Hungry for Vegan Goodness in Beirut? Look No Further.
Dining in Lebanon often feels like the scene right out of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” where Aunt Voula is stunned speechless to learn Toula’s fiancé is vegetarian. “What do you mean you don’t eat no meat?” she demands, brows arched. Seconds later, her face breaks into a wide grin as she resolves, “That’s ok. I make lamb.”
Our Mediterranean cuisine is a marvelous cornucopia of fresh vegetables, fruits, herbs and spices. But at the same time, you can’t sit down to a Lebanese mezza without encountering at least three types of meat. Fast food revolves around shawarma – meat shaved off of a skewer – as well as lamb kabobs and chicken taouk wraps. Vegetarian, and its more extreme cousin vegan, is an austere regimen strictly reserved for the Lenten season.
Understandably, it’s a challenge finding healthy, nourishing vegan food at grocery stores across Beirut. I’m not talking about produce, beans, legumes, and seeds, though admittedly those do constitute a vegan lifestyle. We live in the 21st century, and food brands have made leaps and bounds to craft meat-like stuffs that are 100% meatless. In many cases, you wouldn’t be able to discern the difference! Unconvinced? Read on.
|When we think vegan, we typically conjure up fruits, veggies, grains, and seeds. But there's far more depth and breadth to vegan cuisine than merely that! (Photo source: hellomagazine.com)|
Wesley’s Wholesale is your go-to emporium for vegan products. Whether you’re foraging for plant milk or grains, beans, and seeds; whether you want to sink your teeth into a tender veggie burger or faux chicken patty; whether you crave a loaded pizza but can’t process dairy or gluten; whether you pine for a frozen sweet fix that’s free of cow milk…it’s all here, folks. And it’s being restocked as quickly as it’s being depleted.
Below is a sneak peek of what you can expect to unearth at Wesley’s – note that only the Hazmieh megastore carries fridge items.
Pacific Foods specializes in dairy-free milks running the range of almond, hazelnut, coconut and cashew, further subdivided into plain (original), unsweetened, chocolate and vanilla flavors. There’s something for every vegan palate, and with their shelf-stable, recyclable packaging, your sipping, baking, and everyday last-minute needs are accommodated.
Rebel Kitchen Mylk from the UK received a stamp of approval from the Lebanese Ministry of Health and is en route to Wesley’s warehouse. Their milk alternative tastes like real dairy, but it isn’t. Mylk comes in whole, semi-skimmed and skimmed varieties, whereas Rebel Coconut Milk drinks capture Chai, Matcha Green Tea, Coffee and Chocolate. How do they make them so mylky? Coconut cream for creaminess. Himalayan salt for a hint of savory. Brown rice for sweetness. Cashew for earthiness. Nutritional yeast for grassiness. And voila!
There’s an aisle at Wesley’s dedicated exclusively to the Bob’s Red Mill brand, and rightfully so. With everything from flours and meals to breakfast cereals, granola, oats, grains, and nutritional boosters, Bob, his wife Charlee, and their family have been at it since the late 1970s, modeling their products on wholesome, natural foods they themselves grow and consume in pursuit of a healthier lifestyle.
|An aisle dedicated exclusively to Bob's Red Mill products!|
|Don't forget to scour the top of the aisle, too!|
OK, now to the I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-meat products! Here, there’s a wide selection of key brands you’ll want to explore.
Gardein offer “Chick’n Patties,” “Beefless Strips,” “Meatless Meatballs,” veggie burgers, and breakfast patties, to name but a few of their signature items. For this Canadian company, it’s all about helping the world eat less meat without foregoing classic dishes. You’d be surprised by just how true to taste and texture their substitutes are.
|I've been told Gardein products can make vegans out of self-avowed meat lovers!|
Perhaps the meal that vegans profess to miss the most is the burger. There’s a plethora of substitutes occupying that space, with brands like Beyond Meat, Hilary’s Eat Well, Dr. Praeger’s and Amy’s Kitchen at the helm. Beyond Meat lays claim to a “revolutionary plant-based burger that looks, cooks, and satisfies like beef,” boasting 20 grams of plant protein, no soy or gluten, and no GMOs. Hilary’s Eat Well fashions sophisticated veggie burgers, like the Adzuki Bean Burger, Hemp & Greens Burger, Kimchi Burger, and World’s Best Veggie Burger – that’s an ambitious title, isn’t it! Dr. Praeger’s features a dozen veggie burgers – good luck choosing where to start (mushroom risotto tempts!). And Amy’s Kitchen pays tribute to Californian burgers with its gluten-free, dairy-free Sonoma wonder.
|Beyond Meat products. I'd start with their revolutionary burger!|
|Veggie burgers come in sophisticated flavors thanks to Hilary's Eat Well|
|A mushroom risotto veggie burger? I'm curious, Dr. Praeger!|
Maybe you’re lusting after a quintessential Italian pie – you know, a slice of pizza. In that case, pick up a box of Daiya’s dairy-free, soy-free and gluten-free pizza, with toppings as alluring as Cheeze Lover’s and Meatless Meat Lover’s. Apparently, they’re free of everything except taste and flavor!
|Daiya pizzas are gluten-, soy- and dairy-free|
Daiya also crafts luxurious Cheezecake in Key Lime, New York, Chocolate and Strawberry. But summer just isn’t summer without a tub (or stick) of ice cream, so look no further than So Delicious, with frozen novelties churned from coconut milk, soy milk, almond milk, and cashew milk. Ben & Jerry’s nondairy options emanate from almond milk and are boldly loaded with chunks and swirls. Halo Top also has a line of coconut milk-derived ice cream in flavors as imaginative as caramel macchiato and cinnamon roll.
|Vegan cheesecake by Daiya|
|So Delicious frozen novelties cater to vegans|
|A dairy-free ice cream that's earned its halo!|
Even if you don’t abide by a vegan lifestyle, it’s interesting to trick your palate and paunch with nondairy equivalents of your favorite foods. Sure, true-blooded Lebanese omnivores might peer at you suspiciously and mock your eating habits. Your own Aunt Voula (because we’ve all got one) might try to sway you with her exquisite lamb roast.
But hey, it’s about thinking before you meat, er, eat, and the environmental impact we’re leaving on this precious planet of ours. That's the stance the Berrou family, who own and manage Wesley's, have taken. In fact, two of their three daughters are full-fledged vegans, and the third -- the eldest -- adhered by the diet for a whole month while in California curating the finest vegan products for the store.
Thank goodness for Wesley’s, huh? They got this ✔
Thank goodness for Wesley’s, huh? They got this ✔
|Farrah Berrou, Creative Strategist at Wesley's and the eldest Berrou daughter, |
pictured in California with Bob of Bob's Red Mill
Hazmieh (Orange Label)
Blvd. Camille Chamoun
Antoine Gharios Center
Beirutista is Brand Ambassador at Wesley's Wholesale. What exactly does that mean? Well, if you liked this post, you can look forward to similar ones every month or so. I'll be blogging about a variety of exciting new projects Wesley's has underway, in addition to sneak peeks and product leaks! Expect cool new product giveaways from time to time, and if you're a real Wesley's obsessive like I am, I'll gladly hook you up with 10% off your next visit. Just shoot me a message at any one of my contact coordinates here.