Inadvertently and for the longest time, veganism has been considered as a subset of vegetarianism, confused with plant-based food, stereotyped as a cult, and basically been shadowed by several misconceptions. But it has not been deterred. First, let's understand what it is. According to the Vegan Society, a registered charity and the oldest vegan organization in the world, veganism is a way of life, which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.
Cut to 2022, where veganism has gained a fair share of momentum. And the statistics are here to show. According to a UN FAO report, India has the lowest rate of meat consumption in the world, courtesy of 44 per cent of the population being Hindus of which only 1 per cent are strict vegans. The pandemic also led to many adopting the lifestyle, which came on heels of awareness around zoonotic diseases, health benefits of conscious consumption and ethical reasoning. In fact, Veganuary—a charity mobilising people to try out the lifestyle for 31 days of the month of January and a social phenomena too—launched officially in India last December. The movement has seen more than 50,000 signups from the country for its 2022 campaign.
This is all to say that veganism is surely having its moment in India. And if you too are considering being a vegan, then here's our starter pack on all that you need to know and can do.
Safe to say, the rising demand for vegan and plant-based alternatives has allowed many homegrown brands and international FMCG players to experiment and fine-tune this need, as per the demands of the consumers. This fine-tuning simply relates to anyone looking to make their meals low in fats and rich in proteins and not just vegans per se. One can choose from plant-based proteins, vegan meat and plant-based dairy products. For vegan meats, the challenge is to achieve the same meat-like taste, texture and aroma with the use of only plant-based ingredients. But these have been alleviated through many clever food tech innovations.
The brand, Shaka Harry isn't mincing any words but believes in providing plant-based meats for the Indian palate like nuggets, samosas, kebabs and keemas.
OatMlk is a homegrown brand that provides creamy, smooth oat milk derived from whole-oat grains by extracting the plant material with water. It has a creamy texture and is devoid of preservatives and added sugars for all your tea, coffee and breakfast smoothie requirements. It can be boiled, frothed, blended and even baked into goodies.
Have an egg without cracking one with this plant-based liquid egg brand called Evo Foods. Essentially a normal egg is composed of three parts – protein, fat and flavour. The protein part of Evo features chickpeas, peas, moong beans and traces of soy. The shelf life is six months when refrigerated and seven days on opening the bottle. Also, the brand boasts of the protein content being higher and devoid of cholesterol, unlike a normal egg.
Vegan restaurants and cafes
Serving up healthy and tasty vegan menus, from global and sustainable to desi cuisines, these vegan restaurants and cafes are committed and leaving no stone unturned to make it a wholesome and enriching experience for their diners.
From farm to fork
The Yogisattva Cafe, a farm-to-fork all-day eatery located in Bandra has an organic, vegan & gluten-free menu that celebrates flavours from cuisines across the globe. Gorge on some banana boss, blueberry and banana pancakes, berry blast chia seed pudding in cashew milk topped with fruits and homemade granola, vegan platter, boureka, kibbeh, empanada, pizzas, pasta and smoothie bowls, alongside vegan desserts.
Sequel in Bandra and Kalaghoda believes in an organic food philosophy, which involves consuming clean and nutrient-dense food without compromising on the taste, texture or flavour. They pride themselves on sourcing sustainable ingredients and turning them into smoothie bowls, avocado toast, pancakes and waffles, rolls, salads, soups and desserts.
The Greenr Cafes in Delhi and Mumbai are California-inspired plant-based kitchens that serve vegan meals made from fresh, organic ingredients. While the cafe's ambience of raw and rugged interiors with upcycled decor puts you at ease instantly. And the food includes offerings like cassava root fries, jackfruit carnitas pita triangles, baja black bean nachos, a variety of hummus dips, leafy and specialty salads, whole wheat burgers, rolls, fermented vegetables, risottos, pizzas and pasta.
Meditation and conscious eating
The resto-cafe, Justbe cafe in Bengaluru is a wellness centre that has activities like yoga and meditation. Their healthy and delicious meals rival the ambience and include superfood bowls, methi nachos, whillet (wheat + millet) pizzas, tofu sandwiches, khasta kachori, papdi chaat and fresh juices.
Here are a few more vegan cafes/restaurants worth checking out:
Finding a community that fosters veganism, hosts workshops, dishes out alternatives and discusses collective conscious consumerism is the perfect way to begin your vegan journey. Here are a few directions worth looking at:
SHARAN (Sanctuary for Health And Reconnection to Animals and Nature), an Indian organisation dedicated to spreading awareness about holistic health and an ecologically sustainable compassionate lifestyle is a reliable treasure trove of all vegan, health-related queries compatible with the Indian scenario. Additionally, these are backed by qualified nutritionists and experienced medical doctors. Using social media to connect with the vegan community in cities like, Bangalore, Chennai, Coimbatore, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai and Pune, has been rendered easy by this group's list right here.
Veggie Mijas, started off as an Instagram page in 2017 for college students that wanted easy recipes to make in their dorms and small kitchens. A brainchild of founder Amy Quichiz, it then went on to become a collective for women and trans people of colour, gender non-confirming individuals, people with marginalized identities and/or experiences with food insecurity/food apartheids, all leading a plant-based lifestyle. Their Indian chapter just turned one and recently hosted a chaat based pantry for X-mas.
Optimistically, the idea of a vegan future does seem plausible, but for the moment, let's all start small, shall we?
Journeying a whimsical tale from being a microbiologist/scientist to being a creative writer, Nirupama loves to scrutinize trends, food and fashion alike. A gardening enthusiast, she is a full-time mom to a toddler. Her passions include tinkering away on a wanderlust, cooking up a storm in the kitchen for her food loving bub and curating street style looks!