Five Global Cuisines with Stellar Vegan Options
There’s pros and cons to living in LA. Pro: Thousands of food options to choose from. Con: Thousands of food options to choose from.
With over 10,000 restaurants in Los Angeles county alone, we often resort to a meal that’s comfortable or familiar. While there’s nothing wrong with routine, do we really need pad thai for the fourth time this week? No doubt, we’re just as guilty as every other millennial posting a picture of Indian food online, pretending they’re “exotic” and “cultured,” all the while knowing every other person in this city loves a good Chana Masala.
With a social enclave of nearly every culture in Los Angeles, it’s time we start looking for what we haven’t had instead of what we have. Starting with these five, largely unexplored cuisines, we’ll fill up our plates, wow our tastebuds, and satisfy our hunger.
Having maneuvered their way into America’s mainstream palate, Thai and Vietnamese food are worthy of their respectable hype, but they’re not the only Southeast Asian cuisines worth exploring. Indonesia contains over 15,000 islands, many of which have their own culture, cooking style, and source of ingredients. This enormous arpeggio is also responsible for introducing tempeh to the world—a sign they’ve got vegetarian options aplenty.
One restaurant brining Indonesian food to America’s modern taste is Little Tokyo’s Kasih. Upon walking in, you’ll notice an open kitchen, Asian-inspired cocktails, and four main vegan options on their menu, one such highlight includes their crispy, tempura fried Tempe Goreng. If you’re on the completely opposite side of town, swing by Wallflower in Venice for lemongrass coconut panna cotta with sweet jackfruit, rich coconut cream, and colorful pandan leaf. Lastly, for big portions of family-style entrees, stop by one of LA’s oldest Indonesian restaurants, Ramayani, for stir-fried tempeh in sweet red bell pepper sauce, crispy peanut fritters, and tofu coconut curry. Finish things on a sweet note with one of their chilled desserts, made with durian, coconut milk, fermented yucca root, and other traditional Indonesian ingredients.
Drawing influence from Spain, Japan, China, and indigenous cultures, Peru is home to one of the most diverse cuisines out there. The food is full of vibrant grilled vegetables, fried yucca, short grain rice, and a staggering array of spices.
To experience Peruvian food in a fine dining environment, look no further than Studio City or Hollywood’s Los Balcones. Each of their courses features at least one vegan option, making it a great spot for an omnivorous crowd, date night, or a solo food adventure. If you find yourself in Burbank, Pablito’s Kitchen—one of LA’s highest esteemed Peruvian restaurants—is right around the corner. With yucca fries that are fluffy on the inside, golden brown on the outside, and served with a thick, complex, and savory dipping sauce, we’re proud to say they’re the best we’ve ever tasted. For a main entree so comforting, wholesome, and filling you’ll be trying to convince yourself you can handle every last bite (you can’t), order their Veggie Saltado. The dish boasts mushrooms and seasonal vegetables in a savory soy-based sauce, served atop crispy fries (!) and a side of short grain rice (!!). Carb lovers rejoice!
As it slowly crawls its way into the spotlight, more and more people are discovering Filipino food, but it’s yet to reach the level of praise other Asian cuisines hold. From crunchy lumpia (Filipino egg rolls) to purple desserts colored with ube, Filipino food has a dish to touch everyone’s heart.
Visit Neri’s Casual Filipino Dining in K-Town for crispy vegetable lumpia or their twist on a veggie burger, which comes with tofu, mango, and ginger slaw (just get it without garlic aioli to ensure its vegan). For a truly elegant Filipino dining experience, reserve a spot at LASA’s in Chinatown, who has an incredible amount of artfully crafted vegan options, from Rice Flour Chicharons to maitake mushroom dumplings, that’ll have your eyes in wonder and taste buds in bliss. As a grand finale, RICEBAR combines eccentric Filipino flavors with American on-the-go needs This restaurant offers under 15 seats, an intimate environment, customizable rice bowls, and a menu item unlike any other: Impossible Meat Longganisa (a popular Filipino breakfast sausage). All in all, Filipino food is similar enough to other Asian cuisines to make you feel at home, but fresh enough to have you musing over every new flavor.
With a culture dedicated to reducing animal products and an entire ethnic enclave off of Fairfax, there’s no reason not to try Ethiopian food. This cuisine is unlike any other that most Americans have encountered, but it’s surprising flavors and textures are enough to arouse any foodie’s senses. Trustworthy Ethiopian joints suggest eating with flatbread in place of utensils, base their menus around stews, and serve a variety of dishes at once.
One place that stays true to tradition as well as veganism is Rahel Vegan in Little Ethiopia, who serves up spongy injera (Ethipioan flatbread), massive platters of shareable food, and indigenous drinks made from barley, flax, and sunflower seeds. Rahel isn’t the only restaurant clearing paths in Little Ethiopia; by making their way towards fine dining, Meals by Genet has surpassed cultural boundaries placed upon “ethnic food” and shown that white table cloths, pearly wine glasses, and romantic vibes aren’t only for the French and Italian. Meals by Genet also received high praise from renowned food writer Jonathan Gold, who took notice of the restaurant’s meticulous use of spices, time, and technique. Coming from a guy who ate at every restaurant on Pico Boulevard (plus hundreds more), we trust he knew a thing a two about outstanding food.
