An entire meal without any meat, dairy or any other animal derivative might seem difficult for many of us to imagine. But Bali’s bursting vegan scene is transforming the way many of us feel about a plant-based diet.
Being vegan has long carried the stigma of sentencing oneself to a life of culinary dissatisfaction, a prison of tasteless meal options, limited to deep-fried tofu and rabbit food. But, we would think, these days it is almost impossible to not find a meal worthy of a meat-lovers approval with the huge range of vegetarian and vegan options available on the island.
Think ‘Jackfruit Tacos’, which mimic the consistency and even rival the taste of marinated pork pulled off the bone, and ‘Tricken’ Salad with soy substitutes that could fool even the biggest KFC fans. Burritos, waffles and ice-cream. Colourful salad bowls, and hearty wraps with chickpea and tempe patties, Instagram worthy smoothie bowls and mouth-watering treats like those from wholesaler Peace Cake Bali, a small family business, which makes the most delicious non-dairy cheesecakes and ice-creams you’ve ever had the pleasure of trying.
They look the part, taste even better, and don’t leave you feeling like you need to detox the following day. You can have it all. Your peace of mind and your guilty pleasures too. At least that’s the idea behind some of Bali’s most popular all-vegan and vegetarian restaurants. And, from the looks of the filled seats and happy faces, it seems to be working.
Vegan food is anything but boring, says Kynd Community co-owner Lauren Camilleri. “Unless you’re eating garden salads all day long. In which case, we’d agree with you—that’s boring.”
Everyone knows you don’t make friends with salad.
Kynd has become a hugely popular in less than a year since its opening. The small all vegan restaurant in Seminyak with its bright pink walls, fun menu and delicious smoothie bowls, has become an Instagram favourite, with a creative menu and a heartfelt message for us all to be “Kynder”. Born out of a motivation to bring vegan food to the masses, Kynd is appealing to the large number of “flexitarians” now finding their way to Bali.
“Every single day we here people say, ‘wow i didn’t know vegan food could taste so good’. We love it. It’s music to our ears, and gives me goosebumps every time.”
Burgers, cakes, milkshakes (made with non-dairy alternatives), waffles and more feature on their menu, coming with a promise that they “taste just as good, if not even better” than their non-vegan originals.
“We wanted to change peoples perceptions on vegan food and show them just how delicious cruelty-free, 100 per cent plant based food really tastes and that you can have all the exact same things you usually eat,” says Lauren, who became a vegan four years ago.
It was a choice the foodie made based on moral grounds, and a belief that not eating animals was not only better for them and her conscious, but also for the environment.
“There is no denying our world is struggling more than ever before,” she says. “Our planet is warming up, ice caps are melting, seas are rising, oceans are filling up with plastic and rubbish, pollution filling the air we breath, our animals getting tortured and turned into machines… the time has come for us to start taking action…”
“If your feet are planted on our planet then you are responsible for your choices.” She said Kynd does not aim to push veganism onto anyone, but rather invites people to question exactly where their food comes from and how.
It can be a little harder to discern where your meat is coming from in Indonesia. Apart from claims of animal abuse in unregulated slaughterhouses and calls to end live-exports, a cringe-worthy ABC investigation last year exposed the details of the dog meat trade in Bali. Those same reports said some tourists weren’t actually aware their piece of Satay was in fact not chicken, but the charred remains of a dog brutally killed and butchered or poisoned. If you’re ok with eating dogs morally, (I for one hope you’re not), then there’s still the health concerns with eating toxic meat.
Lauren argues it doesn’t really make a difference. “Yes there is a lot of media coverage on Indonesians eating dog. But what difference does it make whether you eat a cow, a pig, a chicken, a dog, a shark. They are all sentient beings that want to live and deserve the right to live a happy life just like you or I.”
Many reputable restaurants, however, are well known for their top-quality meat, often imported from countries like Australia. Did someone say Angus Beef Burger ‘ala Bali? Take NUDE in Berawa for example. A restaurant which prides itself on pleasing all-atarians. Vegan options, raw vegan options, vegetarian options, chicken, beef, fish. You name it, they’ve got it.
Owner Christian Reyno, says he was determined to cater to everyone. “Having so many friends that are vegan, and enjoying vegan food myself it made sense! It may be stereotyping but I always had the vision of men eating their burgers, and ladies enjoying a vegan salad together,” he says. “I know nowadays it’s more likely that both in the couple will be vegan but you want to truth – there it is.”
He admits, the raw food items on the menu are their least popular, and take the longest time to prep but he wanted the restaurant to be all inclusive. Excluding dairy and meat just wouldn’t be an option he said. “For too many people, breakfast just isn’t breakfast without eggs!”
But, even as a self-confessed meat lover, he sees the growing popularity of a plant-based diet and is adamant herbivores and carnivores can be friends.
