Saturday 31 December 2016

Top 10 Eats of 2016

Well 2016 has definitely been a mixed bag food wise, I spent two months volunteering at Japan Cat Network, a cat shelter in Inawashiro almost 100 miles from the nearest vegan friendly restaurant, and I got food poisoning in Taiwan, but I also discovered a new-to-me cuisine, ate some of the best food of my life, and had some amazing culinary adventures. I'm looking into 2017 with a whole lot of uncertainty and anxiety, obviously the current political climate terrifies me, but on a more personal level I have literally no idea where the next year is going to take me. I don't think I've ever gone into a year with no solid plans at all, I have no idea where I'm going to be living, travelling, or working, but I'm excited about the possibilities ahead and as always I'm feeling lucky that I have choices to make.

Without further ado here are my Top 10 Eats of 2016. These are in the order that I ate them because ranking this short list would basically be impossible. The list also discounts anything I've eaten in previous years hence why Lagusta's chocolates, Vinnie's pizza, and the ramen from T's Tan Tan aren't on the list.

1 - Vegan Heaven in Taipei

I usually insist on picking one standout dish from each place for this list but every single thing I ate at Veggie Heaven was a delight. I can't choose. Don't make me! From the delicate coffee hazelnut macarons to the apple caramel cream cakes I didn't find a single thing that needed improvement. The owner and baker Li is also without a shadow of a doubt one of the nicest people I've ever met. Visit Taipei immediately. Order one of everything. You won't be disappointed!

Tuesday 6 December 2016

Loving Earth Review & Giveaway

Whilst it was the gorgeous packaging that first drew me towards the Loving Earth stall at the Just V show earlier this year I was further sucked in by their ridiculously delicious chocolate bars - raw food has no business being this good! Their flavours range from the super dark 85% Dark bar all the way through to the Creamy bar which is made from 47% cacao and 23% coconut.

My veganism has always been driven by my love for animals first but my love for the environment comes in a close second. I know, I know, I fly a lot but I also pay to recycle all of the plastics, try to buy products in recycled packaging or, even better, with no packaging, I travel by train or bus whenever time allows, and I've never owned a car. What I'm saying is that whilst I was originally sucked in by the taste of these coconuty chocolate treats I've become a loyal customer because it turns out that Loving Earth really do love the earth.

Their whole philosophy is based upon respect for the environment and sustainability plays a big part in that. Loving Earth's bars come in 80g and 30g packs and all of their packaging is sustainable, the 80g boxes are made from post-consumer fibres and printed with vegetable inks and the 30g packs are compostable and made from cellulose from sustainably managed trees. Even the clear film the chocolate itself is wrapped in is made from a 100% renewable and compostable vegetable source.

Saturday 26 November 2016

2016 Vegan Holiday Gift Guide

Last winter I made a promise to myself to break out of old habits, to stop impulse purchasing things, and to try harder to support awesome businesses and people with my money. I have to say that I've been nailing it! I've been buying more stuff from charity shops, thinking about my purchases for longer, and I can't remember the last time I had anything from Amazon delivered to my house. I kept these things in mind when I put my gift guide together and I hope that you'd also like to give people things that they'll love, use, learn from, or treasure forever. Supporting both small businesses and vegan businesses is the best so over half of my gift suggestions come from vegan artists, chefs, and small biz owners who are doing really cool stuff with their time. I hope that you love these suggestions for your Christmas, Festivus, Hanukkah, Pancha Ganapati, or Yule shopping as much as I loved putting them together!

  1. Lush Christmas Candy Box This sweet gift is stuffed with four gorgeous sweetie scented products including Snow Fairy Shower Gel, Rock Star Soap, the Luxury Lush Pud bath bomb, and the Candy Mountain bubble bar which really does make mountains of soft candy scented bubbles. £17.95 from your closest Lush store.
  2. Adopt Don't Shop Tote This totes adorbz tote (yeah I went there) from vegan owned and operated store All Glamour No Guts is the perfect gift for the fashionable animal lover in your life. The classic black and white colour way goes with anything and it was designed by vegan artist Veronica Kolinska. Totes are £10 and 10% of that goes straight to the animals living at Hillside Animal Sanctuary.

Saturday 19 November 2016

Taking a Pause. Thinking About the Future.

If you've been paying attention you'll have noticed that I'm currently taking a pause from travelling. I'm not at home though - I'm not even in Brighton because my house is still rented out so I'm in a weird in-between place both physically as well as mentally.

Towards the end of my travels in Asia this summer I hit a bit of a wall. I still loved travel but I was really craving the sense of community that you get from staying in one place. I've always dreamt of having a close knit group of friends who want to arrange bake sales, host potlucks, watch movies, cook dinners, and go to protests together but I never really had that in Brighton.

Monday 7 November 2016

Cooking With Friends.

I'm currently feeling super excited that I get to watch the seasons change from autumn to winter. This time last year I was in Thailand and I definitely missed all things autumn and winter; from bonfire night to drinking glasses of mulled winter punch on cold nights at home. The leaves are falling from the trees and the nights are drawing in and I'm loving spending evenings snuggled under a blanket reading by the fire at my sister in law's place.

When I've managed to pull myself out of my blanket cocoon I've been spending days in central London getting reunited with my old favourite food joints (and checking out some new ones), interviewing for the Christmas temp job of my dreams (cross your fingers for me friends!), and having a tonne of fun hanging out and eating with friends. Last week Randi and I made pizzas with the Miyoko's kitchen mozzarella I brought back from New York and whilst I didn't take any decent pictures you can trust me when I say that they were delicious. My favourite combo was pesto, potatoes, rosemary and mozzarella. So. Damn. Good.

My cooking adventures didn't stop there though, I hung out with Sal from Alien on Toast last weekend and we made both lasagne and lemon meringue pie. Two of my favourite foods ever. The lasagne was a true lazy person effort involving jarred béchamel, two blocks of Sainsbury's vegan cheese, and a homemade tomato sauce with sneaky hidden carrots and courgette. It was super good and I hope that we make it again someday. I didn't take a decent picture so here's a photo of my breakfast the next day. Yes, I am basically a genius!

