Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years, or somehow chose to disconnect from all human interaction and social media, you’d have noticed that the food industry has been going through a rather important, though controversial, change. More and more people around the world are opting out of their cultural upbringings and embracing veganism. While it’s definitely been slower on the uptake here—after all, Indian cuisine is largely vegetarian and easily customisable to make it vegan—it’s beginning to catch on with those who’ve been brought up on more varied diets that include plenty of meat, seafood and dairy products. And in urban areas, everyone from curious teenagers to serious animal rights activists and well-seasoned hipsters is eschewing everything animal-related and swearing to a life of veganism instead.
The reasons are plentiful. For some, the biggest reason is to stop the exploitation of animals. For others, it’s about embracing a healthier lifestyle. And there are a few that even do it in their help to live cleaner and greener—there’s immensely convincing proof out there that animal agriculture as an industry is one of the greatest contributors to global warming and the environmental degradation of the Earth, and our over-consumption of such products is putting an enormous strain upon its natural resources.
At the end of the day, we’re clear on only one thing in the midst of a manic country that’s letting people be attacked based on their personal choices. It’s important to remember that what one chooses to eat is just that—a personal choice, and no reason to bring out the brickbats. But like everything else we do almost robotically in life, conditioning has and always will play a huge role and it’s important to weigh all the information out rationally and realise that we do have the agency to make a difference, should we choose to do so. As such we decided to put our own meat-loving ways aside for a few moments, and explore and disprove one of the greatest myths that exist around veganism. It can absolutely, 100 percent still offer up some delicious food options and we’re here to prove it to you.
From more local fare like South Indian paniyaram and oil-cooked dosas, to more upmarket farm-fresh options at delis and cafes across the city, if you’re a vegan, you might want to bookmark this one for the long haul.
[Note to readers: we’ve consciously stayed away from dessert options in this compilation, but if you need to know where to satisfy your sweet tooth, check out our dessert-only list here.]
I. Sevai at Amba Bhavan
At Amba Bhavan, the sevai’s something of a standalone. It’s the special and is thus only available on Tuesdays and Fridays, but if you pop over on another day, there’s no dearth of other options. We’d suggest trying the Jain versions of vada, with a generous helping of sambhar on the side (it’s one of the best in the whole Matunga district) and be rest assured, that you couldn’t eat something more delicious and cheaper as a vegan if you tried.
II. Paniyaram at Arya Bhavan
Despite the fact that most South Indian food can easily be made vegan by simply substituting butter or ghee for oil, and the fact that we’re crazy about Arya Bhavan’s idlis, we’re giving their Paniyaram a big, fat vegan thumbs-up, and a lot has to do with the amazing gunpowder (mulga podi) that accompanies it. Mix the magic powder with a little oil and swipe it up with the perfectly seasoned mini vadas they cook out of leftover idli batter.
Cost: Rs. 80
III. Hummus at Bad Café
Bad Café has been making quite a name for itself since it opened. The vegan dish of choice here for us, despite numerous more exciting options, remains the hummus for its excellent flavours. It’s made with black-eyed peas and green moong making it both a textural and flavourful delight. Other options include mushroom upma, kale tempura, roasted pimento salad and the pina y coco salad. What’s more, they even offer to make their coffees–the thing they’re best known for - vegan by substituting regular milk with cashew milk. Pro tip? Grab one of their Maison & Co. chocolate bars on your way out for an animal-cruelty free dessert. You won’t regret it.
Cost: Rs. 250
IV. Khow Suey at Burma Burma
When Burma Burma opened its doors, foodies were delighted to discover some truly tasty vegetarian fare. For once, even meat eaters didn’t groan at having been invited to dinner here. What we suggest you try is the Khow Suey. Choose between udon, hakka, whole wheat, or flat noodles and drench them in that delicious coconut milk curry. Remember to leave out the side dish with egg to make the meal wholly vegan. We doubt you’d even miss it.
