I fell in love with Hawaii on my first trip. There’s something soothing and relaxing about it: the tropical vibes take my stress-o-metre down from ten to one in a matter of minutes. I love it.
Oahu is the most populated and commercial of the eight main islands (but don’t let this deter you), and is home to
the famous Waikiki beach. There’s a lot to see, so you’ll never be bored or short of adventures.
Most recently, I went to Oahu on my first holiday as a vegan. I was excited to go and see what I could find. As I researched, I discovered Happy Cow, which gave me a list of places to eat. I also found some fun blogs detailing vegan adventures. Luckily, ‘vegan’ is a word easily understood in Oahu, and, for those who don’t understand it, a love of reading labels and menus will hold you in good stead.
In Oahu there are two pure vegan restaurants, Loving Hut (an eternal favourite around the globe), and the Peace Café which opened in May this year. Since these are the only purely vegan restaurants, you will have to ask some questions when eating elsewhere; but in doing this you will uncover the most delicious surprises.
I went along with a bunch of non-vegan friends on this trip, and the truth is I didn’t find it difficult to eat with them, even though there is a meat and fish (dairy and eggs being a hidden ingredient) eating culture in Oahu. An example of this is the traditional Luaus—which I didn’t participate in—where they roast a pig in her entirety. This breaks my heart. And, on an adventure through China town, I saw a now-lifeless sow being wheeled through the streets. But whilst the Hawaiian culture
doesn’t embrace a diet of plant-based foods, encouragingly I found that they do have many plant-based options.
When I arrived in Honolulu, I went along Ala Moana Boulevard to my favourite Mexican restaurant, Wahoo Fish Tacos, and, while you can tell from the name it isn’t vegan, it has a delicious black bean and rice salad combo that you can make up from their ‘sidekicks’ menu. There is also a vegan veggie bowl. I always recommend you ask them if their beans and veggies are cooked in butter; in this case they aren’t.
For breakfasts, I found my way up Kuhio Avenue to Ruffage Natural Foods, which is also a supermarket with loads of vegan-friendly treats you can take back to your hotel room. My favourite cooked breakfast on this trip was a mind-blowing tofu scramble. I also stocked up on Almond Breeze, which I can only hope will one day be available in Australia. Almond milk is delicious on peanut
The Ala Moana Centre has loads of cheap vegan options. The Foodworks supermarket downstairs has a salad bar from which you can create a five-dollar salad, with rice, beans and guacamole. Vim and Vigor on the
ground floor has vegan musubi, a warm sushi-like rice bite. Finally, there is the Crack Seed Centre, where you can get the most amazing preserved fruit and nuts, a must for the curious vegan.
Throughout the day you can catch commuter buses that go around the island, and you can randomly get off and walk along the beaches. Fresh tropical fruit is available everywhere. I snacked on mangoes, papaya and pineapple slices throughout my trip. Vegan smoothies and juices are as readily available, so it’s not difficult to get what you need.
For lunches, I found beans and rice, tofu wraps and sandwiches. Down to Earth, a health food store with several island locations has a deli on-site with loads of vegan options. Here I munched on vegan burritos and hot
sandwiches. The sweets department wasn’t too bad either: it was here that I discovered dark chocolate coated cacao nibs. There’s also Genki Sushi, which has a number of vegan
options, including sushi rice, veggie sushi, edamame, agedashi tofu (no bonito flakes—special order), which are filling and delicious.
In the ’burbs of Honolulu, there is Wholefoods Kahala, which has lots of vegan quick bites, as well as vegan make-up, and beauty products galore (I was in vegan heaven). Thanks to my friend Lagusta, I found Super Pho, the most amazing pho noodle restaurant ever! It was tricky to get to, but worth the trek. On another day, I caught a bus with one of my friends to Kailua, which is on the trade winds side of the island, to sneak onto a private beach; and at The Source we found delicious vegan sandwiches.
