I spent the last few days hanging out by myself, or with friends I just met. I've wandered around George Town a little more with P and A. MM (Malaysian Mum) took us all for steamboat at MamaVege on Saturday (24th): We ordered two kinds of soup, which are served in bubbling pot on a hot plate built into the table. Plus a selection of vegetables, not-meats, and noodles, which we drop into the soup and watch simmer.
Then I wandered around Gurney Drive, an area north of George Town where there are lots of fancy condos and hotels and is a common place for tourists to stay. It's a far cry from the 'heritage' of George Town, and largely malls and plazas and shiny new buildings. I thought there might be some form of beach access, but it's mostly off limits because of construction in the sea (Penang Island is all out of develop-able land). At one point I wandered down a side street in the hope it might lead to the ocean, but it turned out to lead to some guy's orchard. Just as I realised I was on someone's land and should probably leave, the owner, Bok, popped out of the bushes to say hi. He told me all about the fruits he was growing (coconut, jackfruit, various others) and that he does it for fun not profit, now that he's retired from managing a security firm. He picked a small, yellow relation to the guava (English name unknown) from a tree for me to try; it was mildly sweet and fragrant.
I eventually made it to Straits Quay, or at least the shopping/hotel complex part of the area. There's a trail along the seafront that leads from Tanjung Bungah to Straits Quay, once you can find the way in. It runs behind a huge area of luxury villas, most of which are still under construction. It was more peaceful here than walking along the road... obviously. All of the villas have pools facing the sea. A good place to stay if you want to veg out and aren't interested in the local area or culture. I walked back along the seafront until I returned to Gurney Drive. I spent a short while in Brown Pocket, a cafe on the 6th floor of Gurney Paragon mall with big windows and great seaviews. Their wifi wasn't working though so I didn't get much done.
It started to rain. I went upstairs two more floors to the cinema to see Rogue One. It was great. I ate at TinTin vegetarian in the basement of Gurney Plaza (the next mall along), where by chance I also found vegan coconut ice cream by Sangkaya.
Yesterday (25th) I climbed Penang Hill with P and A. We walked first to the Botanical Gardens from our apartment, which took around 45 minutes. We started our climb from the Moon Gate. The first stretch was a lot of steep steps. This turned into steep climb with fewer steps and more sliding in mud. Someone had built a tin-roof kitchen part way up the hillside, where a bunch of elderly people were cooking noodles. I don't know how they got there. Later the path skirted around the side of a hill for a while, so it was fairly level. Then down a bit, then back up to being really steep again. We crossed paths with the railway, and and met a sprightly teenager who, after borrowing P's phone to make a call, guided us the most direct route to the top, which was again sheer steps. It was pretty exhausting; she patiently waited for us. The climb took about two and a half hours.
At the top are a few places for a good view, but not as many as expected. There's a food court (we got juice) and tons of random tourist shit like an owl museum, a toy museum, and terrible merchandise. There were loads of people (there's a train to the top from Air Itam). There's also a mosque and a Hindu temple.
After sitting around for a while and re-energising, we walked to Monkey Cup, a small cafe a little apart from the crowded area. There we had coffee in their garden, and enjoyed quiet jungle surroundings. I met a local scorpian. I was assured that he wasn't poisonous, and his stinger is "just like a little ant bite". Figured it can't be worse than Tigo. He didn't sting me, anyway.
We wanted to take a different route down, and got directions (and a hand-drawn map) from staff at Monkey Cup. We followed a narrow concrete path winding down the hillside. At some point we missed a turning and ended up clearly bound for Air Itam, rather than back to the Botanic Gardens. Oh well. We walked through hillside farmland and enjoyed views into the central valley and across to the coastline.
In Air Itam most restaurants were closed (between 3 and 5 is not a good time for seeking lunch in MY) but we managed to get some kway teow from a hawker stall, negotiating the exclusion of egg and prawn from mine. It started raining; we took an Uber back to George Town, because we'd walked quite far enough, and between three of us it cost the same as the bus (6 RM total).
Back home, A and I soaked in the pool for a while. Later that evening we ate at Lily's, a vegetarian restaurant close to the apartment. It was great; we shared satay, I had lam rice (rice in gravy with tofu and vegetables), and an almond jelly tofu fruit dessert. Staff were reallly really friendly, too, and the food was far lighter and less greasy than similar places.
Today... I'm staying home, trying to write some code.
Yesterday evening (21st) I went for a 'quick walk' into town. My apartment is about a 20 minute walk from the edge of George Town heritage area and 40 minutes from the jetty and core tourist zone. Between home and the edge of the 'nice' part of town is not particularly nice: apartment blocks, malls and big roads with... intermittent... footpaths. There are still lots of interesting places to stop of course; markets, stalls, local restaurants, general streetside chaos. Walking around here takes a lot of concentration, between trying to take in the surroundings, not being hit by scooters and cars, avoiding enormous open holes into the sewer, and not accidentally buying a kilo of tropical fruit every five minutes.
The sky was blue. My goal was to procure coconut oil for cooking. I thought it would be easy to get hold of here, but so far, after a few days of hunting around, I found it in a vegetarian restaurant (Leaf Healthy House) and a baking shop for twice the price. I asked in an Indian grocery, and was directed to another grocery store, but I never found it. So I returned to Leaf to pick up 2 litres for RM 36.30. Or so I thought. I got distracted by not-meats at a different Indian grocery, paid a visit to Fort Cornwallis, plus dinner at Veggielicious, and by the time I made it to Leaf I didn't have enough cash left.
On that note, Fort Cornwallis was pretty rubbish. There are guided tours where one is presumably told about the history.. I was at the allotted tour starting point at the right time, but nobody showed up. The 'exhibits' are glass boxes in mouldy rooms containing bits of rock or dioramas, and no explanation of what they are. There isn't much 'fort', just outer walls and some cannons on hills. I was feeling particularly disgruntled because I paid 20 RM to enter, which could have got me four or five meals. I left after about half an hour, most of which was occupied milling around waiting for a tour guide to show up.
When I got back it had started raining, with thunder and lightning. I sat in the outdoor bit of the pool for half an hour, watching the sky light up.
Today (22nd) I went into town at lunchtime, and made the first stop Leaf, for coconut oil. I was accompanied by two new guests in my AirBnB, P and A; ship engineers from Poland. Apparently ship engineering isn't as exciting as it sounds. We ate at Woodlands vegetarian Indian. Service was frustratingly slow, but the food was good and cheap. While we were there the sky opened and the lightning commenced again. I headed home, and they went off to explore town some more. It rained heavily, intermittently, but I mostly stayed in the cover of the archways that line most buildings here. I stopped at Mydin, a giant supermarket and department store, and finally bought more kitchen stuff. I got a blender for less than $12. It's probably not good quality, but it only needs to last two more months.
Just kidding, I'm going to break the habit of blogging every single day, since there will be fewer days packed as full of excitement as my KL days were. I'll probably stick most to short notes for a while.
