Sunday, May 27, 2012

Vegetarian in Cuenca

When we arrived here in July I was concerned how I would maintain my vegetarian diet that I have had for the last six years, my vegetarian friends that I met through Facebook assured me that it would be easy because, fruits and vegetables are in abundace here. The only problem is I didn't cook.

In the US I could buy frozen vegetarian food like Morning Star and Quorn and throw it in the microwave or oven, but when we did our first trip to the grocery store, Supermaxi I was disappointed. What would we do. For the last two years in the US we hadn't even cooked meat in the home even though the other family members eat meat they would just eat it when we went out. We had to learn to make other things, we had to learn to cook.

We started with trying to add eggs in meals since they are a high protein source. We bought different types of peas in a can, since I don't like frozen peas and they weren't right either. One day at Supermaxi or Coral (the other big store here) I saw TVP and on the package it said Soya. Could this be a protein source? I didn't buy it yet I went home and did some online research. Wikipedia stated "Textured or texturized vegetable protein (TVP), also known as textured soy protein (TSP), soy meat, or soya meat is a defatted soy flour product; a by-product of extracting soybean oil. It is often used as a meat analogue or meat extender. It is quick to cook, with a protein content equal to that of meat."

I found out that I can use TVP in almost anything that you would use ground beef in. Meat loaf, hamburgers, lasagna, and tacos. Wow this is very versitile. Why didn't I every try this in the US? Oh because I didn't really like to cook. We also found out that a local restaurant sells Tofu. I was so excited I went and bought some but it was soft tofu and it didn't work to well I had more of a scrambler effect with it LOL. Then I went back and asked if they sell firm and she sold me some and said it wasn't real firm but it worked I was able to fry it up in our stir fry. I was so thrilled.

On Wednesday of last week Courtney and I were walking through El Centro trying to get some of my goals done. As we were heading home I noticed a picture of meat in a nutrirional store and I thought that was strange. They were real busy so I didn't go in. We continued our walk and I saw it again. This time the store wasn't busy so we went in and I asked the young man about it and he said it was completely soy. I was so happy something else to add into our bland meal rotation. They had hotdogs, chorizo and a steak all are veggie friendly. When we got home Nick was so excited that he was going to be able to have hotdogs. On the package it states they also have bacon, salami, bologna, chicken, ham, BBQ, and cocktail (not sure what that would be). We will have to try some of the others.

There are tons of vegetarian restaurants here in Cuenca so if you like to eat out you won't have any problems. I would list them but I don't know all of them, so I would leave some out. You can go to Vegan and Happy to find some of our local vegetarian restaurants.


  1. Have you tried freezing the tofu.. it changes the texture, might make it more spongy but its easier to fry that way!

  2. You can also put sliced tofu over a cheesecloth, sprinkle seasoning on it, and let it drain for a bit, same effect when people put salt on chicken, draws the moisture out of the skin.... frys up pretty well. I used to eat more tofu when in SoCal so I would experiment. Also, the TVP stays fresher longer when put in freezer. You can also season it ahead of time and then put in freezer. I use TVP to extend our meat in chili, stroganoff, perfectly.

  3. What was the name of the store that sold the soy products?

    Dena Jo

  4. Thanks for this info...being a vegan, that was one of my concerns in considering a move to Ecuador (Cuenca being at the top of our list).