Vegan travel: Buenos Aires, Argentina

Feliz año! Or happy new year to all of you non-Spanish speakers. While many sites start the year with a bunch of new year’s resolutions and plans, or a recap of the previous year, we’re jumping right into 2012 with a vegan travel post. Welcome to Buenos Aires, the beautiful capital of Argentina.

Presidency building or Casa Rosada

While Argentina is generally known as the land of steak, Buenos Aires is a very cosmopolitan city that has welcomed waves of immigrants from all over the world– along with their cuisines. So there is plenty for a vegan to eat while steering clear of the parrillas and dulce de leche.

Every little cafe, no matter how small, has fresh squeezed orange juice (jugo de naranja or exprimido de naranja). In fact, they even sell freshly squeezed juice on the streets.

fresh juice on the street

Most cafes also have smoothies (licuados) that can be made with water, juice or milk, either with one fruit or a mix of fruits.

licuado de frutas (mixed fruit smoothie)

If you want to prepare your own food, there are health food shops (dietéticas) all over town, though their selection is fairly limited. The focus at the moment seems to be gluten-free and sugar-free items, as well as bulk grains. I was happy to find seaweed in most of the dietéticas, and even got some vegan dulce de leche (which tasted a little too chemical-ish for me).

Mostly, I bought fresh produce at the corner fruit and veg shops  (frutería & verdulería), and then topped up with a few health food items from Chinatown (the barrio chino in the area of Belgrano). The grocery shops in Chinatown have great Asian ingredients as well as a broader selection of health foods (e.g. bulk quinoa, chia seed crackers or soy products) at very good prices.

Argentina has become a major producer of soy in recent years. Perhaps that explains the presence of tofu, soy cutlets and similar items on cafe menus that are otherwise not terribly veg-friendly. Whatever the reason, there is a surprising amount of tofu available at cafes in Buenos Aires (though strangely, no soymilk in the cafes). With the hot weather, I was in the mood for a giant frozen coffee drink, and found one made with coconut milk and dark chocolate at Baraka. Delicious!

Frozen coffee with coconut milk

At Mooi, a beautiful cafe in the neighbourhood of Belgrano, I had a lovely salad. The place is not exclusively vegetarian (it’s omni, as some would say), but it had plenty of vegan-friendly options.

Salad of mixed greens and tofu with seed crust

Look how gorgeous this restaurant is! It absolutely deserves the name Mooi (beautiful).

Mooi restaurant interior

Another little cafe, Como en Casa, came up with this healthy sandwich, with greens and grilled veggies (including broccoli!).

Grilled vegetable sandwich with greens

Aside from steak and dulce de leche, Argentina is famous for empanadas–mini pies usually filled with ham and cheese or other non-vegan fillings. Luckily, vegan empanadas are available from some of the health food shops and vegetarian restaurants. La Esquina de las Flores makes really delicious vegan empanadas in all sorts of flavours (pumpkin, corn, eggplant/aubergine/brinjal, swiss chard, azuki bean and more).

Vegan empanadas from Mil Flores

vegan pumpkin empanada

vegan empanada filling: azuki beans

I think this post is approaching world record length, so I’ll save the rest for part 2. But here’s a teaser…  vegetarian restaurants Artemisia and Bio, healthy organic cafe Meraviglia, as well as raw vegan cafe Buenos Aires Verde, vegan gourmet restaurant Kensho and raw/vegan meal delivery service, Cocina Verde. Stay tuned!

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