Cost: Rs. 480
V. Mysore Rawa Sada Dosa at Café Mysore
South Indian food can actually be largely vegan, if you think about it. Most of the milk they use is coconut and not dairy. So as long as you skip the large dollop of butter and ghee, painful as it might be, you can practically make almost any South Indian dish vegan if you want to. At Café Mysore, that bastion of South Indian cuisine, vegan option number one is the Mysore Rawa Sada Dosa—minus the white butter, of course. You can thank us after your third helping.
Cost: Rs. 60
VI. The Multigrain Sandwich at Eat Around The Corner
The multigrain sandwich with lettuce, tomatoes, avocado pulp, jalapenos and a generous slathering of their vegan (eggless) mayonnaise is our vegan pick for Eat Around The Corner. They definitely get extra points for going all out and creating this special mayo and you’ll never complain that vegan food isn’t filling enough again.
Cost: Rs. 330
VII. Mysore Upma Idli at Idli House
As the name suggests, Idli House is all about idlis—and what a staggering variety they have. But here, the clear vegan winner is the Mysore Upma Idli. Vegans should really start praying to the Matunga gods that allowed for this haven of animal-friendly South Indian food to exist.
VIII. Mixed Sprout and Red Rice Risotto at Le Pain Quotidien
It’s hard to exercise restraint at Le Pain Quotidien. Everything from their tartines to their quiches are usually excellent and we often find ourselves ordering a little bit of everything to quell our hunger pangs. For vegans, the mixed sprout and red rice risotto is a good bet for a main course. They have a ton of other vegan options too, including their carrot cake muffin, homemade granola parfait, the botanical porridge and their Detox and apple and fennel salads, amongst others, all of which are equally satisfying should you decide your palate’s craving something different.
Cost: Rs. 450
IX. Char Grilled Vegetables & Couscous at Cafe Moshe’s
Moshe’s was one of the first restaurants to bring non-Chinese global cuisine to Mumbai and sort of catalysed our obsession with Middle Eastern food–another great cuisine for vegan folk. Our pick here is none other than the Char Grilled Vegetables & Couscous that comes with walnut, pomegranate, extra virgin olive oil, mint and lime. The Fresh Pear and Rocket Salad with alfalfa, cucumber lettuce and toasted walnuts in a mustard, orange and honey dressing is a good alternative, too.
Cost: Rs. 510
X. Roast Garlic Polenta at Olive Bar & Kitchen
Olive’s Roast Garlic Polenta consists of grilled polenta cakes seasoned with roasted garlic served alongside ratatouille. The vegetarian shish touk is also a palate pleaser, as is the potato flatbread, and the burnt garlic and mild spiced vegetables in chilli garlic oil served with a fresh side salad. Basically, you have no dearth of delicious options here, and this is a great place to suggest for dinner if you friends don’t have the same eating habits as you. That way there’s something for everyone.
Cost: Rs. 650
XI. Dan Dan Noodles at One Street Over
At the all-new One Street Over, peruse the menu if you must, but when it comes to picking a vegan option, nothing comes quite as close as the Dan Dan Noodles. It’s vegan and gluten-free—rice noodles in a peanut-coconut broth topped with chilli oil and mushroom duxelle. It’s a major favourite of ours, and we often use it as a reminder that vegan food doesn’t have to compromise on either flavour or fullness. In fact, you wouldn’t even miss the animal products if everything tasted like this.
Cost: Isn’t listed, but is approximately Rs. 600
XII. Thali at Hotel Ramashray
Hotel Ramashray is thankfully one of the worst kept secrets of the area that used to be called the mini-Madras of Mumbai—and they really are all about the business. Like we mentioned before, a lot of South Indian cuisine is (or can be made) vegan. At Hotel Ramashray, for your vegan dose, get the thali. We know it comes with curd, so just don’t eat that bit. Everything else on your plate is totally fine, and even more mouth-wateringly good.
Cost: Rs. 150