But I ate at two good veg*n restaurants today, so that's worth mentioning. Coya has a variety of healthy dishes, and labels things with egg. I had dumpling noodle soup, buckwheat tea, and watermelon (11.80myr). This evening I met C, L and Y at Sushi Kitchen for dinner. I'd missed Japanese food! A vegan restaurant with an abundance of things I want to eat. I'll be back. I ate a spicy sushi roll, edamame, and udon with tempura (25myr). On the walk back the sky went from zero to torrential in a parsec. I was drenched. I'm surprised my phone survived the journey. The other people staying in the apartment tonight laughed at me when I came in.
I caught the train from Kuala Lumpur station (not KL Sentral) at half past 9 to Batu Caves. It wasn't nearly as busy as I'd been led to believe it would be. I first went inside the Ramayana Cave, 5myr entry. There was nobody else there, and distant dog howling added atmosphere and made me nervous. Brightly coloured and lit statues inside tell the story of Rama and Sita. There are also steps going pretty far up to unadorned parts of the cave.
Next I climbed the steps to the temple cave. Some ladies at the bottom were enforcing a below-the-knee dress code (only for women) which I hadn't read about during prior research, and may have been because they were peddling sarongs to rent. I had my own scarf in my bag for just such an occasion. There's no charge to enter the temple cave, but there's not a huge amount of interest. Maybe worth going up for the view. And besides, I can never resist a massive staircase.
Just before that however is the Dark Cave. A conservation and research area, with educational tours for 35myr. I took one, and really enjoyed it. Over 45 minutes we ventured into the depths of the limestone mountain and discovered spiders, centipedes, millipedes, scorpians, snails, snakes, bats and crickets. And different rock formations, plus a few minutes with lights off in total pitch blackness. Our guide, whose name starts with 'Shy' and ends in 'a' and has a q in the middle, was super enthusiastic and knowledgeable. If you love bugs and dark slimy places, this is totally worth doing, and a nice change from the tourists and temples outside.
I had lunch at one of the several vegetarian Indian restaurants at the base of the steps. Idli, with dahl, coconut chutney and tomato curry. This is a small breakfast dish - 4myr - and pretty delicious. I also had espresso for 6myr. I wandered slowly back to the train station, just missing one and waiting 45 minutes for the next. During this time the skies clouded and then opened up ferociously.
During a gap in the rain, I went from the hostel to Coffee Amo. This place is super quiet... not even music playing. They specialise in fancy 3D coffee art according to google reviews, although I didn't get any on my soya cappuccino. Wifi, power, decent chairs; I worked here for a few hours. It was super peaceful. Lots of google reviews complain about the lack of music, but given every other cafe plays music I think the world needs at least one that doesn't. I stayed long after every other customer had left, and one of the two staff members also left, but I didn't feel unwelcome.
I went to Wan Fo Yuan for dinner. Along the same style as all of the other family-kitchen Chinese restaurants I've been to, with bleak lighting and plastic table runners, and stock overflowing into the dining area. Staff were slightly less sullen here. Previous reviews on HappyCow said people felt overly pressured to decide on something, so I made an effort to make a fast decision, but when someone came to take my order the first thing she said was "need more time?" I picked chicken and mushroom noodles, and Chinese tea. And... wow, that was everything I want in a noodle dish. Like, it tasted like it would if I made it myself. Except for the really large pieces of ginger which I couldn't stomach after a few and had to put them aside. I was even provided with a little dish of sliced jalapeno! And the tea came in a big glass mug. All for 10 myr. I was full afterwards, and proud of myself for not over-ordering.
This morning I went on a free heritage walking tour. We left from the KL Gallery around 9:15. Our tour guide was Marie and she alternated between funny and stern; giggling at her own jokes, and reprimanding stragglers or shhing passing schoolkids. She was full of information, and over three hours led us around parts of the gallery (free entry with the tour, normally 5myr), textile museum, some industrial buildings with history, and a private club facing Dataran Merdeka. The KL Gallery contains a scale model of the whole of Kuala Lumpur. It's seriously impressive. In clear plastic are skyscrapers yet to be built; the government is planning 300 new buildings over the next 5 years, including a 118 storey one in Chinatown. KL gives the impression of being in constant repair, chaotic construction disrupting footpaths and roads. But from the tour I learned that it's all part of a Plan, and there's meaning amongst the madness. In five years, this will be a different place. Particularly the river, for which the city is named (Kuala Lumpur means muddy estuary). Right now the banks look awful, concrete, diggers, trash, inaccessible. Turns out this is because there's a major restoration project ongoing and by next year it will be a beautiful recreation space with grass and cafes and peddleboats, and hopefully people will then stop dumping rubbish into it.
According to Marie, KL has only 60 years of history. What she's counting from is when Malaysia got independence from the British in 1957. Before that is super interesting history about the reasons parts of the area were settled and developed, by Chinese traders first, and then the British, mostly due to tin. Lots of key individuals who came to seek their fortune as teenagers have left lasting legacies.
The Spotted Dog remains to this day an exclusive membership club, but we were allowed inside as part of the tour. Except for the bar, where women aren't allowed under any circumstances.
This is among many buildings which were built in the 1800s by British architects for specific purposes. The first printing house is now the KL Gallery, and the old train station is the textile museum. After the tour I checked out the music museum, and the parts of the gallery and textile museum the tour missed.
I got lunch from a vegetarian street vendor I found in a dark alley. I knew to look there thanks to HappyCow. A huge pile of rice, vegetables, tofu and soy meat (self serve) for 7myr. I was also handed a plastic bag with a straw in it full of what appeared to be hot rice water. There was lots of rice (or barley?) floating in it too. It was a tiny bit sweet. I later googled it and apparently, according to Chinese lore, it is a miracle cure for lots of ailments. I also picked up guava, lychee and lemongrass juice from one of the stalls by Central Market, and took the lot up to the slightly airconditioned food court in the upstairs of the market to eat.
Then I spent a couple of hours at the library, and back to the hostel when it closed at quarter to 7.
Later that evening I walked to the night market with P (Colorado) and R (Germany). Noted reduction in catcalls to zero (from every five minutes) when walking with two 6+ feet tall guys. I wasn't super hungry. Drank papaya juice while the guys ate real food at one of the market restaurants. Compared to less touristy areas, the portions were small and the prices high. I couldn't find veggie bao, but picked up some hot sweet potatoes. None of us had yet tried durian, so we decided to share this important life experience. We bought a little pack for 10myr between us. P and R had one bite each and decided it's not for them. I ate the rest, and am still undecided. It transitions between this smooth creaminess to being foul and oniony. I hate onion flavours, but the creaminess may be good enough to ocmpensate. The hostel has a no durian policy, so I had to finish it before we got back. I suspect it'll be like natto, which I liked for a while but the more I ate the less it appealed.
I worked from the library from 10 until 2.30, which was great. It's cool without being over-airconned to freezing, the wifi works fine, there are good chairs and desks (and I can take my shoes off and sit on my feet), a nice view, and the atmosphere is generally conducive to productivity.
