5 Tips for Vegan Travelers in Chile
Can I go to Chile? What will I eat there? Should I carry all my food? 10 pounds of TVP and protein bars anyone?
Eating vegetarian, let alone vegan, in Chile sounds like quite the unfeasible task, an insurmountable 50 mile ultramarathon on zero sleep. Yet, what is the actual reality in Chile on the ground? Is it possible to be vegan here?
Well, I’m here to tell you that yes, it most definitely is!
First, if you haven’t already, check out my introductory post on Chile, Vegan in Chile: Mission Impossible?
Now, for your viewing pleasure, here are 5 tips of the trade to make life a bit easier here in Chile…
1. CARNE DE SOYA aka every vegan’s godsend, TVP.
If you haven’t yet discovered TVP, or textured vegetable protein, I urge you to rush out and buy some. It is an amazing ingredient that can be used in various different recipes and forms. It’s made from soy protein isolate and is dehydrated, stick it with some hot water for 10 minutes, and you’re ready to go. It has hundreds of uses. Easy taco meat, easy to put in chili, in red pasta sauce, in a sandwich, in soups, in stir frys, in rice dishes. I even eat it on it’s own, granted it needs a little flavor (cumin, salt, and a little garlic makes a great snack in the hostel). Although I brought a bag with me from the US to Chile as an easy go to protein source here, I’ve found that TVP is easily accessible in almost any supermarket throughout Chile, in the form of Carne de Soya (translation for those gringos out there: soy meat). Ask for it, or search it out. It’s normally either by the fruit and nuts, or I’ve seen it in the baking aisles. If you go to a bigger store in a bigger city, they’ll even have it in different forms and textures, it’s also relatively cheap. I can get a bag cheaper here than in the US.
2. ADES Natural Soymilk
Don’t ask me why, but if you head to the juice aisle in most big supermarkets in any part of Chile, (a big Santa Isabel, a Jumbo, a Unimarc, etc) you can find ADES brand natural sabor soymilk. Although it may be a bit more processed than we’re used to (you can find American brands in specialty stores in Santiago, and sometimes even in big Jumbo’s in big cities), this soymilk brand is easily accessible and a lot cheaper than the imported soymilks. It’s a bit different, but it is most definitely soymilk and most definitely vegan. I like it and drink it every day here.
As an added tip, be adventurous and try one of ADES other flavors of juice mixed soy milks. They’re really sweet and tasty, my personal favorite would be the durazno flavor (peach).
3. La Feria/Fruit & Veggie Stands
As a really geographically long country, Chile has all sorts of climates, and thus has amazing fruits and vegetables. It’s a lot like California in that it can and does grow pretty much anything, so you can find pretty much anything depending on the season.
While the supermarkets veggie sections are impressive and are relatively cheap, I highly encourage you to buy your fruit and veggies at either your local feria or local fruit and veggie stands. They are not only generally much much cheaper, but are a cultural experience in themselves.
Fruit and veggie stands are normally owned by families, as such, I’ve had quite a few conversations with different people and even made some friends buying my veggies. (Don’t worry if you don’t speak Spanish, all you need is “Cuanto cuesta?”, and they’ll respond the price per kilo, or the price for one (in the case of veggies).
The ferias, on the other hand, are a lot like our farmers markets, but bigger and on a grander scale. Visiting a feria is defintiely worth an outing. Often people from the campo, including Mapuche people who come to sell their goods, including fresh fruits and veggies, nuts, beans, spices, even homemade cheeses and butters (if you’re vegetarian or only buy locally sourced well treated animal products definitely hit up your local feria!). Walk around and enjoy yourself. Get a cup of mote con huesillo, buy some veggies, ask prices! On a side note, do remember, as it is a crowded market, keep your wits and wallets about you.
4. Ethnic Restaurants
Most cities or destinations are going to have an indian, falafel, sushi, or even Mexican food (though I will warn you about the notoriously bad Mexican food in Chile). Most of the time, I’m able to find something that I can eat straight off the menu with little modification, or I just order something without fish, or without cheese as per normal vegan life in the States or anywhere really. (Without=SIN, so sin pescado, sin queso).
5. Overall, my general tip would be to ask, ask, ask. Pregunta, pregunta, pregunta.
I’ve found chilenos to be so welcoming and understanding. If you find yourself unsure in a restaurant, ask. If you find yourself at some chileno’s house to have dinner (aka once -pronounced like eleven in Spanish), just let ’em know and they’ll bring out palta (avocado), mermelada (jam), all the good stuff you can eat! No one has said anything negative or been anything but accommodating and understanding in the past two and a half months that I’ve been here.