Our author spent many years quenching her thirst for adventure as a travel blogger, and her adopted home town of Munich was somewhat relegated to a place of relaxation. Her column gives her the chance to catch up on some of the things she missed. This time, she spends a day eating her way through what the city has to offer for vegans.
"I'm spending a day eating vegan for breakfast, lunch and dinner," I say in response to the waiter's questioning look, as photographer Frank is arranging the food in the right light. "What, and you're still alive?", he replies with an ironic grin. But my mouth is already watering.
As a vegetarian, I rarely had to make sacrifices when I was travelling. The broad range of choices in the big cities in particular meant I never went hungry. The food was delicious. And I also learnt a lot about the creativity that brings a meat-free, often purely plant-based, dish to the table.
In Munich, too, there are more and more vegan restaurants and concepts in addition to a large number of traditional inns: they conjure up American pancakes that compete with the classic version in the diner, they revive Bavarian feel-good dishes with meat substitutes or bring Buddhist temple cuisine to the city. For one day I feast my way through the vegan kitchens of Munich. To come back to the question of the waiter: Yes, I am still alive. I think I even put on a little weight.
You might say that lavish breakfasts are a personal hobby of mine. But I give a wide berth to cafés that arrange a few slices of supermarket cheese on a plate and add some bread in a basket from the local bakery. I can do that at home – I much prefer something a bit unexpected. So my first choice of place goes to the widely praised Emmi’s Kitchen.
I would describe going to breakfast opulently as a personal hobby - and I want to be surprised.
This restaurant in the Glockenbach district is hidden away in a rear courtyard, and serves up nothing but vegan dishes. And over breakfast here, owner Götz tells me that he and his wife were actually the first in Munich to offer 'Beyond Meat' – a vegan meat substitute that has been hugely popular for some years, and the taste of which fools even committed meat eaters. As a result, the burgers at Emmi’s Kitchen as just as well-known as the dishes on the breakfast menu.
I opt for a combination of a small portion of avocado on bread, scrambled tofu, chia pudding with fruit and home-made granola. Frank, who is actually a meat-eater, chooses the American pancakes with fruit and maple syrup. While we are waiting for our food to arrive, Götz tells us about how his restaurant started. "I was a meat-eater myself for a long time. It was my wife who introduced me to vegan cuisine. I now get that, for example, a lentil stew gives me loads of energy, and doesn't leave me feeling sluggish afterwards."
I take a look at the regularly updated menu. "It's important that no one leaves feeling hungry. And we make sure that our combinations are packed with nutrients." I ask him whether meat-eaters also stumble across his restaurant, and how they react when they realise everything on the menu is vegan "A lot of them go with with it. I always hope they won't get up and leave before they've tried the food."
Our breakfast arrives. Avocado on farmhouse bread is now a food classic, but it's tasty only if the avocado is ripe, the seasoning spot on, and the bread fresh. Everything here hits the spot. The hot, crumbled, smoked tofu is a delicious and healthy alternative to scrambled eggs, and the granola on chia pudding tastes as delicious as its description: home-made. But it's the pancakes that really blows our minds. No one would guess that this fluffy pile of thick pancakes is a vegan take on an American classic. The pancakes taste just like soul food should – and having polished off quite a few of them, I can tell you that Emmi’s Kitchen is dishing up far more than a 'vegan alternative'.
Although we were hungry, we could scarcely manage the portions served – Götz is right. No one leaves Emmi’s Kitchen hungry, even if they're gluten-free. As we say our goodbyes, Götz gets his favourite dish out of the kitchen: a Jalapeno 'cheese' burger. Fair enough, it's already noon.
Siggis sits in a very central location between the Viktualienmarkt and the Isartor. From the outside it looks pretty small, more like the entrance to a snack bar or take-away, but behind the glass front and the counter, the place opens up into a cosy vaulted cellar.