I walked through Kasturi St market for lunch, picking up a selection of fried Indian things (4myr), fresh coconut water (3myr) and steamed coconut rice (3myr).
I dropped my laptop back at the hostel, then went to the Bird Park. A steep 50 myr for entry, but I think worth it. Still half the price of MOMA in Boston. I spent 2 hours here, until closing; this was enough time to see everything as well as sit tranquilly by a lake and listen to bird sounds.
The park is a giant walk-in aviary with most birds flying free. Some are in their own aviaries, and there are smaller walk-in aviaries inside the main one too. The main structure is basically a net over some forest. There are many kinds of parrots - seeing little conures made me miss Tigo. I even found two green-cheeks. There are also lots of peacocks, herons, and various fancy pigeons. It wasn't particularly busy with humans though. I could have spent longer, just sitting. The constant background chatter is heaven.
I drifted into the orchid and hibiscus gardens afterwards. I thought everything closed at 6 and checked every gate I passed through to make sure I could climb back over it if it was locked, but nothing so exciting happened. I just kept walking, and eventually ended up in the botanical gardens. Many beautiful areas, and full of joggers and kids playing, so I guess this part doesn't close and is free to enter. I found groves of bamboo, rare fruit trees, and wandered around the lake. In some open areas there's even wifi! I recommend a visit.
I came out at KL Sentral, so I went to Gandhi's again for dinner. Just satay skewers and orange juice, as I wasn't very hungry. Maybe too much sun today.
I spent most of today working from the hostel, after waking up late. Went out early evening for 45 minutes in the Telecom Museum. This was plenty of time to read everything, and it's very interesting. A student ticket is 5myr. Upstairs was seating and wifi; had I known, I would have gone there to work.
I had dinner at Water Lily vegan restaurant, which has a huge selection of stuff and I definitely want to go back there to try more. I had the BBQ bao, which previous reviews on HappyCow raved about, and sure enough it was great. I got a set meal: assam soy fish, which came with tofu, vegetables, rice, and herbal tea. The tofu and veggies were bland, but the sauce around the fishy chunk of soy meat was good. I also had lime sour plum juice; 18.60 in total. I got there just after 5 and it was very quiet. Mostly the staff were occupied peeling mushrooms with which they'd covered the entire table.
After that I wandered to Dataran Merdeka, a big open area of grass surrounded by museums and galleries, and containing fountains and a giant flag pole. I also found the library, and I think I'll go there to work tomorrow. As the sun began to set, the lighting here was incredible. Orange reflections cascaded between the glass of skyscrapers, and both the KL Tower and the Petronas towers were in view from some spots.
Spent today around Brickfields, the Indian part of KL. To get there I passed through Petaling St Market (... a couple of times) and scouted bright coloured loose pants. The starting price seems to be 20 to 40 myr, so I can probably negotiate down to lower than the mall ones. Let's also pretend that Kasturi Walk and Central Market were on the way too. Well, they kind of were, it's hard to keep bearings in these windy streets and enormous confusing highway junctions.
Anyway, eventually I made it to Brickfields, and looked into some temples. In one, a wedding in progress. It seemed a bit chaotic. 20 sen for shoe storage outside. I had it on good advice (TripAdvisor forums) that the money changers in Brickfields are abundant and have the best rates. I spent my last few ringgits on a lotus bao to see me through lunchtime, and couldn't find an (open) money changer anywhere. Lots of veggie restaurants I now couldn't eat at though.
Eventually I stopped into PODs hostel and got directions to one. A very specific one, perhaps the guy's buddy.. At PODs I noted excellent seating, wifi, and coffee. I followed the directions to Nu Sentral mall. Another mega shopping complex with many chains and divine aircon. I found a money changer that did not fit the description of the one I was told has "best best price for you", so I noted the rate and kept looking. When I found the one that looked right (orange signs), sure enough it had a better rate, and I swapped $80 for 355.20 myr - probably as close to the exchange rate as I could hope to get.
I wandered the mall for a bit. Contemplated Boost, Nandos and Built (they have a vegan burger) and a cafe called Library Bar Central. Ultimately decided to return to PODs, not least because every outlet in the mall was playing christmas music.
PODs sold me a lukewarm iced coffee for 5myr, and I sat in a super comfy swingseat in the window for the next few hours with my laptop.
When hunger struck, I headed to Gandhi's vegetarian restaurant. The sides are open to the street, it is fancooled (no aircon) and busy and hectic. Staff don't seem particularly interested in helping, but eventually I laid my hands on a menu and got rojak (a salad consisting of shredded veggies, and a sliced deep fried tofu ball, smothered in a slightly sweet, slightly spicy peanut sauce). I found a small sliver of metal in my rojak. Shortly thereafter a mosquito landed in the sauce and died. But let us not dwell. I also ordered nasi lemak, a Malaysian staple I hadn't yet managed to try. Rice, peanuts, sambal, cucumber and fried scraps of something crunchy that I assume are the veggie alternative to dried anchovies. Plus deep fried not-chicken balls that were so chickeny I was a little alarmed. And watermelon juice, and a gooey coconut sweet. It's delicious and this was too much food, but I ate it all anyway. 17.20 myr.
I'd been considering a travel pass, and almost decided not to get one when I came across a TouchNGo outlet in the Nu Sentral mall. So I paid 10myr plus 10myr topup at the machine. I started to worry I wouldn't actually use 10myr of transit by the end of the week, so that (along with the possibility of getting horribly lost and walking for hours... again) prompted me to hop on the monorail at KL Sentral for two stops to get back. I disembarked on the edge of Chinatwon, and walked through Petaling St Market again. On the way, I stopped for fancy bright pants and a baggy vest top with birds on. The starting prices were 28 and 25 respectively, and I asked for them both for 30 together, and paid 35. I was pleased to be buying from a woman, but men are much easier to haggle with for some reason. Further in, I spied the same tshirt and asked, and was given a starting price of 15. Damnit. But for $8/£6 I shouldn't complain.
Today was moderately productive, from the hostel in the morning and VCR Cafe in the afternoon. I found VCR on workfrom. It's hip, spacious, with good coffee, good wifi, and abundant power outlets. Upstairs are floor-to-ceiling windows and a balcony (though, populated by smokers). The wicker chairs are comfier than wood. Coffee seemed kind of pricey - 9 myr for a small americano - but I don't know what's standard for the hip coffeeshop scene. About the same as chains, at any rate.
I ate lunch at Blue Boy, an indoor-outdoor set of stalls supervised by sullen staff serving excellent food. All vegetarian. I got fried flat noodles with vegetables (and requested no egg), a plate of not-pork, and lemon juice, for a thoroughly reasonable 10.50.
Dinner was on the pricier side, from Yuet Sum Hin, a Chinese vegetarian restaurant in Bukit Bintang. There was so much to choose from, and as I was half way through reeling off dishes the waitress warned me I was ordering too much. I confirmed that I could take home what I couldn't finish, and continued. For 44 myr I got sizeable portions of kangkong (water spinach), tofu in black bean sauce, and fried rice with salted 'fish', and a pot of jasmine tea. I finished about one third, and it was all delicious. The fried rice was my favourite.
