Category Archives: Vegetarian

Budget Yeti: Veggie Shopping in Korea

That old myth about going out in Korea being cheaper than cooking at home keeps cropping up and it always bothers me. Granted, many food items here are expensive, and costs keep going up. But it’s still cheaper almost every time to cook at home.

In Seoul, it pays to shop seasonally here. Unlike North America (and probably other places) there is a seasonal shift to produce prices here. Apples are super cheap in September, for instance, and now is Hallabong season. I think this is a good thing, environmentally of course but also habitually. Now some of these seasonal surpluses are strange to my eyes (why oh why is strawberry season in January?) but overall it’s a good system.

The area I live is kind of adjumma central–there aren’t really any bars or even noraebongs. In their place are lots of little markets though, and many good places to stock up on fruit and veg.

And stock up I do. The below list was all purchased at a biggish mart, which isn’t the very cheapest place around but it has good selection. Here’s a look at a week’s worth of veggies for two people. The total price is a little high because it’s a big bag of garlic but even still you can see how cheap it is.

Now this isn’t a complete meal, of course. You’d probably want to get a carb like rice (around $5 for a kilogram, or maybe $7 for 800 grams of brown rice) or udong (about 50 cents a package) or pasta (about 2.50 for 450 grams) or if you venture into Itaewon you can even get something exotic like basmati rice or couscous, though those start to get more expensive.

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A Typical Vegtastic Meal

The shiitake give you a little less protein than your standard mushroom, but not to worry. A big block of fresh tofu is about 2 dollars or the smaller, packaged ones are usually around 1 dollar.

Add it all together and a big, healthy meal with local produce is only a couple of dollars. There’s just not any restaurant that can compete with that. The cheapest comparable is a bowl of kalgooksu, which at a cheap place is around 4 dollars for a big bowl. For less than 4 dollars, this equals 4 bowls so it’s quite a bit cheaper.

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By contrast, this meal from Osegye Hyang, which had mandu, soup, and a gluten/rice dish (plus banchan) costs about 22 bucks.

Now I understand most people want a little more variety in their lives than daily iterations of the same meal. And not everyone is willing to make the effort to cook every night, even when they’re tired. Those are different reasons, though, from the tired old falsism that it’s much cheaper to eat out than cook at home. (And not very good reasons, either, in my opinion, although that’s neither here nor there.)

Yes, things are considerably more expensive now than they were 5 years ago but it’s still possible to cook for yourself and still not break the bank. That’s all for this installment of my rant. Thanks for listening!

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A Quick and Dirty Guide to the City of Roses

I wrote this for a friend of mine who was visiting Portland, but I thought it was worth expanding on. And so here is a quick introduction to Portland, OR.

The 5 quadrants

The 5 quadrants

Portland is basically a four part grid, with the Willamette River and Burnside Street splitting it into 4 quadrants– Northeast, Northwest, Southwest, Southeast. (There’s a fifth part, called North Portland, but I haven’t been up there much and as it’s not walkable from everywhere else, it sort of doesn’t count.)

Each area has something to be said for it.

Brewery Sampler
Northwest is the home of the Pearl District–lots of outdoor stores, cafes, parks, etc. It’s a bit yuppy, a bit corporate but a nice place. Lots of the “big” stores in Portland are here. Powell’s Books is the largest bookstore in the world, and you could easily spend an entire day (or more) there. Deschutes and Rogue Brewhouses are both nearby, and both worth some sampling.  More breweries are opening all the time, or you could just go to Henrys and sample over 100 beers on draft.

 

Downtown

Southwest is basically downtown–which is not the highlight of portland. It’s worth walking around, visiting Pioneer Square as well as all the food carts. The waterfront is very nice in the summer but might be rainy and chilly in winter. You can get food from about anywhere in the world for not too much money.

NE

Northeast is a huge area, but streets like Mississippi and Alberta are some the best in Portland. Lots of cool places to eat, drink, shop, people watch, etc. The Bye&Bye is one of my favorite pubs, but you can’t really go wrong anywhere.

SE
And then Southeast is sort of the portlandiest part of Portland. Hawthorne, Belmont, Division, Clinton, are all close together and have more bookstores, pubs, microbrews, teashops, brew and views than you can shake a stick at. Apex Brewpub on Division has a lot of tasty beers and you can get cheap & tasty mexican food from the place next door.

That’s a pretty basic overview. Biking is easy–you can bike just about everywhere. There are a couple of bike only trails as well; these will be easy to find.

