As a vegan in India, I often get asked how difficult it is to maintain a vegan lifestyle in a country known for its love for dairy products and rich, flavourful curries. This article will explore the various aspects of being a vegan in India, discussing the challenges as well as the unique advantages that come with it. So, let's dive in and find out how difficult it really is to be a vegan in India!
India is a land of diverse food cultures, and it's no surprise that there are numerous vegan options available in the country. It's true that many Indian dishes contain dairy products like ghee, paneer, and yogurt, but there are also plenty of dishes that are naturally vegan or can be easily adapted. For example, South Indian cuisine offers a wide range of vegan delicacies like dosa, uttapam, and vada, while North Indian cuisine has dishes like chana masala, rajma, and aloo gobi. Moreover, Indian street food offers a variety of vegan snacks like pani puri, bhel puri, and samosas.
However, it can be a bit tricky to find vegan options in smaller towns and rural areas, where awareness about veganism is still limited. In such cases, it's important to learn some phrases in the local language to communicate your dietary preferences and to be prepared to cook your own meals when needed.
While it's true that a majority of Indian restaurants and cafes do not have separate vegan menus, it's not impossible to find vegan options or request modifications to the dishes. Many restaurants are willing to accommodate your dietary requirements if you explain your preferences to the staff. In metro cities like Mumbai, Delhi, and Bangalore, you can find a growing number of vegan-friendly cafes and restaurants that offer a variety of plant-based dishes.
It's also worth noting that international fast-food chains like Subway, Dominos, and McDonald's have introduced vegan options in their Indian outlets, making it easier for vegans to grab a quick bite when on the go.
One of the biggest challenges for vegans in India is finding vegan alternatives for traditional Indian sweets. Most Indian sweets are made with dairy products like milk, ghee, and khoya, making it difficult for vegans to indulge in these treats. However, there are a few vegan-friendly Indian sweets like jaggery-based ladoos and coconut-based barfis that you can enjoy. Additionally, some innovative vegan bakers and dessert-makers are coming up with plant-based alternatives to popular Indian sweets, making it easier for vegans to satisfy their sweet tooth.
When it comes to grocery shopping, vegans in India have access to a wide variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, and pulses, which form the basis of a healthy vegan diet. In recent years, there has been an increase in the availability of vegan substitutes for dairy products like plant-based milk, yogurt, and cheese in major cities. These substitutes can be found in supermarkets, specialty stores, and online shopping platforms. However, these products can be expensive and may not be available in smaller towns, making it essential for vegans to learn how to create their own substitutes at home using easily accessible ingredients.
Indian festivals are often associated with an abundance of food, and it can be a challenge for vegans to navigate these celebrations without feeling left out. However, with some planning and creativity, it's possible to enjoy the festive spirit while sticking to your vegan lifestyle. Many traditional Indian festival dishes can be easily made vegan by substituting dairy products with plant-based alternatives. Additionally, you can introduce your family and friends to delicious vegan recipes and use these occasions as an opportunity to raise awareness about veganism.
Building a supportive vegan community is crucial for vegans in India, where the concept of veganism is still relatively new. Joining vegan groups on social media platforms and participating in local vegan meetups can help you connect with like-minded individuals who share your values and can provide valuable advice, resources, and support. These communities can also help you discover local vegan-friendly businesses, events, and activities, making your vegan journey in India more enjoyable and fulfilling.
Traveling as a vegan in India can be a mixed experience. While it's relatively easy to find vegan food options in tourist-friendly destinations and major cities, it can be challenging in remote areas and smaller towns. In such cases, it's essential to plan ahead and carry your own snacks and ingredients to prepare simple vegan meals. Learning some basic phrases in the local language to communicate your dietary preferences can also be helpful when dining out. Additionally, using apps like HappyCow can help you locate vegan-friendly restaurants and cafes in your travel destination.
Being a vegan in India may come with its fair share of challenges, but it's not an impossible feat. With the growing awareness about veganism and the increasing availability of vegan products and services, it's becoming easier for vegans to thrive in the country. By being prepared, resourceful, and adaptable, you can navigate the diverse culinary landscape of India and enjoy the unique flavors and experiences it has to offer, all while staying true to your vegan values.