15 Vegan Dishes that Blew My Mind in 2018

Although January is midway and many have almost half-completed Veganuary, I’ve only started reflecting on 2018. With many people reminiscing over life achievements and personal goals, I’ve reflected on… FOOD.

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To me, food plays an essential part of socializing and travelling. A really amazing dish can make for a memorable holiday. I still remember (pre-vegan days) certain meals that I had 10 years ago in Europe, in fantastic locations. I’m so happy to re-create these food experiences, vegan-style!

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Although I was very busy with work in 2018 (and still am!), I had plenty of time to check out new vegan dishes. I travelled to 5 countries that I hadn’t been to before, all with the purpose of scoping out delicious vegan food. Some of my favourite dishes were in non-vegan restaurants, street food stalls, or even cooked by my friends.

Here’s what made the cut.breakVegan Tea Set from Tea Saloon by Anotherfineday

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I discovered this place while researching vegan afternoon tea options for an article for the South China Morning Post STYLE magazine (which you can read here). It was very discouraging writing this article because so many places in Hong Kong could not do a vegan afternoon tea.

Places like The Cakery, which boast about having vegan options, refused to do a vegan afternoon tea over the month of December. Luxury hotels like the Island Shangri-La “forgot” to make my tea, even though I booked it in advance, so I sat in their lounge drinking only water! Places like Sevva (which proclaimed to have the highest quality, healthy afternoon tea) said that they could maybe “put something together on the spot” but couldn’t guarantee an all-vegan afternoon tea. SIGH.

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Thank goodness for Tea Saloon. This place was absolutely magical, from the Alice in Wonderland inspired décor, the exceptional service, and the fantastic food. This is not even a vegan restaurant, but they have separate gluten-free and vegan afternoon tea menus! I enjoyed vegan sliders, crab cakes, mini desserts, and ice cream, all beautifully presented. The best part is this place was incredibly affordable too.

Tea Saloon by Anotherfineday, Mid-level, G/F 80-82 Peel Street, Hong Kongbreak

Cauliflower Taliwang from Pituq Waroeng

Gili Trawangan, Indonesia

I travelled to the Gili Islands for New Year’s Eve this past year, and it brought back so many good memories of when I visited Bali for a summer with Jess, three years ago. At the time, we had eaten the majority of our meals at the only vegan place on Gili Trawangan, called Pituq Café, which had so many delicious dishes.

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Although the café was destroyed during the recent Indonesian earthquake (RIP), I was so pleased to see that they built an even bigger sister restaurant, Pituq Waroeng. This place was much more secluded than its previous café, and the experience was  more authentically Indonesian, as their menu consists of a crazy amount of veganized Indonesian dishes, tapas-style.

The group I was with ordered 9 different dishes, and the Cauliflower Taliwang was by far our favourite – we were even fighting for the last piece! It’s a crispy battered and fried cauliflower that’s crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, almost like a Chinese turnip cake center. It’s covered in Lombok style red chili sauce that was surprisingly not extremely spicy (perfect for a weakling like me!) What a tasty and exciting dish.

Pituq Waroeng, Jalan Villa, Jl. Klp. Gili Trawangan, Gili Trawangan, Pemenang, Kabupaten Lombok Utara, Nusa Tenggara Bar. 83352, Indonesia

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Dream Bowl from In Common

Thunder Bay, Canada

After being away from my hometown in Canada for almost 2 years, I was excited to come back and try all the new restaurants that supposedly had popped up in my absence. There was SO MUCH vegan food available, all from non-vegan places. As I was trying to put together a vegan food guide, I literally had to eat in hyper-mode and force family and friends to share meals with me so I could take photos.

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This café was able to veganize most things on their menu. They were incredibly friendly, and the food was fresh and delicious. This bowl had grains, greens, sweet potato, pickle, turmeric, avocado, and a maple tahini dressing. I couldn’t finish this bowl, so I ended up taking it on a picnic later that day with my grandparents after we had an enjoyable excursion to a provincial park.

In Common40 Cumberland St S, Thunder Bay, ON P7B 2T5, Canada

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Date Sticky Toffee Cake from Pure Vegan

Koh Phangan, Thailand

When travelling around Southeast Asia, especially during summer, it’s almost impossible to find vegan desserts that AREN’T raw. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good healthy raw dessert from time to time, but for me, vegan cakes are the best when they’re cooked! If you have a sweet tooth, I recommend you try this cake at Pure Vegan, as it’s a semi-healthy guilty pleasure.

