Nac Mac Vegan: adventures in rabbit food

07/04/2010

Japan: some additional vegan konbini goodies

As mentioned yesterday, Herwin Walravens’ Japan Vegan Restaurant Pocketguide contains a handy summary of the few vegan items available in Japanese convenience stores. There are a few others too.
Sesame tofu package
Gomadōfu (ごまどうふ) is one of the non-tofu “tofu”s. It’s sesame milk set with kūzu and is rather pleasant if you like sesame. There are a number of similar looking items, some of which are flavoured tofu – shiso (しそ – perilla) is a vegan one of these; others are the aforementioned jellies set with kūzu, including a black sesame version. One warning: if you see a package very similar to the one shown, but yellow, it’s a savoury egg custard thing. The kanji for egg is very distinctive and worth learning to recognise: .
vegan daikon and seaweed salad from Family Mart
The second discovery is a daikon and seaweed salad from Family Mart. I’m afraid I forgot to photograph it until I’d eaten half of it, but the photo is enough to get the picture. The container has a small amount of lettuce at the bottom, then loads of shredded daikon, topped with a variety of seaweeds. There is no salad dressing, so you might want to sprinkle on a bit of soy sauce or something. I have been through the ingredients list with the proverbial fine toothed comb and all it contains is the lettuce, daikon and various kinds of seaweed. They’ve neglected to sneak in any fish whatsoever. Let’s hope no English-reading person at Family Mart notices this post and gets the “error” corrected!

I’ve been eating a lot of inarizushi while I’ve been here. It’s one of my favourite foods, so I’m not at all upset about it. There are many variations, and I have yet to find one that isn’t vegan. You can get it with mushrooms, or sansai (山菜 – mountain vegetables, edamame and many other things. The only non-vegan version of which I am aware is a regional variation which uses thin omelette instead of the tofu pouches. I’ve never actually seen it anywhere.

There are several varieties of small sushi roll which are vegan: the classic cucumber (adding mayo to them seems to be an American trick), yellow pickled daikon, natto and one I’d not seen before – kanpyo dried gourd reconstituted. Note the sachets of soy sauce that come with convenience store and supermarket sushi aren’t – they’re a mixture of soy sauce and fish stock. Buy your own wee bottle of soy sauce.

I am here for three weeks and can’t eat out for every meal or I wouldn’t have money to spend on capsule toys, yaoi, robots and weird Hello Kitty items. I have a kettle in the room, and there is a microwave oven in the hotel, so I plan to expand my horizons a little. I have a nice small miso bowl from Muji and a larger plastic noodle bowl from a 100 yen shop. I brought some sachets of a vegan instant dashi (enough to tide me over till I find a shop that sells it) and a small bottle of soy sauce with me. I have already bought a small bag of sweet white miso, a package containing mixed seaweed and wheat gluten coils, some fried tofu and some vegan instant ramen bought from a macrobiotic shop. The supermarket near Akihabara station sells fresh soba (buckwheat) noodles, so I can easily put together a hot meal in my (pokey) room on the cheap. I’ll try and remember to blog my efforts.

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20/03/2010

Boston: The Otherside Café

Filed under: Eating out, Pub grub — Tags: , , , — Feòrag @ 15:23

I’ve been rather bad at keeping up-to-date lately – my most recent visits to The Otherside Café were during the second week of February! It’s one of my favourite haunts in Boston, being a loud, serious beer bar with lots of substantial vegan options on the menu.

Vegan BLT

The Vegan BLT at The Otherside Café

My first visit was a lunchtime trip, and I didn’t feel up to the B-4 (a black bean burrito the size of a small planet), so I decided to try a vegan version of something I’ve never had – a BLT. It filled the gap nicely.

The second visit, I tried the Nature Boy – a selection of vegan, raw food items served with dehydrated beetroot and carrots. I did this because I wanted something reasonably light. Oops. I never managed to finish it, because I was full. It was an interesting meal, thought the salads were nearer to dips. The “chips” weren’t quite dehydrated enough for my taste, and sliced a little too thickly. I’ve had similar dehydrated vegetables over at Grezzo which were much nicer than these. Admittedly they were probably more expensive, too.

Still, I’ll be back in the Boston area in July, and hope to get to The Otherside on a weekend to try their vegan breakfast burrito.

