On the road in Kenya | Veggie samosa from a gas station in Kenya–filled with potatoes and spinach! I loved the addition of greens, since I don’t usually see samosas with greens in the U.S.!
Hi friends! Ever wondered what it’s like being vegan in East Africa? Read on, I’m about to tell you all about it. But first, you may be wondering, what in the world was I doing in East Africa, and why has my blog been silent for so long?! Well, after graduating in May (yes, y’all, finally!) I had the great opportunity to participate in a study abroad session in Tanzania with UT Arlington and the University of Cincinnati. I asked my mom if that could be my graduation gift–to go to Tanzania with my classmates and learn how to give back using my recently acquired landscape architecture skills. My mom was absolutely supportive of this idea, and she also suggested that I expand my trip to include Taiwan (for a personal meditation retreat) and Vietnam (for vacation with family), before embarking to Tanzania. So I have been abroad for a month this summer, and am finally back home now, settled enough to start blogging more about the experiences!
Overall, my top tips for eating vegan in East Africa would be:
- Pack lots of healthy, filling snacks, such as It’s Jerky Y’all, protein chips (I’ve been digging Iwon Organics–if you want to save 30%, use my code ‘PLANT30’)! Before my trip, my friend Margaret (Plant Philosophy) was so kind and gave me some fruit bars, trail mix and Thai Chili Lime almonds from Trader Joe’s–which are incredible and now my new favorite! I ate them a lot during my time in Taiwan and Vietnam and they did not last long enough for East Africa, the flavors were so fragrant, so I highly recommend. Snacks were important on this trip, because we were on the road quite a bit (sometimes driving for a whole day), so it was best to be prepared.
- Make arrangements with your accommodations but also go with the flow.
Before leaving, our hosts in Tanzania were made aware of my dietary restrictions, and my professor said it shouldn’t be a problem, as they’ve had vegetarians on the trip before. Being vegan over there was pretty easy for me to navigate, because most of the meals were some combination of rice, meat, beans/legumes, and veggies (buffet-style in separate pots). I was able to serve myself what I needed, and on some off days when there were no beans or legumes, I would just pull out some It’s Jerky Y’all to supplement my meal.
Nairobi, Kenya | Breakfast at our hotel in Kenya–with a vegan blueberry muffin I got from the Dubai airport. Dubai’s airport has a pretty great variety of options; I’ll have to share them with you later!
Our trip in East Africa started in Kenya. The total trip lasted about 11 days, with a few days on the road and 5 days spent in Tanzania working on our respective projects. We concluded our trip in vacation mode with 1.5 days of safari in the Maasai Mara National Reserve of Kenya.
On the road in Kenya | Lunch on our first day traveling in Kenya! It was very simple, but I loved the chipatis and the kale. I decided to combine everything in a wrap and my friend told me I was totally being a food blogger/food stylist, haha.
While in Tanzania, we were hosted by an incredible non-profit organization called the Village Life Outreach Project, based in Shirati. Their work focuses on empowering partnerships in three remote and impoverished villages in Tanzania (Burere, Nyambogo, and Roche). My classmates and I had the incredible opportunity to develop a landscape design for the developing Roche Health Center. I have a lot of photos of our transactive, collaborative process with the community, and will share details more about our time in Tanzania in a future blog post!
During our stay with Village Life Outreach in Shirati, we were very well taken care of by a team of caretakers, led by Robert. Robert was the man! He always checked to make sure I had enough to eat as a vegan. At first, he was surprised and concerned, that my diet doesn’t include eggs, but I assured him I had plenty to eat. I also made sure to pack plenty of snacks, which you will see as you scroll through.
Shirati, Tanzania| Breakfast was usually PB&J for me, as the only other option was boiled eggs or non-vegan pancakes. The bread in Tanzania was a bit dry, so I wished I had packed some almond or soy milk to wash it down!
Roche, Tanzania | Lunch at our project site–what a view! Usually I would eat half my breakfast in the morning and pack the other half for lunch! I also brought plenty of snacks, like protein bars, etc.
Shirati, Tanzania | Of course I had to bring ramen noodles (and my chopsticks) with me on this trip! Eating instant noodles can be so comforting and convenient, whether it was a late night at the airport, or when I started craving Asian food during my time in Africa. I shared some with my classmates too!
Shirati, Tanzania | “That looks like an Instagram post!” Haha. This was one of my favorite meals Robert made for us! You can’t really go wrong with carbs, protein and a green! This was mashed potatoes, with sauteed kale and some kind of beans cooked in a savory sauce with spices.
Shirati, Tanzania | Another favorite simple meal: chapatis, tomato cabbage slaw, and lentil soup! It was light but satisfying.
Shirati, Tanzania | This was the last dinner Robert made for us, and I have to share it, even though the photo quality is awful. This was pilau (aka pilaf): rice cooked with potatoes and lots of spices, which made it so fragrant and unique. I don’t know all the exact spices, but I could taste nutmeg, cloves, and some cinnamon in there! The pilau was served with a simple slaw (cabbage, bell peppers, tomatoes) and sauteed cabbage with tomatoes. I will remember the flavors forever.
Shirati, Tanzania | Like I said, snacks were essential for this trip…so of course, I brought lots of It’s Jerky Y’all with me on this trip! While I couldn’t make spring rolls with them, they made for great, durable snacks on the road, and I also took some on our little hike one day in Shirati! We also brought watermelon with us to enjoy at the top of the hike.
Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya | Have you ever had mandazi aka, a Swahili bun? It’s a fluffy East African treat made of fried dough, and it reminded me a lot of beignets. Robert made these for our last breakfast in Shirati, and I packed some to eat on safari! Robert assured me there was no eggs or milk in them. The dough is typically made with water, flour, yeast, sugar, and sometimes milk–so you just have to check, depends on who makes it! I ate mine with maple syrup, but they are also often eaten alone or with powdered sugar. I loved these because they’re not too sweet!
Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya | One of our first meals at the lodge we stayed at during our safari in Kenya! There were plenty of vegan options in their buffet. I was particularly excited to see mashed taro on the menu–I love taro, but had never had it like that before! It was interesting–I might have to try making it like that at home one day.
Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya | While the sheer variety of food at the lodge was amazing, with tons of vegan options (mostly Indian-inspired foods), I actually found myself missing the simplicity of our meals from Robert in Shirati, back in Tanzania. Call me crazy, but a simple meal made with sincerity and love, is something that you can totally sense! :’)
Cedars Restaurant, Nairobi, Kenya | For our last dinner in Kenya, our whole group went to Cedars for Lebanese food! I was very excited about this, as Mediterranean cuisine always has a ton of vegan options. My favorite part of the meal was the stuffed grape leaves and the lemon and herb potato salad–so refreshing and filling!
Nairobi, Kenya | Something I should mention is that throughout the whole trip, my group and I had to be sure to take our malaria medicine every 24 hours (either at breakfast or at dinner). And after the trip, we had to keep taking the malaria pills for another 7 days, to keep the medicine in our system. They say it’s not a matter of if you will get malaria or not, because you will definitely be exposed to it–the important thing is to have the medicine in your system! Anyway, I’m glad those pills are over, because I’m really bad about remembering that stuff.
Well, that concludes the foodie highlights of my time in East Africa, hope you enjoyed! I have tons more to share from the trip, and hope to find time to work on some recipes inspired by the trip soon. Let me know if you have any questions about traveling as a vegan–I’m happy to share my experiences and help!