8 de Junio, 2015
[On a bumpy bus in South Bolivia]
Most vegans can agree we are hungry more often than most carnivores. Ryan is hungrier than any human being I’ve ever met and when we entered Argentina we both prepared ourselves knowing our options would be limited. A country that is known to consume the most meat in the world would most likely not be vegan friendly. Fellow travelers warned us. Even our Argentinean friends questioned what we’d eat, but as always we had hopes and by God did Argentina blow our tastebuds.
Starting in the south of Patagonia we found little produce for high costs. The veg and fruit sections were sad but we made it work and we cooked delicious feasts in the hostel kitchen. Well Ryan did. Thankfully breakfasts were included and consisted of toast, jam, cereal, tea, and coffee. We’d slam as much as we could getting our money worth. For lunch and dinner we had an array of pastas, potatoes, stir-fry, pizza, and Ryan even concocted a baked tomato veggie stew covered in mashed potatoes. [below is one of Ry’s finest Za’s]
Further up we prayed for heaps of fresh produce, which we found plentiful in Buenos Aires. But before thinking about cooking in crappy kitchens we consulted our Happy Cow app. We were floored by the results. Pages and pages of restaurants, buffets, and take-aways with the choice of vegan, vegetarian, or veg-friendly options we quickly went to explore.
Just around the corner from our hostel, The Ritz (our home for almost two weeks) we discovered Konu. A vegan lunch time buffet with many burger options, desserts, and even vegan CHEESE FRIES! For only $3-5 we mounted our plate with different vegan fares and left full and satisfied. Below are pics of what kind of pigs we were. Vegan gnocchi, breaded eggplant, seitan stir-fry, lentil curries, salad bar with cous cous, hummus and cold pastas, lasagna, tofu-scrambled tarts, and so much more. We immediately fell in love with the staff and promised to return.
Our next vegan search brought us to Viva. They had two locations and we dined at both. A large menu full of vegan desires costing around $7-10 with shelves of packaged goods including soy yogurt, vegan beer, vegan mayo, and tofu. Our first attempt Ryan devoured a potato, seitan curry and I had a delicious carrot, cashew [plus more veg I can’t remember] risotto. When exploring Palermo, a large neighborhood to the north we stopped by their second location. We had just received an amazing rate on Argentinean pesos from a European money transfer service and we decided to treat ourselves to a lovely, little lunch date. Starting off we ordered a bottle of sparkling wine [only $14 and quite balanced and crisp] then Ryan started off with a pumpkin soup followed by a hummus, rocket, zucchini, avocado sammy. I went for the Caesar salad. Sub in the chicken with sautéed tofu, the dressing with a delicious vegan version, and it was topped with vegan croutons and bursting cherry tomatoes. But we couldn’t stop there. The dessert counter eyed us the entire meal and we finished the meal with a large piece of carrot cake they kept us wondering HOW DO THEY DO THIS!
Our first weekend we were lucky enough to join the locals to celebrate 25th de Mayo Celebration. It was a huge street fair around the Casa Rosada [pink house], the main government building, and displayed Argentina’s proud resources, famous eats, and best of all loads of free live music. Every night we’d grab beers and wander around and we were luckily enough to find one of the food trucks selling quinoa burgers. They were unlike anything I’ve tasted, crispy, yet uncrumbling, topped with a grilled tomato, I devoured it in seconds. At the end of one night after many beers and loads of dancing we ran in to a couple selling vegan baked goods! How perfect! A choice of a chocolate chip swirl cake or a cinnamon crumble I couldn’t be more surprised.
[slightly drunk and so happy to have vegan dessert!]
A few times we discovered vegetarian buffets just by strolling along the streets and we had more embarrassingly large meals. A favorite was a Chinese vegan take-away buffet that we kept going to at the wrong time. One of our last days we vegged out on Chinese noodles, spring rolls, roasted sweet potatoes, stir-fry with beets and brussels sprouts and more. They even had sushi rolls that we had to walk away from.