The Otherside Café, 407 Newbury Street Boston, MA 02115-1801. Tel: (617) 536-8437. [Map]

Vegan Breakfast at The Auld Hoose, Edinburgh

Filed under: Eating out, Pub grub — Tags: , , , , — Feòrag @ 14:37

Vegan Breakfast at the Auld Hoose

Vegan Breakfast at the Auld Hoose with sausages, haggis, beans, mushrooms, hash browns, onions and fried bread.


One of the things that pains me about Edinburgh is that since Susie’s Wholefood Diner stopped doing Sunday brunch over a decade ago, there’s not really been a good option for a vegan breakfast. Roseleaf in Leith comes close with their “Leafer”, if you exchange the egg for something else, but they have no substitute for the butter. It does include spinach, though, which makes me happy.

My problem is that I have not been looking under my own nose at one of my regular drinking establishments – The Auld Hoose on St. Leonard’s Street. Perhaps it’s because I’m rarely in there before 5pm, when they stop serving breakfast?

The Auld Hoose is a very traditional pub with a loud rock, goth and punk jukebox and a clientèle to match. It does good solid food, about seven different ciders (including Addlestone’s and Weston’s Organic), a respectable range of whiskies from around the world and lots of beer.

The breakfast is available 7 days a week, and is a build-your-own job. There are more than enough vegan options to go for the seven item version. The vegetarian sausages, haggis and hash browns are all vegan. I chose all three of those plus beans, mushrooms, onions and fried bread. I can’t abide the half-cooked tomatoes that are a breakfast staple, and the chips just seemed Wrong. It’s all pretty standard stuff except the fried bread which is made with baguette, and very filling. My only criticism is that is would be nice to have toast as an option. Well, spinach would be nice too, but I suspect I’m the only person outside Australia who has a thing for breakfast spinach.

The rest of the menu is quite vegan friendly too. The burgers are also build-your-own and the usual veggie burger is vegan. Very rarely they are unable to get the vegan one, so it’s a good idea to check if the staff don’t know you. If they do know you, they’ll let you know. My usual combination, when I have enough of an appetite to eat that much, is relish, jalapenos and mushrooms. There’s a vegan nut roast on Sunday and of the main courses, the five bean chilli and the veggie haggis are both vegan. Snacks, which are big enough for most people as a meal, include pakora and pole-dancing onion rings (ask for the sour cream dip to be substituted for something else) plus the ubiquitous chips.

The Auld Hoose, 23-25 St Leonards Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9QN. Tel: 0131-668 2934. [Map]

11/01/2010

London: Pembury Tavern

Filed under: Eating out, Pub grub — Tags: , , , — Feòrag @ 10:46

The Pembury Tavern is a very fine pub indeed. Noted for its huge range of real ales, it also has traditional cider and a small but impressive selection of bottles, mostly Belgian and German. There is no pissy lager here – even the draught lager is from a microbrewery. The second keg font is a guest tap. When we arrived it had Gouden Carollus Christmas (pun intended, apparently) on. Later it became Poperings Hommelbier. Fentimans soft drinks are available as well as decent coffee. They also do food, and some of that is vegan.

I went there last night to meet up with friends and to eat. I had hummus and pita bread to start. The garlicky hummus was almost certainly home-made. Having spent a chunk of the previous day moaning about stuffed peppers being the universal vegetarian option in Ireland (outside Dublin), I chose to order them. I could have had a curry, or possibly the nut roast.

When they arrived, it became obvious a starter was not necessary. There were two peppers, and an enormous pile of salad, and being stuffed with couscous and slivers of vegetables, they were filling – a perfect preparation for the abuse that followed, and continued into the night. The filling was perfect – just moist enough. It’s easy to make couscous too dry, or completely soggy.

There was even a vegan dessert (apple pie with sorbet), but I needed to leave some space for booze!

The pub itself is heaven – it’s a single room, but one with secluded corners, with very little decoration. The furniture is delightfully random, and there are no TVs, piped music, or games machines. Despite this, it’s not a quiet pub – there’s too much conversation going on for that. There is a bar billiards table in one corner, a pool table in another and lots of board and card games available to play.

