Remember we arrived at like 7am, and spent just a few hours at the hostel before setting out? Despite researching what would be open early for us, everything was closed! We walked the 20 minutes or so in the pollutiony heat to an area that had one of the six or so Loving Huts and the famous Luna Blanca, the buddhist temple restaurant that is all vegan and yet is in all the not-so-veg-aware guide books. Luna Blanca didn't open until noon, which we knew, but the Loving Hut was supposed to open at 8am. It said so on their own site. But there was a huge chain across the door! Ughh! So we trekked to another Loving Hut, and another, and they were all closed. Then we tried to find other HappyCow places - first, a place called Love Each Other, which was closed! Then a place called Agnista, which NO LONGER EXISTS. We learned this after walking around a neighborhood forever trying to find it by the very helpful (eyeroll) HappyCow directions that it was 'near a primary school'. A shopkeeper on its supposed block pointed to a big ramen place and communicated that it was now that place. COOL. What were you doing to me, universe?! By now, we'd gone through my whole list (and on foot no less). We even chanced upon another vegan-friendly cafe (green juice posters in the window!) that was ALSO closed. I was crushed! Ulaan Baatar was my beacon of hope during the first part of this trip, my surprising vegan city on a hill. But, we soon learned, restaurants and shops are often closed during and around Naadam - which seems SUPER stupid considering that's when the city is flooded with tourists and people from the countryside! Why would you close during the busiest time of the year?! People need to eat! But I guess all the waitstaff and cooks are also going to Naadam and learning about ankle-bone beer pong, so they have to close. There are only so many Mongolians.
So guess what. We trekked around the city, famished, for so long that by the time we checked all the above stupid closed stupid places, Luna Blanca was open.
What a day.
As usual, we ordered way too much and got to try a whole lot of stuff over a few visits. One of my favorite things was a huge surprise - the Victory salad, a cute molded (not moldy, molded like into the cylinder shape) mix of chickpeas, celery, seaweed, pickles, red onions, vegan mayo, and topped with a tomato mix. I don't usually like mayonnaise-y things, but this was delicious, like a scoop of a perfect chickpea-based version of chicken salad, or tuna salad, whatever people keep going for with their recipes using exactly these ingredients.
One night, when Naadam had claimed the lives/opening hours of vegan places, we decided to go to a Mongolian BBQ place called BD's. I didn't care, I figured I'd be able to find SOMETHING here, right? And I was being a good wife and letting Z go to a kind of must-go place here. It was expensive though - it was an all-you-can-eat buffet - so we looked at the setup before committing.
It was the best for vegans, to my absolute amazement.
As for UB food finds, there was an INCREDIBLE grocery store close to the Naadam stadium, super fancy in a sort-of mall and it had amazing random vegan finds. I just got super deja vu - did I already write about this? I don't care I'll share again. This shop had clearly marked vegan tofu and seitan mixes in the fridge! And the first good produce section we saw! And Bob's Red Mill products! We stocked up on the vacuum-packed tofu and seitan, and I will be carting them around until Kyrgyzstan, where I imagine I will really need them. We also found these strawberry Oreos. They were gross. We still ate them all.
So, as you can see, eating in Ulaan Baatar was better than doing pretty much anything else in Ulaan Baatar. I don't know how it became such a hotspot for all-vegan restaurants - I guess Buddhism? But I'm a fan of it being one! Hooray for Buddha! Or whatever the reason is!