Saturday, November 12, 2011

Going vegan in Pakistan...

For vegans it's a choice between French fries and French fries!
It is almost impossible to go vegan in Pakistan -- a country where one collects points for buying meat and more meat.

The 10 types of meats at dinner tables don't surprise me anymore. I also know too well that the section for vegans, if at all, may have a few greens thrown in with chunks of meat (palak-gosht). The dal may also be special -- because it has been cooked in meat.

It is not that I am a compulsive vegetarian -- I do like to eat meat once in a while -- but sometimes when I am in a mood to eat veggies I just don't know where to head. The options in Islamabad are almost always limited to khatte baingan with khatti daal or khatti daal with khatte baingan at Cafe Lazeez or more recently at Lahori Chatkhara.

Today I learnt of a Pakistani blogger who is vegan. Abdul Majeed is a medical student and it was such a pleasure reading his post.

"Folks, I confess to being a minority. No, I am not a non-Muslim, gay, lesbian, atheist or fat. I am a vegetarian. I have spent most of my life answering stupid questions like 'why aren't you eating anything beta, do you have a medical problem?'" Majeed posted on his blog "Courage to Differ".

Majeed confirmed my fears that there are no exclusive vegetarian restaurants in Lahore, Islamabad or Peshawar. "The maximum I can get at fast food restaurants are French fries," he wrote.

Majeed also mentioned a Facebook group dedicated to Pakistani vegetarians (has only 30 members!!!) -- which is also where I learnt a new conspiracy theory: being vegan = weak = Indian!!

Majeed quoted Maryam Arif, another Pakistani vegetarian: “Being vegetarian in Pakistan is highly suspect, Indian-like; even though most Indians I know ask for beef kebabs first thing they come to Lahore. Yet in our minds vegetarian = Hindu = Indian = weak. The popular thinking is that meat gives us an edge over them grass-eaters across the border. Carnivores are stronger and taller; even light-complexioned than herbivores. Isn’t that so? It has to be.”

The going has obviously not been easy for Majeed. "It is a bit like blasphemy to live in Lahore and not eat meat. Lahoris are often offended when you tell them you are a vegetarian. It is an insult to their intelligence. How can anyone voluntarily give up the meat delicacies that constitute our cuisine?"

"I have decided that enough is enough.  I am out of the closet now. I am sick of your siri paye, qormas, seekh kabab, gurday kapooray..." Majeed added.

My feelings exactly.

34 comments:

  1. I pesume you have read this.

    http://tazeen-tazeen.blogspot.com/2011/08/machismo-is-muslim.html

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  2. Khalil, no I haven't. Thanks ;)

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  3. Good to hear that! I too have suffered at weddings and left holding a piece of naan in one hand and a lettuce leaf in another...And of course having to ask for chips since there was nothing else. Gong to the freezers in shops is a joke....everything is chicken! You wonder where everyone has the money to eat those things all the time....And the sight of so many unknowing kids eating chicken nuggets.....full of ghastly waste material......is painful. STUPID parents!!!!We vegetarians will be laughing when mad cow disease,swine flu and bird flu take over the world.....Not to mention all the hideous diseases that will come about any time due to poultry being fed hormones and worst of all........meat scraps.......
    Ive never allowed anyone to look funny at me.....I look funny at them. And when they say the same dumb thing "take the potato out of the meat curry and eat that " I ask them if they would do the same if it were pork. For me being vegetarian is double edged. I love animals and am appalled that this world is becoming more and more cruel to them....Becoming vegetarian 12 years ago was my stand against this......triggered both by the animal massacre in the name of religion at their eid, and the sordid slaughter houses the world over...Also, humans are animals too so eating meat is like cannibalism. Secondly, the thought of eating meat, when there is so much else to eat, seems ridiculous! Its not like old times when hunting was needed to survive. I dont belong to any religion so the idea that people should read something religious into vegetarianism is idiotic to me...If they want to gorge on blood and flesh and bones and organs, let them. Excuse me while I throw up....

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  4. Noshi, thanks. This one was for you!

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  5. Hi,
    Forget Pakistan, in Madurai the city in southern Tamil Nadu there are very few good places to eat Veg food. But the post was damn good and gives me a birds eye view of whats happening over the other side. Keep writing.

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    Replies
    1. Lack of good places to eat veg food in south india! Don't exaggerate.I have visited Madurai and most places in the south serve excellent vegetarian meals.By the way i am an Indian.

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  6. I have never had a problem being vegetarian in Pak, but then we normally don't go to fancy shmancy places and eat a lot at home, where our cuisine is mostly vegetarian anyways. If you want vegetarian cuisine go to the ordinary eating places where normal people go, i rememeber in Pindi at the bus station there is this place where all the drivers eat and the food is mainly vegetarian and awsome, it was the best bhindi i had ever eaten!

    I thinksometimes people can complain a bit too much or go overboard. Go to any normal person's house in Pak and on most days you will see daal or sabzi being cooked and NOT meat.

