Vegan in Prague: Burrito Loco

For a long time, I have felt like the only vegan in the world who hadn’t tried either the Beyond Meat or the Impossible Burger. There has been so much buzz about them, but I’d never seen them in a supermarket or in a restaurant…until the last few months, when they finally started popping up on a few menus in Prague.

Burrito Loco is a Mexican fast food chain in Prague which is open 24/7 and is very good at labelling its vegan options. It seems like you’re never more than a 10 minute walk from a branch of Burrito Loco, making it a really solid option for emergencies. Besides picking up a vegan burrito en route home from a late flight occasionally, it’s not really a place I visit much. But Dr HH and I needed a quick bite one evening and decided to give the Beyond Meat burger a try at last, as they were advertising it fairly prominently outside (and inside) our local branch.

Rather worryingly, the menu listed it as “Guacamole free”, which had us wondering if the guacamole was included at no extra charge, or if there was no guacamole to be found (happily, it was the former). We also got a choice of salsa (mild, medium, spicy) and some standard salad thrown in there as well, plus some crisps and coleslaw on the side.

The burger was interesting – it was pretty much as I’d expected from the reviews: good meaty texture and taste. It was definitely one of the more convincing vegan burgers I’ve tried, but not necessarily one of the tastiest – I might even have preferred the M&S version. I feel like this one is ultimately designed with the meat eater as the target customer, not people who are already vegan. It seems to be doing its job in at least piquing the curiosity of enough meat eaters to get them to choose the vegan option more frequently, so bravo for that! I won’t be going out of my way to have it regularly, but I’m pleased it’s out there in the world!

What’s your take on these new, mega meaty vegan burgers? Which is your favourite?

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Vegan in the UK: High Street Sausage Roll Wars

Back in January, the UK’s dominant high street bakery, Greggs, created national headlines (and attracted the ire of Piers Morgan) when they launched a vegan sausage roll. I was displeased that they introduced it the day after I flew back to Prague after the holidays – it seemed a little personal – and I had to settle for watching from afar as my local vegan Facebook group in the UK blew up with notifications about which branches of Greggs were selling them, which had sold out, and how delicious they were. All the while, a few people were quietly pointing out that rival high street bakery Pound Bakery had been selling vegan sausage rolls for quite some time, to much less acclaim/irritation.

I immediately announced to Dr HH my dream scenario: a blind taste test of the two vegan sausage rolls so we could say with confidence which was best. We spent months discussing it, and finally this summer it happened! Dr HH trotted over to the local mall and picked up two of each, then plated them up in the kitchen, and presented them to me like so.

Anyone who is familiar with these two establishments could probably guess which was which, so I probably should have been actually blindfolded for it to be a true test. The Greggs sausage roll, which costs £1 a pop, is the one on the left with the neater pastry styling. The Pound Bakery version, sold at two for £1, is the looser, paler, less ornate roll on the right.

They were both really good sausage rolls with a lovely meaty filling, but the Greggs one was the clear winner. The pastry was flakier, and it was a bit more generously stuffed. The Pound Bakery one was nice, but a little greasier. Dr HH declared me a snob for preferring Greggs, but had to concede that he agreed with my assessment.

And let’s face it, there are no losers in this game. I’d happily eat either of them by the bucket load, and I’m really excited to see vegan options going truly mainstream. The real question is why sausage rolls have never made it big internationally. I’ve never seen one in another country. Are we keeping it secret as some kind of post-Brexit negotiating tool? Is the rest of the world rejecting it for some insane reason? Why has the world embraced the hot dog over this majestic and far superior creation?!

What’s your vegan sausage roll of choice? Non-Brits, have you ever had a sausage roll?

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Vegan in Prague: Eaternia

After being stuck in a food rut for a good few months, I have finally broken free! I was hoping to return from my trip to Japan feeling reinvigorated and with a renewed enthusiasm for both discovering new vegan places and writing about that, and I’m pleased to say that that was indeed the case. Prior to that, I was so demotivated that I hadn’t even bothered to visit a new, all-vegan place just 15 minutes from my office. Finally, I have righted this great wrong.

