing.

On the other hand, you might be a diehard planner. If schedules and research and preparation are an essential part of your life, you might transition to vegan slowly. And that’s awesome too. Go you! If you fit somewhere in this category, planning will obviously be a larger part of your transition.

Personally, I need to ease myself into big life changes. I didn’t become vegan overnight; I spent the better part of a year being vegan in practice but not in name. I needed to show myself I could do it before applying the label and making it official. To be honest, I didn’t want to fail or make a mistake (perfectionist much?). If this sounds familiar, here are some ideas for easing into your transition.

  • Try the “vegan before six” option (or something similar) for a while. Show yourself that you can do it while allowing yourself an out in case you get stressed.
  • Eat vegan on your own, but not necessarily with others. If you go out to a restaurant and your salad is topped with cheese, it’s cool. Don’t broadcast your change to the world until you’re comfortable doing so (not that you ever need to “broadcast” it at all!).
  • Host vegan dinner parties (without necessarily drawing attention to the fact that they’re vegan) to show yourself and others that it’s not so bad being vegan in a crowd. Drink some wine, chat with your friends, and show yourself that your life won’t change all that much just because you aren’t serving a (dairy-based) cheese plate anymore.
  • Cut out animal products by category. Ditch the dairy, then eggs, then honey.
A backpack with food spilling out of it: Five Larabars, one Halo candy bar, one apple, a bag of coconut-covered date rolls, and a container of homemade trail mix. There's also a reusable cloth hand towel with a flower and the word "SUSTAIN" printed on it. All items are labeled in the photograph.

Always be snackin’.

Be prepared.

Even if you’re the dive-right-in sort of person, do some research as you go. Read up on vegan nutrition. Browse your favorite recipe site for plant-based options. Subscribe to blogs that have lots of recipes that look appealing and doable.

Jumping into vegan cooking doesn’t have to be overwhelming, especially if you put a little forethought into the transition. Think about how you like to cook now, and then research how to make it vegan. If you’re the type of person who gets tired after work and wants no-fuss dinner options, make yourself a Google doc or a few Pinterest boards or a bookmark folder (or even a hard-copy binder!) with meals you know you could handle. If you have non-vegan standard meals or staples you feel totally comfortable cooking, look up vegan versions of them (e.g. bean burritos instead of beef burritos, pizza without cheese, spaghetti and non-meatballs). The way you cook doesn’t have to undergo a huge shift once you’re vegan — only the ingredients need change.

Preparation is also key when you can’t plan in advance. Road trips, days out with friends, work lunches with suspect catering… lots of opportunities might leave you wondering when (and what!) you’re going to eat next. And if you, like me, tend to find yourself suddenly hungry and suddenly very, very irritable, you’ll want to keep yourself stocked with travel-friendly vegan snacks. Clif bars, Lara bars, trail mix, and any purse- or glove box-friendly snack will do the trick.

Traveling can also set new vegans into a panic, but with a little prep work you’ll be able to keep yourself nourished anywhere on the globe. I have some tips for travel snacks, along with eating guides for a few airports. And if you haven’t checked out HappyCow, hie thee hence without delay! HappyCow is the best resource for finding vegan-friendly eateries all around the world.

Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Despite that perfectionism I mentioned, I am a big believer in personal forgiveness (theoretically, at least — in practice, it can be difficult to apply!). If you accidentally slip up, it’s okay. It happens to everyone. Just because you accidentally ate bread made with margarine that contains a tiny amount of casein or whey doesn’t mean the rest of your commitment is worthless or somehow negated. Nope. That’s not how it works. Even if you consciously eat something you know is suspect, you don’t have to beat yourself up. Live, learn, and move the heck on. Mistakes happen.

Ask for help.

Yes, the vegan community sometimes gets a bad rap. But in my anecdotal experience, nearly every vegan I know is warm, caring, empathetic (duh?), and willing to help. If you’re struggling during your transition or you just have questions, reach out! The Post Punk Kitchen forums are a great place to start. I also love the Reddit Vegans Facebook page; it’s one of the most inclusive, welcoming groups I’ve seen.

