New Year resolutions are infamous for their short-lived presence. People enthusiastically commit to their goals for the first few weeks and then fall back into their regular routine. However, when it comes to a larger picture, even a few weeks of action can contribute to a change. Veganuary is a non-profit organisation based in the United Kingdom that encourages people to try a vegan lifestyle for a month in January, and if they want to, continue for the rest of the year. It has banked its strategy on the fact that many people take the concept of change more seriously in the month of New Year resolutions. Veganuary has become quite the trend, and managed to uphold its mission since 2014, when it launched in the UK.
Veganism has caught on in many countries as people give up meat and dairy to benefit their health and the environment. UK’s largest food chain Gregg’s, in fact, saw successful sales for the vegan version of its hot-selling sausage rolls. It then came out with several vegan products.
India seems to be a dream market for the vegan campaign. A country boasting large number of vegetarians, many of the dishes we produce and consume are already in the vegan realm (though they are not marketed as such). Veganism as a trend has been introduced to the country at more upscale eateries. A Vegan India conference was also conjured in July 2019, with World Vegan Organisation and Vegan First, a vegan advocacy group. In addition to this, vegan companies have increased the demand for green jackfruit — readily available in India— as it is used to mimic meat in some dishes.
It might be a slow climb for the mission in India, however changes can already be seen. As for opportunities to turn vegan, the country is open to adaptation. Here are some tips to get by as a vegan in India:
- Almost all packaged goods in the country are labelled. Green indicates vegetarian, red is for non-vegetarian and ochre labelled items contain egg. Ensure that you check the label and read the ingredients well.
- Milk is a huge part of the population’s diet — vegetarian or otherwise. This is especially true in North India, as many dishes are made in ghee or milk cream. In case you wish to consume an item, make sure you explain your dietary requirements in detail. South India is more geared towards coconut milk and oil and thus contains more options. Some dishes you can eat without second-guessing are pakodas, chana masala, chikki, masala dosa, idli and papad.
- If you wish to have a cup of good ol’ chai (tea) from a traditional tapri, simply ask for no milk or masala tea with no milk. You could also ask for lemon tea. Carry some vegan milk as a substitute.
- Do not overlook the street food. A fair amount of the food on the streets is completely vegan (are they healthy, that's another issue). Curd can be a common ingredient, so ask them to hold the curd.
- Beverages in India are primarily made with milk. There are several versions of similar milk-based drinks — chhaas, lassi, haldi doodh and thandaai. Hence, ask for water-based beverages such as nimbu ras (lemonade), shikanji (lemon drink), khas ka sharbat (vetiver grass juice).
These simple tips should help you avoid any mishaps. When it comes to locations, there are certainly many opulent or middle-road luxury cafes and hotels that have extended their menus to include vegan options. However, it is often irrational to consider it as a long-term plan (unless you are rich, in that case we say you can go for it). Most cities in India are quite vegan-friendly, but you can easily follow your vegan mantra at these 5 cities:
Who would have thought that the city of the biryani would make it to the list? Surprisingly, there are several eateries that offer vegan options. The vegan community, as well, is extremely strong and growing. While Hyderabad is the highest meat-consuming city, it has also won the title of the ‘Creative City of Gastronomy’, and it is doing exactly that to accommodate vegan preferences. Traditional idlis and dosas have been given a makeover to form idli manchurians, and stuffed dosas. South Indian snacks and food is, in general, largely vegan and malleable, and thus can be transformed to create many modern dishes.
Why worry about meat in a city that has no meat?! Palitana is the world’s first fully vegetarian city in Gujarat. Jainism is a primary religion in the city and thus (with much controversy), the citizens went on a hunger strike in an attempt to turn their home fully vegetarian — and succeeded. While we do not have much to say for the events that have led up to this, but we certainly can ensure vegans will have a good time here. Dairy is still very much a part of the diet though. We cannot promise a very happening atmosphere but food is reliable.
Gujarat is home to a large number of vegetarians, owing to its prominent Jain community. Most towns are sprinkled with tons of vegetarian-only restaurants (in fact, even Dominos is vegetarian throughout the state). Ahmedabad is no different. You can find several eateries or even home-cooked meals that are devoid of meat. While there are growing vegan outlets, trying out a vegetarian one is not a bad idea either, simply ensure that you inform them of your preferences.
The second largest city in Madhya Pradesh, Indore is actually a paradise for vegetarians. Applying the same rule as we did before, it is easier to adapt vegan policies to a vegetarian outlet than to find a completely vegan eatery. This is not to say that the city does not have all-vegan restaurants. The number is miniscule but growing. In fact, there are various vegan stores where one can pick up snacks and ingredients as well.
This very student-central city — bar Pune of course — is the hub of the latest trends. Veganism, as well, has picked up here, and is growing by the minute. The city is home to the first vegan restaurant in the country, and has seen the numbers increase since then.