Eaternia is a very casual, cafeteria style place. It has a jukebox and a rocky kind of vibe. It’s very, very vegan. Like most Czech places, there’s a daily lunch menu, which always features some kind of dumplings on a Friday, and an evening menu as well which has a burger and hot dog alongside two dishes that are novelties on vegan menus in Prague: langos (actually, I’ve seen that once as a daily special and once at a festival), and poutine.

Dr HH ordered the poutine. It was a bit light on the gravy, which was all at the bottom of the portion and didn’t taste very strongly of mushrooms, but he enjoyed the chips and melted cheese a lot. As someone who doesn’t like my food very saucy, I’d say this would have been the perfect poutine for me.

The langos, on the other hand, was a bit too saucy! The fried dough itself was spectacular, but I wasn’t expecting quite so much ketchup. It was nice, but a bit much.

Based on price, we’d assumed the langos would not be enough to fill me up, so I got some chips on the side. They were really good chips, but they were all weirdly short! I wonder if they’d somehow been stuck with the smallest potatoes in the world?!

The dessert counter looked spectacular, so we had no choice but to partake. Dr HH went for the lotusmisu, which looked creamy and delicious. He felt that there wasn’t quite enough sponge in there, and the flavour was a bit confusing – it didn’t taste of Lotus biscuits, it had a hint of coffee, and he suspected there was booze in there. He said it was nice, but a bit weird!

Meanwhile, I had this custard tart. It was spectacular! The crust was almost biscuity, the custard was absolutely beautiful, and the cream topping was surprisingly light. I would have one of these every day if I could…but there were so many other good options too!

We also got a couple of cinnamon rolls to take away for breakfast the next day: they were big, beautiful, and had a really wonderful texture. They kept really well overnight too, which isn’t always the case.

This was such a wonderful little place, and I really wish I’d pulled myself together and visited it sooner! Think of all the custard tarts I could have been eating…

Are you on board with ‘dumpling Fridays’?

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VeganMoFo 2019: Kawaii Monster Cafe, Tokyo

I booked us a table at the Kawaii Monster Cafe in Tokyo for the last night of our holiday, because I couldn’t think of a more perfect way to end the absolute weirdness of the trip. Every day of our stay was sensory overload, and nothing made sense like it should, but somehow it was all wonderful and charming. That was all perfectly encapsulated in this themed cafe.

This was a mechanical, revolving birthday cake with Hello Kitty on it, and three women in crazy costumes singing some kind of monster song. It was mental!

All the decor was super fun, there were areas with different themes. I was drawn to the bright colours and cute motifs…

…though this room may have been cuteness overload!

Japan as a whole was, mercifully, more vegan-friendly than this cafe was, at least. I contacted them in advance to check the vegan options (when you buy a ticket, the small print requires each visitor to also purchase at least one drink and food item), and was told it was just the chips and a green salad. I’m no fool: I got the chips! Besides the ketchup and mustard, none of the other colourful dips sounded vegan, so I avoided them. The chips were well-seasoned, and there were waffle fries, which is always a bonus, but it’s a shame that there was nothing more exciting, considering how wild all of the other options were: rainbow spaghetti, exciting burgers, desserts shaped like fun characters. It was a boring meal, but not a boring experience – and happily, it wasn’t our last meal in Japan either as we managed to pick up a bowl of ramen at the branch of T’s Tantan in the airport the next morning!

And so, this is the end of my eating odyssey in Japan, and the end of VeganMoFo 2019. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading along, and feel motivated to visit Japan now – personally, I’d go back in a heartbeat if only I could afford it! Thanks to everyone for reading, liking, and commenting, it always makes my day!

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VeganMoFo 2019: Flowers, Miyajima

The floating gate at Mijayima ranks quite highly among the top sights in Japan, and we were pleased to see that it was a very manageable day trip from Hiroshima. We took the train and ferry, and there it was in all its majesty! We planned to see it at high tide when it looks like it’s floating. You can make a day of it and wait for low tide to walk out to it, but the weather was so grim that we didn’t bother.

Not only was it raining, but I also met my old nemeses again: the wild deer! Nara revisited, but at least these ones didn’t act quite so much like velociraptors…

The weather was so bad that we decided just to get indoors and eat rather than wander around as we usually would. Once again, we were really relying on other people’s Happy Cow reviews to help us find the vegan dishes. General consensus was that the last page of the menu was all vegan, and some vegan reviewers specifically mentioned the curry udon vegetables, so we followed their lead. It was a good dish for a rainy day! The noodles were lovely and thick and the sauce was rich. The only downside was that the vegetable selection (potato and carrot) was a bit boring and didn’t do much to liven it up. Still, it was hearty and filling, and got us out of the rain for a bit!

