Author Archives: VeganJains

Guide to surviving India as a Vegan

This is a guest post by Sunny Jain an MBA Candidate who is a leader in US Young Jain Professionals

I’ve heard the story one too many times of my vegan friends abandoning their diet while visiting India either due to misinformation or perceived difficulty. Some would say it’s too difficult and would rather just enjoy food there, and others falsely believe that the dairy industry in India is humane (would be interested in educating you if you’re one of those people spreading fake news).

Before my trip to India, I decided that I would be the one to break this mold and wouldn’t give in like everyone else does, and I readied my battle armor as I boarded my flight.

10 days in, I found being vegan in India extremely reasonable and not as awful as I originally thought it would be. In addition to eating lavishly and trying almost any and every street food I laid my eyes on, I had the opportunity to attend Mumbai’s first and largest vegan food festival.

Here are a few tips I want to share with those who plan to remain vegan while in India:

Dealing with Aunties and Uncles

  • Don’t hesitate to speak up and tell them in advance what you can and can’t eat. To them, it’s like some unusual variation of the Jain diet that they may not entirely comprehend
  • Aunties are notorious for being pushy and persistent when it comes to eating home-cooked food, but they’ll respect your dietary restrictions without question (at the end of the day, you’re the guest and they want to cater to you!)
  • Just say: “no doodh (milk) and no ghee (butter)”
    • By default, food labeled “vegetarian” in India doesn’t have eggs in it, so it’s just a matter of avoiding butter and milk

The Plane Ride to India

  • When purchasing to your flight, you’ll have an option to request a vegan meal. Depending on the airlines, you may have to do some digging and click the “Extras” tab to select a special meal type, ask for VGML, this is an international airline code for vegan meals.
  • Important: You must request a vegan meal 24 hours in advance before the flight or you will be out of luck
    • If that happens, just let the flight attendant know (they’re usually super accommodating and will find something for you – even if it’s as little as providing you with snacks and fruits/vegetables during the flight)
  • The vegan meal I received was delicious: quinoa rice with tofu and red sauce, a fruit cup, salad with vegan ranch dressing, bread, and vegan butter
    • It was so fire that I took a photo of it just to share on social media
  • If you’re able to survive the first connecting flight, the airport in Amsterdam has great vegan options

Soy Milk (“Soya Milk” in India)

  • The first thing you’ll want to do when you reach in India is get a hold of soy milk wherever you’re staying
    • This is important because you’re going to be offered chai multiple times a day so it’s good to let them know in advance to make it with soy milk
  • One option is to either ask your family in India to get some in advance before you arrive, or you can buy some yourself
  • Soy milk is very accessible and readily available
    • Can be found at almost any decently big grocery store. If you can’t find it at a location, just walk next door because all the grocery stores tend to be next door to each other
    • I found regular unsweetened soy milk, chocolate soy milk, hazelnut milk, and rice milk
    • When converted to USD, you’ll spend about 6 bucks a box
  • I would recommend getting a few extra boxes to last your time there. Vegan milk doesn’t spoil so it makes sense to stock up
  • SoFit Soya Milk is a famous Indian soymilk brand endorsed by John Abraham

Pau Bhaji

  • Pau Bhaji is a staple street food you’re going to want to indulge in. However, it’s usually served drowning in butter
    • I watched in disgust as a street vendor tossed entire slabs of butter (un-human amounts) into the Pau Bhaji, and used another slab of butter to wipe down with pau
    • There’s legit more butter swimming in it than actual bhaji
  • Fortunately, there’s an easy workaround which will allow you to enjoy street Pau Bhaji without the animal cruelty. It is completely acceptable to demand Pau Bhaji with no butter (remember: they’re catering to you, not vice versa). Tell them what you want, and 9 times out of 10 they’ll deliver
  • In their continuous process of making and replenishing bhaji, they’ll just serve you bhaji from the batch they cook before adding butter. This goes for pau as well.