I detoured through Times Square again on the way back. Surprised by how cheap clothes on the upper floors are for a mall. Initially I was just scouting so I have a basis to haggle at the market, but then I bought some light, knee-length pants for 12.
I wandered around a corner on the 9th floor and was confronted with... this...
There's a literal theme park inside the mall. And it's all quirky and space themed. Full blown rollercoaster. Actual craziness.
Took a wrong turn on the way out and accidentally found the thumping nightlife district. It was awful. Exited with haste. Longer route than anticipated back to the hostel, as my navigating-by-hotels is still not up to scratch, plus the chronic problem of being stuck on the wrong side of uncrossable highways.
Being vegan in Japan is this emotional rollercoaster, being stuck between the two extremes of hunger-weighted frustration that there's nothing to eat, and wallet-weighted frustration that there are too many good things all in one place all at the same time, which are all really expensive.
A lot of Japanese food is vegan by default, including loads of desserts made from rice (mochi!), tofu, or agar agar. A lot is mostly vegan. In the latter case, restaurants either can't or won't substitute ingredients upon request, if they understand what you're asking. Plus things that look vegan probably have secret fish in. Similarly, grocery shopping is fine; buying staples is easy. But there are loads of super interesting looking unfamiliar things that I want to eat but I don't know what they are... they're probably soy, or vegetable, or seaweed, or bean... but I can't be sure. I carried around a list of all the kanji I needed to look for to read ingredients lists, but this is exhausting enough in English.
First I googled the problem, and found pictures of things that the internet said are definitely vegan, and hunted some of those down. This includes this brand of soy milk, and these azduki bean ice creams:
// Todo photos
Then I obtained the services of my brother's Japanese girlfriend, J, and took her grocery shopping so I could point at things and ask what they are. I got all sorts of treats (descriptions on hover):
There are a million different types of miso. I thought there were maybe three kinds of miso. There are a million. I just picked the cheapest one, but J laughed at me and said it has rice in, it's not for miso soup. Then she laughed at me again when I told her I'd put in the curry she was eating. It was tasty though.
Tofu is SO CHEAP. It's awesome.
Rice is surprisingly expensive.
Vegetables and fruit are also expensive, less surprisingly.
Mushrooms get cheaper the weirder (more unfamiliar to me) they are. Which is awesome.
Konnyaku is a wonderful gelatinous blob made from yam powder. It's banned in the EU in 2002 because 18 people choked on it, so this is why I'd never heard of it.
Vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants in Tokyo are not too hard to come by, but also clustered together, and pretty expensive (like everything else I guess). But they're also fucking good. I had to decide this was just something I was budgeting for.
There are a bunch of these around Tokyo, all with different hippie names like 'Journey' and 'Ripple'. Ain.Soph has some poor reviews on HappyCow for being very expensive but with very small portions. J and Dave picked this for me on my first night in Tokyo (to the same branch I'd been to for dessert when I was last in Tokyo, in fact) and I warned him on the way about the small portion reviews (he's a hungry growing boy). But it turns out we needn't have worried. I had a taco salad which was huge and delicious. Dave had a green curry, which was plenty of food for him, and J had fried soy meat and rice, and as a dedicated fried chicken eater, was suitably impressed. We split two desserts between us - the lemon cheesecake and chocolate cake. The chocolate cake was hypnotic.
This came to just under 60,000 JPY (~$60) in total (which I paid for because I'm an awesome big sister).
On one of my first evenings in Nerima, I set out to hunt for groceries. Came upon this place by chance near Nerima station and as I was peering at the menu in passing the waiter who stuck his head out to invite me inside was so friendly that I went in. I'm so glad I did. This is mostly South Indian, and serves meat, but with a decent array of vegetarian options. The waiter was happy to point out which are vegan (I expanded 'vegan' to 'no milk, no butter, no egg' just in case, which I think helped), and we also chatted about where I'd been in India and how much I like Indian food.
I was unfamiliar with a bunch of the curries on this menu though, as I know less about South Indian food in general. This was exciting. I picked one at random, which was Rasam (600 JPY) and accompanied it with coconut rice (500 JPY). For an extra 150 I was offered Indian rice instead of Japanese rice, but I had to break the news that I actually enormously prefer Japanese rice. I was able to ask for it hot, and the waiter reassured me that the rice would be fried in oil not butter. I'm not sure if the default is butter, but this is nice to confirm.
The food came really quickly, and I ate it just as quickly. It was really good. The rice plate was huge, and the curry was hot and tomatoey and full of delicious. I just managed to finish it all.
I came back a second time with Dave (he loves curry) and J, and they both had something with chicken and enjoyed it. J's naan bread was enormous. Dave spilled his curry all over the table. I had aloo bondy to start (deep fried spicy potato balls) and chapati with avial, a coconutty curry full of veggies. All up to standard.
This is proximate to Roppongi station, and all of the art exhibitions and museums and park thereabouts, so really handy if you're visiting that area. The first time I went was tipping down with rain so I didn't wander around much. I also didn't fancy splashing out for the museums. But this was worth the trip alone. I wanted everything here. So much.
They have four burgers, six or so rice bowls (most topped with not-meat of some kind), a selection of desserts, and various sides and accompaniments. The burgers seem to be mostly made of hemp. The first time I went I had the teriyaki burger, and a side of fried soy meat. Both super delicious. The bread itself was pretty incredible, and the burger patty was made of some kind of beans, and smothered in sauce and salad. It could have been bigger, but maybe I got used to US portions. It certainly left room for dessert. The burger and side together came to 1,490 JPY which is pretty steep. But it was good.
The second time I had a slice of chicken mayo pizza, more deep fried soy meat, and hemp milk almond pudding (1,544 JPY). The pizza slice was small and fine, but nothing to go crazy for. Man I love the soy meat though.
Veganic has free wifi, but not much seating so I wouldn't feel comfortable bedding in here. They close at 5 on some days, which isn't a big deal if you're there in the evening, as you can just pop across the road toooo...
... which is open til late. And also has an incredible menu, of ramen and not-meats and massive, hearty looking dishes.
The first time I went (immediately following Veganic) I had a soy latte and the chocolate gateau made with rice flour, accompanied by soy ice cream. Dense and totally satisfied the chocolate craving I'd been accumulating. This set me back 540 + 750 JPY.
Has free wifi too (which works better than Veganic's) and much more space, plus a few power outlets if you look in the right place, so I can stick around and work here without feeling guilty for taking up space.
I returned to try the ramen, and loved the Soy milk tantan, which is a decent 800 JPY. I didn't get the set, but tried a couple of other peoples' sides and they were great. Get a set if you're really hungry, but otherwise the ramen alone is a decent portion size.