Pembury Tavern, 90 Amhurst Road, Hackney, E8 1JH. Phone: 020 8986 8597. [Map]

09/01/2010

London: Itadaki Zen

Filed under: Eating out — Tags: , , , — Feòrag @ 11:56

How long did you expect it would take me to try out a Japanese vegan restaurant? Well, I arrived in London on Thursday afternoon and went to a gig in Islington that evening, so I didn’t get out to Itadaki Zen until Friday lunchtime.

The space was light and pretty much what you’d expect. The menus were printed on handmade Japanese paper, and the napkins were folded in a different way on each table. Ours were in the form of a lotus flower around a small bowl, and it seemed a shame to undo them.
an elaborately folded napkin in the form of a lotus flower

To drink, we both went for one of their specialised “teas” – Itadaki Tea – a creamy, somewhat nutty soya milk concoction served in miso bowls. Just right for the cold, snowy weather.

I ordered the lunchtime sushi set, and my partner had Misonikomi Udon. My set arrived in a bento and included two spring rolls and a mashed potato salad, as well as two types of gunken (carrot and okra), two nigiri (nori tempura and inari) and a pair of matching rolls. The photo shows the set after I’d had a bite of one of the spring rolls. The shouyu came in a small clear plastic dalek with instructions clearly printed on top: ここをプッシュシてくださ, it said, “please push this”.

The Udon were served in a miso broth with julienne strips of aburaage fried tofu), carrot and cabbage – another dish which really hit the spot.

We were impressed with the food and decided to have dessert – this is supposed to be an indulgent break, after all. The desserts were mostly kanten – agar-based jelly – and my partner opted for a sesame one. Feeling adventurous (I can make kanten at home!), I tried warabimochi – small mochi made from potato starch instead of rice and dusted with toasted soya flour. The latter proved very difficult to eat with the implement provided, but was considerably better than it looked. It wasn’t too sweet, which suits my tastes.

At nearly £30 for lunch for two, it’s not a particularly cheap place, but also not expensive by London standards. I’d like to go back in the evening to try one of their set meals, but have no time on this trip.

Itadaki Zen, 139 King’s Cross Road, London, WC1X 9BJ‎. Phone: 020 7278 3573‎. [Map]

16/11/2009

Oslo: Mamma Afrika

Filed under: Eating out — Tags: , , , , — Feòrag @ 09:58

I forgot about one of the better meals I had in Oslo!

Mamma Afrika (Schweigaards g 12, Oslo 0185) is located in a unit on the first floor of a bus station–not the most appealing of sites, but this restaurant is warm and welcoming. My local guide warned me that it is just round the corner from what passes for a crime-ridden and generally dodgy area in Norway.

The vegetarian choice on the tiny menu is limited to a platter of various vegan items, served on one injera and with another, but there’s more food then than you might think. I got two different lentil wats, spinach, cabbage and a potato dish, all individually seasoned and distinct from one another. There was also no compromise to local tastes, and the food was as spicy as you will find in Ethiopian restaurants all over the planet. Best meal I’ve had so far in Oslo.

There are a number of other Ethiopian and Eritrean eateries in Oslo, all of which appear to be vegan-friendly.

14/11/2009

Nottingham: Dotty’s Café

Filed under: Eating out — Tags: , , , , — Feòrag @ 11:48

Note: this café has now closed down.

This weekend I’m in Nottingham for Novacon, and as well as the usual place, I have found The Vegan Nottingham Guide, the latter far too late to make a printout, alas, but England is not abroad (yet) so I can afford data on my phone.

On arrival yesterday, the partner and I went to Dotty’s Café (197 Mansfield Road), which is not too far from the hotel. It’s a bizarre take on the greasy spoon, harking back to a 1950s where your average housewife was Amy Winehouse. Even the staff dressed in theme, and the furniture was all period pieces, mostly melamine.

Dotty's spicy burgerThe food was mostly sandwiches, with burgers, falafel and a few other options, and was 70% vegan. Vegan cheese is available as an option on many items, and all mayo used is vegan. I went for a spicy burger, and my partner had a (not vegan) cheese and Marmite toastie. Hint to vegetarian eateries – if you want to keep my omnivorous other half happy, something involving cheese and Marmite, especially Marmite, will fit the bill. The more Marmite the better. Both were enough for lunch and thoroughly satisfying. Dotty’s also had a range of vegan cupcakes, and I had to have one to round things off perfectly.

