If you are seeking vegan inspiration, the Dharma Realm Guan Yin Sagely Monastery in central Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, is a good place to visit. Guan Yin is the Buddhist goddess of compassion, and that feeling is evident within the grounds of the monastery and in the cafeteria behind the temple. I first visited the temple by accident while traveling through SE Asia after college and the food at the cafeteria motivated me to try the vegetarian lifestyle. After returning to the cafeteria many years later, the spirit is still alive and well! As usual the entire seating area filled up completely during the lunch hour, and the temple still offers free lunches twice a month on auspicious days. Eating lunch here makes for a wonderful day every time!
If you are planning on visiting Canada's west coast, most likely, you'll end up in Vancouver, British Columbia. A beautiful city to visit and also a haven for vegan restaurants and shops. The blog, Veg Coast, created a list in this post. Here are of few of the ones mentioned:
Traveling vegan can be difficult at times, but German airline, Condor, part of UK-based Thomas Cook Airline Group, has made it a bit easier. It began offering vegan meals to its passengers on September 1, 2013. It is responding to many requests by its passengers for the new option. Meals can be ordered 48 hours in advance of the flight according to the article. Good job! Bemerkenswert!
“There is a big demand that needs to be met, which is why we are able to sell everything we grow,” said Salcines, one of the founders of the cooperative, which now covers a total of 10.14 hectares and produces more than 230 different crop varieties (primarily garden vegetables, as well as some fruits, grains and tubers) in greenhouses and open fields.
Vivero Alamar is an organic farm cooperative just beyond the city of Havana, Cuba, which is proving that non-sugar cane agriculture can prosper. The farm grows garden vegetables, fruits, some grains and tubers and produced more than 400 tonnes of vegetables in 2012, all of which was sold.
The farm is unique in that the agriculture sector in Cuba is depressed and the country had to import $1.6B in produce last year to meet demand. It's a sign that agriculture in Cuba can work and the country can become more self-sufficient.
What also makes the farm unique, with its 195 employees, is that it's run professionally and with the employees in mind - flexible hours, good wages, and career growth - all of which encourages pride in the organization and its products. Further, the coop is training the next generation of farmers on how to run an agricultural enterprise and be good at it according to this article from TierraAmerica.
Being vegan or vegetarian can be hard in a country like Cuba with limited supplies of fresh vegetables, but Vivero Alamar is helping fill the gap by making nutritious ingredients available to all who want it at an affordable price.
While we may associate the vegetarian lifestyle with Asia for the variety of plant-based meals they rely on, its Buddhist culture, and for creating tofu, in China, finding vegetarian restaurants was actually hard to do for a long time. It is a meat based culture with heavy reliance on pork for protein.
However, things are changing, and estimates put the vegetarian community at 4% to 5% of the population which equate to around 50 million people! Now there are a large number of veg restaurants in the major cities including the 'Gingko Tree' in Beijing offering more than just tofu and leafy greens. Chefs are inventing new ways to make meat style meals out of tofu to attract more Chinese consumers and it is working. Also, fear of the environmental calamities which are occurring due the the rapid growth of the manufacturing sector in that country has also spurred people to rethink their diets and trend towards more eco-friendly ingredients according to this article from PRI.
With such a huge population in China, any growth in this trend will have positive implications for the planet!
India has long been known for its vegetarian cuisine. One of its oldest active religions, Jainism, is primarily vegetarian. Ahimsa or non-violence was popularized in India by its most famous figure, Gandhi, who was vegetarian. So it’s not uncommon for people intrigued by plant-based diets to want to visit India to see its culture and experience its delicious food. However, because of India’s geographic size, it can be hard to choose where to go.
One of the best places to see for the first time visitor is Kerala, a small state in the southwest tip of India. Kerala has several unique features that make it a fascinating and rewarding place for vegans and vegetarians to visit.
Abundance of Locally Grown Food
Kerala has three distinct topographies, separated by elevation, allowing for a limitless variety of agriculture. The lowlands are full of very lush tropical vegetation. The hot humid weather is good for growing rice, coconuts, bananas, and mangos. The landscape is dominated by rice fields and dense coconut forests. This region receives a lot of rain, especially from June to September, providing constant irrigation.
The midlands are higher in elevation where rubber trees, cashews, pineapples, and jack fruit grow in abundance. The weather is slightly cooler and green hills and deep valleys define the landscape.
The highest region is on the western slope of the Western Ghats Mountains. The main towns are at an elevation of 4000 feet above sea level, so the surrounding farms grow temperate vegetables such as corn, potatoes, and squash. Also, vast tea estates cover much of the steep landscape supplying India and the world with high quality teas.
