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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VeganMoFo 2019: Roopal, Hiroshima

I’ve probably eaten more Indian food in Japan than I ever have in my four years in the Czech Republic – when vegan options were scarce, we could always count on an Indian eatery to adapt something for us. Hiroshima was the last destination on our adventure before heading back to Tokyo for the return flight, and we arrived feeling tired and hungry. Roopal was just a short walk from the station, so we decided to give it a whirl.

The menu states that all dishes are made with dairy, but the staff assured us that any of their vegetable dishes could be served vegan, which matched what the Happy Cow reviews told us. So we went for it! We started with samosas, obviously. The pastry was insanely good, but it was all a little bit too salty, which was a shame.

I ordered the potato and aubergine curry, and was not expecting something so saucy! The veg was really tender, and the sauce was good and flavoursome. I ordered it mild and it was absolutely perfect for me.

Dr HH, you will not be surprised to hear, ordered the chana masala. He liked it, but again, it was too salty.

Happily, both dishes came with a very generous helping of bread. We were not expecting two rotis per serving, but it was the best kind of surprise.

It was a good, solid meal, but we were disappointed that it was full of smokers. Sitting in the non-smoking section did not do very much to protect us from the fumes.

Is smoking in restaurants still a thing where you are? Surely it must be almost over now!

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VeganMoFo 2019: Genmai Shinshoku Aisunao, Naoshima Island

Get ready, it’s time for Dr HH’s traditional VeganMoFo guest post!

Hello! Dr. HH here with my annual contribution to the HH VeganMoFo.  Why have I specifically been drafted in for today’s post? Being a high brow, classy, intellectual individual with an eye for the finer things in life, it was only natural that I write about our day of exploring the Naoshima Art Island.  The day started bright and early from our base in Okayama with me polishing my monocle and dusting off my top hat in preparation for a classy day of art critiquing.

The first thing you spot upon arriving by boat at Miyanoura port is this splendid pumpkin.  Unfortunately, it is difficult to appreciate this piece of art fully as there are so many goons about getting in the way.

It was easy for us to roughly split the island’s museums into two halves for us to tackle before and after lunch.  We hopped on the bus to take us to our first stop, the Chichu Art Museum.  This housed just a few things, including five of Monet’s water lilies. They also had this pond outside that was inspired by said paintings.  There were no pictures allowed of any of the indoor art and we were in the small minority of people who actually followed the rules, so you’ll have to make do with some just some outdoor pictures.  This was our favourite museum on the island, it only had three things in but they were all excellent and the building itself was very impressive too.

Next was the Lee Ufan Museum which housed a selection of what I can only describe as modern art. I remember there being quite a lot of rocks, but not a lot else.  There were also some outdoor bits – I’m sure you can all pick the artistic majesty of this piece I call ‘rock and stick with archway in the distance’.

From here we went to Bennesse House.  This was the biggest museum on the island, which housed a varied collection of modern art and provided some spectacular views of the island.  Much like most modern art galleries, I enjoyed some of the art and found it good fun whilst other pieces left me scratching my head.

It was a bit of a grey and grisly day but the rain was quite gentle at this stage so we decided to take a fairly long walk up towards our eatery before tackling our lunch.  On the way there was a good selection of outdoor art, we spotted some funny looking creatures and the most famous spot on the island, the yellow pumpkin!

Our lunch spot, Genmai Shinshoku Aisunao, was tucked away down a side street near the Ando museum.  On Happy Cow it is listed as using fish stock, but we were informed that everything was vegan and from what I remember the reviews back this up.  We were served this exciting looking lunch special.  In the great Japaense tradition we had become accustomed to, our waitress offered to explained the dishes to us, clarified that the tiny green blobs were made from kelp and excellent with rice, and with that she was off.  Oh well, knowing what things are only detracts from the excitement!