In Waikiki at night there are a bunch of Japanese hole-in-the-wall cafes, as well as my favourite Oahu restau-
-rant, Hale. Here the vegan and the macrobiotic lifestyle collide. While it’s not exclusively vegan, most of the dishes are. I have to say that I ate there many times. I could rarely go past the teriyaki tempeh with lotus root,
and the TLT (tempeh, lettuce and tomato). These dishes were like nothing I have ever eaten before, and all my friends were made to have dinner there. They loved it! On the dessert menu were brownies that melted in your mouth, and the chocolate mousse … mmm, words can’t describe how yummy they were!
There are many other vegan-friendly restaurants, cafes and hole-in-the-walls to check out on the island, so make sure you stop by Happy Cow for the latest details. I hope this snapshot of Oahu makes your decision for a vegan tropical getaway easier to make. I know it won’t be the last time that I’ll be drinking from a coconut on one of its gorgeous beaches.
A Collingwood institution, Las Vegan Bakery is situated on Smith Street (up the Gertrude Street end), nestled in a quirky shopping strip that hosts a range of eclectic tenants including a gallery, tattoo parlour, art store and boutique pub. Las Vegan is a quirky café with a relaxed vibe that boasts funky furniture, great music and of course delicious food.
Renowned for their rice balls, which come served with decedent satay sauce, bean shoots and a tasty salad mix Las Vegan cuts no corners. Most impressive is the use of fresh herbs, which make the dining experience especially memorable. Truly, Las Vegan is an extension of my own kitchen, I am known for going at least twice a
week, most recently with my in-laws, who thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
The menu caters for a range of tastes, from healthful soup, chilli ‘non’ carne, calzones (lunch only), sloppy joes and lentil burgers to the faux chicken burger or nuggets, deep fried tempeh and tofu and the faux chicken burger, all of which can be enjoyed whilst sipping on a Henry of Harcourt cider.
Savoury delights are not where it ends either, Michael bakes the most incredible muffins, brownies and cakes. So, if you have room at the end of your meal, which is highly unlikely with their generous servings, you may be able to fit one in with your bottomless chai.
Open from 11am Tuesday through Friday, and until 9pm on Thursday and Friday nights (with Wednesday on the cards too), Las Vegan is a great place to get a bite to eat with friends,
Las Vegan Bakery is located at 22 Smith Street, Collingwood, Victoria and can be reached for bookings on (03) 9415 9001
From Peking duck, lemon chicken and curried lamb to morish yum cha treats such as prawn toast, dumplings and pork skewers, Vegie Hut is an imitation meat lover’s paradise. Located in the heart of Box Hill, Victoria, Vegie Hut is a small restaurant serving authentic Buddhist vegetarian dishes. It is well worth the hike for anyone who is game enough for a fun, interesting and unique dining experience.
Vegie Hut serves up a range of scarily real plant based meat dishes, it is amazing how genuine some of the meat looks. The flavours and textures are from natural ingredients such as gluten, soya bean, mushroom, yam and spices. When you are scanning through the menu you
are likely to be excited yet overwhelmed by the large se-
-lection of traditional Chinese dishes reimagined in vegan form.
I decided to take my skeptical omnivore family to Vegie Hut for yum cha. Yum cha is only available on Sundays with the options of ordering from the lunch menu and other larger menu which is available all week. There are about 30 yum cha selections if you include the entrees. My family members were happily impressed. After eating every morsel of the selection of crisp skinned moist prawn rolls, thick and juicy textured ribs, smokey flavored pork in a bun, deep fried delightful crunchy chicken nuggets, slightly sticky yet full of flavor sticky rice and much more, they were eager to try dairy free desserts. The caramel-coloured sugary glaze on fried banana, soy ice cream and sago pudding was a perfect way to end
Vegie Hut is a brilliant place to try, regardless of your di-
-etary choices. If you are after take away, a casual sit down meal or wanting to celebrate a special event, Vegie Hut caters for all. It is wise to book as the place is usually packed, especially on weekends. For tasty and affordable food, you really can’t go wrong at Vegie Hut.
