Think the Beyond Burger is cutting-edge? Chinese Buddhists were perfecting plant-based meat substitutes over 1000 years ago, while ahimsa practitioners in India were foregoing animal products all the way back in 500 BC. Today, Asian restaurants are some of the most reliable places to find a good vegan meal in Berlin – from the ubiquitous Vietnamese tofu curries to Sichuan noodles, Japanese fried “chicken” and Mongolian dumplings. Here are a dozen of our favourites.
Chay Village: OG vegan Vietnamese
By this point, vegetarian Vietnamese restaurants in Berlin are like Spätis: There’s one on every corner, they all offer roughly the same stuff, and your favourite is likely to be the one that’s closest to you. In this sea of summer rolls and seitan curry, Chay Village stands out by virtue of its seniority – its Schöneberg location is nearly a decade old – and its fresh-tasting, additive-free dishes. Tofu shows up in multiple guises: there’s a silken version, deep-fried until crispy and served with a peanut dipping sauce; a firmer, spongier kind that gets submerged in a restorative pho soup with fresh vegetables; or, our favourite, an earthy, toothsome version, wrapped in betel leaves and served over noodles and herbs as bun la lot.
Eisenacher Str. 40, Schöneberg; Niederbarnimstr. 10, Friedrichshain, daily 11:30-22, www.chayvillage.de
Veganaa: Meatless Mongolian
The name and appearance might seem generic, but this little Schöneberg café is anything but. Seriously, can you think of anywhere else in Berlin that serves Mongolian food, let alone vegan Mongolian food? Chef and owner Ganaa moved here from Ulaanbaatar around the turn of the millennium and spent years cooking at TU’s on-campus café before finally opening her own place in, sigh, March 2020. By that time, she was a devout vegan who had figured out how to replicate her home country’s traditionally carnivorous cuisine with the help of marinated, smoked soymeat and lots of veggies.
Locked-down, novelty-craving Berliners quickly developed a taste for the huushuur, flat fried dough pockets served with soy dipping sauce and, in an unorthodox yet tasty touch, house-fermented kimchi. They’re the highlight of a menu that also includes buuz, thick dumplings filled with a brothy mix of spinach, soy meat and glass noodles, and zuiwan, stir-fried wheat noodles enriched either with spelt flour, spinach or beetroot. Ganaa still serves a couple of trusty student favourites – spaghetti bolognese, chili sin carne and the like – but it’s those Mongolian specialties you’re after, along with a slice of homemade vegan cake.
Grunewaldstr. 88, Schöneberg, Mon-Fri 12-8, Sat-Sun 14-21, vegannaa.business.site
Tianfuzius: Feast like Buddha
The sister to Wilmersdorf Sichuan institution Tian Fu, and the granddaddy of vegetarian Chinese food in Berlin, offers a massive range of dishes starring fresh vegetables, tofu or seitan-based mock meat and fish. Try the hot-sour soup with water chestnuts, a clear winter melon soup, or warm, spicy noodle salad with pickled vegetables to start, before moving on to mains like cauliflower-potato hotpot or smoked tofu with celery.
Regensburger Straße 1, Wilmersdorf, Mon-Fri 12-15:30, 17:30-23, Sat-Sun 12-23, www.tianfu.de/tianfuzius/
Cai Kitchen: Hot and sour Sichuan
For a less formal vegan Sichuan meal than Tianfuzius, this Prenzlauer Berg spot – an offshoot of a five-year-old Hamburg Imbiss – has you covered. There are better meatless dan dan noodles in town, and the homemade pickles, while nice, aren’t enough to zhuzh up an otherwise-blah rice bowl. But you’ll have a good time here if you stick to dishes that can’t be found elsewhere, like the intensely flavoured spicy-sour soup with chewy sweet potato starch noodles, or the Zhong-style dumplings, filled with a creamy mix of potatoes and soy meat and served in a dark, sticky soy-based sauce.
Schönhauser Allee 177A, Prenzlauer Berg, Tue-Sat 12-15, 18-21, caikitchen.de
Tempeh-Hof: Soy to the world
Come for the pun, stay for the flavourful fermented soybean bricks, made in Berlin by Indonesian owner Yustina Haryanti. At the Schillerkiez weekly market, Bite Club and other street food events, she showcases her product in homestyle dishes like rendang, a hearty coconut curry ladled over lilac-coloured rice; and bakpao, big soft bao buns drizzled in spicy sambal sauce. The prevalence of tempeh in Indonesian cuisine means vegans won’t go hungry at brick-and-mortar restaurants Nusantara and Koempul either, although at those places it’s mass-produced and sometimes served alongside meat.
Check Instagram for whereabouts: @tempehhof
Like Thai Vegan: Best Boxi bowls
Of the two vegan Asian tapas restaurants in Boxhagener Kiez with names that sound algorithmically generated, 1990 Vegan Living is by far the most popular, for reasons that elude us. Don’t all the dishes there taste the same, drowned as they are in peanuts, fried onions and overly sweet sauce? Not that its Thai neighbour is completely innocent of that crime, but at least the menu boasts some more novel offerings, like a couple of credibly spicy curries featuring jackfruit and fried tofu. If you get a main, make it the Kao Phad Grapau, tofu, seitan and veggies stir-fried with chile and Thai basil and topped with a shockingly convincing vegan fried egg.