Little Ethiopia isn’t the only spot for divine vegan food however. Near Exposition Park rests Azla Vegan, a cafeteria-style vendor inside a bustling food court, dishing up quick, flavorful, and plant-based Ethiopian dishes. Be sure to get an order of their Tofu Tibs, Spicy Sweet Potato, and homemade Sorrel (refreshing hibiscus tea with cinnamon and ginger), which are equal parts satisfying, comforting, and exciting.
Thanks to one of LA’s most densely populated neighborhoods, Korean food (and particularly Korean BBQ) has maneuvered its way into the hearts of thousands LA-liens. Unfortunately, most vegans view this culture as being particularly meat heavy, which prevents us from taking part in their fragrant, spicy, and diverse cuisine. While many Korean dishes are traditionally meat-based, this is Los Angeles in the year 2019—veganism isn’t just for hippies and activists anymore!
Here’s a question: since moving to LA, how many people have invited you out to Korean BBQ? While we normally pretend we “already have plans,” all the while suffering from excruciating FOMO, Genwa Korean BBQ is here to relieve us of our pain. With over 10 vegan options on their menu, along with plenty of traditional dishes, Genwa is a perfect spot for mixed crowds. For the most extensive vegan menu we’ve seen at a Korean restaurant thus far, make a drive down to Sura Korean BBQ & Tofu House in Long Beach, who has an entire page dedicated to vegan dishes! To recoup from years of missing out, try their Vegan Hot Stone Bibimbap, which is a classic Korean dish with crispy rice, sautéed tofu, and an assortment of chilled sides, including kimchi, spicy cucumber salad, candied sweet potatoes, and more.
No doubt, there’s more than just five new cuisines to explore, but with at least a couple restaurants for each culture, this list is packed enough to fuel a week’s worth of take-out orders, reserved tables, and restaurant runs. Cancel that to-go order of pad thai, push Monty’s off till next week, and save the Italian food for next month’s date night because there’s new terrain to explore. Grab a piece of injera and hone your chopsticks skills, it’s time to update your itinerary!
Ryan is a cook, writer, and musician born and raised in Tampa, FL. With years of recipe testing for his Asian-American food blog, No Eggs or Ham, behind him, he strives to sharpen the image of vegan food by highlighting chefs who push the boundaries of plant-based cuisine. Unlike the advice your mom lent you, he encourages you to play with your food every chance you get!
More from VegOut
11 Sustainable Swimwear Brands for Summer 2021
If you want to stunt a trendy, sustainably made swimsuit this season, check out these brands! With spring in full swing and summer just around the corner, who wouldn’t love to cool off with a dip in the pool, a trip to the beach, or even a pass on your kids slip-n-slide? If you’re partaking in any of these refreshing water activities, you’ll most likely want a bathing suit. And if you’re anything like us, you want to wear items that are eco-friendly and made by brands that treat their employees well. Here’s a list of our favorite swimsuit companies that fit the bill.
Devi’s Donuts Opens Brick-and-Mortar in Long Beach
Devi’s Donuts, an all-vegan Long Beach pop-up, establishes a brick-and-mortar!
Venice’s Adrift Burger Bar Adds Vegan Burger to Menu This Earth Day
Sun’s out, buns out! No, silly, not those buns! Burger buns!
10 Vegan Fast Food Breakfasts to Eat On the Go or Recreate at Home
Whether you’re commuting to the office, working from home, or looking for weekend brekkie inspo, we’ve got you. From drive-thru snags and restaurant go-to’s to home-cooked breakfast faves, here are your on-the-go ordering deets and DIY swaps for the most important meal of the day.
6 South Asian-Owned Vegan and Vegan-Friendly Restaurants Across America
It can be difficult to find amazing, all-vegan South Asian dishes. Whether you’re craving a flavorful chana masala or a heavenly spicy curry, VegOut has you covered, so you can enjoy the vibrance of South Asian cuisine without the traditional dairy-heavy ingredients. Here are our picks for some of the best South Asian-owned vegan restaurants across the nation.
Nostalgic Vegan Candy Bars Launch at Alfred Coffee for a Limited Time
Huge flavor in a perfectly portioned package, the NY-based Gigantic “sortasweet” candy bars are making a splash in Los Angeles as the brand arrives at Alfred locations for a limited time!
Celeb-Backed Vegan Bacon Startup Gears up for Nationwide Launch
Coming soon to grocery shelves near you, a new plant-based bacon backed by organic food leaders and none other than Robert Downey Jr. is set to hit the mass retail market in 2021.
Online Vegan Grocery Store Vejii Acquires Vegan Essentials
Virtual vegan market, Vejii, recently signed a definitive agreement to acquire Vegan Essentials, one of the largest vegan marketplaces in the United States.
7 Best Vegan Frozen Burritos
Perfect for both on-the-go and on-the-couch mealtimes, hearty vegan burritos are the vibe. With yummy plant-based filling tightly wrapped in tortillas, what’s not to love? In fact, we adore these handhelds at all of our meals—breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack. Check out seven vegan burritos brands to enjoy whenever the mood strikes.
Brockhampton and Monty’s Good Burger Vegan Glitter Shake Collab Drops Today
In anticipation of Brockhampton’s new album, “ROADRUNNER: NEW LIGHT, NEW MACHINE,” the hip-hop boy band partnered with vegan burger chain Monty’s Good Burger to create two limited-edition shakes and a capsule collection of apparel. The four-piece merchandise line combines Brockhampton’s new album artwork with Monty’s classic royal blue aesthetic. Look for the new hoodie, joggers, long-sleeve tee, and beanie.
Subscribe NowOrder the magazine!