Pig at Poplar Spring animal sanctuary

A sweet piggie at Poplar Spring animal sanctuary.

Know why you’re making the change.

Obviously you should know why you’re choosing to go vegan before you commit to it. But I’d argue that it’s just as important — if not more important — to continually remind yourself why you’re doing it and to stay up to date with what’s going on the vegan world. Once you see that first slaughterhouse video, you might be tempted to avoid so much as scrolling past a similar video in the future. But if your resolve starts to flag or you’re getting frustrated that you can’t eat the pancakes at your favorite brunch spot, you might need a kick in the pants to remind you why you made the choice to stop eating animals.

Even if your commitment never wanes, it’s still instructive to keep yourself educated. Follow some of your favorite vegan or animal welcome organizations on Facebook, or scour your library for books about the ethics and practice of veganism. You will get into conversations about your choice to eschew animal products, and it can be useful to have a wealth of arguments and knowledge ready for those discussions.

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So — what do you think? Are these tips helpful? Are you ready to go vegan? Let me know, and remember that you can always ask for help or reassurance if you need it. My email address is in the second paragraph, and I’m always happy to talk.

Vegan in Prague (+ free shareable Google map!)

vegan in prague, vegan travel, vegan in the czech republic

After visiting Vienna and Prague in the same trip, I’ve come to think of Prague as Vienna’s slightly more rebellious and slightly cooler cousin. It’s a little rougher, a little edgier, a little less staid. I loved it.

I also loved its food. Based on my experience, there weren’t quite as many vegan options, nor was the food as consistently good as it was in Vienna. But there are some stand-outs, and there are many more places I haven’t tried.

Etnosvět

This vegetarian eatery is a great, affordable option. Although it does have a set restaurant menu at certain times, we visited mid-morning on a weekday and were limited to the brunch buffet, a pay-by-weight bonanza with quite a few vegan options. I really appreciated the mix of heavier foods, like a rich seitan dish, and lighter options, like raw salads and slaws. The combination was the perfect antidote to a rough-around-the-edges morning after a late night out in Prague.

etnosvet

Although there is a written chalkboard menu by the buffet, you can ask the staff what’s vegan just to be sure — I found it a little tricky to decipher which menu item corresponded with which actual food. I kept my meal relatively simple: a cold noodle salad, a heavier seitan dish, a grain salad, a light slaw, and some slices of jicama for crunch. Other than the surprisingly bland noodles, everything was tasty and filling. I definitely recommend stopping by for a quick varied meal!

Moment

Easily my favorite restaurant in Prague! This surprisingly spacious bistro seems to be a popular spot — we visited three times, and other than during a morning visit, it was packed. Located in Praha 2, it’s a little bit of a hike from the city center, but is totally worth it. I recommend staying close by (like we did) to make for easy visits. ;) Everything on the menu is vegan, and there are lots of tempting options. On our first visit — immediately after settling in to our AirBnB — Steven and I both chose burgers. He had the smoky tofu burger, while I selected a more generic-seeming veggie burger. But generic it was not — it was made with peanut butter, which was an unexpected and welcome surprise.

Our second visit was less than 24 hours later, this time with Ian and Pragathi in tow. We started off our first full day in Prague with brunch at Moment, and what a filling brunch it was. I selected an amazing omelette, studded with potatoes and mushrooms, and I was blown away.

moment2

So filling and so savory delicious! My only complaint? It was a little salty. Ian had a similar comment about his scrambled tofu, while Pragathi’s gorgeous pancakes were a super-sweet delight. Steven chose the seitan bagel, which was disarmingly simple: a bagel, some ginormous slabs of seitan, vegan cheese, and some veg and sauce.