This isn't a vegan restaurant, but a 'healthy' one, and seems to always have one vegan item on their set lunch menu. If you order this, they also check with you about whether to make the miso soup with dashi or not. The set I ate was vegetables in broth, and tofu, plus sides of pickles, soy beans and seaweed, miso soup, mushrooms, and tea. It was really delicious, and very authentically Japanese. The space is cosy - not really suitable for big groups, though you could take over the whole of the upstairs. The lunch set is 1,080 JPY.
I first tried to go to the one in Kichijoji, but this turns out to be the main kitchen (though it also appears to sell doughnuts) and it's open between the odd hours of 8pm and 2am. I was too early.
I went to the outlet in Lumin Est, right outside Shinjuku Station instead, and got to try two: maple walnut and cranberry. Great! The larger doughnuts are 350 JPY, and they have a huge array of other flavours (containing dairy, though not eggs), with smaller ones starting at less than 200 JPY.
This place was busy when I arrived, and it turned out there was a special event on. There were crochet things and bags and jewelery for sale, but not lunch. Nonetheless I was welcomed with friendly smiles and a little English by customers and staff alike, and got two small cakes and some really delicious black soy bean tea for 500 JPY. The cakes turned out to be enough to fill me up for a few hours, so a real lunch wasn't missed.
I went to Commune264 for Cori vegan food truck, but it is closed on Tuesdays. Fortunately right across is another food truck with a vegan plate for 1000 JPY. It consisted of a variety of exciting vegetables, beans and pickles, brown rice, and fried soy meat. Lots of food, good value, friendly service. Came with a bottle of water too.
Commune246 is a covered outdoor seating area with a whole bunch of food trucks, and a really nice vibe. Part of it is Wired cafe, which provides wifi, power and plenty of seating - a great spot for digital nomadding.
I went back on not-Tuesday, and ate the vegan plate from here too (1000 JPY). Points because they gave me an actual plate instead of disposable stuff. The food was a mix of the usual salad, pickles, fried soy meat and mushrooms but also included the best scrambled tofu I've ever had. It was squishy and creamy, possibly the closes to eggs I've come across. It was only a small amount, but worth trying the plate for that I think. They have lots of other options too, and some interesting drinks on the menu.
Brown Rice is about a 5 minute walk from Commune246. They serve lunch until (last orders for food) 5pm, and are open til 6, so I squeezed in an early dinner here. They are all vegan, and have three main plates plus a special. I chose the curry, which was full of beans and pulses, and pretty good (1,300 JPY). It came with brown rice, and a drink (I had hojicha). I also had a pumpkin soup with mochi for dessert (700 JPY). The food was filling and the space is nice, but nothing to rave about.
Not actually Tokyo, this is a seafront Hemp cafe in Kamakura, a short walk from Hase train station. It serves fish, but is otherwise vegan. It's very clear which dishes contain fish. Everything has hemp involved somehow. I had a plate with breaded tofu, and the usual selection of rice, pickles and vegetables, miso soup, plus a hemp coffee (tasted like normal coffee). They had a few interesting desserts, but I was full from the plate and short on time. The food was tasty, people were friendly, and the sea view is excellent.
Also not Tokoyo but a five minute walk from Fujisawa train station. I was on my way back from Kamakura, but I'd recommend visiting Fujisawa just to eat here. It. Was. Spectacular. I had actually changed the day of my visit to Kamakura so I could go here (it's closed on Tuesdays) and I thought I was being silly, but this was a great decision. It's a really tiny space (maybe ten or twelve seats) and it's not cheap, but boy is it good. Did I mention it was delicious? I would normally be hesitant with these prices, but thanks to their free wifi (password: harukucchii01) I found out the US election results after a day of being offline and decided to just drown my sorrows in gourmet vegan food.
The menu is not available in English, but the waitress gladly translated every single item for me. There are loads of options, and really interesting ones that I haven't seen elsewhere. I had spicy edamame, which came with a warning from the chef: "this is too spicy. That red one is danger. Be careful, okay?" It was perfect (I love spicy food). I didn't eat the red chilli that sat on top because I didn't want to destroy myself for the rest of the meal, but I did lick it. I had also ordered rice milk, which was rich and creamy and a great compliment to the spice. I also ate fried potatoes, which were simple but perfectly seasoned and cooked, plus deep fried konnyaku, which came with lettuce and a little dish of salt to dip. Everything just tasted incredible. I followed up with hojicha, and matcha 'tiramisu'. I don't like tiramisu, but in my experience so far Japan's idea of tiramisu is varied and unusual, and I'm game for anything with matcha. It was a green, creamy layered sponge in a dish. Good stuff.
I was seated at the bar so I could somewhat see into the kitchen, and chatted with the chef and waitress. I paid just over 4,000 JPY for the meal in total, which is more than I would normally pay for dinner, but for this quality of food and service was totally fine.
This is probably my favourite so far, second maybe only to Aju in Osaka.
Another one a bit far from Tokyo. Out in the remote fields nearby Keio Shonan-Fujisawa University campus, this is a very traditional feeling Japanese restaurant, which uses all local produce and has a homey vibe. There are a number of vegetable dishes, and they were able (upon request, in Japanese) to make the dashi for the mushroom hoto noodle dish without fish. It was a big, hearty noodle soup, full of veggies and mushrooms, which came with beans on the side and tea. We scoured the dessert menu (which is in Japanese), and it appears that most of them are likely vegan by chance, including both tofu and soy ice cream. There were several things I'd never seen before, and I ended up choosing kurogoma pudding, which is a black sesame seed jelly, very smooth and creamy. I also tried amazake, which is a thick, sweet drink made from fermented rice and something to do with leftovers from sake production.
They also have a little corner for doing calligraphy.
Lima is a little cafe inside a health food shop in Shinjuku. They have all vegan food to go, and some seating. I tried the veggie burger, which was a good size and came with salad, miso soup for 900 JPY. I also tried soy ice cream and a super dense chocolate brownie.
Tully's, Doutor and Starbucks are everywhere and all have soy milk options for their drinks, including matcha lattes. I didn't actually go to a Starbucks, but I read they take it very seriously to the point they give you a special 'soy' card to avoid mixups. Wired cafe also has a few outlets, and also have soy milk (cafe au lait though, not latte).
Convenience stores in Japan really take convenience to a new level. Not only do they contain a wide array of food at sensible prices (in contrast to the UK, where the closest equivalent to convenience stores are like double price compared to supermarkets), but they usually have free wifi. A surprising number have desks where you can hang out and work, and some of these even have power outlets. They also have decent hot coffee (freshly ground beans) and a selection of ready-to-go hot food as well.
When on the move, I was relying on combini, like 7-11, Lawson and FamilyMart, for easy to grab onigiri (they have ume and seaweed flavours) and sushi (natto maki and inari), as well as lots of mochi. Sometimes you'll find bananas, and they have a lot of nuts, crisps, and dried fruit too. I never had chance to scrutinise the hot food until I was in Tokyo, and could see from the photos that they definitely had some steamed buns that look vegan - only they never had any left, whether I was there late or early. Finally I had chance to try one: a bun filled with sesame paste from 7-11. It was pretty great, warm and doughy. If you like that kind of thing. They also had a sweet potato one.