The lemon meringue pie recipe we settled on was this one from the blog Seitan Beats your Meat, we chose it because you can always trust Kelly not to put a shitty recipe out there in the world. I'm kind of a renegade so of course I didn't read the recipe directions before I shopped for ingredients or before we started throwing things together in the kitchen so the 2 1/2 hour cooking time came as a bit of a shock especially as this was after "cooking" the pie crust (um, warming store bought pastry. Thanks Jus-rol!) and suddenly our lemon meringue pie dreams seemed doomed.

Friday 28 October 2016

A Weekend in Paris

If you live in the South of England and a friend is visiting Paris all the way from the US of A then you kinda have to make sure that you're there to greet them with a vegan croissant and tips on where to find the best chocolate chaud. When that trip also coincides with another friends parent's visit to the continent then this applies doubly and explains why I recently drove to Paris to spend the weekend with Joanna (of Yellow Rose Recipes fame), Randi (I hope you read her hilarious blog), her husband Zach, and her parents Cheryl and Bob.

Whilst Randi and family were still en route to the city of light Nick & I met up with Joanna for dinner at Brasserie 2eme Art. Both this spot and sister restaurant Brasserie Lola are new additions to the Parisian vegan dining scene since my last visit way back in 2011 and what great additions they are. It's not often that you find the vegan spots situated on main streets and bustling corners, blending into the local area, and tempting people with their mood lighting and cosy patio heaters but here we are.

Tuesday 25 October 2016

Artisan Vegan Cheese from Nutcrafter Creamery

Glasgow based vegan cheese co' Nutcrafter Creamery have been on my radar for a while and I finally had the chance to try a couple of their cashew based cheeses whilst I was road tripping in Scotland this summer. I picked up two of Nutcrafter's cheeses from Roots, Fruits, and Flowers in Glasgow; The Decadent, a flavourful, salty, air aged, Scottish dulse infused cheese, and The Essential, their smooth, spreadable, double cream style cheese. I ate them both on Oatcakes next to lochs all over Scotland which made my travels even more delightful.

As a self confessed vegan cheese fiend I obviously needed to get my paws on some more of their cashew cheeses and luckily the lovely peep's at Nutcrafter were more than happy to send some new flavours my way. My package included the The Volcanic, an extra aged black ash covered cheese, and The Indulgent, a fresh chive chèvre, as well as their almond parmesan, and a jar of their delicious cream cheese.

The Volcanic is definitely the best ash coated vegan cheese I've tried. This is probably a personal preference thing but I find that the black ash itself can sometimes be a little too intense overpowering the delicate flavours of the cheese itself but this was spot on and probably my favourite of the bunch.

Thursday 13 October 2016

Confectionary NYC

I fell hard for Lagusta's Luscious long before I ever tried their chocolates thanks to word of mouth and the power of the internet. That may sound strange but chocolate is one of my favourite things and when you do as much vegan foodie research as I do you know where to find the good stuff. After years of gazing at the Lagusta's Luscious website and following their beautiful Instagram feed I tried their chocolate for the first time in June 2014 after winning a voucher at Vida Vegan Con, waiting patiently for my chosen chocolates to ship, and sitting on the doorstep on my Austin Air B&B on delivery day because I knew that everything would melt in the hot Texas sun. 

As soon as I bit into my first caramel I knew was in love, I'd never be satisfied with mediocre vegan chocolates again! 

Wednesday 5 October 2016

Vegan in New York City

I've been struggling to write about food recently. After volunteering at the refugee camp and writing about my experience there writing about doughnuts and cupcakes seemed tougher than usual. Almost as soon as I got back from France I spent a couple of days catching up with friends, headed to London to march to Parliament Square with Help Refugees, the charity I'd been volunteering with, and the very next morning I was on a plane to NYC. I was excited but feeling pretty guilty that that's just a thing I can do because I happen to have been born in the UK. I didn't get a lot of time to process my experience before flying over here but since I've been here I've been setting aside time for self care; reading books, reading blogs, walking in the park, watching movies, eating all of the foods, and just giving myself time to do these things has reminded me that writing this blog is activism, it's just a different kind of activism! I don't know why I forget this sometimes but I do.

Travelling the world as a vegan can be the best, I know that I've mentioned that the hunt for vegan eats often makes you veer off of well trodden tourist routes and into neighbourhoods that the average tourist probably doesn't visit and this is no different in Hanoi, Budapest, or NYC. I've found it to be true everywhere. Brooklyn Whiskers is one of these spots and you need to venture deep into Bushwick if what you want is a top notch vegan danish.

As you can tell by the name the people who set up this cafe are really into cats, even their biscuits are kitty shaped and you must check out the bathroom if you're a cat person!

Friday 16 September 2016

Volunteering with Help Refugees

I recently returned from a two week trip to Calais where I spent my time volunteering with Help Refugees. If you read my last post you'll remember that I was running a donation drive in Brighton to take food donations to Calais in my van and it was a huge success, so many people brought generous donations along to both Punktured and The Hope and Ruin, and Infinity Foods gave me a generous donation of dried and canned goods. As well as filling the van with lentils, tinned tomatoes, biscuits, rice, sugar, tea, and more I was also able to raise £1050 which covered a weeks worth of fresh food for Refugee Community Kitchen who currently feed over 2000 people a day.

The refugee crisis in Calais is actually worse than I understood it to be before I went over there, the most surprising thing to me was finding out that it's not an officially recognised refugee camp. There are no large aid agencies like Oxfam or Amnesty there on the ground distributing aid in fact the only organisations working in the jungle are small grassroots groups like Help Refugees. There are over 10,000 people living in the camp and numbers are growing every day, the majority or refugees come from Afghanistan, Sudan, Pakistan and Eritrea. These are people who risk (and often loose) their lives trying to get to the UK to claim asylum. Despite the Dubs amendment passing in May no unaccompanied refugee children have been settled in the UK under the new law. Just let that sink in for a moment. Over four months ago the UK government agreed that we need to resettle unaccompanied refugee children but since then we have done nothing about it. Nothing. The mental and physical health of vulnerable children (children as young as eight) is declining every day and we're over here planning to build a £1.7m wall to keep people away?! It's appalling.

