French food is generally famous for being stinky, fatty, meaty, cheesy and glorious, but it doesn’t really come to mind when thinking of vegan options.
So, what can a vegan, who speaks no French* and can’t afford the restaurants, eat in Paris?
Baguette is probably the best bread in the world. It is nothing like the nasty, dry, “french” stick bread you get at home. Instead it is soft, chewy, flavoursome and fantastic-smelling, and the perfect base for a yummy vegan sanger on the go. We had ours with some vegan cheese, salad, and either tofu, Tartex or vegan sliced “meat”, and sometimes snacked on baguette with jam or peanut butter. I was basically in bread heaven the entire time we were there, and at 90 cents for a loaf nearly as long as my arm, they make for a perfect staple for gluten-tolerant vegans.
Little travel tip: we have carried one plastic container with us throughout the whole trip, and use it to store pre-chopped sandwich fillings, such as tomato and vegan cheese, and tofu, ready to pile onto whatever vegan sandwich base we find. It makes things much simpler, and saves us buying loads of single serve things and expensive, crappy lunch options. Its also useful for carrying of storing leftovers in hostels and bnbs, and carrying sugar so it doesn’t get all through your stuff when you switch locations
Okay, so clearly you can’t just tip your vegan hat at any old crepe, eggy things that they are, but there are some crepes that fit the bill – made of buckwheat and water only, and available in most supermarkets and mini markets, and, I’m told, some stalls.
We had ours with chocolate sauce and fruit, but you could also eat them with a cheese sauce, veg or vegan mince, which brings me to what you can find to eat in a supermarket in Paris…
Shopping for Vegans in Paris
There are two places we did most of our shopping in Paris, disregarding the fruit shops and boulangeries (bakeries)- ordinary supermarkets, and Namo Bio. In ordinary supermarkets we found a number of vegan staples, including vegan margarine, (BioSoft I think?), peanut butter, mixed nuts (although nuts are very expensive if you haven’t brought your nut cracker with you), several brands of soy milk, wheetabix, raw sugar, Alpro soy desserts, and the like, but no tofu, and be warned, the tinned beans and lentils generally have chicken fat, lard, bacon or other pork products in them.
We were very lucky to also be situated close enough to a vegan-friendly grocery store, Namo Bio, which served us well with lots of tofu, vegan burgers, vegan choc-hazelnut spread, organic fruit and veg, vegan cooking cream, even more Tartex, soy yoghurt, and the very best vegan cheese I have ever tasted. It was called Cheezly, but didn’t bear the Redwood logo, so I don’t know what’s going on there. It was a hard cheese, and tasted completely divine, creamy and full and perfect with no weird soy after taste. When I get home I intend to do a “best vegan products in the world” post, and this stuff will definitely be on it.
With our stash of vegan stuff we had some good lunches and dinners, including some of my favourite soup, Creme Du Barry, and a decadent lunch of fruit, bread, cheeze, “meats” and chocolate, yum.
Maoz again, with not so great results
Paris boasts another of the Maoz vegetarian felafel chain, which we liked so much in the US. Unfortunately I can report that the one in Paris kinda sucks. The felafel were edible enough, but the salad options were mainly just the creepy kind of pickled, overcooked carrot, watery olives and sad lettuce – none of the roasted cauliflower and broccoli or chickpea salad we found in New York. That was disappointing enough, but when we were left with upset tummies (which we suspect is a result of Maoz, but there’s no telling when you’re travelling) the thumbs down was solidified. Very unfun, and annoying because there are so few vegan options, I hate to have to diss one.
For those who visit Paris soon, Mr says it was good last time he was there, so it might still be wrth a look, despite my crappy experience.
Out for lunch at Saveurs Veget’ Halles
The one proper meal we had out (like, at a table and stuff), was at Saveurs Veget’halles, near Notre Dame. We ordered two set lunches, one with a starter and one with a dessert, for the best of both worlds, cheapo style.
We got an asparagus salad, which turned out to be a few pieces of asparagus with a little bit of salad. It looked bright but a little forlorn, but the asparagus was well cooked and lovely and the salad came with ingenious spray bottles of oil and vinegar, and of course, yummy French bread, so we weren’t complying.
For mains we had the mushroom something with blackberry and ginger sauce, and a plate of what turned out to be seemed veg with a creamy chive sauce. (I read chive sauce and pointed, not stopping to think what “vapor” meant).
Both meals came out with a scoop of perfect mashed potato and a scoop of quinoa. The mushroom and blackberry-ginger sauce was the definite favourite. It was sort of a loaf, which tasted great on its own, but even better with the sauce, a flavour combination I’m looking forward to trying at home. The steamed veg were, unsurprisingly, a little bland for a main meal, but tasty enough with the sauce.
For dessert I tried to order a chocolate cake, but ended up being served a carrot cake muffin. I didn’t say anything about it, because there is no knowing whether I ordered the wrong thing, or they sent out the wrong thing. It tasted pretty good, was nice and warm, and came with vegan cream on the side, but Mr thought it wasn’t sweet enough, so I got the whole thing to myself. (No complaints there).
All in all it was a really nice meal, and if I had the chance to go again I would, but I’d probably order something a little more decadent.
This post was really helpful – http://www.hungryhungryhippie.com/vegan-in-paris/
Also, this one (and the whole blog) – http://veganparis.com/2009/01/13/vegan-paris-on-a-budget/
As per usual, I suggest vegans avoid all the posts floating around about being a vegetarian in Paris, cos they seem to be mostly about how great cheese is and the few vegan options they noticed.
*This is where I learned all the French I know: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EuXdhow3uqQ. Well, this, Eurovision, and two years of chef training (no, I am not a chef, it was a high school thing, and I never really got past how to make a proper club sandwich, a clear soup, clarified butter, pastry and pesto). So I can read a menu, an point out the shape of the chopped veggies, and then award points (as long as it is 8, 10 or 12) but not much else.