Steven sampled my omelette at breakfast and liked it so much that he ordered it for dinner when we returned a few days later. Alas, it was a second-rate version, nowhere near as aesthetically handsome or as tasty. We hypothesized that only the breakfast cooks could do it justice, so be warned — breakfast for dinner at Moment is not wholly advised. I opted for the smoky tofu burger instead, a much better dinner choice. For dessert, Pragathi and I shared a chocolate cake with strawberry frosting — beautiful, but a little underwhelming. The frosting was very greasy. But that was really my only complaint with Moment — I’d say it’s a must-visit on your trip to Prague!

Plevel

Ah, Plevel. This was one of my most anticipated restaurants, but I never made it there for dinner. On our first night in Prague, the four of us were desperate for a meal. We walked to one place, only to be told it was reservation-only. Our tummies rumbling louder, we walked to Plevel, only to be told the kitchen was closed. We finally succumbed to a Thai restaurant that could make dishes without the fish sauce, but I was itching to return to Plevel.

Well, I did return a few days later– but only for dessert. Steven and I had eaten dinner at Loving Hut* and had had the worst restaurant meals of our lives.  With our stomachs upset from frankly disgusting food, we followed Ian and Pragathi to Plevel, where those two lucky ducks got to enjoy beautiful dinners. I opted for a pot of green tea and an apple cake, simple food that would settle my stomach. Both were great, but I wished I’d been hungry for a full dinner!

plevel apple cake prague

Vegan’s Prague
(formerly LoVeg)

The restaurant on a hill! We saw the Vegan’s Prague sign from afar while visiting Vyšehrad, Prague’s historical fort located above the city center. Can you spot it in the photo below?

vegans1

After a morning traipsing around the fort, we decided to head over for lunch. We were quite excited for this restaurant since we knew they offer vegan versions of traditional Czech dishes. I ordered a traditional potato goulash, Steven selected the svíčková with smoked tempeh, and both Ian and Pragathi chose the Old Bohemian feast, a mish-mash of various traditional dishes and dips.

Despite our dishes’ impressive appearances, we were all a little underwhelmed with our meals. My goulash was surprisingly bland, as was the svíčková (traditional Czech bread dumplings served with gravy and meat, or tempeh in this case). If I recall correctly, none of the elements in the Old Bohemian feast were standouts either.

On the bright side, the restaurant itself is beautiful. It’s a bit of a climb up a few flights of steep stairs to reach, but inside it’s classy and comfortable, with an upper level reachable by a spiral staircase.  And the prices are right — Prague is inexpensive in general, and the favorable exchange rate helps keep costs down. You can get a big lunch for ~$7. If you’re in the area and need to fill your belly, go ahead and give this place a try — but don’t expect to be blown away.

Other options

Needless to say, I didn’t manage to visit every vegan eatery in Prague — we only visited for a few days. Here are a few I never got around to trying. I’m saving these for my return trip to the Czech Republic! (Of course, this is not an exhaustive list.)

  • Country Life: Small chain of grocery stores featuring organic and healthy food with some vegan options; there’s a small deli/restaurant attached to the store in Praha 6
  • Lehka Hlava: Super popular but small vegetarian restaurant — be sure to make a reservation ahead of time
  • Momo Cafe: Coffee shop and bakery with delicious-looking pastries and some light meals
  • MyRaw Café: Raw vegan eatery with a rotating daily menu and lots of beautiful raw desserts; also has an extensive drink menu (including coffee, tea, alternative hot drinks, and alcohol)
  • Radost FX:  Vegetarian restaurant with lots of vegan options in many styles (Italian, Mexican, burgers, Asian, pizza, etc.); offers a popular vegan brunch on weekends

General tips

  • Many of these restaurants are cash-only, so be sure to have a substantial stash of Czech koruna with you. If you’re able to use a card, consider a debit or credit card without foreign transaction fees so you don’t get dinged a small fee every time you use it.
  • If you’re in need of a quick bite, don’t overlook simple bakeries. While waiting at the Florenc metro/bus station for our bus to Pilsen, we found a bakery stand with ingredients clearly labelled. We were able to snack on some beautifully fresh breads to tide us over till we got to Pilsen.
  • As part of the EU, the Czech Republic labels 14 common allergens on both commercially packaged foods and restaurant menus. Since milk and eggs are included in that list, vegans can use those labels as a clue to whether a given item is vegan-friendly. It’s not a perfect system (honey could easily slip by unmarked), but it’s a good way to identify potentially vegan items and rule out options that are clearly unsuitable.