There are three of us, and we order lasagne with a side salad, the club sandwich with sweet potato slices, and the sour dumplings with oyster mushrooms and roasted kohlrabi. To pass the time during the short wait, I take a look around the place. It's lunchtime and the restaurant is packed with a varied clientèle, which surprises me: from bar regulars and the suited-and-booted to young families – they all seem happy to try vegan food. When an older gentleman is served his dumplings, he calmly and stoically inspects what's on his plate, before trying a taste and taking a sip of his wheat beer. The prejudice that only young hipsters would first photograph vegan food suitable for instagram and then eat it is being swept off the table by the very down-to-earth Siggis. Instead, hearty dishes are placed on top.
The vegan kitchen is much more than free of animal products.
Sigrid Lutz says of her restaurant that it was created on the basis of her own life philosophy. "Responsibility and respect for people, animals and nature for me take absolute priority. That's where my business idea came from: making good quality vegan food based on fairtrade production that is easily accessible."
And if you want to round off your meal by trying a cappuccino using home-made cashew milk, this is the place to satisfy your curiosity. At last I get the chance to clock all the other things I find remarkable at Siggis apart from the food: for example the emphasis on the wise and organic use of leftovers. The coffee machine is recycled, the cleaning cloths are made from bamboo. The food is free from palm oil and flavour enhancers. Voluntary donations support an animal sanctuary. What does all this demonstrate? That vegan cuisine is far more than non-animal products.
I've only ever eaten sushi once in my life before now. At home and home-made, because some friends persuaded me. "Either our ingredients aren't good enough, or sushi just isn't my thing," I thought afterwards, because I really didn't enjoy it at all.
When Kansha opened in Munich, I wanted to give Japanese cuisine a second chance – especially because the first chance ultimately came down to my own (lack of) skills. Plus, Kansha is far more than another sushi place. Owners Catharina Michalke and Bettina von Massenbach have brought Buddhist temple cuisine to Munich. It is special, varied, and vegan.
I feel like I'm somewhere else. I slipped out of the city and dived into a whole new one.
When Frank and I take our seats in the restaurant and I look through the regularly changing menu, what happens is exactly what I want from a restaurant that offers a special cuisine: I feel I am somewhere else completely. I've snook out of the city and into a completely new world. We kick off with an alcohol-free house cocktail of ginger, matcha and sparkling water that tastes better than it sounds: fresh and delicious.
And then we order from every part of the menu; here's a selection: Salted edamame and silken tofu with soya sauce as a starter. A set of eight different dishes that we share, including culinary revelations like nigiri with marinated oyster mushrooms, pickled pumpkin and sliced ginger, tempura futomaki, hosomaki with black salsify and wakame cucumber salad. Frank, who is a big fan of Japanese cuisine, tells me an anecdote about skiing in Hokkaido. I slowly become accustomed to the art of using my fingers to master my chopsticks, and drink warm sake that's stronger than I expected but, I find, also tastes better than I expected. And so the hours pass, and we savour the flavours on our tongues.
Kansha is a Japanese paradise that serves small portions that are perfect for sharing, and satisfy without being over-filling. A vegan sushi restaurant in Munich that's the perfect place for exploring new culinary horizons and immersing yourself in unique combinations.
In one day, we have taken a culinary tour through Munich, sampling aspects of North American, Bavarian and Japanese cuisine along the way. "Can we do this again soon?" Frank asks me as we say goodbye for the evening, and realise that our tasting day is over. I nod. So I wasn't the only one who enjoyed this.
And as Frank hops on his bike and I set off in the opposite direction, I think to myself that writing about food is probably the best job in the world. Not just because there is always something new to discover, but because it is a wonderful way to experience cities and regions through their cuisine. That's why I will always remember that warm Cornetto enjoyed during a morning stroll through Florence, or the intensive taste of that coffee in the Columbian countryside. Now I can add the vegan variety of Munich to the list. The way to love is through the stomach, after all. And through memories too.
Want some more? Here are some other delicious ways to eat vegan in Munich: Vegan Report