Vegie Hut is located at 984 Whitehorse Road, Box Hill, Victoria and can be reached for bookings on (03) 9898 2287
shortcut down a deserted alleyway in St Kilda past a small industrial car park. I remember thinking what an unfortunate location for a cafe, and gave them maybe a couple months before they went out of business. Something about the cafe stuck in my mind, and a few weeks later on a whim I googled them and was surprised to learn that MBD was a vegetarian and vegan friendly cafe, specialising in coffee and ‘healing vegetarian food.’
With thoughts of helping out a struggling little vegetarian eatery I set out with some eating companions, half fearing that the alleyway cafe would have already gone out of business. When we stepped into the cosy world of Monk Bodhi Dharma, our fears were more than unjustified. The place was packed. There wasn’t a spare seat available and a number of people were sipping coffee at
the counter, waiting to be seated.
We soon discovered why. MBD has an all day breakfast menu as well as daily soup and stew specials. All of the specials of the day were vegan as was most of the breakfast menu (a few dishes with feta could be easily vegan-ised). We drank hot chocolates and “Huilla”, a sweet toned columbian coffee, and for lunch ordered Avocado on Sourdough and North African Ratatouille and Date Stew.
The Avocado on Sourdough, with herbs and a splash of lemon, was solidly tasty. The Stew, served with cous
cous, was amazing. I wasn’t expecting much from a hearty stew but ended the meal wanting to go into the kitchen to hug the chef. We shall definitely be back to try dishes like the Indian-creamy-pumpkin-mansoor-dhal-coconut-mango-soup (which should be subtitled ‘more than a mouthful’), Pumpkin gujerati soup, and Jamaican sweet potato, red kidney bean and coconut stew. Yum.
Despite being rushed off their feet, the staff were friendly and very helpful. The alleyway cafe seats around twenty in a cosy atmosphere with wooden fittings, distressed brick walls, and for the coffee nerds, an impressive array of coffee making apparatuses.
Monk Bodhi Dharma is hidden away at the rear of 202 Carlisle Street, Balaclava in Victoria and can be reached on (03) 9534 7250. To get there off Carlisle Street,
head down the alleyway next to the Safeway loading dock.
If you are travelling from a distance MBD is around the corner and down the street from Rishon (17 William Street, Balaclava), the Jewish grocery store that is a wonderland of vegan goods, and Alpha, the vegan chocolate factory (23 William Street, Balaclava). Definitely worth a combined visit.
Update: Monk Bodhi Dharma are now offering a range of delicious vegan cookies, muffins and cupcakes!
Travelling as a vegan can be tricky at times, especially when dealing with language barriers, cultural differences and unknown food ingredients. To make things that little bit easier for globetrotting vegans we are pleased to present a series of travel guides covering the basics of getting good food around the world, starting with this look at the land of smiles and elephants, Thailand.
Vegan Thailand- How to say that you’re vegan.
Luckily the Thai have a word for vegan, more or less. “Jay” means strict vegetarian, no meat, dairy or egg (though you may inadvertently deny yourself onion, garlic or beer when announcing this). The word is written:
To say I eat vegan food use the phrase ‘chan gin jay’ if
you’re a female or ‘pom gin jay’ if you’re a male. There is also a word for vegetarian “mang sa wee rat” which can be useful in some areas of the north where the term jay may not be recognised, which you can supplement with ‘chan/pom mai gin kai/aa-haan tee tam jaak nom’ which means ‘I don’t eat eggs/dairy products’. There is a useful pronunciation guide with audio here.
Places to eat
This guide will focus on three of the most visited areas in Thailand – Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket. We’ll look at some of the best vegetarian restaurants as well as things to do and traps to avoid, especially with regards to activities that may involve the exploitation of animals.
The kingdom’s capital has much to offer for the hungry
vegan, with many veggie restaurants located around the Khao San road area. One of the first places to head in Bangkok is Ethos (behind the Burger King at the Tanao Road end).