Indian McDonald’s and Burger King

  • Request any veggie burger or wrap and subtract the cheese and mayonnaise
  • I would choose a food item that comes with other stuff like tomatoes and lettuce so you don’t end up with a plain burger with just the patty and onions (those burgers are already pretty simple as is)
  • If you’re a daring and adventurous foodie like I am, try out the Maharaja Mac

Mitthai (Sweets)

  • Ask a nearby Aunty about which desserts have ghee or made with milk. Should knock out about 75 percent of your options, but you’ll always find something worthwhile
    • For me, it was Kaju Katri and fresh Jalebi cooked in oil
  • Avoid sweets with Warakh (the silver coating on top) because it’s associated with animal cruelty

Vegan Friendly Indian food

Below are some great food items I tried in India which are vegan friendly:

  • South Indian food
  • Vada Pau
  • Pani Puri
  • Sev Puri
  • Samosas
  • Chole Bhatura
  • Home Food (Moong, Daal, Sabji)
  • Frankies
  • McDonald’s Burgers
  • Burger King Burgers
  • Fries
  • Paan
  • Pau Bhaji (without Butter)

Feeding Biscuits to Stray Dogs

  • This is something I wish I realized early in my trip and recommend to all my friends
  • Purchase a few packs of biscuits and carry it around wherever you go
    • Comes at about 10 rupees at any stall or store (converts to mere pennies in USD)
  • As you travel and explore the city, hand biscuits to any stray dogs you encounter
  • These poor dogs on the streets are malnourished and hungry/thirsty, and will gladly accept any food you give them
  • You can just place them on the floor and make a kissing sound to get their attention

Vandhana Bala, Mercy For Animals attorney speaks powerfully at JAINA 2017

Vandhana gave three thoroughly researched and well delivered talks at JAINA 2017,  of which we are posting two. The first talk  was regarding the suffering of farmed animals with an emphasis on dairy and egg production. The  second talk, for a Women’s Forum program, connected the exploitation of female animals in milk and egg production with the moral choices Jain women can make to avoid the violence.

Sagar Shah from UK Jain Vegans at JAINA 2017

Sagar Shah gave a number of presentations at JAINA 2017 in New Jersey. Here is one on environmental an ethical issues in modern food production that we recorded . In this talk Sagar presents a compelling comparison of the killing of dairy cows and male calves in meat, milk and cheese, namely that 6 pints of milk = 350 g cheese = 1/4 lb steak (the numbers in the talk below are slightly outdated).  A few people commented on how powerful this was, since Jains would never consider eating steak moral. Subsequent to the presentation, he has updated the slides ( 2017.07.03 – Environmental and ethical issues in modern food – how Jainism helps (11 Aug update)) and here are the detailed calculations (Data and methodology – equivalence of beef and dairy in killing cows ) and (Data and calcs on equivalence of eggs and chickens).

Here are some additional references Continue reading

Ahimsak Eco-Vegan Committee Booth and Vegan Panel at JAINA convention 2017

We had a panel on veganism for the youth program. Here is the video

Many people helped make our display boards for the convention during the holiday weekend and they served as a focal point for conversation.IMG_2379

MILK – The White Gold or The White Lie?

This short film made in India about milk reminds me a lot of our year in India. We saw cows eating plastic garbage daily, and saw various organizations that considered giving kids a daily glass of milk as a great service. It is great to see Kuntal Joisher, the first vegan to climb Everest who we met at in Milipitas in the movie. Also Nandita Shah from Sharan who we saw speak in Ahmedabad.

Interview with Sunny Gurnani

Today we met Sunny Gurnani at the Oakland VegFest. Sunny is the founder of GoVegan.in, a company in India that sells organic soy-milk, tofu and ice-cream. While we were in Ahmedabad last year we regularly got soy-milk from them (see the next post about it.

Here is a picture of the assorted of Soy Milk we purchased from them in Ahmedabad.Various soy milks from GoVegan

Ahimsak Diet

Dr Jina gave a talk at the 11th anniversary of the Jain Center of Northern California on the Ahimsak Diet. The slides are available here:Ahimsak Diet and Nutrition and you can see the talk at the following YouTube links:

part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sHcnDkswFpQ
part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tMFK-ZcGDfo
part 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTzTK6ua0b8

For those who are interested in preventing diabetes by choosing healthy Indian foods, Asha Jain has provided some recommendations :

carbohydrate & Caloric Content of common Indian foods-JAIN 2011

Role_of_Food_in_Diabetes_Management (1)