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The cake is made from dates, nuts, and flax, served with mixed berries, salted caramel, and coconut ice cream. We only dream of finding such simple vegan desserts in Hong Kong (which is a vegan dessert desert). I remember eating this cake, sweating to death, but being extraordinary happy. The guy across from me was eating salad and staring at me out of pure jealousy.

Pure Vegan, 64/46 Moo 8, Sri Thanu, Srithanu, Koh Phangan, Surat Thani 84280, Thailand

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Cheese Platter from Moon Cheese

Taipei, Taiwan

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From left to right counter-clockwise: truffle, paprika, brie, smoked gouda, sundried tomato and herbs. Center: cheddar.

I’ve featured Moon Cheese here before, and I wish I still had some of their cheese in my fridge! I’ve yet to find a vegan, handmade cheese option made in Asia that’s comparable to this. Living in Hong Kong, it’s really limited for vegan cheese options.

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Attending their wine and cheese event this past year, I was amazed by how creamy and gourmet their cheeses are. My favourites are the dill lemon cream cheese and the smoked gouda. James and Stephanie quit their corporate jobs to start this company, and they are super cool and passionate about their products. They recently launched a vegan mozzarella cheese that I will definitely try next time I’m in Taipei!

Check out the online shop

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Vegan Chimichanga from Sala

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

I never tried a chimichanga even before I went vegan, so this was definitely a treat for me. This Mexican restaurant in Kuala Lumpur also has a variety of veganized Malaysian dishes, fresh juices, yummy desserts, and kombucha.

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Vegan Chimichanga

This is basically a giant deep-fried burrito filled with rice, beans, and BBQ jackfruit covered in vegan cheese, sour cream, and salsa. Not the healthiest dish, but apparently they have an air fry option, which I will definitely try next time I’m here. After a few weeks in Malaysian Borneo, where finding vegan food was a challenge, this dish was such a welcoming surprise — and so tasty!

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Sala also offers many vegan versions of popular Malaysian dishes, such as this vegan Nasi Lemak

Sala, A-G-03A Galeria Hartamas, No 21, Jalan 26a/70a, Desa Sri Hartamas, 50480 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

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Omnipork Dumplings from Ho Lee Fook

Hong Kong

Omnipork is the latest food technology invented by David Yeung, founder of Green Common in Hong Kong, which is a vegan alternative to ground pork. Considering most of the pigs in the world are consumed in China (and most Chinese dishes have minced pork inside!), this product is revolutionary.

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Omnipork aside, this restaurant, Ho Lee Fook (yes, you read that right!) is super famous in Hong Kong, doesn’t take reservations for smalls groups, and seems to have a 2 hour wait for a table every time I’ve tried to go. Ordering these dumplings in advance, however, guaranteed me and my partner a table, and the experience was oh-so-worth it. They have a ton of delightful vegan options, but these dumplings definitely take the cake. With delicate flavours inside and a mix of tangy sauces and spices, my meat-eating companion couldn’t believe it wasn’t real pork.

Ho Lee Fook, 1-5 Elgin St. Soho, Hong Kong

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Vegan Pho from Karma Waters

Da Nang, Vietnam

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Pho is a trendy dish in the West and near impossible to find veganized where it originates from: Vietnam. Traditionally eaten as breakfast, Pho is a noodle soup that is very meat-heavy. Luckily, I had the chance to take a cooking class and volunteer with the homeless with Karma Waters in Da Nang.

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Although I learned how to cook 5 vegan Vietnamese dishes, Pho was the most memorable. The power went out twice (!) while we were cooking, but it only made the experience more exciting. My guide, Annie, was super patient with me. I was surprised to learn how many spices went into making the soup broth, which made me appreciate all the subtle flavours when the product was finished.

Karma Waters, 110 Tran Huy Lieu, Danang City, Vietnam

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Afterglow Avocado Kimchi Rolls from Afterglow by Anglow

Singapore

As you might already know, we’re big fans of vegan sushi here, so of course I knew I had to try this dish as soon as I saw it on the menu. One of my first meals in Singapore, this was a great experience because I had visited over a long weekend to celebrate my 30th birthday.

Although Singapore has so many vegan restaurants, we chose this one because it was close to where we were staying, and also because the menu had a variety of raw and cooked dishes. These rolls had almond rice, avocado, and kimchi that was aged for 7 days. A spicy and very filling dish (perfect for sharing with a large group like mine).