One of the things I've loved at vegan restaurants in Japan is deep fried soy meat. Most have it, and meat-eaters I've dined with have compared it favourably to fried chicken or other meat. It's crunchy and juicy and just really super satisfying. So naturally I decided to make my own.
As usual, the following image sums up my cooking style:
And as usual, I googled it a bit, skimmed a couple of articles or recipes, and then closed everything and jumped in working on Web-refreshed instincts. Well, first I went to Seiyu and bought soy meat (obviously) and katakuriko, a potato starch that I'd read was much better than using normal wheat flour. I found it by screenshotting a google image search result and searching the supermarket to match the kanji on packaging. In case you were interested.
I marinated the soy meat in soy sauce, ginger paste, garlic paste, and sesame oil for about 20 minutes. I deep fried some potatoes in the mean time, because I read somewhere you are supposed to fry vegetables before using the oil for meat or something. Also because I love fried potato.
Then I rolled the soy meat in the katakuriko until it had a thin coating. Then I deep fried it.
Success! This was delicious. The chunks weren't as big as the ones I've had in restaurants, but that's all Seiyu have. It was so good I'd already eaten half before it even occurred to me to reach for the mayonnaiase.
While I was at it, I did the same with some thin slices of konnyaku. Also successful, though not quiet as delicious. I think I should have probably made an effort to make a thick, consistent coating of flour.
J taught me to make gyoza today. We even found soy meat in Seiyu (Walmart/Asda). The gyoza wrappers are on the top shelf in a fridge full of packaged meat. It never would have occurred to me to look for them there.
The soy meat was not dry, but in a packet of liquid, and needed draining.
All of the vegetables get finely chopped and mixed together, plus ginger paste, garlic paste, and sesame oil.
Add filling to skin, wet around the edges, fold, squeeze, crimp.
And dip! In a mixture of soy sauce, vinegar, and chilli oil. Delicious!
All vegetarian, mostly vegan, but many non-vegan desserts and drinks. Well labelled on the menu.
I went here twice, once with a fairly big group of carnivores who were reasonably impressed or at least polite about it. It's open late which is a plus, has a nice atmosphere, and free wifi (you have to ask for the password, when I was there it was 88888888). They also sell some organic groceries, vegan cookies, etc.
Food was delicious and portion sizes were reasonable. I tried the vegetarian plate (a selection of things), teriyaka wrap (contains wheat gluten and salad), and a curry and rice bowl. All dishes come with salads and soups. I also had a vegan lassi which was an unusual (but delicious) raspberry flavour, and coconut 'tiramisu' cake, which wasn't really like tiramisu, but was delicious anyway.
Pricey in general, but average for the area.
Natural House Food Court
Tried to go here twice. The first time, though HappyCow says it's open until 2000, they told me they close at 1600. The grocery store part is open later, just not the restaurant. The second time I got there at about 1430 and they told me they'd sold out of curry. Oh well. Picked up some snacks from the store instead, which is extensive and healthy organic produce, though not cheap.
All vegan, and proud.
Loved this place, but maybe by this point the lack of options in Kobe was wearing on me. It's frustrating that it's only open for lunchtime. There's no wifi, but comfy seating and graphic novels and books to read. I went twice anyway and got a different lunch set each time. The curry was excellent, and more filling than it looked. The sandwich was interesting, I'm not sure what was in it, but it did the job. Accompanying salads and soups were great. I tried cheesecake and poundcake, and chai and iced black tea. Again, pricey in general but normal for this kind of place.
It's also about a 15 minute walk from Sannomiya station, which is handy. Follow the trainline west (mountains on your right) until you reach the next station, then it's off a side road.
Vegan dessert stall
Close to Chinatown we stumbled across a vegan dessert stall. They had waffles, doughnutty cake things, and chocolate cake. We bought one of everything.
All vegetarian, thali and chapati seem to be vegan, though the dessert that comes as part of the dinner set (ice cream) is not. Declined that, but paid the full price anyway. The thali was three curries, rice and chapati, and they were delicious and homecooked. There was no menu, we just sat down and the owner brought out dish after dish. The samosas were great, I could have eaten them all night. Good job I didn't though, or I wouldn't have had room for the curries. As it was, I took some leftovers home. Food all cooked by the owner and his wife, though they seemed kind of despondent. There wasn't anyone else there when we were, early evening.
Difficult to find, the map marker in HappyCow was about 15 minutes too far west. But some googling for the name and different parts of the address eventually got us there. We almost walked right past, but I was lucky to see the sign fro the Indian supplies store that is right below the restaurant.
Food in Osaka
All vegan, located upstairs, just off the side of the enormous indoor mall arcade thing that runs through the center of the city. Their specialty for some reason is bagels and hummus, which are made fresh onsite every day. They have three set lunches, which include starters and drinks, and three dessert options for a little extra. It was all really good, filling.. felt expensive, but actually normal for vegan restaurants here.
Mel Coffee roasters
Friendly, young, husband-and-wife team running this teeny tiny coffee roasters which has been carved out of a corner of a building. They have a bench outside, but no real seating. Any space inside not taken up by the counter is occupied by coffee roasting equipment, and you can watch the beans go round.
Seriously good espresso, and a wide selection of hand-drip, too. Plus, the cheapest coffee we found between Kobe and Osaka at 190 JPY for an espresso! And by far the best. Did I mention it was great?
Their English is fluent, and as an added bonus had a good working knowledge of vegan restaurants in the area.
This is a tea (and cereamics) shop, recommended to us by the folks at Mel's. We tried two different types of sencha, which was produced with great ceremony. It was very pretty, with teeny tiny cups, pots and timers. We initially tried to share a pot (it's expensive!!), but we were required to make an order each. We got three infusions, at different temperatures, and finally - the part we'd been excited about after reading it on the menu - they brought us the tea leaves to eat. Except they returned them seasoned with soy sauce and bonito flakes. D'oh.
They have a bunch of tea-appropriate nibbles on the menu, many of which look vegan, but I didn't try any.
They sell a very small selection of tea to buy by the gram as well.
All vegan and proud. They used a button system to call servers, but it was chronically slow anyway, including the food coming. In the end it took so long we decided not to get dessert.
But the food we did get was great. 'Oysters' made from mushrooms, fried soy meat, and cheesey vegetables. They also brought us some small starters to choose from a plate.
All vegan, macrobiotic, healthy food. There's a kitchen right across the street from the actual restaurant which was at first confusing.
No English menus, but the server/chef did her best to explain what the dishes were. We picked two out of the three lunch sets at random, and tried miso soup, salad, curry, and ramen. The ramen were bland but a large portion. The curry was on par with other curries we've had a vegan restaurants. We followed up with two (small) slices of apple cake. The food was all good, but definitely on the more expensive side.
This place. Wow.
All vegan, and proud.
