Cooking at home, you know exactly which ingredients go into your dish and you can be sure that there are no animal products in your meal, but when you eat out, items on the menu that seem like they’re animal-free may have hidden animal products.
Let’s take a veggie burger – most are made with just a bunch of veggies and maybe some beans or lentils, but some people use egg to bind the ingredients together and the bun may have some mayonnaise on it. I always ask if the burger was made with eggs, if the bun has egg or milk in it or is grilled in butter and ask for no mayo.
It can sometimes be frustrating having to ask so many questions for a dish that seems to be vegan and you may worry that you’re being annoying or difficult, but don’t worry! Most servers are very kind about it and are happy to help you find something that you can eat.
Indian dishes are also very difficult. So many are made with ghee, butter, and/or cream that even if the dish just says ‘mixed curried vegetables,’ it may have been cooked in ghee and have added cream. I always ask for my dishes at Indian restaurants to be made with oil and with no cream or milk. Most of the time it works, but I was surprised once when my mixed vegetable dish had paneer (an Indian cheese) in it!
Popular vegan-friendly restaurants
Afia Organics Café & Natural Foodstore, Remera
Afia Organics in Remera is currently the only vegan restaurant in Kigali.
They have a wonderful, healthy, diverse menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and also make some vegan treats (cakes!) and essentials, such as soy milk and tofu. They’re a wonderful place to start if you want to try a restaurant where you won’t have to ask a million questions about the menu!
Terra Cafe, Kacyiru
A Lebanese spot in Kacyiru, where I usually order the falafel sandwich or the za’atar and vegetable manakeesh. They also has some delicious hummus and fresh bread.
Borneo Indonesian Restaurant, Kimihurura
Located in Kimihurura – they are super accommodating to a variety of diets and know the vegan diet VERY well! I love their gado-gado.
Zen Oriental Cuisine, Nyarutarama
An Asian fusion restaurant in Nyarutarama, has some great vegan food. I typically order the jade potstickers, the green curry or the firecracker roll – so many options here!
Sakae is a Japanese and Korean spot also in Nyarutarama. They have many easy vegan options. I always double-check to see if a dish is made with fish/oyster sauce, but since most East Asian dishes don’t use dairy, you’re pretty safe if it says it’s a veggie roll, veggies and tofu, etc.
Java House, Kigali Heights & Kisimenti
Java House in Kigali Heights and Kisimenti, also has a lot of vegan options! I love the veggie chapati wrap and the fajita plate can be made vegan with the omission of cheese.
Now Now Rolex, Kimihurura
I just ask for my rolex with ALL the veggies and no egg. Delicious, quick lunch (or after-club snack before bed…)
There are many and most have wonderful vegan options. Sometimes you’ll have to ask to make sure a dish wasn’t made with meat or bones or meat broth (sauces), but there are often a few veggie options; salad, pumpkin, beans, greens, all the starches (rice, potatoes, chips, ugali) and a great fruit salad for dessert. I like The Fork in Kigali Heights, Aroma Cafe in Kimironko, and Camellia Tea House in the car-free zone downtown.
Plus many, many more options..
Almost any restaurant can make a dish vegan (if the staff are flexible) or has at least 1 vegan option on their menu.
Even meat-centric restaurants such as Choma’D have a few vegan options. Their veggie spring rolls aren’t on the new menu, but they still have a salad and sweet potato fries.
So, next time you’re out, try the vegan dish!
Get ideas of places to visit and meals to order on my IG: @vegan_in_rwanda
All views and opinions expressed are the author’s