    Seriously, i don't understand people who complain about not getting good vegetarian food in Pak. granted there are no vegetarian restaurants but there is always good veggie options. I think you should broaden your range of restaurants and maybe even go to Pindi as you are based in Isloo - put on a shalwar kameez and a dupatta and go to a dhaba type place, thats where the best food is. Anyways good luck!

    A

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  7. A, Indians not allowed in Pindi :( But yes point taken -- will look harder next time!

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  8. This visa situation is effing retarded. My ex-roommate and friend from mumbai, but I can't visit him on his wedding because of this ridiculous visa situation. WAKE UP establishments on both sides, it's not 17th century anymore!!

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  9. And why exactly are Indians not allowed in Pindi when they are allowed in Isloo?

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  10. Anon 1, agree wholeheartedly!

    Anon 2, Pindi is a Cantonment area.

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  11. Heartening to know about Pakistani Vegetarians didn't know they existed :)

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  12. Indians not allowed in Rawalpindi??!!!! As in Indian passport holders or Pakistani Hindus?

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    Replies
    1. Not many hindus left to be allowed to visit pindi. Ask them the details.

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  13. Sunandchand, Indian passport holders.

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  14. Well i am a pakistani and I don't know any pakistani vegans , thats for sure.

    And if you are a vegetarian and you are looking to find good food in places like lahore, m not sure that'd be easy..

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  15. Great post, but just to offer a correction: vegan is not the same as vegetarian. Vegans don't eat any animal products including milk, eggs and honey. Vegetarians, for the most part, consume no meat but are fine with milk (lactovegetarians) and eggs (ovovegetarians). YOur friend seems to be a vegetarian, not vegan.
    Good read..:-)

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  16. It is impossible to go vegan in Pakistan, especially if you depend on restaurants. You have to cook your own food to be vegan. It is possible that you can live on lentils, beans, rice, grains, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and fruits. But, in a long term, you may lack in certain nutrients, such as vitamin b12, vitamin D, and calcium because majority of the Pakistani grocery stores don't carry or make such alternatives.
    Ghee is widely used in every dishes, which is not vegan. Foods in Pakistan such as, samose, jalebi, pakoray, daal, and naan are not vegan. Most of these foods made with ghee and haram oil, which include fats from dogs, rats, goats, and etc. Watch Pakistani news or visit Pakistani slaughterhouse, you will find out.
    Pakistan has the weakest law on animal rights and halal meat. When a country is lacking in such laws, there is a great chance that many people can take advantage of it.

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  17. I am a Indian Hindu living in Saudi Arabia. I am veg all of my life (not by choice but by tradition). Even though people told me it was impossible to be one in saudi I never found it difficult. For those who want to eat meat its a good excuse although. I visit regularly Pakistani (owned)restaurants and there are always choice for veg eating and not a single time anybody was surprised that I always ear grass. I think even ordinary pakistani muslims dont eat meat every day and many of recipes are the same across the border.

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  18. hi i belong to nepal i m doctor and recently i visited to lahore i stayed for 10 days and i m veg
    yes being veg in pak is tougher i ate daal and naan at famous food street lahore indoubtly there is no menu for vegeeies,but u get pasta noodles chola samosa panipuri as well there but for nonveg its heaven hell for veggies

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  19. i belong to nepal i m doctor and recently visited lahore i m veg yes there is no menu for veggies in pak resturant except daal, roti and curd,on name of vegtable in one of famous resturent in lahore i got 'TINDA' VEGTABLE WHICH I NEVER ATE IN WHOLE LIFE.

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  20. it's pleasing to know about People in Pakistan who love to be Vegetarians, be it on Ethical, Moral, Spiritual or Humane grounds.

    Kindness and Compassion towards Fellow living-beings is a Universal Goodness beings transcends all boundaries and borders of nationality, religion, community or likewise.

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  21. Thanks for sharing such a yummy post regarding mangoes. Unfortunately many people in the Pakistan do not afford to have them.
    Mango exporter pakistan
    Mango producer in Pakistan

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  23. I have book marked it for later!

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  24. thanks 4 sharing such a really awesome chips.....:PEscorts in pakistan

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  25. Eating French fries is an awesome snack. One cannot avoid though having lots of calories.

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  27. Great blog post!!! its worth to read this. I found out some more great stuff to read.
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  28. You say Majeed is a vegan and he says he is a vegetarians. You do know the difference between Vegan and vegetarians right?

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  29. There are mainly two facebook pages are working to promote vegan lifestyle and animal rights in Pakistan of over 1k followers, namely: Save them All and vegetarians and vegans in Pakistan. The former one is run mainly in Urdu by three of us, we are students from different cities but currently living in Islamabad.
    Our main reason for promoting vegan lifestyle is to void and minimize the pain and sufferings of our fellow innocents creatures.
    Bellow i'm pasting the Facebook URL of both pages kindly like and share the good cause, thank you :)

    https://www.facebook.com/Save-Them-All-1175331885817298/

    https://www.facebook.com/VegetarianPakistan/

    ReplyDelete