Google map of vegan options

If you’re planning a trip to Prague, I have a little treat for you! I’ve created a Google map you can use with lots of vegan-friendly eateries plotted out. You can find it here. If you’re like me and disable cell data while you’re abroad, note that you can download the map to your Google Maps app so you can still access it while you’re on the go.

If you’ve got updates to my map (closures, new places, whatever!), just leave me a comment and I’ll update it. Vegan travelers gotta help each other out!

*A note on Loving Hut

I’ve eaten at quite a few Loving Huts, and I hadn’t had a bad experience until eating at the one on Plzeňská 8/300, Motol, in Praha 5. I ordered schnitzel, curious to see Prague’s take on vegan schnitzel. And it. was. horrible. So gross.  Oily as heck, with very little flavor, it sat in my stomach like an anvil. On the side was mashed potatoes served with some kind of thick soy sauce as gravy. Maybe that’s a local thing, but it did NOT agree with me. I’m not one to waste food, but I couldn’t finish this meal at all. Steven couldn’t finish his burger, either — it was tasteless, with way more mayo than any human needs.

I’ve heard good things about Loving Huts in Prague, but this one was just a total waste of money. Maybe we ordered poorly, but the menu didn’t feature as many Asian-inspired dishes as Loving Huts usually do, and I wanted to try that schnitzel. What a mistake!

Vegan in Vienna (+ free shareable Google map!)

Vegan in Vienna

Wow, wow, wow. That pretty much sums up my feelings about the state of vegan eats in Vienna, Austria. I recently returned from spending a little more than five days there (and a few in Prague, but that’s another story for another day) and ate like a freaking vegan queen. I’ve heard that Europe in general has been experiencing somewhat of a vegan food revolution in the past few years, and it feels true to me. Vegan food is everywhere.

Along with dozens of dedicated vegetarian/vegan restaurants, you can find animal-friendly options in the most unlikely eateries around the city center. Sandwich shop with lots of meaty options? Surprise; there’s a vegan sandwich that’s tasty and filling! Ice cream joint with mouthwatering flavors? Bam — they’ve got the words “VEGANES EIS” painted on the walls and offer lots of vegan varieties. Although these particular restaurateurs are likely offering vegan food from purely economic motives, I’m not complaining. Demand, meet supply.

All said, Vienna is easily one of the most vegan-friendly cities I’ve visited. Steven and I were there with my brother and his girlfriend, both of whom are vegan too. They live in Seattle and thus have access to all sorts of veg goodness, but even they were highly impressed with Vienna.

Read on for my reviews but keep in mind that I simply didn’t have the time to try everything — there’s just so much! To that end, I’ve put together something helpful for vegans planning trips to Vienna. Check out the very end of the post for that!

BioBar

A semi-hidden gem! I’ll admit that BioBar wasn’t initially at the top of my must-visit list, but we decided to try it purely by virtue of its proximity to our location one drizzly day. And I’m glad we did! Although it’s unassuming from the front, it’s cozy and inviting inside. The vegetarian menu rotates, and the waitress was happy to translate the daily offerings to us and clarify which ones were vegan. (Unfortunately, none of us speak German.)

I wasn’t particularly hungry when we stopped here for lunch, so I got a bowl of celery cream soup and a beer (obviously). My dining companions ordered full meals, and we enjoyed our choices across the board. My soup was lovely and flavorful, creamy without being too rich or salty. I split a dessert with Pragathi (my brother’s girlfriend), but truth be told, I can’t remember what we got! I think it was some kind of chocolatey tart. Whatever it was, I know we enjoyed it. BioBar is a great option for healthy, filling meals to shore you up for an afternoon of sightseeing.