Reviews on HappyCow claim it only has four seats, and a grumpy owner/chef, but I found a much bigger space and a cheerful, curious, talkative waitress. Their space was occupied by a prebooked large party, but they managed to dig up some extra chairs and repurpose a storage table so that we could stay!
Not on the cheap side, but we ordered as much as possible. I finally got to try oknomiyaki which was maybe one of the most delicious things I've ever eaten. Plus a pizza with something spam-like, and potato. It was so cheesy and absolute comfort food. We also tried deep fried soya meat, which came topped with more grated radish than one should reasonably try to eat. We got a platter of sides, including bizarre 'squid' (which I was reliably informed had a texture very close to actual squid), and soy meat chunks, and various salad-y bits.
There was a poster on the wall with a picture of some ridiculous looking Hallowe'en dessert, and I had to have it. It was pumpkin soft-serve ice cream, matcha ice cream, red bean goo and mochi balls. Plus little biscuits shaped like a bat and a pumpkin. I regret nothing.
This was my last night in Osaka, and I was tempted to stay longer just to come back here.
Accommodation in Osaka
I stayed in a small self-contained apartment near Tennoji. It had a balcony, and a small but functional kitchen. It also came with a portable Mifi hotspot which was fast and the most useful thing ever.
Also posted to AirBnB:
Great communication from Keisuke right up until I arrived. Really great place, clean and minimal and comfortable. Also a good location, for a train to the airport, and for central Osaka. In fact, I walked into Osaka; it takes more than an hour but is a great way to see different areas. The apartment is also close to a large park and many tourist attractions, including Tsūtenkaku tower. Thanks!
I read online that it was surprisingly easy to get vegan mayo in Japan, and that it's much better than its US or European counterparts. So I set out on a quest.
Armed with the kanji for tamago, I spent upwards of 20 minutes squinting at dozens of ingredients lists on mayo packs at two different supermarkets. I first searched for the brand I'd seen online, and found one, and it said egg on it... but in red... did that mean it was saying it didn't contain egg? Was it talking about how bad egg is? Then I found one that said in english 'olive oil mayo' on it, but on a second reading I found egg in what looked to probably be an ingredients list.
I was gradually noticing patterns, and getting the hang of where to look for ingredients and allergy information. I was almost ready to give up, when I picked up one of the really common seemingly cheap brands (Kewpie) and started reading... and where most brands list egg, soy bean, and katakana my brother later identified as 'apple' (I'm not convinced, need to get J to confirm) in their allergy list, this one only listed the latter two! I re-read the whole pack twice, scouring for tamago and didn't find it. Delighted, I flipped it back over... and saw "NO EGG ADDED" in English, plus a big picture of an egg with a cross through it.
But the point is, I practiced my kanji pattern matching.
And now I have mayo. And it is better than any I've had in the US or UK.
I prepared a whole bag of edamame, intending to eat maybe one third as a snack. Forgot I have a chronic edamame problem.
The amount of edamame I can eat in one sitting has yet to be challenged. I feel like I could eat it forever. Sponsorship to test this out, in donations of truckloads of edamame, welcome.
Also now I know taking 5 minutes to steam beans from the grocery store is at least as delicious as any I've ever had in restaurants, if not more so, plus a gazillion times cheaper, I guess this is what I'll be eating every day for the next three weeks :D
In Memoriam: purple beanie (and a day in Providence)
I found this purple beanie under the bed in the first flat I moved into in Edinburgh. I washed it, and wore it every winter for years. It's big, and stretchy, and after I dreaded my hair it still fit unlike the rest of my hats. It has plenty of space at the back so when I put my hair up it fits over the top.
I lost it in Providence, RI, last Saturday. It fell out of my coat pocket somewhere downtown.
We had a good run.
It costs $11.50 to get to Providence from Boston on the MBTA commuter rail, and takes about an hour. Amtrak is faster, but costs more.
The weather was gloomy and the city was very quiet. We found an African drum festival in a bar and hung out there for 45 minutes or so.
We walked to The Grange vegetarian restaurant for lunch. Lunch was after 3pm so they just had the bar menu. We ate peanut fried cauliflower, fries, and seitan tacos. It was all delicious and greasy and satisfying. Then we moved to their 'lounge' area for tea, a scone and a muffin, and a couple of hours of hacking. It was cosy and we sat on a swing seat. We packed up when the restaurant started to get really busy for dinner, around 6pm.
We walked back through downtown, to Vinya Test Kitchen, a month-old fancypants raw vegan place. There were only two other people in there. The food was delectable. We shared a starter (tree nut cheese tasting board), main (spinach pie with fancy mushrooms, pea tendrils, and a pecan flax crust) and dessert (pumpkin macademia cheesecake with hazelnut apricot crust) between two of us. And drank a tangy apple and lemon juice, and a bitter, thick orange and rhubarb juice. The waitress commended us for "eating so slowly and mindfully" and we didn't mention that we'd had a fairly big lunch only a couple of hours prior. I recommend trying this place on a full stomach though, as it really did enable us to savour each bite which had been so lovingly prepared (as raw food always is). Our total was a bit under $60 in the end.
We chatted with the chef, Sam Bonanno, for quite some time after the meal. She told us about her raw food experiences in Boston and the rest of the world. Definitely check this place out if you're in Providence and love fine food.
We went to check out the Firewater, which happens something like every weekend over the summer. The canal is filled with floating things which are lit on fire. There's stalls and food and stuff. It was pretty nice. We also found a Breast Cancer festival.
We took the last MBTA train back to Boston at 10pm. The ticket booths were closed and they wouldn't take card on the train and the ticket app wouldn't install on my version of Android. But the staff left us alone in the end and we got a free ride.
I made bread today. As I munch through slice after slice I'm thinking.. it's so good.. is it cake? Did I make savoury cake? Store bread isn't this easy and pleasurable to eat. But actually my bread standards have probably just been drastically lowered since I left home and stopped eating my mum's homemade bread every day. Also my bread is pink.
Decided to try actually saving money for a couple of months so I'm going to see how long I can go without doing a grocery shop and easy only stuff I have already. So mostly things I can make with flour (which is a lot actually) and lentils. Also, roommates' food with a pledge to replace next week :)
Amy wrote about travel, food, vegan, usa, la, veganstraightedge, santa, monica, & mendocinofarms
I had a really great experience at @mendocinofarms this evening. I was on my way to Golden Mean when I stuck my nose in to see what they had, and ended up staying for a vegan Samosa Dosa, and iced tea. Unusual service sequence of: order with the staff on the door, who then gives you a tracking device and sends you to the counter to pay, where you also get bombarded with free samples of salads (spicy potato salad was ace!). The Samosa Dosa is a hefty wholewheat wrap containing curried cauliflower, chickpeas, potatoes, spinach, onions and some kind of mayo-y substance. It was really filling and delicious; every time I thought I understood it I'd encounter a new flavour or texture combination. And the iced tea was incredible. It's black tea, unsweetened (or I wouldn't have bothered) but it contains passionfruit (which I didn't know when I ordered) giving it this awesome delicate floral twist. It's also a nice space to chill, and I stayed there for a couple of hours pootling around on Twitter. The staff were really sweet, cheerful and friendly and after about an hour and a half kept coming over to offer refills of my iced tea (I declined, I was stuffed). To top it all off, it was very reasonably priced. To top it all off, it was very reasonably priced. At least, compared to what I'd been getting used to paying in LA: sandwich under $9 and iced tea around $3.