One observation: children, however small, are welcome at Dotty’s. The staff will engage with them, too – they seem to really like children, rather than seeing them as a nuisance. There are books and games available for them. The children who were there yesterday appeared to reciprocate by being very well behaved.

I planned to return. But unfortunately it has now closed down.

10/11/2009

Oslo: The Fragrance of the Heart

Filed under: Eating out — Tags: , , , — Feòrag @ 13:22

The Fragrance of the HeartFragrance of the Heart has two vegetarian cafés in Oslo, and before leaving for the airport I visited the one inside GlasMagasinet, a department store on Stortorvet. The café is located by the entrance to the store on the corner with Møllergate, by the large ochre-coloured half-timbered building.

A department store café is never going to score highly on atmosphere, and I think they’d done pretty well, but it still felt like eating in the staff canteen of a New Age hobbit hole. Decorating a vegetarian eaterie with dangling slices of seashells was also a little odd.

Fragrance offers a set menu at lunchtime for 99Kr, which is outrageously good value in Oslo. It consists of a small bowl of soup and the curry of the day. The soup was lentil, and was thick, rich in flavour and warming. The curry was probably curry by Norwegian standards, but I would have called it a pea and mushroom stew. There was no detectable chilli in it, though the rest of the tomatoey sauce was rich with other spices, and contained plenty of coconut. It too hit the spot on a frozen November day.

Dessert is not part of the set menu, but knowing the odds of eating anything substantial for the rest of the day were quite remote, I had a slice of the wholemeal apple pie. There did not appear to be any vegan cream options to go with this, so I had it on its own, but it was moist enough. The coffee is also good, and the meat-eating partner was more than satisfied with the omelette baguette which was apparently much larger and more filling that it appeared.

08/11/2009

Oslo: Vega Fair Food

Filed under: Eating out — Tags: , , , , , — Feòrag @ 12:48

Sunday is a bit of a dead loss in Oslo, but Vega, located in a former hydrotherapy baths run by the Seventh Day Adventists, is the one exclusively vegetarian place that is open that day (but not, obviously, on Saturdays).

The old Kurbadet entrance.It’s a bit tricky to find. You need to go in the main entrance to the baths (Kurbadet), which looks locked. It isn’t – you just need to turn the knob. Turn left, though the most spectacular Arts and Crafts corridor and turn right just before you get to the door of what used to be the men’s bath.

English is spoken, and they will guide you through the options available to you, and let you know which few dishes in the buffet are not vegan. This afternoon, the only things that weren’t were a pasta salad containing feta, and the lasagne. The lunch buffet was 125 Kr., drinks other than tap water extra.

Keep going down this corridorThere was a creamy asparagus soup, and a wide variety of salads to choose from. The hot dishes were the aforementioned lasagne, stir-fried mixed vegetables and rice – I didn’t bother as the salads were more than satisfying. By the bread were a couple of chutneys–a fantastic banana one, and an Indian style one consisting of large pieces of green chilli and whole cloves of garlic. I liked that one even more.

The atmosphere is exceptionally peaceful and relaxed. There are no windows in the dining area, yet it didn’t feel like I was in a hole in the ground. The loos are worth mentioning, too. Outrageously clean is the default in Oslo, but considerable care had been taken in their decoration too.

Update: I returned the following spring, and the food was even better. The only pain was the woman outside who wanted to evangelise me, even though she spoke bugger-all English.

06/11/2009

Oslo: Indian House

Filed under: Eating out — Tags: , , , , — Feòrag @ 12:36

Oslo is the most expensive city I’ve ever visited, more so even than Tokyo. Never mind that beer that’s worth drinking is about £9 a pint, my native guide informed me that if I could find a main course for less that 100 Kr., that would be regarded as incredibly cheap.

On arrival, I didn’t have much time to decide where to eat, so we decided to play safe(-ish) and go for a curry. A quick search indicated that Indian House (Fred Olsens Gt. 11) had a reasonable vegetarian selection and it was close to the tram from our hotel, and the pub where we’d arranged to meet a friend. I had the mixed vegetable pakora to start, and followed it with Rajmah Masala – a red kidney bean curry. We were warned that Norwegian tastes tended to the bland, and they offered to make the dishes a little hotter for us.