Tuesday 23 August 2016

Food Donation Drive for Help Refugees

This past week has been a whirlwind. Between getting my IUD replaced early last week (OMG that hurt so bad), to flying to Scotland and back today to investigate some exciting future plans I've met up with friends in London for delicious vegan eats, volunteered at FRIEND Sanctuary in Kent, hung out with my dad, spent time barbecueing and hanging in a hot tub with old friends, and even squeezed in a little dinner date with Nick's oldest friends and their new (to us, she's actually four months old already) baby. I've basically been all over the place!

In between all of this madness (don't worry I've scheduled a self care day for tomorrow!) I've been organising a food donation drive for Help Refugees. Nick and I will be driving our little camper van to Calais to volunteer at the refugee camp there. Did you read about my fun European road trip adventures last summer? Well whilst Nick and I were zig zagging across the continent in our silly tiny van with our British passports we passed numerous refugees who were unable to cross any borders. They were camping in city parks, being blocked from getting on trains, and arriving on Greek beaches with nothing after the most horrendous journeys. I think that it's bullshit that I can travel pretty much wherever I want because of some weird twist of birth whereas these people, not migrants as the British press are so fond of calling them, people, are what? Just meant to stay put whilst their countries are bombed? Where there are no opportunities for their children? Where they face persecution? Where members of their families are being killed? One of the first things I saw when we drove off of the ferry into France last summer was all of the fencing around not just the camp but all of the roads leading from the camp to the ferry and train terminals and I was both horrified and disgusted that my government was paying for this to keep refugees, people who by definition have been forced to leave their countries, away from the UK. Aside from feeling saddened by the state of the world I felt like I needed to at least try do something to help. 

Nick and I will be at the refugee camp for two weeks and I think we're mainly going to be volunteering in the warehouse sorting donations. It doesn't make sense to drive an empty van over there so we're going to try to fill the van with as many donations as possible. If you're in Brighton you can donate some food this Thursday 25th or Friday 26th at Punktured or The Hope and Ruin. I'll be at Punktured, located on Gardner Street close to Infinity Foods, between 11am and 6pm on both days and then at the Hope & Ruin, on Queen's Road, on Thursday night from 6pm - close. Don't ask how I'm going to be in both places at 6pm on Thursday, I'll figure it out. Maybe I'll run! If you drop donations off at The Hope & Ruin you get the added bonus of getting to order some delicious food from Beelzebab whose food I am totally obsessed with. The loaded fries are especially uh-mazing.

Help Refugees have to be quite strict with the donations that can be dropped off, there are only a small number of volunteers sorting through them and then an even smaller number manning the kitchen and cooking food for people. This is why everything has to be non perishable, donating some gorgeous veggies from your allotment would be a lovely idea but they wouldn't be good by the time our delivery slot rolls around on Sunday and they need a lot of each item to feed everybody.

If you'd like to donate here's your shopping list, screen shot it and grab a few things! 

• 1kg bags of sugar
• 1 litre bottle of oil (vegetable or olive)
• 1kg bags of rice
• 750g bags of salt
• Tinned pulses especially chickpeas and kidney beans (ring pull tops only)
• Tinned tomatoes (ring pull tops only)
• Dried red lentils
• Dried fruit and nuts
• Vegetable stock cubes
• Biscuits (good vegan biscuit options include Bourbons, HobNobs, McVities Fruit Shortcake and Lotus Biscoff)
• Tea
• Coffee

No one person needs to donate everything single thing on the list. A few small things will be really helpful, maybe your local shop will have an epic deal on canned pulses, or litre bottles of oil will be going cheap at the corner store you pass on the way to work. Every little helps!

Some of you super sweet people have let me know that you'd like to help from afar and I super appreciate it! Y'all are the best. Help Refugees need fresh fruit, veggies, herbs, onions, garlic, and potatoes so we'll be using any monetary donations to buy these things at a supermarket in Calais. The best way to donate is probably via Paypal to with a note that it's for Calais but if you have any other ideas of how to get cash to me then just holler on that same e-mail.

Thanks for reading! See you soon!

Tuesday 16 August 2016

Open Day at Friend Animal Rescue

It's no secret that I'm vegan primarily for animal rights reasons. I went vegan in 2005 after a short period of vegetarianism and I've never looked back. I've always loved animals, from the rabbit my parents finally let me get after years of begging, to the sheep that lived in the fields near where I grew up, I wanted to hug them all. I made the connection between the animals we see grazing in fields and the food on my plate at quite a young age but but my mum wouldn't let me go veggie and, as a kid growing up in the middle of nowhere with no idea where to even buy food, I just kept eating what was put on my plate. No lamb though, I just couldn't deal. Farmed animal sanctuaries like Friend, located near Tonbridge in Kent, are important for so many reasons. Firstly they're a refuge for the animals that make it out of the meat, dairy, and egg industries. Without sanctuaries these animals would have nowhere to go aside from the slaughterhouse.

Friend are currently caring for over 100 animals including cows, pigs, sheep, goats, cats, ducks, geese, chickens, and turkeys. It's a really fun place to visit. One of the goats was so friendly, whenever I spotted him he was making friends with another group of visitors! As well as believing that farm sanctuaries are essential for the animals that live there I also see farm sanctuaries as an essential education tool.

Tuesday 9 August 2016

Vegan Eats Edinburgh

As I mentioned last week Nick and I are staying with his sister right now. She has four kids who are eight, six, four, and two and OMG looking after them is tiring! I genuinely don't understand how she gets up and does this every single day and it's definitely reinforced my decision not to have children of my own. I mean we're having some fun but I wouldn't want to do this all the time. We're helping her sort out her house, which was Nick's parents house, so that she can sell it so we've been sorting through things, taking bags full of clothes and toys to the charity shop, and attempting to keep the kids entertained all at the same time. I'm definitely wishing I was back in Edinburgh right now as we move into hour six of supervising the putting together of a jigsaw! On the other hand Nick's sister made everyone vegan scones earlier and they were super delicious. I'll be stealing her recipe for sure, let me know in the comments if you want me to share it. Scones have always been a favourite of mine, they're up there with shortbread as one of the things I can remember loving since I was a wee bairn, as my dad would say.