Blueorange

For a quick breakfast to start your day, you really can’t beat Blueorange. This deli and bagel shop has an extensive vegan menu, and they clearly mark which of their delicious bagels are vegan. Although you could just pick up a half-dozen bagels and some vegan cream cheese and munch on them throughout your stay in Vienna, you should really try the Vegan Power breakfast spread. For just under 9.00€, you’ll get a fresh-pressed glass of orange juice, a hot drink (espresso, thank you very much), and a bagel sandwich that will knock. your. socks. off.

blueorange1If I had a photo of the assembled sandwich, it would not be terribly pretty — because you get a LOT of spread to fit in one bagel, and it all ends up mooshing out the sides. That’s regular hummus, spicy beet hummus, and avocado creme, along with two slices of a lovely non-dairy cheese, tomato slices, cucumber slices, and a little pile of sprouts. When you smoosh everything together, you get a ridiculously tasty sandwich with lots of textures and flavors.

I enjoyed that beetroot hummus so much that I ordered a beetroot sandwich the next time we visited Blueorange. Although I’d wanted it on a bagel, there was a miscommunication and it arrived on whole-wheat bread. No worries; it was still delicious, if not quite as filling as I’d wanted. It came with arugula, onions, pickles, and sweet mustard. I need to recreate this at home!

Blueorange has two locations in the city. Steven and I were lucky enough to be staying just down the street from the Margaretenstraße location, and it was actually the very first place we visited in Vienna. Ah, nostalgia! Hot tip — if your German is a little shaky or you’re having trouble deciphering the menu, just ask for an English menu; there are a few behind the counter.

CupCakes Wien

This is a twee cupcake shop tucked behind Mumok, Vienna’s modern art museum, in the MuseumsQuartier. Although it’s not fully vegan, CupCakes Wien offers quite a few vegan flavors. Steven picked up a couple cupcakes for us to share after we’d visited the Leopold Museum, and we enjoyed them while taking a stroll around the Ringstraße.

CupCakes Wien

That’s a straciatella cupcake and a caramel cupcake, from left to right. Both were massive, dense, sugar bombs — and that’s a good thing. The straciatella was a tiny bit dry, but the super creamy frosting made up for it. Steven had the caramel, but he thought it was fantastic. Based on the one bite I tried, I agree!

Delicious Vegan Bistro

What an odd little place. Tucked into a row of shops opposite the Naschmarkt, this tiny restaurant is blink-and-you’ll-miss-it small. Inside the cramped quarters is a single table with two chairs agains the right wall, a counter attached to the left wall, and a small kitchenette at the back. When we arrived, it seemed to be in a state of half-completion (despite being open since late autumn), with paint cans and other detritus further cluttering the small space. Plus, the owner’s two large labs were snoozing in a very large crate against the wall.

Now, don’t get me wrong — I love that dogs are welcome inside restaurants throughout Vienna and Prague, and I really enjoyed meeting the resident canines at Delicious Vegan Bistro when they woke up from their naps and came out to say hi. But they definitely took up a lot of space in an already small area.

Although there’s a chalk menu listing multiple options, the owner told us upon arrival that she only had a few things available for the day. Steven and I both selected black bean soba noodles with veggies and coconut cream sauce, and we chatted with the owner while she prepared the food in full view in the tiny kitchenette. Unfortunately, she ran out of coconut cream but didn’t adjust the tamari levels to match, so both of our noodle dishes were far too salty. (I can’t find our photo of the noodles, unfortunately, so use your imagination!) The owner did acknowledge the issue and water down the dishes a bit when we both admitted we found the soba too salty, but it didn’t really solve the issue; I still couldn’t finish all my noodles and had to get a to-go box. The owner reduced the price of our dishes by 2€ each, but the meal ended up being pricier than it was worth.

I’m not linking to the Delicious Vegan Bistro website because (1) it’s not complete, and (2) I want to give the owner the benefit of the doubt. Maybe she’ll finish all her painting projects, offer a full menu, and ensure she has ample ingredients ready for patrons… but for now, I can’t fully recommend this place.