“Although I’m not a vegan I think it’s safe to say that every meat eater is a vegan waiting to happen. I doubt you’ll find many vegans converting back to eating meat after sustaining a plant based diet.”
Some of the most popular cafes in Bali are veg, and almost all establishments are offering meat and dairy alternatives. Specialty website Happy Cow has listed Bali as having a staggering 234 vegan/vegetarian friendly restaurants.
It’s on trend, and it’s delicious.
Gypsy Webster opened the Shady Shack in the hipster hotspot of the island, Canggu, just over two years ago. “The belief that eating meat is one of the most significant contributors to the most serious of environmental problems convinced us that doing a vegetarian restaurant was the only way forward”, she said.
Back then, its variety of delicious and hearty veg meals made it a quick favourite among expats, hidden behind a beautiful rice paddy on a (back then) quiet little street, tucked between local Balinese houses and a stunning field of green. Today the space is HUGELY popular. At times you can expect to find your name on a waiting list (hot tip, go early in the morning for a quiet coffee fix and space to enjoy the setting).
The Shady Shack prides itself on offering large portions, with dishes featuring a combination of as many grains, pulses, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds as possible to make sure the customer doesn’t leave hungry. We love the “Shepherds Lie” and the “Shack Attack Burger” for post-surf feel-good fuel.
Asked whether she had any fears about the success of an all vegetarian resto, and Gypsy answers simply: “No”.
“We felt there was enough like minded people out there,” she says. “Especially in Bali where there is a strong focus on health and wellbeing seeking not only vegetarian food to fulfil their ethical, environmental, cultural, economic and social concerns but also enjoying new and varied cuisines.”
Their menu is about 95 per cent vegan.
“The only thing that makes us vegetarian is eggs and cheese in three of our dishes. We find that most of our customers generally opt for the vegan options, which makes us feel great, but there are still a lot who come in daily for their eggs.”
Peloton Supershop owner Madison Seawan has come to believe that for the sake of our planet, and ourselves, diary and meat need to take a backseat in our lives completely. Opened back in 2015, her cafe/restaurant/community space quickly became a must-do eating experience in Bali. Back then, they would take the (at times frightening) plunge and become one of the first real plant-based establishments on the island.
Today, their success has inspired an entire movement.
Priding itself on not just being a restaurant, but a “hub that encourages Earthlings to come together & tread lightly as we carry out our journeys on this planet”, the creativity and taste combinations of their all vegan menu is something to behold. Their main point of difference is a huge focus on plant consumption, with enough greens and colourful veggie combinations to please anyone’s doctor.
At first, Madison admits, the aim was to open a business serving top free range eggs, and quality meats. But taking the road down the research path, made her and her partner realise an all vegan, plant centred establishment was the only way to go. “Our ethos is to be aware in what we consume and encourage people to simply EAT MORE PLANTS. To provide that cruelty free menu that doesn’t sacrifice FUN, doesn’t preach how to live and still remain welcoming to boyfriends, uncles and that Dad that typically would never consider a plant based meal.”
“The PELOTON represents the group of cyclists that ride together to help build speed & conserve energy. Together they share the effort, & strive collectively to reach their goal. At PELOTON SUPERSHOP, we have applied the same above principles as the driving force to bring our dream to life.”
Those are the words front and centre on Peloton’s glorious menu, and at the forefront of their mission to make a change and in Madison’s words “positive impact on our planet home”.
Especially delicious and unique are their vegan takes on local cuisine, Mexican favourites and hearty salads that make you feel like you are loving on your body in all the right ways. Their scrambled-tofu will have you seriously questioning whether you’ll touch eggs again and their breakfast burrito is a winner every time.
When they first opened, most cafes were still dabbling with dairy and honey, the only milk alternative was soy and most establishments serving vegan food held a strong hippie connotation long attached to veganism. But Peloton wanted to be different.
“We knew we were creating a different genre,” says Madison. “A gateway to changing the mindset or approach of plant based gastronomy. Straight up wholesome, simple, clean versions of world favorites. It was scary, we had our doubts, but in our hearts we knew that the intention was REAL & that karma, pacha mama and this epic island would have our backs.”
Everyday Peloton is packed. Their space, well-known for its sleek decor, it’s beautiful bicycles hanging on their walls, and equally masculine and feminine feels, is testament to their success.
Combining the elements of two of the fastest sustainability movements in the world, cycling and plant-based foods, they hope to remind us of our ability to make a difference. Even if you aren’t switching to a complete plant-based diet, Madison says whether you’re becoming more aware of your food choices, or opting for a meat-free meal every now and then – it all helps.
“We want to share and acknowledge the power we have to truly be the change. Every plate makes a difference, every bicycle ride counts, each plant based meal that heads out of our kitchen, or Earth Friendly product from our shelf is a WIN. We’re trying to bring the balance back in consumption.”
Header image: Shady Shack dished via bali.com