A note on ‘beyond meat/impossible’ food.
To begin with let us make clear that vegetarian means different things in different countries. In India vegetarian means no meat, fish or eggs. Cheese, milk, curds and other dairy products still form a vital part of the Indian cuisine. In other parts of the world being vegetarian can mean that you still have fish and eggs or at least egg products. Conversely being vegan means no animal products at all, meat or dairy. Irrespective of what type of vegetarian you choose to be, Vancouver is the mecca in the North for vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, GMO free, fresh pressed, raw, artisanal produce sourced from cruelty free havens.
If you really are a vegetarian in the Indian sense however then, beware! – Do not touch plant- based foods labelled ‘beyond meat’ or the ‘impossible’. These are legit one of the worst oral experiences a vegetarian can have in their lifetime, even worse than baingan (brinjal) & kathal (jackfruit) meat replacements. Imagine, you are finally coming back from your sub-par, minimum-wage, part-time job at 11pm. It is raining, of course. You are cold and tired and willing to spend a part of your meagre paycheck on restaurant food rather than rustle up instant noodles for the umpteenth time. You go to an enterprise that sells burgers. An enterprise that has pictures of 50ft juicy burgers with 20ft pickles, caramelized onions, thick slices of tomato, a veggie patty and melted cheese oozing out of buns that look as soft as a baby’s butt and roughly as big. You order your burger, wait in line in anticipation, dreaming of that first taste of quality food not cooked by you. When the steaming buns are in your hand, with tears in your eyes you pick up that big burger and smash your face in it.
You bite into the soft buttery bread, cheese, tomato, onions and a crisp, chewy piece of some smoky, weird tasting rubber. Straddling the no man’s land between vegetable and meat, this alien food is manufactured in labs and is a ‘plant-based, beyond meat, impossible patty’ perfected to taste JUST LIKE MEAT, except it is not meat. It is plant- based, but it does not have familiar, comforting plant food you are used to like beans, potatoes, carrots & peas. Instead, this alien food-adjacent patty is highly processed, genetically modified and flavoured with ‘heme’ an iron molecule in your blood that binds oxygen to the bloodstream and makes your plant-based patties taste like, well, crisp, chewy blood.
Steer clear of these faux- food and instead head over to some of the real diverse culinary creations in Vancouver – like the Come Arepa food truck! While Venezuelan cuisine is famous for its Arepas – round, cornbread sandwiches with stuffed beef or shredded chicken, Come Arepa also serves up this delicious Venezuelan street food – with a variety of beans, avocado, tomato, chesses, sweet plantains and different salsas, from your usual salsa roja and salsa verte to a divine mango-parsley salsa! Vegetable sushi is always a great choice, especially in Vancouver where not only is every second restaurant a Sushi place but you can buy Sushi from supermarkets like apples. Every third restaurant however is an Indian restaurant and well, you do not need my help in knowing how to order Indian vegetarian food. If, however you are looking for Indo-Chinese or Chindian food, look no further than Gurkha Himalayan Nepalese restaurant on Davie Street or Madras Spice with its chilli paneers, gobi manchurians and hakka noodles! Explore the Donair options as well with several vegetarian items in Middle Eastern cuisine – from hummus and falafel to the spicy, tangy saucy, vegetable loaded donairs. Solo Pasta does massive amounts of pasta in vegetarian sauces from Pesto to Marinara for relatively affordable prices. Another fresh and tasty vegetarian options come from Vietnam, their vegetarian subs or Bánh mì – a crisp baguette stuffed with marinated carrots, cucumbers and other veggies is delightfully light, fresh and citrusy. Failing all else, it is really hard to go wrong with Canada’s national dish – Poutine. Home fries drenched in cheesy curds and gravy – perfect for an energy boost and comfort on cold days. In Vancouver being vegetarian is usually accompanied by yoga pants, vegan shakes, single origin coffee, cold pressed juice, acai bowls and eye rolls. Eye roll at your own risk, apart from studies showing that Vancouverites have the lowest obesity in the country, not sampling some of this fresh, clean food would be a pity whether you eat meat or not.