There was an excellent bowl of brown rice, topped with some sesame seeds that gave it a good savoury flavour.  I’m normally pretty critical of rice and it feel it’s quite a dull carb, but here it was a great addition to the meal, and the kelp did indeed add an extra punch of flavour to it. The bowl of miso soup at the front was delicious with a great depth of flavour. The white plate in the back corner had some relatively uninteresting chunks of pumpkin and carrot, but there was a piece of spongy freeze dried tofu that we’d really taken a shine to when it had been served to us before, and once again it did not disappoint.  The rest of that plate had some pickled vegetables and some little cut up noodley bits, which were all good accompaniments to this spread.  The black bowl at the back had some tofu and mushrooms in a broth, which was probably the best part of the whole lunch.  Finally, the dessert plate…we knew from the menu that we were getting a soy milk pudding, which turned out to pretty much be a sweet bit of tofu.  It was perfectly pleasant but not particularly exciting.  What we did not expect was for the beans on the plate next to it to also be a little sweet, that was odd.  Overall, this was an excellent meal that provided us with plenty of fuel for our afternoon wanders.

Next on our list was the Ando Museum, dedicated to the architect who designed most (maybe all?) of the museums on the island.  It provided some models and some background on how the buildings had been developed and extended over the years.  The last thing on the list for us was the Art House Project.  This was made up of five different small locations, each with an exciting exhibit.  It sounded a little like a mini version of the Biennale in Venice so we were quite excited to see what was on offer.  We hustled from site to site in the pouring rain to take in four of the exhibits, but unfortunately they were rather underwhelming.  One consisted of sitting in the dark for about ten minutes, and another was just a small flower arrangement.  The other two were a little more fun but still not particularly exciting.

By this time, the rain was heavier than ever and we had about 20 minutes to get back across to our ferry port so we abandoned the idea of seeing the last of the art house projects and sped off on our way.

This was a great and long day out.  We set off early from Okayama and made an effort to see as much as we could.  I really enjoyed the Chichu Museum and Bennesse House but I could happily have skipped the other museums.  The outdoor bits and pieces were great fun too, and the island was a pleasant place to stroll around…well, it would have been more pleasant if it hadn’t rained all day!  The food was excellent and I would thoroughly recommend a trip to Naoshima Island. If you have even a passing interest in modern art there’s plenty to enjoy, and it’s certainly something a little different from the hustle and bustle of your average Japanese city.

What kind of squash would you most like to see transformed into art?

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VeganMoFo 2019: Convenience Store Snacks of Japan

Usually I do all my holidaying in Europe, which means there’s a pretty good chance that I recognise the vegan snacks available, or have enough of an idea about the language to scan for allergens. Japan was a whole different story: there were no English ingredients, and all of the products were completely unfamiliar to me. Fortunately, there is a hardworking network of vegans in Japan doing all the research for tourists like me and cataloguing all the vegan options available in the main convenience store chains: 7-11, Family Mart, and Lawson. We saved this blog post and scrolled through it whenever we entered one of the shops so we could find a suitable snack.

WARNING! Do not, under any circumstances, buy these! All of the Soyjoy Crispy bars are vegan, but they are absolutely disgusting. The banana ones almost made me throw up, they were so strongly (and artificially) flavoured. We bought these early on, learned our lesson, and avoided them like the plague afterwards.

These were much more like it! This is essentially some kind of puffed rice bar, coated in chocolate. Because it contains cereal, we had them for breakfast pretty much every day…they are largely chocolate though. These were my favourite snack we discovered in Japan, and I was devastated to eat the last of the stash I brought home with me.

These Morinaga biscuits were also a good breakfast option, and were readily available at all the convenience stores. There were six crunchy little biscuits in each packet, making them ideal for sharing. The nutty ones were a bit savoury, but the berry ones were better, and the chocolate ones truly excellent!

For salty snacks, we were well-served by Chip Star. These were Pringles-esque (though the outer tube was just cardboard and they were wrapped in plastic packaging inside). The red ones were good and salty; the nori ones were amazing!

We also enjoyed Family Mart’s seaweed crisps, and the 7-11 salted ones. We played it quite safe on the crisps front.

These were a bolder move! These crackers with “happy seasoning” were some weird sweet/savoury hybrid, and they were very moreish. I brought a packet back to the office, and they were a big hit! It’s a shame that each cracker was individually wrapped in plastic though.

Also disappointing on the plastic front was this chocolate bar. I’d expected it to be wrapped in foil, but it was actually three smaller chocolate bars, each wrapped in plastic. It was nice dark chocolate, but I was too mad about the plastic to enjoy it.

Pickled plums are ubiquitous in Japan, but as I’m not a fan of pickles, I steered clear. Dr HH gave this rice ball with pickled plum a whirl though, and found it quite pleasant. It was nice to have a more substantial snack.