Kerala is a very developed state and a top tourist destination. The people are friendly and highly literate. Cochin, one of the main cities to visit, has an interesting history. It’s where Vasco de Gama, the Portuguese explorer, landed in India in 1498, lured by the pepper trade. His house is still there to see. There is also an active Jewish synagogue in Cochin, built in 1568, the oldest one in India.
Kerala is home to the famous backwaters. The backwaters are a unique 900 kilometer network of inland waterways parallel to the coast. Large dikes separate the lakes from canals. On the dikes are the homes, schools, churches and shops of the villagers. People travel by canoes, ride bikes along the dikes, or take powered water taxis for transportation. One of the main crops is rice. Kerala rice is best known for its aromatic flavor. Large wooden barges were used to transport rice from the fields up the canals to the main seaport of Cochin.
One of the best ways to enjoy the bountiful array of foods grown locally is to take an overnight cruise on a traditional rice barge through the canals, rivers, and lakes around Alappuzha, a large coastal town south of Cochin. A rice barge is a long boat with a wooden hull and thatched roof covering the cabins, kitchen and viewing decks. The boats can be 80 feet long and have one or two decks. The entire boat is tied together using coir (coconut fiber) instead of nails making it eco-friendly.
For tourists, the rice barge is an inexpensive way to see the backwaters and experience the colorful rural life. An overnight rental of the boat comes with chef and crew. Lunch on the first day is served, then a snack, with dinner at night, and breakfast in the morning before returning to the jetty in Alappuzha. When we booked the boat we asked for vegan meals which was easy for the chef to accommodate using all of the locally grown ingredients - spices, curry leaf, turmeric, coconut milk, fragrant rice, and limitless vegetables and fruit.
For three great meals, we enjoyed fresh vegan food with local ingredients, including a thick vegetable curry over Kerala rice and a spicy green bean, carrot, and mango salad. For the first time traveler to India, it was a peaceful way to try its vegan cuisine while experiencing the tranquil and tropical countryside of Kerala. For a vegan traveler, it couldn’t get better!
Even with the best of planning, traveling as a vegan can be hard! The travel industry recognizes this and sees an opportunity - all vegan vacations! Companies in India, where there are a large number of vegans an vegetarians, are now offering itineraries that complement the vegan lifestyle according to this article.
Some bed & breakfast lodgings are vegan, some cruises are now offered as vegan, a there are plenty of retreats serving only vegan food, along with meditation, and personal enrichment classes. Its a growing industry which will probably offer many exciting opportunities for vegan travelers in the near future!
A small company in Singapore, a small island nation in Southeast Asia between Malaysia and Indonesia, is operating what could be the world's first vegan fast food burger chain. It's called Vegan Burg (www.VeganBurg.com). Serving a variety of vegan burgers including 'Cracked Pepper Mayo', 'Hawaiian Pineapple', and 'Smoky BBQ', it now has four locations around the city and plans to open more.
It's a wonderful business idea and aims to make fast food healthy. Although I'm not a huge fan of fast food of any variety, it is a nutritious option for people on the go or who have short lunch hours. The inspiration for the business comes from this message on the website:
"We used to think that plant based diet is impossible. Compelled by our love and respect for planet earth, as well as a desire for a healthier lifestyle, we decided to do something radical. Since making that step, we have never turned back." - Vegan Burg
It's great to see the vegan trend impacting fast food restaurants and hope their business continues to be a great success, especially since it may be the first of its kind!
If you thought you'd never see a vegan version of buuz, huushur, bantaan or tsoivan, you might want to reconsider. These popular meat dishes in Mongolia are now available in meatless versions at new vegan restaurants popping up everywhere in Ulaanbaator (UB), the capital city. According to this article the vegan and vegetarian trend is catching on strongly now in this country located between China and Russia, with 20 vegan and vegetarian restaurants operating in UB. Many use faux meats to recreate the popular Mongol dishes.
Fueled in part by high meat costs, increased access to fresh vegetables, and health concerns over the excessive meat consumption, people are putting more veggies on their plate and making them the main course. Many of the veggies come from China but new agriculture development in Mongolia should eventually meet the demands for locally grown produce. It's exciting to see and it would be nice to try out the food some day!
A couple weeks ago I posted that Germans were consuming less meat and eating more vegetables (Mehr Gemuse, bitte!)which is great considering they have a very meat based diet. As evidence of the change, Berlin is becoming a hub for vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Europe. This article lists three interesting places to eat if you are traveling in the city. It's nice to see the veg*n trend catching on in Europe!
Make Simple Vegan Meals