Easy-Going Bakery

Vienna is legendary for beautiful, delicious pastries, so much so that there’s an entire category of baked goods named after the city. Sweet treats are front and central at nearly any café you might visit, but most of the traditional coffee houses don’t have vegan sweets on offer. So if you’re looking for a sugary snack to cap off a lazy afternoon spent sipping espressos, Easy-Going Bakery is a good place to find one.

easygoing1

I opted for a rather unconventional treat when we visited: a chocolate nougat-filled cake pop. I’d never really understood the cake pop trend, but this dense, not-too-sugary treat — something between a fudge cake and a truffle — was the perfect accompaniment to my espresso. In the background you can see Pragathi’s beautiful bright green matcha latte.

Easy-Going Bakery also offers cupcakes and cakes, a bit of a departure from the traditional sweets found in Viennese coffee shops. But as desserts in their own right, they’re perfect for vegans with a sweet tooth.

Landia

Landia was one of our very favorite eateries in Vienna — I’d go so far as to say that it shouldn’t be missed. Located in the 7th district, they offer veg versions of traditional Austrian dishes in a cozy, welcoming environment. Everything is vegetarian, and all vegan items are clearly marked (along with dishes that can be made vegan).

We all loved everything we tried here… in fact, we enjoyed our first visit so much that we decided to come back for our very last meal in Vienna! On my first visit, I ordered the pierogies. They were fantastic — beautiful, big dumplings filled with savory onion and potato and topped with fried onions. On the side came a salad with some light dressing, a big pile of red cabbage, and a mix of various grated veggies. All those raw vegetables were the perfect complement to the heavier pierogies, and I finished the dish easily. I had a ginger Radler beer and loved the light gingery zing.

The second time we visited, I ordered the red lentil balls and received six surprisingly large balls alongside a big ol’ salad and shredded veggies. Although they’d been fried, the balls weren’t terribly heavy. They were reminiscent of falafel, but had a less crumbly texture. The big serving of tahini sauce was perfect for dipping the balls and for drizzling over all my veggies. Just like with the pierogies, the side salad really helped balance this meal.

My dining companions tried various dishes: Steven ordered a traditional goulash, which featured dense, tasty bread dumplings alongside seitan in a very savory, tomato-based sauce that he compared to a masala. He described it as “very heavy, but very good — very hearty.” In fact, he liked it so much that he ordered it again the second time we visited! Ian and Pragathi tried the schnitzel and a mushroom-based goulash and enjoyed those dishes too. Note that the schnitzel and goulash don’t come with side salads, so they skew towards heavier, more “meaty” meals.

Our group had the same waitress both times we visited, and she was gracious enough to point out dishes that could be made quickly when we accidentally arrived right after the kitchen had closed on our second visit. Friendly service and great food — what more could you want?

Minipizzeria Pinocchio

This was an accidental find, and it was a gem. While walking around one day, Steven and I spotted an unassuming little pizzeria with a surprising message on the sandwich board out front: VEGAN PIZZA. We already had lunch plans, but we filed away Minipizzeria Pinocchio for future bouts of hunger.

A few days later, we returned with Ian and Pragathi in tow. Thanks to Steven’s fantastic sense of direction, we were able to find it without knowing the address. And when we did, we were thrilled to discover an extensive vegan menu alongside the traditional meat-and-cheese options.

After placing our orders with the single employee working the oven, we grabbed a few beers and settled in to wait for our pizzas to cook. This is truly a hole-in-the-wall pizza joint, with extremely limited seating, but we were lucky to snag a table to ourselves. After 15 minutes or so, our pizzas were ready for us to devour.

And devour them we did. I’d ordered the Pizza Funghi, a simple variant with sauce, vegan cheese, and lotsa mushrooms. This isn’t gourmet pizza by any means, but it’s quality thin-crust pizza with lots of fun topping options. It was delicious and totally hit the spot. Steven and I each ordered a pizza to ourselves, while Ian and Pragathi split one (they had just indulged in some ice cream from Veganista). If you’re very hungry, you can probably finish a pizza yourself; otherwise, consider sharing with a friend.