Afterglow by Anglow24 Keong Saik Rd, Singapore 089131

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Vegan Lox from Ooh Cha Cha

Taipei, Taiwan

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Lox had been on my vegan radar for awhile, but I’d never tried it before coming to Taiwan. Made with carrots, I enjoyed it on a sandwich with cauliflower almond ricotta; and also in the Ooch Bowl, which had baked pumpkin, roasted broccoli, tempeh sausage, and avocado sauce.

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Ooh Cha Cha was such a wonderful place to eat. Maybe I’m so fond of it because it was a cold day and my friend and I got caught in the rain trying to find this place on Google Maps. When we finally saw the sign, all wet and shivering, it was a eureka moment. We warmed up with not only their lox dishes, but also their pizza with housemade mozzarella. There’s so many dishes to try on their menu, so I can’t wait to come back again one day.

Ooh Cha Cha (multiple locations), 207, Sec 2, Nanchang Rd, Zhongzheng District, Taipei, Taiwan 

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Fish and Chips from Sparestore

Hong Kong

When I used to live in London (pre-vegan days), getting fish and chips wrapped in newspaper at the corner shop was always a comfort food. Although finding vegan fried fish alternatives is easy in the UK, it’s pretty non-existent where I live in Hong Kong.

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Enter my amazing friend Flora and her pop-up cafe Sparestore. At the end of the day, she used the kitchen to “experiment” and whip up a bit batch of vegan fish and chips after-hours to serve to her friends. Made with tofu, the “fish” was nicely seasoned and the chips perfectly crunchy. Thanks Flora for fulfilling my vegan fish and chips dreams!

Check out their next pop-up location on Facebook

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Baked Pumpkin on Toast from Woo!

Kota Kinabalu, Borneo

As I’ve mentioned, finding vegan food in Borneo was a difficult task, even in the capital city. Staying in the Chinese area of the city, I was surrounded by Chinese restaurants with meat-heavy dishes. There was nothing I could eat at my hotel’s breakfast buffet, either.

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Luckily, this little cafe located on a cute street had some interesting food options. They were able to veganize this toast for me, which was not only Instagram-worthy, but drool-worthy too! I’d never had baked pumpkin on toast before, and this definitely beats avocado toast any day. Staff were super friendly and even gave me extra toppings. When you’ve been surviving off cashews and fruit, eating a real, tasty, vegan brunch is such a wonderful thing.

Woo!, 7, Lorong Dewan, Pusat Bandar Kota Kinabalu, 88000 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia

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Pennywort Salad from Free Bird Café

Chiang Mai, Thailand

I rang in the beginning of 2018 in Chiang Mai one year ago, and I was absolutely floored by the amount of vegan restaurants in this city. The most memorable restaurant, however, was Free Bird Cafe. This place is always packed, and for good reason! The food is healthy and delicious, but the profits are donated to Thai Freedom House, which supports refugee children.

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I tried the Pennywort Salad, which was incredibly healthy. I never heard of pennywort before but soon discovered that it’s a super food in Asia. The restaurant also sells handicrafts made by the children, eco-friendly gifts, and second-hand clothes, which all benefit the Thai Freedom House. I’ve recommended this place to other non-vegan friends travelling to Chiang Mai and they absolutely loved it too.

Free Bird Cafe, 14 Sirimankalajarn Soi 9, Chiang Mai, Thailand

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Vegan Hot Pot from Pure Veggie House

Hong Kong

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Hot Pot is a traditional Chinese dish which involves a large group of people cooking meat, veggies, in noodles in a giant shared pot, with one or multiple flavoured broths. This is very difficult to find veganized in Hong Kong, and it’s only available in the winter months. I’ve had the best hot pot at Pure Veggie House, which is a Buddhist vegan restaurant in the Mid-Levels.

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I enjoy coming to Pure Veggie House because the stubborn part of me always assumes that food can’t taste good without onion or garlic (2 pungent vegetables which Buddhists avoid). I’m always pleasantly surprised with the delicious flavours and sauces available here, which prove me wrong. The latest hot pot dinner I had here was in the last week of 2018, a great way to end the year. This will probably be my last hot pot in Hong Kong too, which makes it all the more memorable.

Pure Veggie House, 3/F, Coda Plaza, 51 Garden Road, Mid-Levels, Hong Kong

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I can’t wait to write a similar post in a year’s time. 2019 is a big year of changes for me, and a big year of travel. I will leave my home of four years, Hong Kong, and do a vegan food tour of India; explore part of the west coast of the USA; relax in Bali; volunteer in a vegan cat café in Vietnam; and spend winter and Christmas in Australia. I’m so excited for all the food adventures that await!

kayla

 

 

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