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 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. Eggplant Marinara Pizza at Ray’s Pizzeria
Let’s be honest, Ray’s Pizzeria isn’t the first place that comes to mind when you think of vegan food. But, they do love to surprise—and boy do they do it well. The eggplant marinara pizza is exquisite—a thin-crust base with tomato sauce, slices of grilled eggplant, garlic and basil, all drizzled with virgin olive oil. We’re willing to bet you won’t even miss the cheese and it has all the satisfying crunch and flavour of the rest of its pizzas. And if you’re looking for an alternative because you don’t like eggplant, try the Veganopoly sandwich or the fresh tossed salads, both get our vote of delicious.
Cost: Rs. 210 (nine-inch), Rs. 330 (12”) and Rs. 550 (15”)
II. Bean Sprouts and Crispy Quinoa with Brown Rice Flakes at Smoke House Deli
Quinoa is still enjoying its moment in the sun as one of the world’s super foods and Smoke House Deli has decided to harness its nutritional quality for their vegan dish of Bean Sprouts And Crispy Quinoa With Brown Rice Flakes. The restaurants recently gone all out to welcome people of all eating habits into their midst with open arms and vegans and vegetarians will really enjoy their new health-conscious, and food-conscious menu. Assorted lettuce, bean sprouts and crispy quinoa are topped with pickled carrots and seasoned with chilly-guava emulsion.
Cost: Rs. 380
III. Khichdi at Soam
While we don’t dispute that the only reason we wait for a table at Soam is to greedily dig in to their stellar chaat, all of it gives way to the khichdi as far as our vegan vote goes. There are hundreds of different varieties (but you should avoid the ones that come with kadhi, since it’s made of curd) and it arrives piping hot and it’s good ol’ fashion comfort zone. Can’t argue with that.
Cost: Rs. 200
IV. Breach Candy’s Awesome Okra at SodaBottleOpenerWala
Yes, we know this restaurant is a paean to all things Parsi, but SodaBottleOpenerWala also takes many much-loved Bombay classics and adapts them to suit their menu. Case in point: Breach Candy’s Awesome Okra, courtesy of the Breach Candy Club. It’s the club’s most famous vegan dish and sits proudly on SodaBottleOpenerWala’s menu alongside other culinary juggernauts. It’s a simple dish consisting of crisp-fried okra in a tasty masala. An alternative is the street food staple of kanda bhajis or the brinjal patio. Enjoy.
Cost: Rs. 265
V. Upma at Sharda Bhavan
At Sharda Bhavan, try the upma and order a portion of bisi bele bhath (cooked in oil, not ghee) as well. By now, we hope you’ve come to trust our taste in South Indian goodness.
Cost: Rs. 40
VI. Pankhi Chutni at Swati Snacks
At any given time, the gargantuan line outside Tardeo’s Swati Snacks deters even the most adamant diner. But if you’re patient, what awaits inside is absolutely worth it. While we usually can’t resist ordering their chaat, including the dahi batata puri, the vegan option at this eatery is the Pankhi Chutni. It’s a simple yet delicious little Gujarati dish that’s made by cooking rice flour batter between banana leaves. It takes hardly any time to cook and the result is a hot, fresh, steamy, almost dosa-like pancake that’s served with an even yummier pudina chutney and some delicious stuffed masala chilis.
Cost: Rs. 175
VII. Yellow Curry Pasta with Assorted Vegetables at The Bagel Shop
We have our favourites at The Bagel Shop, but they’re all non-vegan. So when we decided to do this list, we stepped out of our comfort zone and decided to try the Yellow Curry Pasta with Assorted Vegetables, because, let’s be honest, life begins outside your comfort zone, right? Team it with a soy cappuccino and your meal is set. Additionally, it’s worth noting that The Bagel Shop has an all-new, and rather extensive, vegan menu.
Cost: Rs. 319
VIII. Sarson Aur Bathua Ka Saag at The Bombay Canteen
While it may hurt to go vegan at The Bombay Canteen, considering all the deliciousness on offer, the Sarson aur Bathua ka Saag is brilliant and is served with corn bread, white butter, and jaggery caramel popcorn. Other options worth considering are cheeseling jhal muri, served with potato, apples and mustard dressing, and the grilled dhokla chaat that’s topped with date chutney hara tamatar chutney and sev.
Cost: Rs. 375
IX. Oven Roasted Chimichurri Tofu with Bulgur Pilaf at The Pantry
This vegan dish at The Pantry is served on a bed of red burgul pilaf with tomatoes pepper, and vegan tofu. The dish comes with chimichurri sauce on the side, which is made with herbs, garlic and vinegar. Get a vegan salted caramel chocolate shake to go along with it. It’s really good. Tip: If you go for breakfast, they’ve got great eggless waffles too.
Cost: Rs. 275
X. Sweet and Sour Fried Brussels Sprouts at The Table
The Table’s Sweet and Sour Fried Brussels Sprouts with balsamic agrodolce (a traditional sweet and sour Italian sauce), roasted onion and walnut hits the spot every time. For a restaurant we rely on heavily for some of the tastiest carnivorous fare in the city, they sure don’t disappoint with their vegan offerings. If you’re not a fan of brussels sprouts try the Little Gem Salad, which consists of delicate herbs in a red wine vinaigrette, or the hummus, which comes with whole wheat flatbread, vegetable crudité, harissa, and ras el hanout (North Africa’s version of garam masala). The Table Farm Papaya Salad is wholesome too. It’s a herb salad with bird chilli and roasted peanuts.
Cost: Rs. 650
XI. Verdure Flatbread at The White Owl
This popular Lower Parel Brewery sees beer lovers by the dozens over the weekend. They’ve got ton of delicious food on their menu but our vegan dish of choice here is the verdure flatbread with rucola, roasted peppers, charred mushroom and garlic oil accompanied by fresh, house made tomato sauce. A very close second is the Moroccan Chickpea and Carrot, which has rocket, raisins and green onion doused in lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil.
Cost: Rs. 345
XII. Signature Quinoa Burger at The Yoga House
You’d be hard pressed to find a healthier restaurant than The Yoga House in Mumbai. While a huge chunk of their offerings are (or can be made) vegan, their signature quinoa burger, called I AM DETOXIFYING outshines most other options for us. Quinoa (a great source of the protein you’ll miss as a vegan), watermelon seeds mixed with basil, coriander, and spring onions, is served with a homemade hummus. Simply delicious. Another good option is the poha with sprouts, if you come around breakfast time. Make sure to squeeze a little lime on top.
Cost: Rs. 370
XIII. Peppery Vegetables with Tofu at Trikaya
When we think of Trikaya, we think of delicious seafood: prawns in butter-garlic, squid in basil chilli oil and the Vietnamese style chilli fish. But, we’re happy to say that their vegan offerings are just as good. The peppery vegetables with tofu are fresh and bursting with flavour, as is the exotic vegetables with cashew nuts and fresh red chilli.
Cost: Rs. 250
Researched by Nida Razack
Feature Image Credit—Eluxe Magazine