Being green is hot — there are many cities across the world that are becoming increasingly vegan-friendly. Check out our top six, with restaurant recommendations
Whether it’s for the sake of the environment or for animal rights, veganism is a lifestyle choice that is now more popular than ever, and it’s continuing to catch on as easily as margarine goes on toast. This year, even Latvia (which might not spring to mind immediately when we think of vegan-friendly nations) is sending an entry to the Eurovision Song Contest that blatantly and incessantly asserts how “hot” it is to “be green”. Make of that what you will.
If you live in a country like the UK, where a staggering 8% of the population adheres to a plant-based diet, it can be difficult to trust that your requirements can be catered to when you travel somewhere else. Even if you’re not from a vegan-friendly place, perhaps you’d like to holiday somewhere more so. Luckily for you, we’ve lined up six vegan-friendly cities with bonus restaurant tips for you to consider when you’re planning your next vacation. Some of them might surprise you…
A lot of Lebanese food is at least vegetarian by coincidence (if not vegan); most people only eat meat a few times a week. The Middle East is the home of hummus and falafel, and Beirut is a particularly thriving and exciting city in which to feast on these plant-based delicacies. Little falafel shops sit on the corner of every street, and you can get an amazing wrap with hummus for pennies.
But that’s not all there is to vegan food here. There’s baba ganoush and mutabal (variations of appetizers made from mashed eggplant), batata harra (spicy potatoes), and colorful salads such as tabouleh and fattoush. A vegan is sure never to go hungry in Beirut.
There are a handful of good exclusively-vegan restaurants in Beirut, and one of the most popular is Meet The Veganz on the western end of Armenia street. It’s a trendy fast food joint that can whip you up a mouth-watering salad, sandwich or burger before you can say “Hi, I’m vegan.”
We’re all aware that Bali is at the top of the bucket list of any backpacker or yogi, but did you know that it’s also a very vegan-friendly destination? Thinking about it, the island’s reputation as a spiritual and wellness retreat means that an accompanying emphasis on plant-based and generally clean eating does make perfect sense.
One of Indonesia’s cultural centers, the township of Ubud is part of the Greater Denpasar area, and it’s supposed to be a vegan’s Mecca. Tofu and tempeh are in abundance here, prepared in various ways: deep-fried, pan-fried, grilled, scrambled, in salads or curries — you name it, and they will have done it in Ubud.
An all-you-can-eat gluten-free buffet and adjoining cake shop, Sawobali is the ultimate indulgence. Most dishes on offer are vegan, though some are vegetarian, so do double-check before piling your plate high.
Playa del Carmen, Mexico
It’s fair to say that meat plays a significant part in Mexican cuisine, but in and around the tourist resorts, the demand for vegan food is bigger than ever. Staples that happen to be vegan include guacamole and nopales (a cactus that is typically cooked with onions and tomatoes, but don’t panic — the spines are removed first!), but creative vegan takes on traditional dishes are becoming increasingly available.
Around 60 kilometers south of Cancún in the middle of the Riviera Maya district, Playa del Carmen boasts the highest concentration of vegan restaurants in Mexico. Stop by Plantivoros in the city center for quesadillas, tacos, chiles rellenos (stuffed peppers), or pretty much any other authentic dish you can think of, all without a trace of any animal product.
Hyderabad — or the City of Pearls, to use its nickname — is an enchanting metropolis. It’s a relatively modernized place, yet everywhere you look, you’re reminded of its rich 400-year history. And it’s not a half-bad place to be vegan.
Due to the high prevalence of religions such as Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism, the rate of vegetarianism across India is the highest of any nation in the world — nearly 40% of the population forgo meat in their diet. Because Indian food is typically bursting with pungent ingredients and is so flavorsome as a result, vegan dishes such as daal (lentils) and aloo gobi (curried potatoes and cauliflower) are universally appetizing. If you ever want to show a meat-eater how coincidentally delicious vegan food can be, take them to India.
Hyderabad in particular was crowned the most vegan-friendly city in India by PETA in 2019. It’s become more accessible for those who lead plant-based lifestyles; even its signature biryani (aromatic mixed rice, traditionally with meat) is taking the vegan demographic by storm.
Terrassen Cafe claims to be the city’s very first vegan eatery, and it’s going stronger than ever. It’s a cute little neighborhood spot, a little way out of the center, but the trip will be worth it to beam at their inviting, brightly-colored decor and of course, to try their delectable treats.
Ocho Rios, Jamaica
Caribbean countries are known for their chicken and fish dishes. They’re usually places where it’s difficult to find anything vegan, unless you’re happy to eat plain rice. Jamaica is different.
Ital, the diet of the Rastafari movement, comes from the word ‘vital’, and its principle is to source one’s energy from plant-based food. Okay, Ocho Rios isn’t technically a city, but the resident Rastafarian eating habits, along with its renownedly warm weather and stunning beaches make it a great destination for vegan holidaymakers.
For the best ital food, check out Calabash on Newlin Street. It’s renowned for its variety, and for a natural energy boost, be sure to order one of their seven vegan punches from the juice bar. In keeping with the clean-living philosophy, they even have a small shop that sells things like supplements, personal care products and books.
Chiang Mai, Thailand
We’ve saved the best ‘til last. Thai food is moreish and packed with flavor, and although a lot of it contains fish sauce, the demand for vegan variations is growing very quickly indeed.
And they’re not exactly strangers to it in the first place. Every year in the ninth lunar month (late September to late October), the Nine Emperor Gods festivities commence across the country. This is known more commonly outside of Thailand as the “Vegetarian Festival”, although strictly speaking, it’s a vegan festival as the food on offer is prepared without any animal products. Just to warn you, however: the rest of what goes on at the celebrations isn’t particularly pretty. Unless, of course, you happen to like the idea of watching people pierce their faces with spears.
Chiang Mai currently holds the world record for the city with the most vegan restaurants per 100,000 people, at 32.2. Goodsouls Kitchen is just one of these, but its Thai-western fusion menu has an outstanding reputation. Choose without concern from burgers, rice bows, khao soi (noodle soup), pizzas, and much more. Your plant-based dietary preferences will be very much looked after.
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