Vegan & Vegetarian Food in Taiwan – Taipei & Countryside 

Taiwan Street Photography - Cabbage baskets

I had asked a couple of other travellers about vegetarian food in Taiwan and they had said it was available. But I was still sceptical because a lot depends on travel style.

For eg: travellers who may have spent 5 days in Taiwan won’t realize some things which are lacking for people who spend longer here (like me). For eg: vegetarian snacking options. After 15 days here I find a problem of snacking options – I don’t seem to have any filling veggie options and have increased eating chocolate. Either I am drinking packs of rice/soy milk (a lot of that!) Or just munching on chocolate. I am sure there is stuff available but I will have to go on an asking/hunting spree.

So here is the good and the bad of vegetarian food in Taiwan,Continue reading

Cycling Berlin – Copenhagen: Santa is in @ Himmelpfort, Germany

Himmelpfort, Germany
One of the most scenic rides on the Berlin Copenhagen route – from Zehdenick to Furstenberg Havel

Ride 3 from Zehdenick to Furstenberg Havel. One of the most scenic routes so far. A little overwhelmed with the beauty and solitude on the road – hunger was a constant companion (because I was keen on an early start so left without eating anything). I pulled in for food at this little town called Himmelpfort. No major reason to stop here but cafes are not so common when I am cycling only 40 or so km daily. So I stopped at this cafe which seemed very popular in this town of Himmelpfort.

Vaguely I remember seeing some Santa Claus banner while entering but didn’t pay much attention – though it was odd to have christmassy stuff in the month of August! Anyway, I proceeded into the cafe – and then the big Q was: what am I going to eat? I told the lady at the counter – Vegeeeetaaarish.

Ehh, what?

I want Vejjjjeeeeetaaarish food. Veeegaaan? Vegetaarish?

*She tells me some dish names in German*

Does it have egg? No egg. Vegetarish with no egg.

ehh, … Yes, egg!

Err…..No egg?

Errr….moment. *shouts something in German into the kitchen*

I am just standing around. Wondering whether I have been dismissed. Usually ‘moment’ means ‘one moment’ So I am waiting. Then thankfully another German lady comes to me and she knows decent English. Phew. She suggested me a potato dish. Apparently it was just potato n cheese.

I ordered it. This culture of eating cheese like a main course item is very unusual for me because in India we consider it fattening and somewhat unhealthy. Paneer (cottage cheese), Ghee, Curd are all considered healthier. However cheese is like a staple in many of these European countries. So here in Himmelpfort, I found a typical German vegetarian dish which I had quite often on the road – Potatos & Cheese!

Vegetarian in Germany
Veggie meal for the day. Potato & Cheese. Delicious but not as filling as I would like.
Himmelpfort, Germany
Ginger Ale – my staple

Finally feeling a bit satiated and guzzling down couple of Ginger Ales I decided to inquire into that Santa Claus postcards & banners I had seen earlier. Now this is an interesting conversation,

“Why do I keep seeing the Santa Claus here? For eg on this postcard?”

“well, you know this is Himmelpfort! This is where Santa Claus lives”

*Feeling like fish floundering without water* “Err what do you mean ‘lives’ here”

“Well you know as the legend goes…. this is where he stays. When kids want to write to the Santa, they all address it to Himmelpfort!”

“Err what about North Pole?”

“What ?”

“Err Nothing…. *stunned*”

“You know Santa lives right behind this cafe. This is where he reads his letters and even replies to them”

*Finally coming around* “Aah that is interesting, I will definitely go and see it 🙂 “

Bought one of the postcards as keep sake from Santa’s town. At least the German Santa’s town 😉

You know often exposed only to the ‘western’ media which originates in US or UK we assume things are a certain way. But when traveling other countries, things are different.

In Germany, Santa is from Himmelpfort and who can say otherwise?!