More importantly, hiking.

URBAN.

Washington Park

You can take the bus or max to WASHINGTON PARK, which connects you to more than 30 miles of trail in Forest Park. It’s nice up there, and there is a tree arboretum with redwoods and other cool stuff.

Mt. Tabor

In SOUTHEAST, it’s an easy climb up to MT. TABOR, but it’s one of the greatest places to view the city.

There are quite a few urban hikes available–the city is half forest and it can be quite easy to get out of civilization.

OUTSIDE THE CITY.

Portland has three great outdoors areas within an hour drive.

Oregon Coast

The Oregon Coast is beautiful and the town of Astoria (where Short Circuit, Goonies, etc were filmed) is great. There are tons of great hikes out there; some flat coastal, some mountain climbing, giant wandering elks, misty mountains.

Columbia Gorge

Even better than the Coast is the COLUMBIA GORGE. The famous destination here is the Multnomah Falls (which could very well be frozen over in the winter). But there are hundreds of hikes in the area. All of them are at low enough altitudes that you can hike them year round. Salmon Creek is nice, and Latroull falls is as well, to name a few.  Take the old highway and just stop at any hikes that look nice. A lot of them are pretty much the same–some climbing through forests, some waterfalls, and then loop back to the parking lot.

Mt. Hood

But the best place to hike in the Portland area, in my opinion, is MT. HOOD. The hikes here are out of the world. However it might be too snowy to get up in the winter. Nonetheless, a visit to TIMBERLINE LODGE (exterior shots for the Shining) would be a great day.

Yeti Eats: Vegan Sweden

I was only in Sweden for a week–less time than I spent in either Denmark or Norway. And so I may be over-generalizing, but I got the distinct impression that Sweden is far more vegetarian and vegan friendly than its Nordic neighbors. (According to a recent study, one in ten Swedes is a vegetarian or a vegan).

The stores were stocked with tofu, faux-meat products (very cute ones at that), falafel shops abounded, and there’s a vegan buffet in Stockholm.

There’s also a Swedish oatmilk company called oatly thats slogan is “Like Milk. But Made For Humans.”

In short, from my experiences I think I can say that Sweden is far more vegan friendly than either Denmark or Norway.  Take a look for yourself:

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Yeti Eats: Vegan Denmark

Denmark is a land in love with dairy. The 133rd biggest country in the world, it’s one of the world’s top five dairy exporting countries. Meat too is popular, in the traditional meat and potatoes sense, but dairy is on a whole ‘nother level. Yogurt and milk are consumed at high levels, and at popular music festivals people drink nearly as much chocolate milk as beer.

But on the other hand, factory farming hasn’t set in yet like in North America, and there are efforts from Dan Jørgensen, the minister of agriculture, to further reduce it. What’s more, Denmark has banned ritual slaughter of live animals, with Jorgensen declaring that “Animal welfare takes precedence over religion.”

And so it’s not as hard to be a vegan here as I might have thought. Vegetables are cheap (especially if you shop at a market like Netto or Aldi) and pastas and rice are readily available. In my experience, tofu was difficult to find, and forget other faux-meat products, but cooking at home was easy and, for Scandinavia, quite affordable.

Eating out is another story, but Copenhagen does have some great vegan places. Most of the popular vegan places now skew toward the raw and the expensive, neither one of which I’m entirely down with, but I did get to try out two really good places. The Swedish chain Astrid och Aporna (which means something like “Astrid and the monkey”) offers burgers and sausages and a really good jackfruit wrap. The relishes here include things liked sliced cucumber and cashews and it’s about 8-9 USD for a burger. Not far away, Express Pizza looks like your average pizzeria but has a secret “vegan” menu if you ask for it. They were out of the kebab pizza when I was there, but would be great to try next time.

With lots of cheap veggies and a growing number of vegan restaurants, the dairy-friendly Denmark isn’t nearly as challenging for vegans as you might think.

Yeti Eats: The Strange Vegan Foods of Vietnam

If traveling teaches you anything, it’s that tastes are very relative.  One man’s tacos are another woman’s vegan pig’s feet.  (Though these were quite cheap–20,000 Dong is about 1 USD– I didn’t try any of them!  Except the corn milk, which was nice but very sweet.)

Yeti Eats: Cuisine D’or

Vientiane is described as a “semi-bustling” city, but that’s perhaps a bit too kind. It feels like a small college town, especially in the heat of the day. There is no shortage of places to find a tasty meal, but the lovely garden setting and vegan menu of Cuisine D’or made for some joyous repeat repasts.