Whilst we were in Edinburgh we spent a lot of time hanging out with the cats we were cat sitting for and cooking meals at my friend Imogen's place but we did manage to eat out a fair few times. Henderson's has been a favourite spot of mine since I first visited Edinburgh six years ago and now my favourite bistro is 100% vegan. How cool! Their shop, located just next door to the bistro and above their salad bar, seems to have become far more vegan friendly too. When we popped in they had cupcakes, cakes, flapjack style bars, and chocolate dipped shortbread biscuits which were only £1. As soon as I bit into them I wished that we'd bought more than three pieces.

I don't remember Henderson's having a particularly interesting breakfast menu but now it's seriously great. I wanted to order everything. In the end I settled on the tofu benedict which was a most excellent choice. 

Friday 5 August 2016

Oh hey friends!

The last few weeks have been brilliant and tiring and inspiring and fun and all of the best things but they definitely haven't been productive as far as writing goes!

A little over three weeks ago my friend Tabitha and I boarded a bus in central London that took us North where we met up with Nick, hopped into the van, and went off on a Scottish adventure. I managed to blog about the great food in Glasgow from a campsite which wasn't easy and involved such modern things as attaching my computer to a 3G hotspot on someone's phone. Magic! After a week of lochs, walks, eating, and exploring Tabitha hopped onto a train back to Brighton and Nick and I did a spot of cat sitting for my friend Imogen in Edinburgh.

Tuesday 26 July 2016

Vegan in Glasgow

I've been meaning to visit Glasgow since before the awful fat shaming animal rights group that shall not be named here picked it as their most vegan friendly city in the UK back in 2013. I don't know why it's taken me so damn long to get there but I'm going to blame Nick and the fact that early 2013 saw him deciding that he actually did want to get on planes and fly to far away places which significantly reduced our European adventures. Approximately 90% of my list of things to do in Glasgow list involved eating and thankfully my travel buddies were into that idea. We also fitted in a whole bunch of galleries and museums, large and small, as well as a whole lot of walking about the place.

Because we only had 36 hours in the city we could only really fit in three meals. If I don't eat breakfast as soon as I get up in the morning I'll be horribly cranky for the whole day so on day one we arrived in time for a late lunch / early dinner and on day two we ate a campsite breakfast and got into the city in time for activities and then lunch. I took a little poll on Instagram to help me narrow down my foodie shortlist and bustling cafe bar Mono came out on top by miles. We headed there first and we certainly weren't disappointed.

Friday 22 July 2016

Haeinsa Temple, Daegu

If you have plans to visit Korea I'd definitely recommend a short stay in Daegu. It's the perfect place to break up your journey between Seoul and Busan splitting the 5 1/2 hour ITX journey into two more manageable chunks. The main reason to visit Daegu is to check out Haeinsa Temple and, if you have time, Donghwasa is also worth a visit. As you can imagine at the tail end of nine solid months in Asia Nick I had visited more than a handful of stunning temples ranging from small local temples in Taipei where we were privy to Chinese New Year celebrations to the temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. We were pretty temple fatigued and, if I'm totally honest, not 100% up for making the bus journey out to Haeinsa but, as soon as we arrived, we were so glad we'd made the effort to keep pushing on through our burn out.

Haeinsa temple is a ridiculously beautiful complex located in the Gaya mountains. On the day we visited the sky was blue and the clouds were fluffy - it made us forget all about our less than lovely hostel in the city centre! Haeinsa is home to the Tripitaka Koreana, or buddhist scriptures, which are made up of 81,350 hand carved wooden blocks.

Monday 18 July 2016

Purezza Brighton

If you follow me on social media you'll have seen that my travels have taken me to Scotland. Unfortunately I seem to have left summer behind in the south, it's kinda gloomy (but completely gorgeous) up here but road tripping past lochs and mountains all day has been dreamy. The food has also been uh-mazing so far. I've been taking plenty of photos so expect a blog post soon - right now I'm sitting on a camping chair looking out at Loch Leven. It's lovely.

Before heading north I popped to Brighton to grab some camping stuff from my storage unit and managed to fit in some eating whilst I was down there. I only had 36 hours so I had to prioritise and getting my paws on some pizza from Purezza, the UK's first 100% vegan pizzeria, was a top priority.

I visited early on a quiet Thursday lunchtime but from chatting to owner Tim I gathered that this wasn't usual. As the afternoon progressed the place filled up with people searching for delicious Italian food and I was excited to hear that they're in the process of adding a downstairs dining room so that everyone can get their pizza fix even at peak times.

Tuesday 12 July 2016

London Calling

I've definitely missed London whilst I've been away travelling the world. Despite never having lived in the capital I've probably visited at least once a month for the last ten or so years for gigs, meet up's, friend hangs, and eating adventures so I've been pumped about this weekend for a while. On Friday night Nick and I met Randi and her husband Zach to catch American Idiot at the Art's Theatre in the west end. It was a cool way to start the weekend although all of us had seen the Broadway version and we didn't think that this version was as good. They changed the story a little taking it further away from Billie Joe's imagining and some of the scenes and dialogue just didn't work for me. That said our seats were killer, second row from the front, right in the centre, and some of the new choreography was cool. I also thought that it was super impressive that they made it work on such a small stage. 

The next day, in lieu of a pricy trip to Cereal Killer, Nick and I sampled Randi and Zach's cereal and non-dairy milk selection before heading into Soho to meet Sal for lunch at Mildred's. I last saw Randi and Zach in Phuket at the vegetarian festival but I hadn't seen Sal since last September which was definitely too long. Because she's an absolute winner of a human she brought me the gift of Alpo GoOn yoghurts which, if you read my last post, you'll know I've been struggling to find in my neck of the woods. Mildred's is a long-time favourite of ours so it was the perfect place to catch up. They make enough menu changes to keep things interesting but always have an amazing burger available and I always end up eating something delicious. This time it was their Polish burger that floated my boat.