Himmelpfort, Germany
Santa’s coat hung in his room
Himmelpfort, Germany
Santa’s Veranda

So I went and visited the lovely Santa cottage. A colourful room with a nice big veranda. Surrounded by green wilderness. In the near distance there was a big lake and boats. Families were picnicking there, I could here the sounds of kids laughter and water splashing.

Himmelpfort
Green acres around the Santa cottage with a Lake nearby and

In hindsight I think I should have inquired more into this activity but I found a very interesting article and I am so happy to know that this whole culture has humble routes.

So feel like writing a letter to Santa? 😉

The Enigma of the Vegetarian Pizza in Germany & Denmark

Vegetarian. Vegetarish. Vegetar.

Vegetarian is Vegetarish in German and Vegetar in Danish. I used these words frequently on my Europe trip, along with actions saying ‘No Egg’ too. Because Vegetarish includes Egg, while we Indian vegetarians don’t have egg.

Some kindly soul suggested that it would be easy for me to get a vegetarian Pizza. & it is one of my favourite dishes. 🙂

Sometimes I would pick a non-veg pizza and ask them not to put the non-veg toppings but usually even in the smallest towns they have a ‘Vegetar Pizza’ for us vegetarians. I found it simpler to order this rather than ask to change toppings because there is some language problem and I didn’t want them to be confused about what is supposed to go in the pie!

In Germany I first came across the idea of potato as a topping on the Pizza – the Germans not just love Potato but they consider it a main food item like rice or noodles.

So in a witch-themed cafe in a little German town, I had one of my first Vegetarish Pizza,

Carrots on Pizza along with a whole bunch of stuff - capsicum, onion & I believe some potato as well. So filling and crazy!
Carrots on Pizza along with a whole bunch of stuff – capsicum, onion & I believe some potato as well. So filling and crazy!

 

So if you thought that was as elaborate, it gets better, check this one out. It has over 6 ingredients including pineapple, mushrooms and artichokes. I would never have imagined such combos!

Pineapples, artichoke, olives, onion, mushrooms & maybe some more
Pineapples, artichoke, olives, onion, mushrooms & maybe some more

I usually had only one big meal a day, so such a filling pizza was worth it. Couple of pieces would generally be left over so I would pack it and have it as a second light meal later.

The one below was at a little town called Faux Ladlepads in Denmark. The Italian restaurant was run but a guy from Kurdistan. Usually when people mention a country I know something about it – but I knew nothing about Kurdistan except that the people there are called Kurds. ;D
He barely knew English, so I just pointed at Vegetar pizza & fries to place order. & like a typical vegetarian I confirmed with him few times “It is vegetar, yes? – no egg, no meat, no fish…”

Artichoke, Mushrooms, Campsicum & the whole drill ;)
Artichoke, Mushrooms, Capsicum & the whole drill 😉

 

Once in a while, I did opt for simpler toppings – just to get a feel of normalcy. Like this one – I just asked them to remove the non-veg topping. So I just got some mushrooms on it.

Mushrooms - I missed some crazy toppings on this :)
Mushrooms – I missed the crazy toppings on this 🙂

Thought I had seen every possible topping…. but no…

Some tea & Ricola Pizza....
Some tea & Ricola Pizza….

Oh Yea baby, we got some leaves…..

Is it a salad, is it a tree… no it is a Pizza! 😀

Weird Pizzas
Ricola Leaves, Tomato slices and few other toppings. Yea, Who’d have thought leaves on a Pizza! 😉

I now miss being surprised with such eclectic pizza toppings.

I also gave it a serious thought – why are the toppings so bizzare?

Considering that ‘vegetarian’ is something new in this culture – I guess they still haven’t got the idea that being ‘vegetarian’ doesn’t mean we just eat a bunch of vegetables. Vegetarians can be picky about the vegetables they eat. This is how a chef at one of the pizza places described the vegetarian Pizza – “Oh you know, it has a whole bunch of vegetables on it like zucchini and eggplant.” Oh yea that is what I got…

Vegetarian Pizza in Europe
Truly, a whole bunch of vegetables on the pizza! 🙂

 

Also, they are trying to make it as heavy and filling as possible. Because they may probably feel like “Oh no meat… what do these poor dears eat?? Let’s put some potatoes and artichoke and pineapples and mushrooms and …… ”

;D

What are the craziest foods you have eaten?

