The hungry vegan is absolutely spoilt for choice in healthy-eating mecca Ubud. There are a wealth of vegetarian, vegan and raw vegan cafés, and what better excuse to try them out than the month of Vegebruary.
Earth Café and Half-price Mondays at Paradiso
Earth Café has an incredible menu of completely vegan food, these guys make egg whites out of coconut flesh, pizzas with cheese made from cashews, and their lemon and tofu cheesecake is out-of-this-world good!
Their Cinema-space Paradiso, just up the stairs from the café, also serves some of the menu items at 50% on Monday lunchtimes. With plenty to choose from, including their red bean burrito, “BLT”, salads, soups and world cuisine such as Thali plate or Mediterranean plate, plus a selection of juices and desserts, this is on my weekly schedule. So long as you can put up with the lack of aircon (I think that’s where your 50% saving goes), it’s well worth a visit.
The last time I went, we were serenaded by a wonderful piano player throughout our meal. The place took on the hushed reverie of a recital, which made for an interesting and very pleasant lunchtime experience.
Alchemists at work to make tasty and inspiring raw food
The next place I tried was Alchemy, a raw food institution in Ubud which I had previously walked out of when I realised everything in there was indeed, raw.
However, on returning as a ‘vegan’ I stayed long enough to discover that their menu is equally as inventive and inspiring as any other restaurant that is not working under the limiting conditions of using no animal products or, indeed, fire.
Alchemy is a fitting name for the process that these guys use to turn raw ingredients into tasty creations absolutely bursting with flavour. The raw pizza for example is so delicious that you do not for a second fantasise about a real pizza with ….steaming mozzarella dripping from it.. (alright, I just did – but only for a second). Their desserts are equally as incredible and stand up against their fully baked and dairy filled equivalents, without question. I go for the chocolate pie, which is rich and indulgent, with guilt-free abandon that I guess only a vegan can feel when let loose on a seldom-encountered completely vegan dessert menu.
The problem is, there are far too many of these places in Ubud so I may have to start exerting a little more dessert-control.
Sayuri Healing Food – Hipster and Hippy Hangout
Sayuri Healing Food (as it is pretentiously called) must also be sampled in Vegebruary. Their remit is mainly raw, but also cooked, plus plenty of vegan and gluten-free options. Again, there has been a huge amount of creativity put into the menu and they reimagine meat-eater faves such as Lasagna, Burritos, Smoked “Salmon” on Rye and even a full English, all using some kind of substitute for the meat and dairy elements.
The space is open and spacious, very popular with the digital nomad and the hippy crowd, which means that most of the tables will be occupied by one man (or woman) and his (or her) Macbook, or alternatively a be-dreadlocked yoga bunny sat in lotus poisition.
I’m very impressed with the full English, cheekily titled The Big Boy Breakfast which includes tofu scrambled ‘eggs’ with a light curry flavour, coconut ‘bacon’ which could definitely fool me into thinking it is meat, and even cashew ‘butter’ for my toast. It’s genius!
They have a ridiculously tempting-looking desserts cabinet, which beckons whilst you are queuing to pay. You may want to bring a set of blinkers – or just some steely resolve – if you want to escape in one, average-sized, piece.
Moksa – Organic Delights in a laid back setting
Moksa is another ‘concept eatery’ which is more earthy than pretentious. It’s location out in the rice fields means you are less likely to be surrounded by digital nomads tapping away on their macs whilst munching on a raw bean burrito. Bring your wellies if it’s rainy season!
Their more-than-a-restaurant ethos includes an offering of cookery classes, yoga and meditation and a Saturday farmer’s market where you can buy their produce. Their food is made with ingredients from their permaculture garden and aims to be fresh, tasty and sustainable. Some of the items are raw, others cooked, all though are unbelievably tasty!
Roots – Authentic Korean Food in Ubud
I’m going to include Roots Bali on this list as, even though they are not strictly speaking a vegan restaurant, their food is vegan-friendly enough that you are not going to have any problems eating there. Owned by American, Sean, and his wife who is Korean, the place offers a limited menu of authentically Korean dishes. On the menu you have the go-to favourite Korean starters of mandu (stuffed dumplings), pajeon (squid pancakes) and kimbab (vegetarian seaweed rolls). The mains feature a couple of soups, a meat dish and, of course, Korean staple; Bibimbap. We decided to go for the daily special, which features rice, soup and the ‘daily creation’.
One of the best and most authentic things about this restaurant is that they bring you three side dishes which are replenished free of charge – just like they do in Korea! We had kimchi, a pickled cucumber salad and a seaweed with sesame but Sean told us that they have 5 different ones which they cycle (another good excuse to go back).
The daily creation we had was a deconstructed Bahn Mi which consisted of a bowl of the Vietnamese vegetables, rice and a sesame dressing. The soup is DuenJang Chigae, a soy bean based soup which is very faithful to the comforting soup that I ate countless times during my time in South Korea.
For dessert I have a voucher for something called Hoedduck pancakes, that I do not recall. However, it’s testament to the authenticity of the cooking that even before the first bite, the smell immediately transports me to the street-side pancake vendor in the midst of a very cold Korean winter, and I remembered nothing better than biting into the cinnamon, pine-nut filled dough!
I was so lost in my reverie that it didn’t occur to me that the syrup I was pouring all over them was likely to be honey (it usually is in Korea) and I immediately had pangs of vegan-guilt (although admittedly not quite enough to stop eating them). However, Sean quickly reassured me that they used coconut syrup. Fantastic! He said they tried to use vegan ingredients wherever possible and they also have a vegan chocolate ice-cream with quinoa brittle which I am going to try next time, for sure.
Korean cuisine can be very meat focussed – they are famed for their barbeques – but there is so much of it which is vegan-friendly, using lots of fresh vegetables and delicious flavours and spices, and Roots manages to successfully exploit this, being at once authentic yet thoughtful enough to please everyone.
You don’t have to be vegan…
So, now Vegebruary is over, where will the Greedy Cat be dining? I have to say that after sampling the food in these places, that vegan cuisine (at least in Ubud) has become one of my favourites. So with still so many places to try – Seeds of Life, Sari Organik, Bali Buda, The Herb Library and Kafe, to mention just a few – you can be sure I will not be waiting until next Veganuary or Vegebruary to try them out!