The menu is very, very large. In other words, imagine something large … and make it larger. Now you’re getting close to the size of the menu. There are lots of shakes, with fruits and/or veggies, for 10,000 kip (1.20 USD) and meals range from 15,000K ($1.90) to 30,000K ($3.80).

It’s a great place to hide out from a rainstorm or just to eat a couple soydogs and french fries.

Soy Sausage and Chips; A Healthy Meal

Soy Sausage and Chips; A Healthy Meal

Veggie Soup

Veggie Soup

Pho Yeah!

Pho Yeah!

Ginger Cucumber Carrot Juice

Ginger Cucumber Carrot Juice

Chicken Strips

Chicken Strips

Spagooter!

Spagooter!

Da Lat: A Vegan Paradise (Who Knew?)

When we left Nha Trang, our hearts were heavy. Not because the town is particularly pumpin’ (it isn’t) or because the beach is so beautiful (it really isn’t), but because of the lovely wee lady selling vegan banh mi for 10,000VND/50c a piece.

Check out that big hunk o' vegan ham!

Check out that big hunk o’ vegan ham!

The finished product -- banh-tastic!

The finished product — banh-tastic!

How could Da Lat possibly compete with that?

…Well, quite easily, it turns out.

On our first day in Da Lat, we took a long walk. A lot longer than intended, truth be told — directions are not really our thing. Anyway, walking around the outskirts of town, we spotted about these:

Com Chay, Com Chay everywhere!

Com Chay, Com Chay everywhere!

…about a dozen signs reading ‘Com Chay’ (Vegetarian Restaurant). A couple of them even had banh mi stands outside!

During our 5 day stay, we tried a few and (as is our wont) quickly found a favourite.

Au Lac happened to be a 30 second walk from our hotel, so we tried there first. We ate some great meals here, but took no pictures. So it hardly counts, really! Anyway, it’s not the most tourist friendly place (we kind of stood around awkwardly for awhile before anyone acknowledged us), but the food ain’t bad at all: mixed rice ($1.25 – $1.50), noodle soup ($1), and banh mi curry ($1).

Price: $1 – $1.50 per (big!) meal 
Best dishes:
banh mi curry, mixed rice.
Directions: From the lake, head up Bui Thi Xuan road. Au Lac is about 1km up, on the right.

Next (and best!), Dai Loc. Dai Loc is a little way out of the centre of town, but well worth the 20 minute walk. In fact, even if it only sold fresh spring rolls, it would still be worth it. The rest of the menu is just a bonus. We ate at Dai Loc daily, and whenever we decided to branch out and try something new, we kind of wished we hadn’t.

The best fresh spring rolls in Vietnam. And, I can only assume, the world.

The best fresh spring rolls in Vietnam. And, I can only assume, the world.

For real, those spring rolls; huge, fresh, and super tasty. Oh, and cheap. This big ol’ pile set us back $1.

A $3 meal! Not pictured: 3 already gobbled spring rolls.

A $3 meal! Not pictured: 3 already gobbled spring rolls.

Everything we tried at Dai Loc was great; Ahi was all about the mi cham tha (‘mixed noodle soup’)…

Mi cham ta?

Mi cham ta?

…while I almost always went for the pho ga.

Pho ga

Pho ga

I did branch out once, and tried the mixed rice — a pretty grubbin’ pile of mock meat, tofu, and vegetables on a generous portion of rice. All for $1.

Mixed rice

Mixed rice

Price: $1 per meal
Our favourites: pho ga ($1), mi cham ta ($1), fresh spring rolls ($1)
Directions:  Phan Dinh Phung.

We spotted Hoan Sen early on, but avoided it at first — shiny signs, waiters in uniform? Too fancy for the likes of us, surely. As it turns out, it was only around 50c more than the others. We ate dinner there once (pho and some other noodle soup, both $1.50) and grabbed takeaway banh mi and banh bao (both 50c) for lunch a few times.

Price: $1.50 – $2.00 per meal
Our favourites: banh bao (50c), banh mi (50c)
Directions: Of the bunch, Hoan Sen is the most centrally located.

 

 

Dalat had more vegan options than any town we’ve seen in South East Asia. In the end, we found more than a dozen veggie eateries with things like corn milk and fresh stream rolls readily available. The fact that meals were so cheap–often less than a dollar, even, and the rare designation of vegan paradise is truly deserved.