Ponk Stop at Surat [an Indian Foods Photo Series]

Come Winter, Gujarat bursts with all sorts of delicacies. Papdi, Undhiyu, Soonth Gol, Saalam Pak, Adadiyu and what not. Ponk is one of these delicacies. Written as પોંક in Gujarati, it is pronounced as “soak” but with P “Poak”

Different regions of Gujarat have their own Winter specialities. Ponk is a speciality of Surat. It is basically green, ripe Jowar (sorghum) seeds. Ideally they should be soft and naturally sweet but depends on the quality of seeds. Similar ripe, soft seeds of Bajra (millet) and some other grains are also available in certain places but these are not so common.

Recently I traveled to Surat to meet an old uncle with my parents and took a Ponk stop. Here are some photos and information on how to eat this delicious Jowar…

Cleaning the Ponk

Surat Ponk
Women ensuring that the seeds are clean after removing husks and such
Indian Food
This is a traditional method of cleaning grains in India… until some time back was done in our kitchens too…
Indian Food
Jowar stalks are beaten in pillow covers by men to separate the ponk…. this ponk is then given to the ladies to clean up…

Selling Ponk

Surati Ponk
This is what the final ponk looks like. Firm n chewable. Natural sweet taste…. somewhat like sprouts
Indian Food
Ponk is always sold with sugary lumps and sev packets. The sev is usually a spicy variety – pepper, chilli, garlic…

So basically you take the delicious Ponk seeds and mix the sugary lumps into it and add the spicy sev. It makes a tasty sweet, spicy mix… and it is quite healthy too. This is the traditional way to eat it. It is also made into various other delicacies like bhajiyas, buttermilk, bhel and so on…

Ponk is also a part of many of the Gujarati marriage ceremonies…

Indian Food
Lotsa sevs and sweet lumps…
Surati Ponk seller
Cowboy style… 🙂

Ratalu Bhajiya

Indian Food
The fried stuff is Ponk bhajiyas…. these seeds are fried in besan batter…. behind it you can see pink Ratalu.. which is also made into bhajiyas…
Indian Food
Ratalu bhajiyas being made…. hot hot… 🙂
Indian Food
Ratalu bhajiya served with green chillis n a chutney of sorts. Quite tasty.
Ponk Buttermilk
Ponk matha – a drink made of Ponk… its like butter milk but with a Ponk taste to it… nice, tasty!

So if you find yourself Gujarat side in Winter, ask around for some Ponk especially if you are near Surat! 🙂

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Dubai for the Vegetarians!

Aah big topic for the vegetarians- What food will I get there? Well, short answer its quite manageable! Better than some other countries like aforementioned Kuala Lumpur (wink)

Generally what we vegetarian folks do is identify a heavy, filling and wholesome drink. In Dubai we fixed on Hot Chocolate. In Kuala Lumpur it was Milo cause there was a major Milo culture going on there. So a big Milo would easily do at meal times! In fact takeaway Milo is so easy to consume for a traveler! No time wasted sitting and eating… just roam around with your Milo glass!

Hot Chocolate

I tried various Hot Chocolates, I would have to say the Dunkin Donuts one totally stood out! It was almost like a kids-only version because it was oh so chocolatey and yummmm… I dread to even try the Indian Dunkin Donuts hot chocolate now because I don’t want to tarnish that memory! 🙂 At par with this would be the hot chocolate we had at Ski Dubai. Oooh after all the tobogganing and playing around in the snow… yummy! No. 1 hot chocolate!

Starbucks hot chocolate was quite non-descript. Nothing much to say about it. 🙁

Costa Coffee hot chocolate was quite good. I would rate this 2nd!

