For the past two weeks I've been enjoying but occasionally hiding from the sun in Marmaris, located in the south western part of Turkey in its Muğla province. Marmaris is a major tourist destination with a constant buzz of shoppers and bar hoppers under a bright blue sky.
This was my second holiday since going vegan, with the first being in Berlin in February (I was a vegan-baby at the time) and I was more than a little nervous. So I decided to write a blog post about eating vegan in Marmaris - tips, some vocab and what I ate! Important to say, none of the meals are gluten free. I usually go for gluten free options, but these were non-existent in combination with vegan food. I was taking strong antihistamines to help with any flare ups that would arise because of the gluten.
- Some Useful Phrases -
If you are anything like me, when you go to a new country you want to have a few words or phrases on hand. I have always been enthusiastic about languages and whenever I'm abroad it's always 'how many small things can I say?!' So aside from the standard pleasantries, having dietary requirements gives you an extra incentive to know a few key words in the local language.
This was my first time to Turkey, and I had zero knowledge of Turkish. In order to make my trip a little bit easier as a vegan I decided to research ahead words/phrases that would make eating a lot easier, whether it was reading a menu or ingredients lists in shops. I don't always like relying on other people knowing English.
The key phrases you need to know in Turkish: Ben yerim (I eat) and Ben içerim (I drink), with of course the negatives: Ben yemem and Ben içmiyorum. You'll probably use the negatives more..! You can add these phrases with a variety of food related vocab.
Perhaps the most important word you need to know is et (meat); You can tell someone that you don't eat meat: Ben et yemem. Other things we don't eat: peynir (cheese), yumurta/yumurtalar (egg/eggs), bal (honey), tereyağı (butter). What about milk? That would be süt. So you can say Ben süt içmiyorum. You could also just say Ben andıra yemem (I do not eat dairy) to cover all bases.
Knowing these few words/phrases will make eating out or shopping in the supermarket somewhat easier.
- Meals -
I was somewhat stressed beforehand that I would literally be living on salad leaves... But thankfully that was not the case! So what did I eat?
Breakfast: We arrived at the hotel at something like 4 in the morning, and we didn't sleep that much. When I woke up I was starving and it suddenly occurred to me, 'Oh god, what's for breakfast?' The hotel bar menu didn't have any vegan options at all, so I sheepishly asked the waiter if they did a fruit plate. I was not disappointed! What they brought out was amazing. Juicy and fresh pineapple, watermelon, bananas and oranges. This was my breakfast a few days in a row.
After a trip to the supermarket, where I fell in love with all the fresh fruit and veg, I came out with various items that I could use back in the apartment. I think the universe was looking down on me, because I found a Free From section in the Migros supermarket! Schär breads, biscuits and cereals with Alpro nut milks.
One breakfast I made in the apartment was so, so good! It was another fruit plate but loaded with banana, peach, plum, dates, sated and roasted cashews with blueberry jam on bread. I called this my DIY Vegan Breakfast.Then another day I made, ahem, a less than exciting breakfast. Schär Gluten (and Lactose) Free Corn Flakes with banana for a sweetener and almond milk. Don't get me wrong, it tasted great but it was a bit of a step down from all the fresh fruit!
Dinner: Even through breakfast was covered, lunches/dinner might prove to be another issue entirely. And on one hand, I was right. The first night we were in the hotel I looked rather anxiously over the menu. The only thing I could see that stood out as vegan was the Mussaka: fried aubergine, tomato sauce, served with rice and chips. Just a shame the menu didn't actually mention any meat..! It was under a section 'Turkish Dishes.'
I assumed that it wouldn't have meat, but alas it came with mince meat. Thankfully the waiter was more than accommodating and informed me, and brought me a fresh (meat free) one back in no time. It was still bubbling, and ohhhhh my it tasted so good. Check it out below! ;)
The next few nights proved a challenge with menus. Nothing stood out as vegan! Pretty much every restaurant has at least one or two vegetarian options, so I got my thinking cap on and tried to work out what I could make vegan adaptable. Was the pizza base dairy/egg free? Great! No cheese. Spaghetti? I'll have that.
So apart from the mussaka, I pretty much had veggie pizzas and spaghetti for dinner. I didn't mind though, the vegetables were so fresh and tasted great. Tomatoes, cucumber, carrots and even broccoli appeared as pizza toppings. Each time I ordered the vegetarian spaghetti at the hotel the portions got bigger and bigger.
Doesn't this pizza look amazing? I've lost tack of how many times I've either written or thought 'amazing,' I'm going to invest in a thesaurus. Of course, in the interest of objectivity, I have to mention the one evening where it did not go so well.
We sat down in a restaurant just a stone's throw from the beach. I looked at the menu and found a vegetarian penne. Safe? I thought so... The picture showed a penne pasta with what looked like tomato sauce, vegetables and a little bit of cheese. So I asked the waiter for no cheese. What arrived? A cream penne. No mention of cream on the menu or the picture. I apologised and asked very politely if I could change to just a spaghetti napolitan. I explained I don't eat dairy, and there was no mention of cream on the menu. He was not impressed at all. Even though the original plate wasn't touched, he still wanted to charge me for both of them (I only paid for the one I ate).
Snacks: You might, no probably, no; you will definitely find yourself hungry and in need of a snack. With no local Tesco or anything, what do you do? Well aside from the fact I brought with me vegan/gluten free snacks (crisps, free from curry pot noodles, and bread) I found a few things to help me. Like I said above I found a Free From section in the Migros supermarket, which was about ten minutes walk from my hotel. Super easy to pick up a few snacks! It also had the small Alpro drinks.
I ended up buying a packet of dates and vegan/gluten free coconut chips. I even got vegan and kosher Turkish delight! Great for tying you over.
Travelling abroad as a vegan can be hit and miss. Sometimes you find the jackpot with vegan restaurants, or you have to hope that you can make something vegan adaptable.
Marmaris proved not overly difficult, even though there were very few vegan options. I didn’t go hungry, but by the end of the two weeks I was definitely craving some BBQ tofu and sweet potatoes..!