Consisting of a beetroot and white bean patty topped with pickled cabbage, gherkin, and lettuce all squashed into a delicious focaccia bun this burger really hit the spot. I went with the optional slice of vegan cheese which was nicely melted and also ordered a side of their epic chunky chips. Partly because chips are great, and partly because they come with one of my favourite Mildred's menu items, the basil mayo. It's seriously so good. Nick went for the Sri Lankan sweet potato curry which I couldn't taste but dang, it sure looked delicious.

Saturday 9 July 2016

Vegan in Korea: Convenience Stores

Coming from Japan where convenience stores hold all manner of vegan eats Korea was a little bit of a shock to the system. None of the samgak gimbap (Korean onigiri) on offer were vegetarian let alone vegan and a lot of the soy milks there contain either dairy products, vitamin D3, or both. As someone who is a huge fan of the bed picnic after a long day of exploring this was a little disappointing! I was up for the challenge though, nothing gets in-between me and a bed picnic, and I soon worked out what vegan eats could be found at the 7/Eleven and CVS stores that were dotted around the cities we visited.

It's not a long list but in a pinch you can make a filling, if not entirely satisfying, meal from the following items.

Microwave rice, tetra packs of Almond Breeze almond milk, apples, snack packs of grapes and tomatoes, and bananas - although they are shrink wrapped and on a polystyrene tray. The earth weeps. I also found Pringles (no longer owned by Unilever), the sweet potato snacks pictured above, and the seaweed snacks pictured below. As you can see I had to supplement my bed picnics, and make hotel breakfasts, with food from elsewhere most of the time.

I also found Almond breeze on sale at larger Olive Young stores as well as individually wrapped Misura chocolate and apricot jam filled croissants.

Major department stores like Lotte in Seoul or Hyundai by Beomil station in Busan have food courts with things like Almond Breeze and fresh soy milk as well as imported treats and snacks. I found vegan cocoa pop style cereals and choco granola bars from Nature's Path, Bio Zentrale granola from Germany, Ten Acre crisps, German pretzels, and Goody Good Stuff sweets whilst I was scouring shelves in department store food courts.

You can also find branches of Loving Hut in every major city and they often have stores attached. The best ones are at Gangnam in Seoul and near the National University of Education in Daegu. You'll find VioLife cheese slices on sale there as well as Lenny & Larry's cookies, Misura soy crackers and croissants, ramen noodles, and mock meats which are perfect if you're Air B&Bing it.

VioLife is also sold at DalYang Sweet Kitten and The Bread Blue in Seoul and combined with a baguette or some rolls (I only found vegan bread at The Bread Blue in Seoul) my favourite cheese slices often perked up an otherwise boring breakfast. In Busan Yammy Green has a great small store with Lenny & Larry cookies and other vegan snacks which should help fuel your beach days.

As you can see Korea is no vegan paradise but you won't starve and as well as convenience store foods there's a chain restaurant called Robot Gimbap that serve kimbap with tofu or soy meat which are vegan if you ask to remove the egg. I first read about it on the Alien's Day Out blog and I was pretty excited to find some bed picnic suitable food.

You'll need to ask to have the egg removed in Korean at most of the Robot locations. I found it super challenging to pronounce it correctly so I just took a screen shot of it on my phone which worked every time. You can also eat in at Robot but be warned that they will give you a bowl of mystery soup. I couldn't find out if the broth was meat based so I played it safe and gave it a miss. If you can't read the Korean alphabet deciphering the locations on the Robot Gimbap website will be impossible but the locations I found and ate at (with the help of Mipa from Alien's Day Out / Plant and the reception staff at the hostel in Daegu) are located at the Hyundai department store in Dongdaemun in Seoul, the Hyundai department store in Daegu, and at both the Hyundai department store, and outside the Jangsan metro station at the end of the green line, in Busan.

As you can see Korea isn't a vegan paradise yet but it's getting there and each major city has some great vegan options. You can read about my favourite eats in Seoul here and here. Where's the toughest place you've ever travelled as a vegan? For me Korea probably tops the list but I mainly self catered in Serbia, Bosnia, and Albania which I think may have given them an unfair advantage.

Friday 8 July 2016

It's Strange to Be "Home"

I touched down at Heathrow on Tuesday evening after a flight which involved some of the worst food ever - on an 8 hour flight they served us salad, followed by salad with roasted veggies, followed by fruit. Sad times. I wrote a guest post about the best airline meal I've ever been served for Vegansaurus last week and I think that one amazing flight warped my expectations.

One question people keep asking me is "Is it nice to be home?" and I don't really know how to answer. I don't really feel like I am home. Nick and I are staying with Nick's sister and her family in Thames Ditton which is where Nick grew up. She has four rambunctious kids so it's a very different kind of chaos than we're used to. It's only day three and I'm pretty excited that I'm heading into London for a weekend of adult company (see you soon Randi and Sal!) and vegan eats in about an hour.

Aside from being reunited with family and the joys of long British summer evenings I've also been reunited with some of my stuff. Most excitingly my clothes, I have literally been wearing the same three or four outfits every day for 9 months which is a little ridiculous even for me. I also grabbed some fun coloured nail polishes from storage as well as my leave in conditioner - my hair is pleased! Most excitingly I'm getting reacquainted with some of my favourite foods. After spending a month travelling around Korea it seems even easier to be vegan in the UK that it did before I left. Aside from the fact that I can read every ingredient label, because I'm in my home country I kinda don't have to. I know which breads are vegan, where to find vegan crumpets, which brand of pesto to look for on the supermarket shelves, which types of granola to avoid and where to find the best vegan chocolate. I dived straight for these Booja Booja truffles at the local health food store. Love!

Loads of new products have come out since I left last October.

Tuesday 5 July 2016

Cruelty Free in Korea

The beauty industry is alive and well in Korea. In the country that invented BB cream products range from the usual moisturisers, cleansers, and toners, all the way across the spectrum to skin whitening treatments, and fat reduction "hippo patches" for your thighs, stomach, and knees. You'll find it all on sale in stores across the country. The beauty industry sure knows how to prey on people's insecurities. Korea has had a surge in the rates of plastic surgery in recent years (check out this short doc featuring Gracie Neutral to learn more) as K-pop stars have more and more influence on beauty ideals. Beauty, make up, and skincare stores line the streets here and it seems that each brand has there own store; so, rather than finding Barry M products at Superdrug like we do in the UK, Barry M would have their own store selling a mix of beauty and skincare products. 

