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Features

Bengaluru is is vegan-friendly, but still has a long way to go

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Talk about vegan food and the first thing that comes to mind is dairy-free and poultry-free healthy food. Of late, many people in the city have embraced the concept of veganism and several restaurants now cater to vegans. But is it difficult to be a vegan in Bengaluru? What if someone, who follows a vegan diet, wants to indulge in calorie-laden dishes? Is it impossible to do so? Bangalore Times finds out…

Bengaluru is a mixed bag for vegans
Although, the city may be buzzing with a healthy vegan community, many who have been practicing veganism for a while say that Bengaluru offers plenty of options, but still has a long way to go. “My wife and I have been vegetarians for a while, but turned 100% vegan earlier this year and have been successful to a large extent in maintaining that. When you travel abroad, there are excellent options for vegans. However, I feel the choices in the city are limited and the awareness levels are slightly low,” says Grammy Award-winning composer Ricky Kej, adding, “The restaurants in Bengaluru mostly offer continental cuisine when they say vegan. They are merely substituting ingredients like tofu instead of paneer.”

Ricky says that he would love to see Indian food that is also delicious being served in vegan-friendly restaurants. “People should stop equating vegan food to healthy and bland food. I would love to see food that we eat on a regular basis and something that is tasty. Why should I go to a restaurant to have vegan food that is not tasty when I can have the same at home, which I know will taste good? I want to be able to go out and eat tasty vegan food,” he says. However, there are many who say that the city is one of the best places for vegans in the country. “Bengaluru has a lot of places that offers vegan food and its getting more vegan-friendly. Earlier when I used to step out to eat, I would tell people that I am allergic to dairy products since that time no one would understand. But now people know when I tell them that I am a vegan,” says Roshni Sanghvi, body transformation specialist and online coach. Roshni adds that being a vegan takes a little determination about finding an alternative and once you take the baby steps, it is not difficult.

Several misconceptions surrounding vegan food
A lot of people think vegan food is not delicious and that people practicing veganism, are missing out on a lot. “One of the biggest misconception that I’ve come across is that people think if you go off milk, you can be vegan. In addition to that, veganism has now become a fad. Being vegan means you are cool, but people actually don’t understand the concept behind it,” says Ajit Singh Tapasvi, owner of a vegan-friendly cafe in Indiranagar.

Similarly, Susmitha Subbaraju, co-owner of one of India’s first vegan restaurants says, “People usually associate vegan food to be gluten-free and associate it with other food trends. They mostly think that being vegetarian is equivalent to being vegan, which is not true.” But is it difficult for Indians to turn vegans, we ask. Chaitali Raizada, who owns a home bakery for the evolved foodie, says, “In India, veganism has never been a problem, especially in South India. Food items like sambar, idly, upma and other qualify as vegan food. Every family in India has dal, roti and sabzi on a daily basis. That’s vegan food. To be honest, I feel that it is the easiest for Indians to transition to veganism. The whole concept is just hyped up.” Roshni says that people think that vegans are physically weak, when compared to others. “One of the biggest myths is that since we follow a dairy and poultry-free diet, we are weak. That’s not true. Several athletes go on a vegan diet before their tournaments because not only is it healthy but the proteins you get from plants is easier to digest,” she says.

You can be 100% vegan and still go overboard

For those who feel that vegans cannot indulge in cakes or any other fried dish, experts break it down for us. “That is a misconception. It’s easy to be an unhealthy vegan. Generally you cannot overdo certain things for example nuts. But if you do, then you need to have a super active metabolism,” says Chaitali. “I bake brownies and cakes and a whole lot of other things that people can indulge in. It is very easy to splurge when you are a vegan. There is a notion that it is difficult to be a healthy vegan. Vegan food can look good and can be flavoursome at the same time,” she says.

Similarly, Ajit says that vegan food can be calorie loaded. “You can take out the cheese and milk and it can still be delicious. You can make crepes from moong dal and fry potato in oil for your cravings.”

Susmitha says for those who want to try junk, there’s always an option in vegan food. “These days you have mock meats, which are made from wheat and soy bean — seitan being one variety. In addition to that, junk food made from soy has always been around,” she sums up.

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