You can lounge in Ethos for hours on the comfy floor cushions, sipping coffee and enjoying the free wi fi. There is a wide selection of dishes from both east and west, ranging from vegan lasagne and ‘meat’ ball spaghetti to Pad Thai and Tom Yum soup, for dessert the vegan option is chocolate cake with coconut cream.
A few doors down on each side are a couple of Mai Kaidee restaurants, which are great for grabbing a quick take away after a meal at Ethos (where the atmosphere is a little nicer). Some delicious meals include the pumpkin hommus, the papaya salad, and deep fried seaweed
with chilli mango sauce. Mai Kaidee also offers daily veg-
-etarian and vegan cooking classes.
We had heard great things about Anotai, but had also been warned that it would be hard to find. Anotai is located at 976/17 Soi Rama 9 Hospital in the Huay Kwang district, about twenty minutes or so by taxi from central Bangkok (in good traffic. In bad traffic bring a book!). The Happy Cow website has detailed information on how to get there.
The staff don’t speak much English but menus are bilingual and with a bit of pom mai this and pom mai that we were able to work out what was vegan easily enough. We ordered several exquisitely presented entrees, tempeh tempura with sweet and sour dip, nori wrapped tofu with wasabi dip and the Spicy tofu and cilantro dip. The menu also has an extensive Italian section, featuring
dishes like spaghetti with asparagus and mustard white
wine sauce. The food was exquisite and definitely worth the trip. If you want to tell the chef how much you loved the food, the phrase is ‘a roi’.
These are just a few of the many restaurants serving good vegan food in the Thai capital. Happy Cow contains an extensive list of many more vegetarian options in and around Bangkok.
Chiang Mai in the north is really the mecca of all things vegan in Thailand. You can walk almost anywhere you want to go and the few places you can’t are a short tuk tuk ride away. According to locals there are over 100 vegetarian restaurants in Chiang Mai.
Our first stop was Taste from Heaven, a spacious air
conditioned vegetarian restaurant where a portion of the profits go to support Elephant Nature Park, a sanctuary for rescued elephants (more on this below). Some highlights were the Tom Yum served in coconut, the Pumpkin curry and the Crispy Morning Glory, there are also a number of western dishes on the menu like the tofu burger and fries, and several spaghetti variations.
Taste from Heaven offer daily cooking classes in small groups of around four people, where you can choose any dishes from the menu (even the non vegan dishes can be veganised). We signed up and despite being the world’s worst cooks, spent several hours under the tutelage of patient head chef Nan grinding our own curry pastes, learning about local ingredients, discovering how to open a coconut with a machete, and plating a table
full of delicious meals. At the end of it we were able to
feast on our creations and bag the rest for takeaway.
Khun Churn, located at Nimmanhemin Soi 17, is the only restaurant mentioned here that involves any travel, though it’s only a ten minute tuk tuk trip. Set in a tranquil outdoors courtyard, for around two or three Australian dollars you can reload your plate as many times as you like from the huge lunch buffet of fresh curries, noodles, soups, salads, desserts and drinks. If none of this satisfies, you can also order from the menu which features Northern Thai dishes like the Khao Soi. The staff there didn’t speak much English so it may take a bit of effort to work out what’s vegan and what’s not, but it’s definitely worth the effort (there is also a Khun Churn in Bangkok, which if it’s anywhere as good as the Chiang Mai restaurant, is well worth a visit).
Like many of the vegetarian restaurants in Chiang Mai,
we stumbled upon Juicy4U at 5 Ratchamanka Road by accident while walking around town. The colourful cafe specialises in smoothies and design your own sandwiches (just tick off the ingredients you want on a sheet of paper). Juicy4U also do a ‘full monty’ breakfast with veggie sausage, tomato, baked beans, mushrooms and toast.
Free Bird Cafe is a non profit cafe that raises funds for Hilltribe (many of the indigenous Hill Tribes are not given the same rights as the Thai people) and refugee families. We had tasty eggplant and hommus sandwiches under umbrellas in the outdoor cobbled path garden cafe. Apparently they are now selling peace cheese, a vegan pistachio based cheese. There is also a Chiang Mai Mai Kaidees which serves up the same delicious
fares as the Bangkok counterparts.