And look at this fun treat! After we went to the Inari temple in Kyoto we were dripping with sweat and in desperate need of refreshment. We found these ice lollies in the first convenience store we stumbled into. It was very much “blue” flavour, but all we cared about was that it was cold: it definitely did the job!

Besides the Soyjoy disaster, we were pretty pleased with the snacks we found – and extremely grateful to the vegans who came before us and did all the hard work!

Have you ever tried a Soyjoy Crispy (and lived to tell the tale)? Which Japanese snack would you most like to try?

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VeganMoFo 2019: Curry House CoCo Ichibanya, Okayama

One of the great things about the UK is that a lot of the chain restaurants now have vegan options on the menu, and good ones at that. Our research pointed us towards one Japanese chain with a similar set up. We saw Curry House CoCos everywhere we went, and were always relying on it as an emergency backup just in case all vegan places were closed. Okayama was the only place where we actually needed it, because the vegan options were almost non-existent!

This place has a vegetable curry on the regular menu, but whatever you do, don’t order it! There’s a separate vegetarian menu, which is in fact all vegan, and that’s where you need to order from. It has several options, but they’re essentially all the same sauce with different vegetables.

Fortunately, it’s a good, flavoursome sauce! I got the mushroom, okra, and yam curry. The mushrooms were in the curry itself, while the okra and yam were sliced up in a little pot on the side, which was a bit perplexing. I just tipped it in and mixed it up! Despite this weirdness, it was a nice dish.

Dr HH got the aubergine and vegetable curry, which featured fried aubergine – there’s warning in the menu that the aubergine is fried in the same oil as the meat, so you can make an informed decision on that at least. He declared this a good, tasty curry!

All in all, this was not spectacular food, but it was a solid emergency meal, which is exactly what we were expecting. I’m happy this option exists, but also happy that we only needed to call on it once!

What’s your go-to chain for an emergency vegan eat?

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VeganMoFo 2019: Merci Moncher, Okayama

Travelling light makes everything so much easier. Wherever Dr HH and I are going, and for however many nights, we always pack the same amount: a regular, day backpack that will fit under the seat in front on a flight. It means that we can’t pack anything surplus to requirements, and it also means that we can navigate around relatively easily without dragging suitcases of wielding gigantic backpacks that could knock someone out. It was a massive bonus on this trip in particular because we spent so much time hopping between destinations, and everything was just easier without huge luggage to worry about. On one day in particular it was a huge help: we were travelling from Osaka to our next destination, Okayama, and we were able to stop along the way to visit Himeji as well, without hauling loads of stuff with us.

Himeji was on the itinerary just so we could see the castle. I’m very much a traditionalist when it comes to castles (moat, drawbridge, dungeon, turrets, etc), but I did enjoy the castles in Japan. They were just beautiful!

Then we resumed our journey to Okayama, and found ourselves boarding the Hello Kitty shinkansen, which was quite a fun surprise! Almost everyone on the platform whipped out their phone to start taking pictures as it pulled in.

Then we arrived in Okayama! It was on our itinerary for two reasons: firstly, the castle (I enjoyed the contrast with the white castle we’d just seen in Himeji), and secondly as a base to visit the art island of Naoshima (more on that on Monday). We stayed for two nights, and I wouldn’t have stayed any longer – there weren’t too many sights to see (some very nice gardens though), and the vegan options were particularly disappointing.

Happy Cow gave us a few places with vegan options, but the opening hours were unfavourable, or nothing was labelled vegan on the menu, or they were sold out of that one vegan dish when we got there. It was a tough place!

When we arrived we went for a late lunch at Merci Moncher, located in a shopping centre near the station. Nothing was labelled vegan here, but from the list of ingredients and allergens we deduced that the falafel plate should be fine. And “fine” is what it was: not spectacular, no amazing flavours, just a solid plate of food to sustain us for the afternoon.

We got two nice but unexciting falafel, some brown rice, two different kinds of hummus, some pumpkin and carrot, plenty of red cabbage, a bit of salad, and a little dish of minestrone soup on the side. It was expensive for what it was, but we didn’t really have an alternative and were happy just to find somewhere. It was colourful and fresh, and it did the job!

As vegans, falafel is often a good backup choice when on the go, with the bonus that it’s generally cheap and cheerful. It was a bit of a nuisance that it was so expensive here, but sometimes you just have to take the hit!

Is falafel your saviour on the road as well? And do you travel light?

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