When asking around for soy milk [impossible to find in this country] we learned about a Tues/Fri organic market in the next neighborhood and decided to test it out. Full of tables with goodies we could eat, we chose a few items and had a nice picnic near by.
Konu, the first place I praised about, was a frequent lunch spot for us and when we finally tried the burgers we couldn’t believe our stomachs. Probably one of the best vegan burgers not to mention [again] CHEESE FRIES along side we came back for a second and third. My favorite was the sweet pepper burger made from quinoa topped with vegan cheese, grilled pepper, lettuce, tomato, vegan mayo, all sat on a multi-grain bagel. The cheese fries made it feel like cheating. I don’t know how they do it [some kind of potato recipe the chef wouldn’t share] but one day I’ll figure out how to make this devilish dish and you’ll find me happily fat sitting in my organic garden.
We’re still in Buenos Aires. We seriously ate like kings. Definitely spent a bit more money, but the hostel’s kitchen lacked space, proper cooking gear, and even a stove. We made a few meals in-house, but often got frustrated when it’d take over 30mins to boil water on the hot plate. One of my favorite days on this entire South American trip was my first ever fútbol match. We proudly wore River Plate jerseys and pretended to chant along with our loyal neighbors. After winning the game we strode out with pride, and of course thought of food. Our favorite spots were closed at this hour but one a few streets away showed promise. A vegetarian spot tucked away on what I call Broadway street, we were confused to see the restaurant full, but the door locked. An employee spotted us at the door and quickly rushed over to seat us. Quite small with around 30 tables it was fully packed at 10pm. [And people laughed at us for being vegans. This country was full of veggies!!] Here I took down a “taco” that anyone else would call a wrap. Full of hummus, beans, and salad I happily enjoyed the different flavors.
One of my most memorable meals for many reasons happened on our last night in BA. We met with one of our lovely Argentinean mates and we weren’t sure where to go. He loves meat, we clearly don’t, and all of our spots were closed. We tried Satvaa [the fútbol game place] though found it shut. We walked up and down “Broadway Street” with hunger pains looking for anything we could eat. This area has historical pizza joints, a dish Argentineans say they do better than Italians but I’ll leave that up to you, and many of the shops were crowded with folks on a late Monday night. In the end we went for the most famous and asked if we could build our own cheese-less pizza, knowing it was probably a sin. Not a problem though, Ryan and I took down a delicious tomato, garlic, onion, mushrooms, red pepper, and tomato sauce za. Ignacio and James, a hostel friend, shared a extra loaded cheese, meat-filled pie. We demolished ours. They got half way through. I guess that’s the difference when your body has to digest heavy cheese on top of meat 🙂
We left BA in high praises. Of course we had one last burger and cheese fries from Konu, shared a chocolate cake for dessert and thanked all the lovely folks at the restaurant. We hopped on a 25hr bus heading to the northwest of Argentina to spend our last fews days before heading to Bolivia. Not many lunch choices here but a soy mileanesa burger and fries did the trick one afternoon. Later that evening we stopped by a restaurant serving veg options and met a vegan who worked there. We enjoyed sautéed new potatoes and a veggie wok stir-fry with quinoa. The small hostel in Tilcara included breakfast where we sat on the terrace soaking up the mountain views. In their tiny kitchen Ryan cooked us our final meal in Argentina a large rice stir-fry with potatoes, cauliflower, carrots, peppers, and onions.
We ate better in Argentina than the previous two countries despite what others said and if you are ever scared to go to a meat-centric country as a vegan, don’t be. There are many of us out in the world creating delicious, healthy eats that you haven’t even thought of!
Now that I’ve made my mouth water over all these dishes again, I’m going to enjoy my homemade veggie sandwich on this extremely bumpy journey through the south desert of Bolivia and dream of what the next city has to offer.
Sweet eats lovers,