Whilst the beauty industry as a whole makes me sad I couldn't help but want to get involved with this huge Korean trend on some level. Also, sometimes you just need toiletries y'know? One notable cruelty free brand that has made it across here from Europe is LUSH. They're huge here with almost as many stores in Seoul as there are in London. But what if you're looking for non imported cruelty free and vegan beauty products, can't afford LUSH's import prices, or just want to try some fun Korean products like sheet masks?

Friday 1 July 2016

Things I've Learnt Whilst Travelling.

I've been looking at my blog with something of a critical eye recently. Not in a bad way, I've just been making a few tweaks. There are more posts on the front page of the site now, it only took me six years but I learnt how to do page breaks! I want to try to make the blog more engaging for people who've been reading it for a long time at the same time as keeping it informative and interesting for readers, new and old, who are looking to plan their travels. It's a difficult balance to strike and I feel like I've been veering a little too far in one direction and not enough in the other in the last year.

I want to write some shorter posts to compliment my travel epics. Some will be silly, some will be more personal, some will be mini-guides to places I just stopped off at for a sec. Basically I'm going to start blogging more. Yay!

Tuesday will be my regular posting day; expect the usual city guides, restaurant reviews, and stories about volunteering, festivals, etc. Then each Friday I'll be posting shorter posts like this one. Don't hold me to the days of the week, when you're travelling the internet can be a fickle friend!

This is a part serious part tongue in cheek post. These aren't all of the things I've learnt whilst travelling, far from it, and they aren't the "OMG I've had an epiphany about my life" moments, but they're all true facts!

Tuesday 28 June 2016

Hold the Kimchi! More Vegan Eats in Seoul.

The thing that I was most worried about when I was planning my trip to Korea was the food. I was told that being vegan in Korea can be a real challenge, especially if you don't speak the language, but what if you're vegan and allergic to peppers? And yep, that means chilli! It hasn't been plain sailing by any stretch of the imagination but I was excited to discover some Korean eats in Seoul that aren't spicy and I'm going to share them with you today alongside some tips for where to eat that'll satisfy the spice fiend within. One of the first traditional spots Nick and I ventured to was Oh Se Gae Hyang which is located down a cute alleyway in Seoul's bustling and super touristy AnGuk district. 

After spotting that this place is a secret Loving Hut I immediately honed in on the sesame soup as the most promising non spicy option. 

Wednesday 22 June 2016

Vegan in Seoul: Five of My Fave' Eateries.

Seoul was an interesting place for me, it was so different to how I expected it would be. Anywhere I landed immediately after Tokyo was going to struggle to win an immediate place in my heart and it was warmer and more humid than I'd expected which is never my favourite combo. It was more reminiscent of some of the Taiwanese cities I visited, or maybe even Bangkok, than Tokyo, which wasn't where my preconceptions put it. These aren't bad things at all but it took me a little while to readjust my expectations. As well as some fun parks, art districts with interesting street art, traditional villages, and interesting shopping streets (more on those in a later blog post) Seoul has a tonne of amazing 100% vegan eateries and if anythings going to get me pumped about a new city it's discovering fun food. 

The Bread Blue is a cool spot because they sell a great mix of Western baked goods like croissants and baguettes as well as bean paste filled buns and sweet potato bread - things I've never seen in a bakery outside of Asia. 

I'm a total breakfast person, I can't comprehend how someone can cruise through the first few hours of their day on coffee and air alone, so Nick and I hit the baked goods hard every time we visited in the AM. 

My regular orders were the chocolate croissants (OMG!) and the ham and vegetable danish (once I'd picked off the bell peppers). Nick was into the garlic bread but I wasn't a huge fan as the bread itself tasted slightly sweet to me. Those croissants though? Wow! They were seriously good, they had layers and everything. Let's take another look.

Thursday 16 June 2016

5 Best Vegan Desserts in Tokyo

I tend to find travelling the world as a vegan pretty easy. Whilst there are sometimes downsides; not always being able to grab a bite to eat at that cafe right next to the sight you're visiting for example, the upsides, like exploring off of the beaten path neighbourhoods, and meeting like minded compassionate people, far outweigh them. 

In Japan there was one thing that made vegan travel that little bit harder for me - there were cute desserts everywhere! If you know me you know that I love desserts and I find cute (or kawaii) things hard to resist. Desserts in Japan aren't just a picture on a menu, oh no! There are giant signs advertising sundaes outside restaurants, plastic replicas of honey toast platters in glass cases outside cafes, and giant neon lights signposting the way to the nearest creperie. Honestly, it can be a little much hence why I decided to put together this list of the top five vegan desserts in Tokyo. From Harajuku crepes to konbini dorayaki, if I wasn't so committed to researching, locating, and eating the best vegan desserts around, the city could have been a challenging place for this sugar fiend.

Super delicate, fruity, layered, cream filled cakes are the treats most likely to make my pulse race. On more than one occasion I've talked about moving to Tokyo to start a vegan dessert cafe specialising in these specific treats but now I may not have to. The Strawberry Shortcake from Chaya Macrobiotics is one of the most delightful desserts I've ever had the pleasure of eating and I am a tiny but upset that I only had the chance to eat it once.

This dessert is a showstopper, a delight for all of the senses. It's light and creamy with the perfect cake to cream ratio and the freshest berries. I am determined to recreate this when I have some spare time and an oven because I'm convinced that it's the perfect dessert. Chaya is located ontop of the iSetan building by Shinjuku station and I would highly recommend making it one of your first stops in Tokyo.

If you can avert your eyes from the striking strawberry shortcake in the foreground of my photo to the more inconspicuous Lemon and Apricot Pound Cake lurking in the back then you're in for a treat because that's dessert number two on my list!

Thursday 9 June 2016

Volunteering at Japan Cat Network

Oh Japan, it's only been a week but I miss you already. A little over a year ago when I was working out how to get back to my favourite place in the world I realised that my ideal volunteer gig would be in Japan (duh!) and would involve cats - a quick google search later and I discovered Japan Cat Network. I'd never heard of Inawashiro but I knew that I'd be able to live in Japan for free surrounded by cats - what could be better?

