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I love spending time hunting for new and interesting vegan ingredients. In fact, I loved doing that even before I was vegan (which usually meant new and interesting animal products). While being vegan now means I need check everything more carefully, it also means that when I do find something that’s both vegan and unique it becomes all the more rewarding. Everyone knows about the typical vegan products (beans, tofu, fresh produce) offered at their local supermarket, they probably feature on your plate on the regular. Some people even know about the not so typical, or ‘secret vegan’, products like Golden crumpets,  Arnott’s BBQ shapes, and various brands of shortcrust and puff pastry for example (PETA has an awesome list of the hidden vegan gems to be found in your typical Australian supermarket). But sometimes you want to be able to shake things up and try new things. You can find a whole range of vegan products that you may have never even realised existed by venturing out to different regional and specialty grocery stores. For these products I mostly shopped at various Asian or Latin grocers. However, for each product I bought there were multiple brands to choose from so don’t feel obliged to source the exact products I’ve listed here. This list simply aims to showcase the not so typical vegan fare that is out there just waiting for you to try.

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Sauces
If you love cooking you’ve probably got a small arsenal of sauces for seasoning different dishes already. Most of them are probably vegan, but some definitely aren’t. One of my favourite seasoning sauces in my pre-vegan days was oyster sauce. I loved it’s ability to add an umami savoriness to any dish. But, I mean, it’s oyster sauce. It’s right there in the name. Luckily my local Asian grocery store helped me out with a vegetarian oyster alternative made with mushrooms. All the umami, zero animals harmed, two thumbs up! I’ve also since acquired some vegan fish sauce and Worcestershire sauce. I also included this little carton of vegan soy sauce just because it was so stinkin’ cute.

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Mock Meats
Did you know vegan prawns even existed? I did not. In fact these prawns are the inspiration behind the title because I definitely hadn’t heard of them before and I’m no rookie, and yet here we are. These weren’t even the only brand they sold. I chose these as they looked the most prawn-like in my opinion.

Look, some people aren’t into the whole mock meat thing. That’s totally fine. But I think delicious mock meats are what help people transition successfully to either a full vegan diet or at the very least consuming less animal products, and in my opinion that’s a good thing. Are they the healthiest things in earth. Probably not. But you’ve gotta live your life, and if that includes a bit of ‘duck’ and lychee red curry, or vegan prawn and chorizo jambalaya you’ll probably be no worse off for it.

This mock duck was a bit of a surprise though as instead of coming chopped into chunks like I thought, it was actually portioned into breast size slabs. The only other mock duck I’d previously had was of the tinned variety. And it was OK – not great, not awful – just OK. This was definitely much better, both in terms of taste and texture, but also allowing you to portion it how you please.

The vegan cha siew is made by the same company as the prawns and it looks very authentic. Like, almost scarily authentic. You could honestly have told me this was meat and I wouldn’t call you a liar. This will make for a convenient mid week meal served with some plain rice and extra cha siew sauce.

Another easy mid week meal or snack is the vegan satay sticks. Yes, that’s right, I said sticks. These guys come pre-skewered and sauced. What could be easier?

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Pastes
Think you can’t have Thai food without making your own paste? Think again. Yes, lots of brands will have belachan (shrimp paste) in them, but vegetarian versions are out there. Always check the label. Here are a few examples of different vegan pastes I’ve found. Of course you can always make your own and freeze some, but if you aren’t that way inclined these are a great option.

Ready meals
Just because it tells you to add meat doesn’t mean you have to. Both these ready meals are 100% vegan. Yes, the mapo tofu says to add ground meat, but you don’t have to. You could just add tofu and totally omit the meat all together, or sub in TVP (textured vegetable protein) for the “meat” ingredient. Totally up to you and what you have on hand.

This Japanese curry is vegan, and served with rice makes a quick and easy meal. But if you want to kick it up a notch, add a vegan chicken schnitzel patty for your own vegan chicken katsu curry.

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Arepas
Tortillas are pretty much a staple in my kitchen. However, arepas are slowly edging them out of favor. Arepas are thicker corn cakes that are pan fried then stuffed with fillings of your choice. They are light, yet crispy and are a delicious blank slate for any toppings you please. They are usually sliced in half and stuffed similar to pita pockets. However I find this particular brand a bit to thin to slice in half so I usually just pile on the toppings tostada style. Just be sure to double check the ingredients as they can sometimes be made with lard.

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