I recently took a trip to Southeast Asia and experienced my first intercontinental flight as a vegan. I came prepared with food for fear of what the meals would be like but was pleasantly surprised. In fact, I would highly recommend ordering the vegan meal option to anyone taking a flight with a provided meal :).
I flew Philippine Air to Bangkok from Los Angeles via Manila on my way to Asia and flew back from Ho Chi Minh City to Los Angeles on China Southern via Guangzhou. For Philippine Air the vegan meal option is called Vegetarian Vegan, here is a list of all of their special meal options http://www.philippineairlines.com/flights/your-flight/special-meals/. For China Southern, it is also called Vegetarian Vegan http://www.csair.com/en/tourguide/flight_service/tour/teshu.shtml. Note that the abbreviation for both is VGML and will display as simply “vegetarian” on your ticket. I called both airlines before my flights and also checked with the airline counter at the airport to make sure that my special meal request had gone through.
Food served on Philippine Air: on the left, curried cauliflower with cilantro quinoa (my favorite airplane meal) with crackers, pineapple, and side salad and on the right, steamed potatoes, tomatoes, spinach, mushroom, and broccoli along with a muffin, a roll, and some fruit. I had a feeling the roll and muffin were not vegan and when I saw everyone else get served what looked like the same muffin and roll I opted to not eat my in case they were not vegan. The potatoes were great but the rest of the veggies were not - this was our "breakfast" meal.
Food served on China Southern:On the left hand side the main dish is vegetables with a curry type sauce, in the middle mashed potatoes and vegetables, and on the right, tofu with some vegetables. The first two meals were good but the tofu was terrible, I just had a bite and was unable to eat the rest of it. It was interesting having meals that were vegetables with a side of vegetables - imagine if that were the standard American diet! Overall I was very impressed with the quality of the meals, especially given that they were airplane meals and of course was very appreciative of having the option of vegan meals to begin with! Being served first is always a nice perk too :)
Finally, the snack I made to bring with me! Matt Frazier’s Momo Granola Bars with Extra Cherries. These were delicious and a filling, healthy treat for traveling - just be sure to pack them in tupperware instead of a plastic bag as they are quite crumbly.
During all of my flights, the person seated next to me commented on the meals I received which in each case turned into a fruitful conversation- two of which were quite memorable. The older gentleman I sat next to flying out of Los Angeles commented that he also tries to eat many vegetables. He mentioned that he does not worry about it while travelling and asked for tips. I told him to order vegan meals and Google the food options available at airports he will be at beforehand so he knows exactly where to look. I'd highly recommend bringing at the very least a healthy, filling, snack with you on long flights because you never know what food if any you will end up being served. I'll be posting soon about eating vegan at airports soon!
This morning I had a special treat for breakfast, chilaquiles with a side of refried beans and topped with Go Veggie parmesan and hot chocolate! My abuelita is famous for her chilaquiles but typically puts queso ranchero on top of them. Today, however, she topped them with Go Veggie's parmesan (in my opinion the best vegan parmesan) so I was able to enjoy them. As if the chilaquiles themselves weren't enough of a treat, my abuelita asked me if I wanted some hot chocolate to go with them! She made the hot chocolate (or chocolate caliente in Spanish) with unsweetened soy milk. What was different this time is that she drank the hot chocolate with non-dairy milk herself rather than making herself a glass with dairy milk. Later this week I'll be cooking a vegan version of one of her favorite dishes, enchiladas - hope she likes them!
Tonight for dinner my abuelita decided to make herself a vegan sandwich for dinner when she had left overs in the fridge. It is the first time I have ever seen her make a vegan sandwich and it made me incredibly proud. Even better, she had made the same sandwich for lunch and liked it so much that she wanted to have it again!
On Sunday her niece brought her some hummus and although she did not initially like the taste of it, she tried it again today and enjoyed it! The sandwich she made had whole wheat bread, romaine lettuce, tomato, cucumber, avocado, onion, and hummus. Ive been trying to get her to eat more vegetables for months now and am thrilled to see her start incorporating more of them into her diet. It has been difficult for that I do not eat many of the dishes she is used to making so I have been teaching her new dishes and how to adapt some of hers. This is the first time I have seen her make a vegan meal outside of her traditional cooking repertoire for herself (I had already made my dinner). I look forward to new experiences of her trying out meals we can share together.
Before my friend Sara and I flew up to San Jose for the USC Vs Stanford football game we checked out the vegan restaurant Stuff I Eat. It is located a few miles away from the airport in the city of Inglewood, a food desert. I have been wanting to try it ever since my friend Jaya told me about it several months ago. I was very excited to support a local business that is providing high quality plant based food to a community living in a food desert.
Sara and I split the Sumthin-Sumthin platter (wild and black rice, seasoned tofu, and black beans, topped with sie sauce, tomatoes, corn guacamole, a scoop of carrot un-tuna, and 2 corn tortilla shells) and a piece of Sweet Potato Pie.
I was very impressed by everything aside from carrot un-tuna which I found to have a strong vinegar taste. The sweet potato pie, fortunately, was made with only maple syrup as sweetener. The pie had a thin buckwheat flour crust and had almost a custard like consistency. I am going to make it a point to eat at Stuff I Eat again soon and recommend it to people looking for a place to eat near the airport!
My friend (and former roommate) Sara and I headed up to Northern California for the USC vs Stanford Football Game and brought some homemade vegan, gluten-free snacks to bring with us.
We wanted to bring one banana based and one berry based treat. I made Cupcakes and Kale Chips’ Banana Nut Bread Granola Bars (using maple syrup as sweetener instead of the agave called for, it was what I had on hand and made them taste more like fall) and was quite impressed with how they turned out. They held together well which I was worried about because the recipe mentioned how easily they fall apart. I packed them in tupperware for the trip up to NorCal, I'd recommend always packing baked goods in tupperware for travel to help the goodies make it in one piece!
