Having been crowned with the title of ‘Creative City of Gastronomy’ by UNESCO recently, Hyderabad also earned the title of the Most Vegan Friendly City from PETA (People for Ethical Treatment of Animals) India. That’s no wonder as top-notch vegan restaurants, dessert offerings and community. biryani, haleem, paya shorba and bheja fry aside, we must not forget that the city has done some amazing things with idli and dosa too.
Additional Commissioner GHMC Musharraf Ali Faruqui says, “Hyderabad is the highest meat-consuming city. Per capita consumption of meat in Hyderabad is the highest in Asia but we are also the most accommodating city in food. Hyderabad has an equal number of vegetarian or vegan food takers.” Faruqui also feels that every food joint in the city, no matter what cuisine they offer, is open to customisation. “The contribution of the vending zones is significant. They have taken the idli and dosa and given them unusual twists in the form of idli manchuria, stuffed dosa and what not. Food trucks don’t serve meat and on request they can turn a cheese dosa to suit any vegan’s preference. Hyderabad is ready to customise anything for anybody. The extra mile taken by the hospitality industry is incomparable,” he adds.
Mention of vegan food needn’t make one apprehensive, it is not something unusual if we look back at our food chain. Our staples like idli-dosa, annam, pappu and bendakaya fry (rice and dal with ladies finger fry) is vegan in nature. Samosa is vegan, paratha, without the ghee, is vegan. Says Dhanesh Sharma, of The Terrasen Café – Poets and Oats, a vegan cafe, “When I started the cafe in 2015 a lot of people with all good intentions would say ‘vegan restaurant in a city where biryani is a go-to-food and where people do a countdown for haleem doesn’t sound too promising.’ I stuck to my guns and said litti choka is absolutely vegan, so is the the millet khichdi and the everyday roti-sabji . As I like to read a lot to empower my knowledge on food habits, I learnt that ghee in Indian diet is an inclusion made in the 1920s to show one’s affluence.”
It is interesting to know that stand alone vegan restaurants are doing quite well in the city. Add to it innovations like pizza with local leafy greens, mind-boggling dips with homemade fresh pita and a lot more at Sage Farm and Cafe give a big boost to veganism. Again, Sage Farm is not vegan-only but when made to customise, their food is finger-licking perfect.
“Global interest in a vegan lifestyle has never been higher and Hyderabad is leading the country in responding to it,” says Kiran Ahuja PETA India Vegan Outreach Coordinator . Carrying forward the celebrations, Smart Alec’s is including a menu that has vegan alternatives to shammi kebabs, keema tikka and a lot more. Taking their love for veganism forward, they have introduced an Oriental menu, complete with a laksa and chicken satay — for vegan diners. Mansi Virmani, one of the three owners of Smart Alec says, “The reason to promote vegan food with such names is to show the variety and to demonstrate that vegan food shouldn’t be confused with just raw vegetables.”