Vegetarianism and veganism are diets that have recently gained considerable popularity. For some, it is another culinary trend, while for others it is a lifestyle. Why is being a veggie or a vegan so popular?
The increasing popularity of healthy and ecological food, rising awareness of consumers, as well as ethical issues have resulted in a situation where more and more people decide to turn to a meatless diet. Not without significance is also the impact of animal breeding on global warming – knowledge regarding this topic is becoming increasingly common. The changes also concern stereotypical thinking about vegetarian and vegan dishes – they are no longer identified only with lettuce or carrot. The increasing number of restaurants, or vegan and veggie shops proves that vegetable cuisine equals variety, a feast of flavours, a wealth of aromas and surprising combinations.
What alternative to meat?
Meatless dishes are still a field for exploration and experiments, a fact which is confirmed by the varied list of vegetable substitutes for meat. The most popular one is tofu, which perfectly substitutes poultry, and, when prepared with sea algae, resembles the taste of fish. Another one is tempeh with mushroom-nut aroma and taste, whose fried slices taste like bacon.
On the other hand, the structure of properly seasoned seitan, a by-product of removing starch from wheat flour, is similar to pork or beef. Vegetarians and vegans fill their kitchens with products unknown to people on a meat diet – sesame paste tahini, yeast flakes (giving cheese flavour), kala namak salt (with egg aroma), plant milk and various types of groats, vegetables and fruits.
“Pod Norenami” restaurant in Kraków is an important place on the culinary map of Asian cuisine gourmets. It is a place that connects two distant spheres – the tradition of a 19th century patrician house with an intriguing, rich, and centuries-old Japanese culture.
The menu includes, among others, spicy “pork”, i.e. seitan with Thai basil aroma, “pork” made with various types of mushrooms, and Szechuan “chicken”. The chef is Paweł Albrzykowski, a Pole who has thought Asians how to prepare Far Eastern dishes.
Experimenting with animal product substitutes has become as popular as Asian cuisine. Cheese lovers may enjoy their vegetable versions (produced by e.g. serotonin), while those missing meat may try a vegan sausage or beacon. Igor Sadurski and Rafał Czech were the first people in Poland to set up a meatless butcher’s (bezmiesnymiesny.pl).
Vegan butchers offer products containing only vegetable ingredients: wheat protein, yeast flakes, soy sauce or smoked tofu. Meatless delicacies can be ordered via the Internet or bought during events organized for vegans.