Have you ever been rained out on a big sightseeing day? Did you also recover with a hearty bowl of noodle soup?

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VeganMoFo 2019: Parco alla Pace, Hiroshima

Hiroshima was a very strange place to visit. It’s uncomfortable to be a tourist in a city that was completely destroyed in the worst way imaginable. It’s hard to segue from talking about that history to fun ruminations about food, so for that reason I’m not going to dwell on what we did in Hiroshima or how we felt, I’m just going to stick to the food.

I didn’t find it the best place for vegan options, but it’s fun that we managed to try three different cuisines in the three eateries we visited: Indian, Japanese, and Italian. This pizzeria far exceeded my expectations of a Japanese pizzeria! It served all Italian food and had friendly service, though they do have a sign warning: “We don’t speak English but we have an English menu” – sure enough, it was very popular with tourists (they were turning people away, so get there early), and we all got by with the language differences.

The menu has a separate page with vegetarian options, including two pizzas with no cheese which are the vegan options. I was infuriated that all the reviews on Happy Cow referred to it as serving “vegan pizza” without bothering to mention that there’s not even any cheese. So, let the record state: you won’t be getting cheese on your pizza here!

Fortunately, it was a good pizza nevertheless. I ordered the #2, which featured tomato sauce, garlic, oregano, basil, olives, and capers. Those are all very good flavours, so it was actually one of the tastiest pizzas I’ve had in a while. Still a shame about the lack of cheese though…

And the dessert menu even listed two gelato flavours that didn’t contain egg or dairy. We decided not to indulge, out of fear that they would actually be sorbets and we’d be wasting our money…

Cheese-less pizza: yay or nay?

 

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VeganMoFo 2019: Yappenachi, Hiroshima

Okonomiyaki is one of the Japanese specialities that we’d suspected would pass us by, due to the fact that it’s a pancake and unlikely to be veganised. Dr HH was excited to try it while we were in Osaka, but was a bit unimpressed with the results. So when we saw a restaurant listed on Happy Cow that specialised in okonomiyaki, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to give it another chance.

This was a small, very local spot (we were the only tourists), but it had an English menu with the encouraging words: “No meat, no eggs, no problem!” I had a little card with me explaining in Japanese what we do and do not eat – I showed it to the chef and he enthusiastically pointed out which dishes we could have: fresh tofu (not fried), and the pancake with vegetables with either soba or udon noodles.

We sat at a bar around the kitchen area, and the food was cooked on the hot, metal surface right in front of us, which was very dramatic and exciting! Our dishes were cooked on the same surface where the meaty dishes had been cooked moments before, but we saw them give it a good scrub down first so I felt perfectly comfortable with it.

Truthfully, I was quite disappointed to learn that the fried tofu couldn’t be made vegan, but I needn’t have worried – the fresh block was absolutely delicious! The dressing was simple but effective. Honestly, we had some of the all time great tofu while we were in Japan.

And onto the main event! Dr HH ordered the soba version – the noodles on top crisped up beautifully, giving it some nice texture and shape. There was significantly less sauce than he had in Slices, which had to be a good thing too! We ate these dishes straight off the hot surface using a small shovel – we were quite relieved that some locals were served before us so we could imitate them rather than embarrass ourselves by just guessing how to tackle it.

I ordered the udon version, and it pains me to say it but the udon let me down! Udon noodles just weren’t a good match for this dish. They were heavy, wet, and overwhelming, and made the whole thing a bit sloppy and un-pancake-like. It was still tasty of course, but I’d definitely recommend getting the soba version if you visit.

This was one of the more exciting eateries we visited on our trip, and it was an experience we’ll probably never get again! Sometimes trying Japanese food was a little daunting as we didn’t know the correct way to approach a dish and worried about looking foolish, but this was a fun, friendly place and we were happy to get stuck in!

Do you also worry about eating foreign foods in the wrong way and making a fool of yourself? Have you tried okonomiyaki?

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