Vanguard Veganism

Vienna has become a top city for meatless, milk-less, eggless eatables, and even carnivores reap the benefits

Traditionally, Liptauer, a spicy cheese spread, has been the Austrian’s most popular bread spread. But national preferences can change: In 2013, SPAR Veggie reported that their store brand hummus had taken first place. It’s completely vegan – meaning without animal-derived products like meat, eggs and milk. But with these numbers, it’s not only the vegans that are hungry for some hummus.

“Along with Great Britain, Austria is a European front-runner when it comes to vegan selection,” Felix Hnat told The Vienna Review. We met the chairman of the Vegan Society Austria (Vegane Gesellschaft Österrreich) at Austria’s first vegan supermarket Maran Vegan in the 6th District. The store has become popular for its diverse selection of organic vegetables and possibly, too, for the complete absence of annoying background music typical of conventional supermarkets.

 

Susanna Paller serves vegan ice cream to a loyal and diverse customer pool | Photo: V. Zoidl

Susanna Paller serves vegan ice cream to a loyal and diverse customer pool | Photo: V. Zoidl

Scream for vegan ice cream

My first taste of vegan strawberry sorbet was startling, about as close to eating an actual strawberry as it gets. Susanna Paller and her sister Cecilia Blochberger opened Veganista, their stylish 7th District ice cream parlour this May. Besides classics, they also have unusual flavours like basil. Even non-vegans stand in line to get a taste.

From the 90-year-old woman who has been vegan for 30 years to the true ice cream aficionados, most customers don’t look like cliché vegans: No Birkenstock sandals, dreadlocks and no proselytising non-believers. Today’s vegans are different.

“We wanted to show that vegan lifestyle can be super stylish”, said Paller. “Nobody has ever complained that it doesn’t taste like real ice cream.” Paller trained at the Ice Cream Academy in New Jersey. Their success speaks for itself. She estimates half of her customers are vegan tourists. Instead of dairy products, Paller uses soymilk, oat milk, rice milk or coconut milk.

 

In good company

“Today, veganism is known for famous testimonials from people like Bill Clinton, who chose to live vegan for health reasons,” said Felix Hnat. Like knitting and yoga, this kind of celebrity support has polished veganism’s image.

The lifestyle has become an important factor in Austria’s economy, with a second vegan supermarket in the planning stages, a multitude of vegan eateries and even three gourmet restaurants. There are also vegan trade fairs and since last February, Vienna – uncontested capital of balls – even has a Vegan Ball.

There are many reasons why people choose to become vegan – health, protecting the environment, animal ethics – and “most importantly, because it tastes good,” said Hnat. For him, there is a growing population of non-vegans who buy the products for the taste.

The Taiwanese Huang family is vegan for religious reasons and has been running the Formosa restaurant and shop in the 6th District for 10 years. The Buddhist family imports minced-soy, vegan ham and even vegan dog food from Taiwan. Their customers are a colourful mix, according to Huang Wei-Chan: “It’s people between the ages of 6 and 90.” Curries are a popular option at their bistro, but even Austrian classics like Schnitzel and Cordon Bleu are made from soybeans – so no gristle or trans fats.

Huang tempted us to try a vegan hot dog. It looked surprisingly authentic – still, the much softer texture of the soy sausage and its slightly artificial colour took some time getting used to. Fortunately, there were other options, like a delicious Mango Lassi – made with coconut milk – and vegan chicken nuggets, which were closer to chicken than McDonalds will ever get.

Huang doesn’t see the new vegan restaurants as competition: “The more, the better”, he said. According to a study by the IFES institute, 9 per cent of Austrians consider themselves vegan or vegetarian: “That’s a lot,” said Felix Hnat. “If they were a party, they would be in parliament.” ÷

 

Veganista: 7., Neustiftgasse 23/3

 

Maran Vegan: 6., Stumpergasse 57

 

Formosa: 6., Barnabittengasse 6

 

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