Pirata

Say it with me: fish-free sushi. This all-vegan sushi joint in the 7th district is perfect when you want something lighter for lunch or dinner. Steven and I stopped in for an early dinner and each ordered a 12-piece set. The owner showed us all the rolls that were available, and we got to choose what we wanted. Check out my (gorgeous!) platter.

pirata1

I’m not a sushi connoisseur by any means, but I really enjoyed these rolls. The flavors were fresh and clean, yet filling — a couple rolls featured quinoa instead of rice, offering a little extra protein. I loved the mango roll and those beautiful pink beet-infused maki! In my opinion, you can’t go wrong with any of their options.

If you don’t have time to sit down and enjoy the full sushi-eating ritual, consider buying some of the day-old trays Pirata has on offer. For half-price and a zero-percent chance of eating rotten fish, why not?!

Swing Kitchen

An all-vegan burger joint?! Be still, my heart! With two locations, Swing Kitchen is a hop, skip, and a jump away from either the Karlzplatz or Zieglergasse U-bahn station. And it’s well-worth the visit. Yes, it’s vegan junk food. But it’s delicious, filling vegan junk food. Although Swing Kitchen has burgers, wraps, and salads on offer, c’mon — you know you’re going to order a burger. You can get burgers alone or as part of a menu/meal, along with a side (fries, cole slaw, or salad) and a drink.

I kept my order simple both (!) times we visited: the Swing Burger and then the Vienna Burger with a drink (elderflower soda and then cherry soda) and a side of fries. I’m not really a soda drinker, but I had to try these! And they were good. As were the fries — thick, nearly steak-cut, with just enough salt. Note that dips (including ketchup) are an extra 0.80€. And the burgers themselves? YUM. The patties are flavorful and tender, with lots of tasty toppings that create a unique bite. The Swing Burger was a classic American-style burger, although it features sweet-ish gherkins instead of dill pickles (heresy!). And the Vienna Burger is a fun take on the burger, with a schnitzel patty, veg, and lots of a garlicky mayo sauce (a little too much sauce for me, but I’m picky).

You probably can’t see it in the photo, but the menu also lists onion rings and vegan nuggets. I was dying to try the onion rings, but these burgers and fries are just so filling that I had no room! I did, however, sneak a taste of the vanilla soft serve that Steven ordered, and it was fantastic — super creamy, like a vanilla custard. You can even get it dipped in chocolate shell. I have a feeling I’ll be dreaming about this ice cream for a while.

Veganista

Speaking of vegan ice cream… hello, all-vegan ice cream shop! In writing this post, I realize a tragic truth: I never actually got ice cream from Veganista, despite visiting it twice! Both times, I was still full from my previous meal and didn’t want to make myself sick on ice cream. I realize my mistake, now that it’s too late! I should never pass up the chance to eat vegan ice cream. Never!

Steven at Veganista

Steven, clearly, knew better than I! He got a cup of black forest ice cream, which features a vanilla base studded with cherries and chunks of chocolate. He loved it; I stole a bite and also thought it was great. Our second visit was with Ian and Pragathi, who got black forest (his favorite flavor) and chocolate, respectively. The chocolate is soymilk-based, while other options use ricemilk or oatmilk. Both were super tasty.

On my next trip to Vienna, I’m going to go straight to Veganista to ensure that I don’t make the same mistake again.  I’ll probably have to go for maple pecan, but strawberry agave also sounds mighty tempting!

Veganz

You cannot miss Veganz. You just can’t. The all-vegan supermarket chain, based in Germany, has a location in Vienna on Margaretenstraße, and it should be required visiting for all vegans in Vienna! Despite all the veg-friendly grocery stores that exist in the US, I’d never been to an all-vegan market before visiting Veganz… and honestly, I’m still dreaming of it! I could’ve spent an hour there, browsing the shelves and picking out new-to-me products to try.