Lastly, Hot Chocolate from Cinnabon was also quite good. Would share 2nd place with costa! 🙂

Beware: There are three options with this drink. Whipped cream, fresh cream and marshmallows. Marshmallows sounds very good but these marshmallows probably have fish stuff in them! Its true! Just stick to fresh cream…

Yummy hot chocolate but Marshmallows mostly had fish stuff in them 🙁 realised only later!

Bread

All the bread here at least in the cafes have egg in them so that includes croissants, quiche and practically all bakery items. I ate some of it because of sheer hunger pangs but some of my stricter vegetarian companions had a problem!

Sandwiches

There are some veg sandwich options in Cinnabon, Costa Coffee, Nestle Total House… but I think the bread contains egg. Hehe I think I stopped asking about it after a few days! 🙂 These sandwiches however are very tasty!

Just Falafels

What a life saver this outlet is! They serve various falafel versions found across the world in Egypt, Lebanon, Arab etc.. and humus too! Its all vegetarian – ya allah! It was very tasty too! They have a drink called mint lemonade – quite perfect for the tired shopper in the big malls of Dubai!

Chocolates

BEWARE, Constant Vigilance! Lot of chocolates esp.marshmallows have beef lard or Fish stuff in them! This came as a shock to me! A lot of brands which sell veg chocolates here in India have egg in them there! Aaarrggghh all ingredients needs to be checked at all times… all times!

Meena Bazaar

This area is so Indian-ized that the restaurants there might even be more ‘Indian’ than over here! 😀 Not only vegetarian food is easily available here but even Jain foods which do not contain onions, garlic and other foodstuff! All the food here would of course be Indian version of all cuisines!

Since I was staying in Meena Bazar, I did not need to experiment more with finding vegetarian cuisine but I think it is manageable with some difficulty.

Almost all fast food joints like Burger King, Pizza Hut have vegetarian options, but its one in twenty – which are odds that grossed me out! Its very difficult to see all that non-veg stuff being made and then having the one rare veg item probably being made on the same stoves, grills in the kitchen as the non-veg items! So the best I think is to just stick to above mentioned options. There maybe a few other joints that I may have forgotten to mention but only a few!

Let me know if you would like to add some more food options for vegetarians in Dubai!

Travel Foods – Flavored Yogurt and Soya Milk

A lot of people expect that I must be well versed with the local food cuisine of the different places I have travelled to. I take quite some pleasure in explaining to them that this is not so because I am vegetarian and Jain. I am not a strict jain but I do avoid onion and garlic. So its hardly possible to taste the local cuisine, even if it is vegetarian it is full of onions! I stick to my usual diet of Idlis and Subway sandwiches whenever possible. Even these however are not easily available in smaller cities!

In my last South India road trip I was so surprised to find that the restaurants serve Idli only during breakfast hours which end before 10.00 am and during dinner! So effectively having lunch became a big difficulty! In times like these my good friends are flavored yogurt and soya milk!

These yogurts are available in all malls, supermarkets and small grocery shops. They come in various flavors – mango, strawberry, apricot, mixed fruit etc.. They are quite delicious and I find it is filling. I liked the ‘Go’ brand better than others, but I can’t be fussy about the brand as it is not available everywhere. Add a glass of soya milk along with this bowl of yogurt and it serves as a heavy snack! I prefer soya milk to normal milk tetrapacks cause I have lactose intolerance. Too much milk content makes me sick so the soya counterpart is ideal! In fact soya milk also comes in lots of flavors – kesar, strawberry and most importantly chocolate! Surprisingly it is very easily available even in smaller towns.

I find that yogurt and soya milk are a much more nutritious option for snacks, than other tidbits like biscuits or wafers. They help me manage even when I might have to skip a meal, which happens sometimes in a tour. Additionally these packs are very convenient to carry around with me for days. They say that the yogurt needs to be refrigerated but I have carried some packs for 3-4 days in my backpack and its never gotten spoilt.

So these two products helped me well during my trip! Next time I go travelling I plan to be a little more prepared on the food front! Do suggest any ideas you might have to be better prepared foodwise 🙂