I’d neglected to ask for no dairy (I was knackered, okay?) so the pakora came with a yoghurt sauce as well as a very tangy tamarind one. Okay, that was my fault, but the bigger surprise was discovering that cheese is apparently a vegetable as the pakora were cauliflower and paneer. I invoked travel rules, and made a mental note to check next time. I think the restaurant might make their own paneer, as it had a much better texture than the commercial stuff. The main course had been made hotter by simply adding chili. As the other spices were also under-represented, this just led to an unbalanced flavour, with the chilli dominating everything. Pity, as the dish is one of the standards that is rarely served in British curry shops.

To continue the bad start to the trip, the pubs we were hunting, Gambrinus, was not at the address we had for it, and there was no evidence that there had every been anything other than a jewellery shop there. Our friend had found an alternative address, but that was occupied by a loud rock bar. This suited us fine, and the beer wasn’t entirely bad (Leffe Bruin and Bedweiser Budvar in bottles) or excessively expensive so we stayed there.

07/07/2009

London: Eat and Two Veg

Filed under: Eating out — Tags: , , , , — Feòrag @ 13:01

Note: this restaurant has now closed down. Bugger.

Look at all that lovely spinach!

Look at all that lovely spinach!

Last week, at home in Edinburgh, my partner and I had been pondering where to go for breakfast that could both cater to me, and keep himself happy. We forgot about the one place that has build-your-own breakfasts (the Auld Hoose) and so ended up having something completely different instead.

This week, we were in London, so things should have been better. I admit I’m surprised that Eat and Two Veg was the only place coming up on searches to do vegan breakfasts, but it wasn’t too much out of the way, so we went along.

It fit the bill. I got a completely vegan breakfast which consisted of some grilled smoked tofu, beans, mushrooms, toast, lots of spinach –something I’ve only seen in Australia (and one posh cafe in Belfast) before — and half a large, half-cooked tomato, which got handed over to my partner before I took the photograph. I like raw tomatoes, and ones that are thoroughly cooked, but there’s a halfway stage I really dislike, and it seems to be a standard part of cooked breakfasts. Fortunately, he likes them that way. He got his eggs, (veggie) sausage etc. We both came out satisfied and happy. There was neither too little nor too much food, it was nicely cooked, although the toast was more like warm bread, and it tasted great.

Vegan breakfast choices could have been improved if they used vegan sausages, and the main menu looked almost bereft of vegan options. We’ll go back, but only for breakfast.

Eat and Two Veg, 50 Marylebone High St, London, UK, London W1U 5HN. (Warning: the restaurant website is all Flash, so presumably they do not welcome customers with visual disabilities).

01/07/2009

A couple of scary links

Filed under: Eating out, Products — Tags: , , — Feòrag @ 08:42

A vegan blogger in LA decided to go completely over-the-top and test food from their local allegedly-vegan eateries, and the results were terrifying. 10 of the restaurants came out okay, with no evidence of contamination with egg, caesin or shellfish in their food. Most of the others showed some contamination, usually egg (which is an especial problem for me), but one of them was a massive FAIL!, with the blogger concluding that it might be deliberate deception rather than accidental cross-contamination.

The main problem seems to lie in fake meats imported from Taiwan, where the labelling rules are less strict than in the US (or Europe) for that matter. The ingredients lists are usually translated directly from those on the packaging for the local market. The good news is that the Taiwanese government is aware of the problem and is in the process of implementing some of the strictest laws in the world regarding the packaging and labelling of vegetarian food. The Taiwanese “meats” might be dodgy right now, but in a few months things will be much better.

The other link is to a site which is the antithesis of vegan, but is still interesting from a general foodie point of view. The author of Fancy Fast Food takes standard meals from fast food places and messes around with the presentation to make them look like haute cuisine. Nothing is added to the meals to achieve this except the occasional simple garnish.

22/06/2009

Israeli anarcho-vegans

Filed under: Eating out — Tags: , , — Feòrag @ 14:10

There’s a chance I might get to go to Tel Aviv next year. I doubt I’ll have any particular trouble finding food there, but I will make sure to visit this place.

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