I had been drooling over pictures tagged #veganbali for several months before I booked my flights. Say what you like about intstagram– it’s superficial, artificially constructed reality, etc. etc. BUT it is an incredibly useful resource to me in terms of a. Finding delicious vegan restaurants or recipes and b. Getting travelinspa and fuelling my wanderlust. One of my top tips for new vegan travellers would be to get on ‘the gram’ – because it’s now one of the easiest ways to do research into vegan travel- literally just follow the #vegantravel hashtag and you’ll be flooded with pics to make your tummy rumble of interesting food from all around the world.
As such I had made a huge list in my iphone notes of places I had to eat at before my plane even landed in Indonesia. Even eating three meals a day I didn’t manage to make everywhere- and I certainly didn’t have time to make it round the whole island. A lot of places I went to were so small they didn’t seem to have names or weren’t somewhere you’d find on google maps- such as the place I had this traditional curry, below. But here are my highlights of vegan eating in Bali.
I ate my favourite meal of the whole holiday at Genius Cafe. This Indonesian take on tacos blew my tastebuds and I gobbled them up way too quickly. Made with tempeh with crunchy corn, onions, and pineapple, slathered in a mix of creamy and spicy sauces, and a zing of lime, I could eat these every day.
I usually stay in hostels when I travel so I’m used to a breakfast buffet that is uninspiring to say the least, often with no options for vegans apart from plain toast. However, Abian Harmony hotel was a budget hotel stay with friends where on top of the included breakfast buffet you could order anything you liked off the breakfast menu, included in the price of your stay! (Which was only around £25 a room). The vegan option was a tofu scramble with peppers, mushroom, radish, and tomato, served on a roasted pumpkin with toast. This wayyy exceeded my expectations and kept me full til lunch (rare).
Being a smaller island off the coast of Bali, the options were a bit more limited here as there weren’t really any all vegan restaurants in the area that we were in. However, a lot of places had vegan options or would make something vegan for you if you asked. Any cafe would do you a smoothie bowl (see the dragonfruit bowl below) but do make sure to ask that it doesn’t contain milk, yoghurt, or honey.
‘The bar’ may not have had an inspiring name but they did have this delicious healthy yogi bowl- some much needed lightness after trying a delicious but heavy local tempeh curry.
Often mistaken for the capital, which is actually Denpasar, Ubud is nevertheless the tourist capital and therefore overrun not just with foreigners but with enough vegan restaurants and yoga centres to fulfil all your wildest snowflake fantasies.
Earth Cafe was probably my favourite- their menu was so huge I was literally in agony trying to decide between the array of options. I really enjoyed their sushi rolls, rice paper rolls, and Arabic salad, as well as all the smoothies. Their service was fast and they also had a cute wholefoods and fair-trade ethical shop below the restaurant.
Falafel Warung made the best falafel I’ve ever eaten- you know globalisation is real when an English person can be saying that about a Middle Eastern food while in Southeast Asia. ‘Warung’ is the local word meaning eatery, and we did go to many little local eateries during the trip, though annoyingly since they’re not tagged in google maps I can’t remember all their names. ‘Falafel warung’ therefore sounds like a contradiction in terms, but this little street joint was so friendly and I’d have gone back if we had more time.
Pissari Bali Cafe had lots of local food with vegan versions, as well as Mexican and European. I really loved the satay tempeh plate and nasi goreng (an Indonesian stir fry).
If you fancy an ice cream (and in that heat, you will) you’ll be pleased to know that the premium gelato place- which has stalls on Monkey Forest road and in the craft market- has several vegan options. I tried the bounty and my friend went for the snickers.
The restaurant called ‘Garden Cafe’ that is a part of the Taksu Spa/yoga hotel complex was a bit more of an upmarket one and had a feel to it that was too western to my liking. That said they had various delicious vegan options including a jackfruit rendang curry, raw tacos, and an interesting take on a vegan cheesecake.
In the heat of the city, and with travel burn out I was really craving a cold iced latte, but was trying very hard to resist the omnipresent Starbucks. Atman Cafe turned out to be a gorgeous spread of a cafe/restaurant that did a really lovely almond latte with natural syrup sweetener, and they also had a yogi and hippie sort of jewellery shop to the side.
If you’re heading out to the Tegallalang Rice Terraces (and why wouldn’t you be?) and need a spot of refreshment after hiking up and down the iconically steep slopes, By Cafe is your bet for an array of vegan drinks, smoothie bowls, and plant-based cakes with a view.
Another thing I’d really recommend doing while travelling is taking cooking classes. If, like me, you like to connect to local cultures through your tastebuds, it’s a really good way to understand different ingredients and ways of cooking. While cooking classes are not hard to find, it’s sometimes to as easy to find places that do recipes that are either naturally vegan or can be veganised.
Pembulan Farm Cooking School was everything you’d dream of and easily the best travel-cooking-class-experience I’ve had. About an hour outside of Ubud, you can be picked up from your hostel and taken to a beautiful farm in the rolling countryside. We were guided around the gardens in which fruit, vegetables, spices and herbs grew naturally and organically, and collected all our ingredients for the class in a straw basket, while the teacher explained what the new things were.
We then spent a wonderful day cooking up a whole feast of a five-course meal, that included: sweet and sour tempeh, sweetcorn fritters, mushroom parcels wrapped in banana leaf, a vegetable and tempeh curry, and black rice pudding. It was one of the highlights of my trip and I’d urge anyone with foodie bones to make sure you book a day in your Bali travels to visit this place.
Canggu was not really my scene. While I like the hippie vibe, overall it felt too Western, too fashionable, and too expensive for my liking. That said I enjoyed the beach time and I really loved Serenity Eco Guesthouse. A natural complex built around a big pool, this little guest house is built on sustainable principles, is all vegan, and runs multiple yoga classes a day. Yes I’ve become that sort of person. Their restaurant was a little too healthy for my liking to eat at every day, but it did provide delicious and natural included breakfasts and a huge menu.
To satisfy my junk food cravings I went to Plant Cartel. This cartel is my sort of [v]gang and I really enjoyed the loaded nachos, while my friend went for the Mexican salad. They also had mouth watering giant burgers, tacos and more.
At Avocado Factory you can live out all your millenial snowflake inclinations by munching ethical avo on sourdough, with a plant-based latte through a plastic-free straw, while looking over the ubiquitous rice fields.
You cannot go to Canggu without visiting Mad Pops, an iconic plant based ice cream shop where I was literally spoiled for choice. I’d been craving mint choc chip but not found any vegan options for months, so I opted for a cone stacked with mint, salted caramel and peanut butter ice cream. Balance, right?
In the heat of the day I did find that my appetite tended to wane until evening and then come back in full force. The Shady Shack’s portions are ideal for when you want to roll two meals into one. Don’t be too green for my giant burrito that was absolutely packed. I also really loved the creamy sauces here.
One aspect of veganism I hadn’t considered- apart from cosmetics, initially- was ink. A lot of vegans are, being slightly alternative folk, also tattoo lovers, but I had no idea that a lot of inks aren’t vegan. Bali turned out to be a rather expensive place to get a new tat (even more so than London), but a lot of their shops are certified vegan. I’d really recommend BabaYaga tattoo studio, where I got this beautiful and elegant leg piece, cruelty free, to round up my trip and serve as a lifelong memory of Indonesia.
Even eating my heart out I didn’t manage to get round everywhere on my list, and new places are popping up all the time. If anyone went anywhere I didn’t get the time to get to, please let me know about it!