With vegan food sales up by 1500% in the past year, it’s easy to understand the boom in animal-product free restaurants, grocery stores and takeaways. Over half a million Brits are reported to live the vegan lifestyle, and even more say that they follow a ‘flexitarian’ diet. This involves cutting down on meat consumption by enjoying vegetarian or vegan meals, but still eating meat on some days.
There’s a notable rise in shoppers heading for plant-based alternatives to their usual dairy options. For example, the global market for milk alternatives reached $5.8 billion in 2014 and is expected to reach over $10.9 billion by 2019. Consumers are becoming much more conscientious about their meat and animal-products intake, often opting for oat, almond, soy or rice milks instead. Even everyday supermarkets are jumping on board, introducing their ‘Free From’ sections.
A simple Google search shows a long list of restaurants in East London which have added new dishes to their menus and are now catering for vegans. There are also approximately 35 restaurants, cafes and takeaways in our Eastern boroughs which offer an exclusively vegan menu. Vegan Burgers by Mooshies on Brick Lane, Black Cat Café in Hackney, and FED By Water in Dalston are just a few of the most popular vegan vendors.
It seemed only right to head out and find some vegan food for myself.
In Boxpark in Shoreditch, a pop-up eatery called HOME grabbed my attention. Their ‘no blood, no bones’ slogan is scrawled across the window, and the smell of warming spices wafts outwards. HOME specialises in homemade, fresh, 100% vegan Thai food, and the menu oozes with flavour, colour, spice and fragrance.
A box of their freshly cooked food will cost you £8.50 – you make your own choice from the range of available items. Those who crave the ghost of meat or seafood can opt for substitutes such as ‘Chickn’, puff tofu or ‘Prauns’. I went for the Crunchy Veg in Blackbean Sauce, served with wholegrain rice. Honestly? It was delicious. Even as a meat lover, I didn’t feel as though anything was missing from the meal. I was full-up, warmed-through, and blown-away by the delicious flavours.
It’s getting easier to make simple swaps to our diets and lifestyle, and the positive effects this will have on the environment are worth considering as we go to do our weekly food shop. So, whether we fully embrace a plant-based lifestyle, or just make a few changes, supermarkets and restaurants in East London are committed to making making vegan and ‘flexitarian’ lifestlyes available.