Trapped in La Banquise. Weighed down by the poutine in my belly. The air outside is cold and wet, but people in here are warm and in the process of making the same mistake I just did. Or are they? I ate half a large Rachel and half a large Mexicania, but now I'm noticing other diners are sharing one large between two, or eating a small each. Why didn't the waiter warn us? Substituting vegan cheese and vegan gravy was a steep $5.50 extra, but worth it. Comfort food and-a-half, and almost makes the rainy day worthwhile. The Rachel was topped with onions, mushrooms and green peppers; the Mexicania with tomatoes, olives and chilli peppers.
This morning I walked to and around Ile Sainte Helene and Ile Notre Dame. The Biodome was closed (everything is closed on Mondays) but there were outside galleries and scuplture and greenery to see. Ile Notre Dame has the Olympic basin, and Formula One track to wander around. We found ourselves in the Casino, surrounded by old people and slot machines and extravagance. Warmed up there, before heading back into the rain to catch the metro back to the city, to warm safe poutine.
Later: coffee in Cafe Gonzo; more walking in the rain; hearty, homely, friendly, dubiously-vegan Taiwanese food from Le Roi du Wonton. A walk through the underground shopping malls and a couple of hours listening to a traditional music jam in teeny tiny L'Escalier (which has lots of vegan food, though I didn't try it). Overnight bus back to Boston.
Nine empty beds, one with me in. The fluorescent light that works is clicking rapidly. Muffled lively conversation from elsewhere in the hostel. Resting my legs.
I started the day (after toast and hostel-chat) with an 8.9 mile run. Some walking. It was hot all day, I'm a bit red. I traversed the ports and almost started along the bridge to Ile Sainte-Helene before turning back; over two hours. I saw great abandoned buildings, grain silos, old and modern port industry. A boat spa with a tranquil pool, hidden away; Habitat 67; and plenty of green.
As if that wasn't enough, I walked up Mont Royal, then rested by the lake for a while. Hot sun and piles of snow, tam-tams, jugglers, acrobats and hippies everywhere. Walked further, all around the city, over 12 more miles in total.
I ate: coconut bubble tea from a bakery in Chinatown; shiitake teriyaki with cheese sandwich from Copper Branch; chocolate mousse from Crudessence; pizza sans fromage with wholewheat base, spinach, olives, artichokes, from Il Focolaio. The pizza was great, reminded me of Rigatoni's in Edinburgh. And they clocked vegan straight away, and even have a tofu pepperoni option.
I'm sitting in a park, as Montreal beeps and rumbles and chatters around me. I can hear a helicopter passing. The clacking of skateboards. The sky is inky black, stars drowned by city lights. A circling spotlight peeks between skyscrapers every few seconds. A city like many others. It's rough around the edges, but seems stable enough. Rough enough not to make me suspicious of it, like Tokyo or Doha. Stable enough to make me content there alone, unlike Cairo or Delhi. Maybe if Edinburgh grew skyscrapers it would be like this.
It's more French than I was for some reason expecting; primarily French. I understand when people speak to me - eventually. It takes a few extra seconds to process, and by that time they've realised and switched to English.
Today I went to the botanical gardens. A blue and black papillon landed on me, and a green stick insect climbed my hand. I watched my beetle alter-ego fly repeatedly into glass, flounder with its legs in the air for a while, before righting itself and proceeding to bury itself completely with dirt. I walked through artificial environments which supported plants that shouldn't be there. Diverse bits of the world gathered together in one place, entombed in glass, for $14.50. There wasn't much alive outside. Instead of playing rainforest make-believe, I took some photos of plants alongside the human-built infrastructure that kept them alive.
I ate: an apple pastry from Sophie Sucree; pea soup from the gardens' restaurant; three fresh samosas from a tiny Indian place; brown sticky rice with edamame, carrot, ginger, avocado, cucumber, watercress and tempeh from Nutrimania.
I saw McGill campus, Parc la Fontaine, and many streets. After dark, I walked through Place des Artes, and here I am.
Arrived in Portland after a 17 hour train journey. Had no data connection and had done no prior planning, including caching a map or getting the address of where I was staying. Pantsed around Union Station looking for wifi for a while, and eventually the restaurant next door (Wilf's) were sympathetic. I made it to my destination, discussed the boundless possibilities of vegan food with my hosts for a few hours, and then we went for dinner at Epif Restaurant & Pisco Lounge; Charciqan. Also headed to a bar where I tried Kombucha. Not sure how I feel about it.
Ground Kontrol for a vegan corndog, weird Liam Neeson movie and pinball. The nostalgia for Windows pinball I got from playing IRL pinball was incredible. Reverse nostalgia?
Went to White Owl for vegan s'mores, but they don't sell them any more due to complaints from the fire department. Stopped by the entirely vegan mall (!?!), but everything was closed. Finally ended up at Rimsky's for tea, a truly fantastical place that would have been the highlight of the day had the day not been entirely highlights. "Sit at a table which hums."
I went on a walking tour of 'underground' Portland. I was the only person, and the tour guide wasn't super keen to go out in the downpour, but he humoured me. I learnt lots about racism and crimping and tunnels.
I couldn't find 'world foods' in Wholefoods today; will broaden my search. UK-style baked beans are my childhood favourite food. Technically Brits eat Marmite, but I consider Vegemite far superior. Marmite will do in a pinch though.
Thus, I made a batter with 1/3 of the flour (strong white bread flour; 6oz),
all of the yeast (one 7g packet) and all of the water (415ml) and the oil
(30ml), and left that covered in the airing cupboard for an hour where it
bubbled away merrily.
Next I mixed in the rest of the flour (12oz) and some salt and a handful of
sunflour seeds, poppyseeds and pumpkin seeds. Contrary to what my mother
promised, it was very sticky. I stirred vigorously and kept adding flour
until I could cope with it, and kneading began. I kneaded for fifteen
minutes, having discovered that sometimes punching instead of regular
kneading is much more enjoyable.
I turned it into six balls and one long bit, and arranged them on a tray and
in an ad-hoc loaf tin, and they went back in the airing cupboard for about two
and a half hours (I went out). I covered them, as instructed, and that was
where things started to go wrong..
The bits that didn't get stuck to the tinfoil rose great. But the bits that
stuck pretty much didn't get to rise. They rose outwards loads, but upwards
was constrained. Rubbish.
I baked them anyway (30 minutes, 220 degress celcius).
Tastes great, textures is okay, appearance is disappointing. Next time I
won't cover them quite so securely while they're rising. Far more holey than
I was anticipating too; I'm not sure if under- or over-kneading causes this.