Grünberger Str. 69, Friedrichshain, daily 12-21:30, www.likethaivegan.com
Ryong: Fancy fusion
This polished-looking locale on Torstraße (with a second, more recent location in Prenzlauer Berg) first gained notice for its burgers: marinated tofu or aubergine stuffed into eye-catchingly colourful, tempura-coated bao buns. But don’t sleep on the soups, which are made with homemade noodles and include a better-than-average vegan pho as well as more creative concoctions like the “Dragon Bowl” with miso, soymilk, coconut and lemongrass.
Torstr. 59, Mitte, Mon-Thu 12-21:30, Sat 5-22, Sun 5-21:30, ryong.de
Mom’s Creation: Sushi sans fish (or fuss)
How do you solve a problem like vegan sushi? You’d think you could just roll up fresh or marinated vegetables with rice and seaweed and call it a day, but restaurants like Secret Garden and Tiger Club insist on making things complicated with weird add-ins and dodgy fish substitutes. Meanwhile, the veggie rolls and nigiri at this Treptow standby are made with the usual avocado, shiitake mushroom or pickled radish, and constitute only a fraction of an otherwise-pescetarian sushi menu. But the rice is perfectly cooked, the unagi-like sauce is compulsively dippable, and vegans with larger appetites can always order Mom’s excellent Vietnamese dishes, like mango curry with crispy mock duck or banh xeo with tofu, bean sprouts and lots of herbs.
Elsenstr. 27, Treptow, Mon-Fri 11-23, Sat-Sun 12-23, Proskauer Str. 1, Friedrichshain (Vietnamese food only), Mon-Thu 11-22, Fri 11-23, Sat 12-23, Sun 12-22, moms-restaurant.de
TsuTsu: Karaage kings
If you’re not up on your Japanese drunk food, chicken karaage is an izakaya dish (and excellent beer accompaniment) in which chunks of thigh meat are marinated in soy sauce, sake, garlic and ginger, coated in starch and deep fried till crispy. At Tsutsu in Graefekiez, it’s good – but the vegan version, made with soy, is better. The texture’s so convincing that half the vegans who order it nearly take it back to the kitchen, thinking there’s been a mistake. And it soaks up less of the salty marinade than the birdy version, meaning it’s a more fitting vehicle for the soy, wasabi or gochujang dipping sauce. The best side dish, homemade onigiri studded with marinated carrots and shiitake mushrooms, is vegan too.
Graefestr. 2, Kreuzberg, daily 10-22, www.tsu-tsu-berlin.de
Da Jia Le: Dongbei dreaming
Everyone raves about the steamed fish and fried pork, but the truth is that you can (and should) make a terrific meal out of the vegetable dishes at this beloved northern Chinese institution. Spicy shredded potatoes, smoked tofu with coriander, sauteed bok choy and shiitake in a glossy sauce, a superb eggplant hotpot… and let’s not forget the perfectly summery smashed cucumbers with garlic and vinegar. The restaurant’s most photogenic dish, five-colour salad with glass noodles and a spicy sauce, is also vegan if you leave out the fried egg strips.
Goebenstr. 23, Schöneberg, Mon-Tues 16-23, Wed-Sun 12-23, www.dajiale-berlin.de
Yummy Kitchen: Dosa reality
Honestly, we could throw any number of southern Indian restaurants on here, but we’ll take the chance to spotlight this Bergmannkiez newbie, which began life as a gaudy fried chicken joint before the owners (who also run the nearby, similar Veggie & Vega) decided to hew closer to their Tamil roots. Spruced up over winter lockdown, it now boasts an expanded menu that, yes, still includes chicken, but also more than enough dishes to keep vegans happy. Spiced-up dosa variations like Podi and Mysore add some pizzazz to everyone’s favourite crispy fermented lentil pancake, while the ayurvedic specialties take advantage of the restaurant’s adjoining Indian grocery to showcase imported veggies like ivy gourd and bitter melon.
Zossener Str. 13, Kreuzberg, Mon-Fri 11:30-22, Sat-Sun 12-22, www.yummy-kitchen.de
Café Tschüsch: Curry and solidarity
We’ve got a soft spot for this Neukölln hippie hangout and its not-terribly-authentic selection of vegan and vegetarian Indian dishes, which taste like a better version of something you might get served at a lefty WG party where everyone has dreadlocks. Skip the soy meat, but do order the cult-favourite banana curry with peas and potatoes, or the one with tinda (miniature squash), fenugreek and chickpeas. Or just go for the dal, made with fair-trade organic lentils, and wash it down with one of the many Soli-drinks on the beverage menu.
Fuldastr. 12, Neukölln, Wed-Mon 18-23, tschuesch.de
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