Japan Cat Network existed as an organisation prior to the Fukushima disaster but the Fukushima shelter itself was formed in 2011 after the Tohoku area of Japan was devastated by the Tsunami and ensuing nuclear disaster. One of Japan Cat Network's founders began rescuing animals who were left behind in the area as well as fostering cats for evacuees who were unable to take their animals with them. Japan Cat Network are a true no-kill shelter and whilst they don't take in many new animals right now they do assist local people if they find that they need to re-home an animal.

Friday 27 May 2016

Vegan in Inawashiro, Japan

Not a single person who I've mentioned Inawashiro to has known where it is so this probably isn't going to be my most searched for or most shared blog post but it'll be relevant for any vegans coming to volunteer at Japan Cat Network, ski on Mount Bandai or to take in a slice of rural Japan. If it can help even one person then I'll feel like I'm doing my travel blogging job right.

Before coming up here I had no idea whether eating vegan would be a challenge or plain sailing. I suspected it'd learn towards the tougher end of the spectrum so I arrived with two tote bags filled with snacks, burger mixes, vegan mayo, chocolate, and margarine collected from various health food stores in Tokyo. Despite there being no veg friendly restaurants in the vicinity eating here hasn't been difficult at all. Luckily the Japan Cat Network kitchen is tooled up with gas burners, a microwave, an oven and two kinds of blender as well as some more unusual items like a takoyaki pan, and Japanese supermarkets always, always, always have tofu, rice, and exciting veggies so I was never gonna starve.

There's actually a 7/Eleven just across the road from the shelter so I've been able to find inari sushi, plain onigiri, ume onigiri, ume and sakura onigiri, Chipstar crisps, plum crisps, sweet sugared sweet potatoes, edamame, and tofu very easily. If you're planning a trip to Japan check out my Pictorial Vegan Convenience Store Guide to find out what you can eat at 7/Eleven, Lawson and Family Mart stores all over the country. A couple of weeks ago these vegan Soy Joy bars appeared on the shelves of 7/Eleven which was pretty exciting. Despite the name the majority of Soy Joy products aren't vegan but these are and whilst I didn't love the pink wrapped bar, it tasted really artificial, I was very into the one in the white wrapper which reminded me a little of shortbread.

There are two supermarkets in Inawashiro and York Benimaru is the better of the two. It's always well stocked and has a great produce department as well as must have items like soy milk, Kewpie egg free mayo, nori, potato starch, pasta, noodles, and almond meal.

Wednesday 11 May 2016

A Short Break in Hong Kong

After exploring Taiwan and before travelling onwards to Japan Nick and I spent a long weekend in Hong Kong. It wasn't a city that had ever piqued my interest enough to book a trip there but it seemed like a somewhat logical stop between Taipei and Tokyo thanks to some cheap air mile flights so we decided to go for it.

We arrived bright and early and after catching the bus into town to our hotel in North Point we headed to our second stop, Manna Fast Slow Food. Manna are a healthy wrap, salad and juice spot located right in the swanky downtown area of Hong Kong. I was craving something carby and I'd heard great things about their wraps so it seemed like the perfect first stop. 

After perusing their menu for a few minutes, you can choose either a wrap or a salad with four fillings for HK$90 / £8 / $11.60, and wishing that the prices weren't so ridiculous when compared to Taiwan, I decided on a tofu and hummus wrap with avocado and rocket. When ordering you need to keep in mind that you can get any 4 toppings for your money, tofu, fries, hummus and falafel are in the same price bracket as lettuce, tomatoes, mint and sprouts!! That seems a little strange to me, who would choose sprouts instead of hummus when they cost the same?!

Thursday 28 April 2016

Vegan at Tokyo Disneyland

Tokyo Disneyland is going to be an interesting experience for those well versed in Disney parks as well as Disney newbies like Nick and I. The queueing is unlike any other theme park we've ever attended but if you go in with a plan you're sure to have a fun day. 

The first decision you need to make is which park to visit. There are two Tokyo parks, Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea. Both are conveniently located in the same place right by Maihama station but they're worlds apart when it comes to rides. After watching some helpful videos on the Disney website we ascertained that Tokyo Disney Sea is the park with the scariest rides and therefor wasn't for us! I prefer something more mellow, think Professor Burps Bubbleworks not the Flying Carpet. I can get down with little rollercoasters but I prefer not to go upside down and I don't like that feeling where you plummet towards the ground leaving your stomach a few meters above you and Nick can't deal with things that spin... it was at this point that we wondered whether we should really be going to a theme park at all but we wanted to give it a shot as we were doubtful that we'd ever end up at any of the other Disney parks.

Nick has less patience when it comes to queueing than I do (weird given that he is the more patient one in almost any other situation!) so he did a tonne of research and read a lot of blog posts about how to get the most out of a one day visit to Tokyo Disneyland and I'm going to share what we learnt with you.

Wednesday 20 April 2016

Viva Cats!

I left Tokyo exactly two weeks ago yesterday and as is usual for me I took a lil' blogging break whilst I was getting settled in my new space. Inawashiro feels like a different world compared to Tokyo, the pace of life is incredibly different as is the way I'm spending my days. Nick and I are volunteering at Japan Cat Network where we're managing a team of volunteers as well as their social media. On top of that I'm trying to work on fundraising ideas and community outreach but those have taken a back seat as I work on more pressing things; getting to know the cats, learning how to use Facebook and cleaning and tidying a mountain of things. This is the house we're currently sharing with five people, 23 cats and two dogs!

The house has three cat rooms filled with kitties with all sorts of different personalities, foibles, likes and dislikes and bonding with some of them is definitely a challenging process. Most of the cats here were rescued from the exclusion zone in Fukushima so we don't know most of their histories. It's clear that some had homes and families and we suspect that some did not. Nick and I have picked some of the most challenging kitties and are spending a little time each day trying to make friends with them.

Monday 4 April 2016

Harajuku! Harajuku!

