I’ve been vegan in Asia in three different countries; Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia and from time to time people ask me how on earth I can cope. There are not exactly a lot of vegetarian restaurants here and there are absolutely no Bocca Burgers, Veganaise, Daiya Cheese in Jakarta.
The thing is, as much as I quite like these foods from time to time, I try to make sure they are not the mainstay of my diet. Sure they are are quite satisfying and really good when you are transitioning from a Standard American Diet (SAD) because although they are better for you than the equivalent animal-based burger or mayo, I don’t want to just eat well, I want to eat optimally and fuel my body with the best whole foods I possibly can in their most unprocessed state. That’s why I use mainly local produce and cook from scratch. It also saves me some cash. The high cost of those processed veg meats / cheeses is another reason I want to avoid them. Dried chickpeas and tempeh though? Seriously cheap.
So, while it is certainly true that it pretty easy to just take some burgers out of the freezer when we get home from work, make a quick side salad or some oven fries, I would rather take the extra time (which when you come down to it, it is only a matter of an extra 20 minutes) and make something from scratch. It’s true, it does take more time, but I believe that this is so important, that I need to make this a priority in my life. I think we all need to be taking the time to nourish our bodies properly. If it means I have less time to watch TV of an evening then I’m OK with that.
The thing is, when I fancy a burger I’ll make one. Need mayonaise? I’ll make some. OK. Cheese is a bit of a problem, but I can make foods with nuts and nutritional yeast that will satisfy those cravings. Nearly all things that you can find in Whole Foods in Canada or the US you can pretty much make yourself. Indonesia has beautiful produce and some amazing protein sources. It might not have kale, but it has plenty of other green leafies. I don’t feel deprived at all and even if I lived in a place with a huge stack of awesome frozen burgers, mayo and muffins, I’d still make my own.