No review of vegan food in Chiang Mai would be complete without mentioning the Chiang Mai vegetarian society. Located just outside the city walls at 42 Mahidol Road, the non profit dining hall provides simple fare like curries and fried tofu along with greens and rice or noodles. We were told the food would be ridiculously cheap, even by Chiang Mai standards, but we couldn’t tell for sure since both times we were there it was somebody’s birthday and all the food was free, all they asked was that you do your dishes on the way out.
Elephant Nature Park
If you’re in Chiang Mai a visit to Elephant Nature Park, an hours drive out of town, is essential. Nestled in a lush green valley, Elephant Nature Park is a sanctuary for
rescued elephants from all over Thailand. You can visit for a day or overnight, or volunteer for a week or more. We stayed for a week and wished it was longer.
Many visitors to Thailand go on elephant treks, unaware of the great cruelty involved behind the scenes. Elephants in the Thai trekking industry are typically ‘broken’ using the practice of phaa jaan, which involves chaining the young elephant so that they are unable to move, and then literally beating and jabbing them with nail ended spears over a period of days until their spirit is completely broken. You can view video of this heartbreaking practice here. Any tourist who goes for an ‘elephant ride’ is unknowingly supporting the continuation of this animal abuse.
The rescued elephants at the sanctuary have survived
working in the trekking industry, street begging and ille-
-gal logging. They have survived having feet blown off by landmines and eyes gouged out by angry ‘owners’ because they were not working hard enough. Now thanks to the Elephant Nature Park they are about to live out the rest of their lives in peace.
Volunteering at the sanctuary involves activities as varied as bathing and feeding the elephants, harvesting truckloads of corn with machetes, and basically helping out with whatever needs doing. Even if you don’t like elephants (joke! Who doesn’t like elephants?) it’s worth going for the food alone. Each day a huge delicious spread of Northern Thai food and an assortment of hot chips, vege sausages, springs rolls and so forth is laid out. Unfortunately there is some meat served but 90% of the food is vegan, and all the non-vegan foods were always
pointed out to us by the kitchen.
Compared to Chiang Mai, Phuket is a big island, relatively expensive to get around, and doesn’t offer that much for the vegan. The one massive exception is the annual Vegetarian Festival, which is the largest vegetarian festival in the world. For nine days each year it is celebrated around Thailand, but in particular on Phuket Island.
The festival is rather bizarre, with the most notable feature being daily parades of devotees self mutilating in inventively gruesome ways to ‘invoke the gods’, including hot coal walking, tongue chopping and extreme face skewering. What any of this has to do with vegetarianism we never did work out, but it was fascinating to watch nonetheless.
During the festival street vendors serve up all vegan
fry, was the overriding theme – quickly turning us into human grease traps. The ceremonies centre around Phuket Town but the whole island is in on the festivities, even the 7-Elevens were covered in ‘jay’ signs, with jay food clearly labelled.
Outside of the festival, there are a handful of vegetarian restaurants on Phuket. Those we visited were largely unmemorable dining hall style Chinese mock meat cafes. Patong is the most renowned beach area in Phuket, but you should pack a lunch as there are no vegetarian restaurants. And if seeing sex tourists, lizards on leashes and stall after stall of fake Gucci bags (at least they’re probably non leather) is not your thing, there are many other beaches to visit.
Several times we were approached by people with gib-
-bons offering to take our photo in exchange for money.
This is always a bad idea. Gibbons are taken from the wild and exploited as tourist attractions, in order to get the baby gibbon the poachers have to kill the parents (and often the babies are killed as they fall from the canopy). It is illegal to have a gibbon in captivity so if you see this happening please let the police know.
There you have it, a beginners guide to Vegan Thailand. If you come across any out of date information, know of a great place we’ve missed, or have any useful tips, let us know in the comments. Sawatdee!