Veganz

Although the store isn’t huge, it’s respectably sized. I was in awe at the two fridge sections full of vegan meats, cheeses, and non-dairy products. In awe! There’s also a freezer section down the middle, a small produce section, and a large dry-goods/pantry items section. Although some of the products are imports (with high price tags to match), most are European brands that are priced quite affordably. And Veganz itself has its own brand with extensive options! This was the only place we visited for souvenirs — we stocked up on chocolates, gummies, and Tartex-brand pâtés to share with friends and family. I was pleasantly surprised at the prices on these snack items. In the US, high-quality vegan chocolate will easily run you $4-6 a bar, but we paid less than 3€ for some seriously amazing chocolate. Even with the exchange rate working against us, that’s a great deal. Veganz also has a fresh bread section, and Steven and I picked up a super yummy poppy seed-filled bread to nibble on for breakfast.

The icing on the (vegan) cake was when we saw a little piglet on a leash on our second visit to Veganz. A customer had brought his pet pig into the store, and everybody ooed and ahhed over its cuteness. Although my somewhat cynical nature leads me to grump about the ethics of a pet pig, I’m going to pretend it was a rescued piglet living a life of luxury and educating others that pigs aren’t pets. ;)

Other options

Needless to say, I didn’t manage to visit every vegan eatery in Vienna! Here are a few I never got around to trying. Alas for the finite size of my stomach! (Of course, this is not an exhaustive list.)

  • Deli Bluem: Vegetarian café/bistro with lots of healthy vegan options; most entrees appear to be vegan
  • Dr. Falafel: Falafel stall in the Naschmarkt with many vegan options, including bulk foods (olives, etc.)
  • Harvest Café-Bistro: Vegetarian eatery with primarily vegan dishes, though dairy milk is available for coffee
  • Mikkamakka: All-vegan self-service bistro with traditional local dishes
  • Rupp’s: All-vegetarian Irish pub (!) with lots of cheap vegan options
  • Vegetasia: All-vegan Taiwanese food with reasonable prices
  • yamm!: Pay-by-weight salad bar with some vegan options; also advertises vegan breakfast

anker_brot_vegan_pastry

General tips

  • Many of these restaurants are cash-only, so be sure to have a substantial stash of euros with you. If you’re able to use a card (like at Swing Kitchen or Pirata), consider a debit or credit card without foreign transaction fees so you don’t get dinged a small fee every time you use it.
  • If you’re in need of a quick bite, don’t overlook chain bakeries like Anker or Ströck — there’s seemingly one on every corner, and they have a shocking variety of clearly marked vegan options. While catching an early(ish) train to Prague, Steven and I were thrilled to find clearly marked vegan pastries at Anker. I enjoyed a spontaneous apfeltascherl (an apple-filled puff pastry) in the train station — a luxury I’ve never experienced in the US, because we’re much worse at both offering vegan options at chain bakeries and labeling them as such.
  • Speaking of labeling, a newish law in the EU requires the labeling of 14 common allergens on both commercially packaged foods and restaurant menus. Since milk and eggs are included in that list, vegans can use those labels as a clue to whether a given item is vegan-friendly. It’s not a perfect system (honey could easily slip by unmarked), but it’s a good way to identify potentially vegan items and rule out options that are clearly unsuitable.

Google map of vegan options

If you’re planning a trip to Vienna, I have a little treat for you! I’ve created a Google map you can use with lots of vegan-friendly eateries plotted out. You can find it here. If you’re like me and disable cell data while you’re abroad, note that you can download the map to your Google Maps app so you can still access it while you’re on the go.

If you’ve got updates to my map (closures, new places, whatever!), just leave me a comment and I’ll update it. Vegan travelers gotta help each other out!

A Better Batch Winner!

Hello, all! Just popping in to announce the winner of last week’s cookie giveaway. Thanks for all your comments, but alas — there can be only one. The winner of the box of cookies from A Better Batch is A.J., who said:

Mm the chocolate chip cookies look amazing! Great post!

A.J., I’ll be emailing you shortly to get your mailing address.

Thanks for entering, everyone!