I wasn't kidding when I recently described Harajuku as my spiritual home. I adore everything about spending hours wandering the crowded streets whether I'm shopping with money burning a hole in my pocket or with no cash at all. It's always a joy. Having grown up inspired by the fashions coming out of this area of Tokyo getting to take part in the Harajuku Fashion Walk last weekend felt like a conclusion of a dream! I felt nervous going along to the meeting point, I thought that perhaps my style isn't quite out-there enough for the walk these days. A very white Air B&B bathroom means that my hair is still blonde not mauve and most of my clothes are in storage! Still, I headed to the meeting point and bumped into an Instagram friend and some of her friends who were also visiting Tokyo and we quickly bonded over group photo awkwardness and our shared love of everything Japanese.

I didn't take a single picture during the walk as I was being swept along in the fun of it all but Nick snapped this one in front of MoshiMoshi Box, you can see Harajuku Fashion Walk organiser Junnyan in the foreground! As soon as the walk and subsequent photoshoot were over we hightailed it back to Takeshita Street to get our Purikura on. I love these ridiculous booths and it turns out that six people really is the upper limit if you want all of your faces in the frame! 

Saturday 26 March 2016

More Tokyo Fun - Koenji & Beyond

Being away from home is the hardest when your friends are going through the toughest of times. You can't be there for them in the way that you'd like and you end up with a feeling of helplessness mixed with sadness mixed with I don't know what else. Feeling like this also got me thinking that I don't even know where I consider home to be anymore, for years it's been Brighton but honestly my friends are so scattered (thanks to the joy of connecting with wonderful people online!) that I don't consider any one place home these days. I honestly have no idea where I'm going to end up when I stop travelling... if I stop travelling. I love Brighton but I don't know if it's going to be quite the right fit for me after this journey which is gonna be hella confusing given that I've been Vegan in Brighton for years. How do you move away from somewhere that's such a huge part of who you are?!

I'm still madly in love with Tokyo despite the fact that we're going through another cold snap here. It hit 8º C yesterday but the wind bites at your exposed skin making it feel even colder. Despite the chill I ventured out to meet up with some of the vegans I hung out with last week as well as some new peeps at T's Restaurant which is run by the same people who own and run everybody's favourite spot T's TanTan. It was so fun and the food was amazing. I ordered a cheesy baked rice dish with a side of soy chicken with mayonnaise dressing and salad as well as a chocolate parfait for dessert.

The rice casserole was perfectly creamy and delicious but the parfait was killer.

Wednesday 16 March 2016

Vegan in Tokyo!

Being back in Tokyo is throwing up so many feelings, I love it here so much that if you told me I could move here tomorrow I'd be beyond overjoyed but being here for so long with no specific purpose has me thinking hard about the different experiences you have somewhere when you're on holiday vs travelling vs settling somewhere. Last time Nick and I were here we weren't really sticking to a strict budget but this time is different, our SE Asia appropriate travel budget doesn't stretch anywhere near as far in Japan as it did in Thailand, Vietnam, Laos or Taiwan so we're having to be a little more careful than usual. When it's been cold out we've been chillaxing under a pile of blankets at the Air B&B rather than catching a movie and we're eating meals at home at least once or twice a day. Our biggest travel expense is almost always food - I can skip an expensive touristy thing like heading to the top of the highest building in favour of exploring an area on foot for a day; popping into shops, admiring the street art and just soaking in the atmosphere, but I'm never going to skip a meal! So far my favourite breakfast / lunch / dinner spot is T's Tan Tan which I mentioned last time. I love it - it's super reasonably priced and filling as well as being delicious and I love that ramen is a meal suitable for any time of day.

Ain Soph Ripple is another contender for fave' restaurant - it's a casual burger place with a small but totally excellent menu. I'm obsessed with both the cheese fries and the crispy chicken burger.

The cheese fries are made with Sheese and on my last visit I was excited to learn they they make the chicken patties themselves from shredded soy meat, wheat gluten and other yummies. They also have the best buns. You know when you get a burger and it looks like it should be great but the bun is totally inflexible making it impossible to fit in your mouth?

Wednesday 9 March 2016

I'm in Tokyo!

Oh hey there! After two weeks spent travelling around Taiwan and another week exploring Hong Kong I'm back in Tokyo. I last visited Japan in 2014 and fell in love. I've been dying to come back ever since and here I am. I literally couldn't be happier. I almost shed a tear as I was riding the Yamanote line yesterday because I had one of those I kinda can't believe that this is my life moments. Writing that felt weird. I'm scared that it sounded smug. I hope not. I guess part of the reason that I find it hard to believe that I get to be here again is because my life used to be so different. I used to live in a moulding basement flat with no electricity or hot water and a drug addict flatmate who did some pretty awful things to me. I also spend a lot of time analysing my privilege and I know that getting to travel this much is for sure a privilege so I just feel lucky a lot of the time.

One of the first places I went was Takeshita Street in Harajuku, a mecca for youth fashion and everything cute. A lot has changed since I was there last, fashions have obviously changed, I spotted a lot more cat unicorn hoodies and less heart shaped sunglasses on this first wander and I saw plenty of the heart window backpacks that have been popping up on the Tokyo fashion social media accounts I follow for a while now. There are also a whole lot more crepe places now that the whole Harajuku crepe trend is an internationally known phenomenon. There's also an unofficial mascot now and I loooove her!

Another thing that's new since I was last in Japan is that Starbucks now have a vegan doughnut! I'd actually never been to Starbucks until I came to Tokyo for the first time, I obviously hate their business practices but what can I say, I'm weak and the soy milk situation here is very dairy-ful. Without speaking the language a dairy free latte is not easy to come by.

Tuesday 1 March 2016

Oodles of Noodles

Noodles are up there with my pizza on my favourite foods list and they're definitely going to be some of the best possible fuel for your Taiwanese adventures. Walking up elephant mountain to catch a glimpse of Taipei 101 is high up on my list of must do's for travellers visiting the city. When I was walking around the business district Taipei 101 didn't look that big but from up above you get a whole different sense of scale as well as an amazing view of Taipei's urban sprawl. On a clear day you can even see planes taking off from Songshan airport. Pretty cool!

Taipei has a huge wealth of noodle options, enough that it would be almost impossible to write about them all although I am of course going to try.