Sara made Straight Up Food’s Orange Berry Muffins.They were good but did not travel well as they got mushed and a bit moist. The flavors of orange and blueberry went very well together and certainly eliminated any need for sweetener!
We were glad to be able to eat our oil-free, refined sugar free, football snacks and skip on all of the unhealthy stadium options. To top it all off, USC won the football game!
Speaking of sporting events, if you ever find yourself at an MLB stadium, here are some stadiums with veggie options.
My abuelita finds ways of putting Mexican influence into any dish she makes so I decided to follow her lead tonight. I had Sophie’s Kitchen Vegan Crab Cakes in the freezer and decided to turn them into baked crab cake tacos. While the cakes were baking in the oven, my abuelita graciously made salsa for our tacos. We ate the tacos with salsa and cilantro and thoroughly enjoyed them. My abuelita kept repeating over and over again how she could not believe that they were meat. She was not hungry but finished her whole taco because she was such a fan. We will certainly be making these tacos again!
I also must give a shout out to US VegWeek, I was introduced to Sophie’s Kitchen because of a coupon I got as part of my prize for being one of 2014’s top recruiters! I took recruiting for VegWeek very seriously and even made a spicy meal plan for a friend of me - let me know if you would like to have it!
Today I met up with a friend of mine at Gelateria Uli in downtown LA. It is one of my favorite spots to meet friends because the shop owners - Uli & Ryan are incredible and have done a wonderful job with the place. Of course it doesn’t hurt that there are always several flavors of delicious vegan sorbet in stock!
Today I had the mango sorbet and the strawberry sorbet (on the left hand side of the picture) and Chris had the blackberry sorbet and the chocolate sorbet (on the right hand side of the picture).
Chris eats predominantly vegan when he is in cities where it is easy to do so, making it a special treat to enjoy a vegan dessert with him! I'd highly recommend Gelateria Uli to anyone who finds themselves in Downtown LA.
Tonight I enjoyed a wonderful dinner at Shojin with my uncle Kirk and his friend Heidi. Shojin is an all organic and natural vegan Japanese restaurant with two locations in LA. It is undeniably one of the best vegan restaurants in LA and we were not disappointed. Shortly after placing our order, the electricity in the restaurant went out.
Because there was no generator for the stove, we were told that the dishes we ordered could not be made and were given a few options of dishes we could order. We were under the impression that our appetizers and our sushi could not be made so we were very pleasantly surprised that it had turned out that our appetizers were prepared before the power went out. We had stuffed shiitake mushrooms, pumpkin croquettes, and tempura cauliflower. All three were big hits and managed to come out piping hot despite the power outage!
Eating in the dark brought up some interesting conversation between tables and we found out that the man and his son at the table next to us were vegan and became vegan quite some time ago (17 years for the father and 6 years for the son) and they were kind enough to give us vegan restaurant recommendations. After some time of waiting in the dark we were served our sushi, Dragon Rolls for Heidi and Kirk and Dynamite Rolls for myself. The Dragon Rolls (pictured first) had mushroom in them and while I dislike mushrooms, I greatly enjoyed them. The Dynamite Rolls had a bit a delayed kick to them and were quite delicious. Both types of roles were avocado based but had very different flavors.
Craving more delicious food, we decided on the Creme Brulee and Orange Sorbert along with beers for Kirk and Heidi. I decided on the Creme Brulee because I wasn’t sure how often I would have the chance to have vegan Creme Brulee and was quite impressed. My favorite part of the Creme Brulee was the topping made out of beet sugar (Shojin does not use any refined sugar or artificial ingredients). We all had a great time and I cannot wait to go back soon and try more of their menu. Our waiter even gave us a 50% discount for the inconvenience of the electricity being out!
Tonight I had a wonderful dinner at Sage Vegan Bistro with two friends of mine, Aaron and his girlfriend Saroya. It is one of my favorite restaurants in LA and holds a special place in my heart as it is the first vegan restaurant I ever remember going to. Aaron has been transitioning towards veganism and has been missing mac & cheese so I was excited for him to try some of the best vegan mac & cheese around.
Because Aaron wanted to try the mac & cheese but also order something else, he started out with the mac & cheese ball. Both Aaron and Saroya were very impressed with the mac & cheese ball and thought it may have had butternut squash in it.
Next came Aaron's main entree, Jackfruit Nachos topped with mole sauce. It was the first time any of the three of us had tried jackfruit and we all found it to be an impressive meat substitute.
Saroya ordered a Portabello Bacon Chili Cheese Burger. The consensus on the burger was that it was really good but that the "bacon" did not taste much like bacon. Because of the consensus, I believe the burger would be a better choice for vegans than for non-vegans.
I ordered the Butternut Squash Ravioli which I have had at Sage before and would highly recommend. I'm glad I was able to introduce two of my friends to Sage and hope that they go back soon!
Vegan MoFo, or Vegan Month of Food, is an initiative for people to blog about vegan food for a month. I am very passionate about vegan food and have been considering starting a blog for awhile and figured this would be the perfect time to start!
I am passionate about being vegan, sharing vegan food with others, and being a resource to those interested in learning more about vegan foods or the vegan lifestyle.
This month I am looking forward to talking about vegan restaurants I go to, vegan dishes I make, conversations I've had about veganism, and encouraging others to eat more vegan meals. Please do not hesitate to ask me any questions you may have, I am greatly looking forward to learning about the people interested in reading Vegan MoFo blogs.