Among the chefs who have reinvented themselves during the pandemic is Ori Shavit, arguably Israel’s foremost evangelist for a vegan lifestyle. Shavit is perhaps best known for her groundbreaking gourmet vegan restaurant Miss Kaplan, whose loss continues to be lamented years after its closure.
In recent years, she has been busy writing two cookbooks and her popular blog – Vegans on Top (the literal translation of the Hebrew is “Vegans have more fun”) – which is partially in English (recipes and restaurant recommendations), and planning to expand in that language. The blog is also home to her riveting English TEDx talk, “What you eat can change the world.”
Her latest project is Gingeat, a virtual vegan restaurant whose dishes are prepared in MAKEAT, professional kitchens that operate as sort of a WeWork space for chefs. And while vegan is kosher practically by definition, all foods originating in MAKEAT are certified kosher by the rabbinate of Rishon Lezion.
Gingeat operates vis-à-vis the public as a joint venture with Vegan Supplies, the country’s only one-stop shop for everything – and exclusively – vegan. Vegan Supplies, a 100% online operation that has been experiencing explosive growth, stocks hundreds of items, representing dozens of brands, including many available only here – whether produced locally by select suppliers or imported directly by this distributor.
Indeed, very few of the items sold here are to be found even in health food stores, and virtually none in supermarkets. And according to Vegan Supplies management, products in this mega-store are 20% cheaper than in conventional retail outlets.
Another interesting statistic that emerges is that most customers are not vegans, or even vegetarians. The reasons for choosing Vegan Supplies range from allergies, food intolerances and general health concerns, to family dynamics (e.g., one child is vegan, so the family pivots once in a while), and even religious considerations: Not only are all products ipso facto kosher (in case someone at the table is observant, even one who may have recently become so), they are also pareve, enabling options such as faux “meat and cheese” pizzas.
Vegan Supplies’ user-friendly website classifies the products in more than two dozen categories – plus, in accordance with where the food will be stored at home: in the refrigerator, in the freezer or in the pantry. Even the Hebrew website is manageable for those not fluent in the language, with the help of myriad photos and original names of foreign brands.
The same can be said for the lavishly illustrated Gingeat menu, which is part and parcel of the Vegan Supplies website. Each dish merits its own complete webpage once you click on the corresponding photo.
The Gingeat menu is not divided into categories, but it is easy to see that there are 12 main courses (NIS 45-99) and 10 smaller dishes (NIS 12-30), most of which may be considered side dishes. The main courses range in size from two-to-three to four-to-six portions.
One extraordinary thing that you will find on this menu that you won’t find on any other vegan menu is the frequent indication “sold out.” This happened even to me when I went to sample a meal for this review: I arrived on the first day of the week that is open for personal pick-up, and already three of Shavit’s most popular dishes – the lasagna, the cauliflower fritters, and the barbecued carrots (a reprise of the signature Miss Kaplan dish) – were unavailable.
One popular Gingeat intermediate dish that was still left was the Mock Egg Salad, made with tofu that derives its yellow color from turmeric. It tastes nothing at all like real egg salad, but it is quite good in its own right. (For those who like their egg salad a little creamier, I can recommend mixing in a condiment from the shelves of Vegan Supplies: Danish-syle sandwich spread, which I actually think is superior to most of the more familiar mayonnaise-based sandwich spreads.)
APPARENTLY, NOT ONLY the ingredients but also the names of the dishes must be changed in the world of veganism. Hence, our first main course was Farmers’ Pie, the alternative to shepherds’ pie in which the layer of meat is replaced with a savory (and slightly spicy) mix of black beans and vegetables. The upper layer remains basically the same – mashed potatoes – but with a significant upgrade: mixed with pumpkin. The effect looked like sweet potato, but the result was a particularly light and fluffy version.
Another take-off on a traditional dish, this time from North African cuisine, was the Tofu Chraime. Thanks to the deep red sauce, it looks very much like the Friday evening Shabbat dish served in so many Israeli homes, but with tofu patties in place of fish. The patties themselves are a delightful, delicate and welcome replacement for the different varieties of meaty fish commonly used; the sauce, however, is disappointingly bland, lacking the faintest hint of the heat that so characterizes chraime. Fortunately, a few drops of hot sauce at home can redress the balance.
The final dish also benefited from the advantage of being reheated at home. The Yuba Stew was a discovery for me, insofar as I had never even previously heard of the primary ingredient: Yuba is, in fact, tofu skin that is stretched to resemble small morsels of chicken. Alas, the texture is slightly rubbery, and the taste unremarkable; and yet overall, this melange that includes Jerusalem artichoke, carrot and dried fruit is quite pleasant, as the sauce derives subtle sweetness from the barest presence of Uzbeki apricot and cranberries, while the scattering of blanched almonds on top provided welcome crunch. In my kitchen, I found that augmenting the dish with some sweet potato and prune added enhanced heft and flavor.
Gingeat offers no desserts, but there are plenty of tantalizing – and even fancy – sweets and baked goods (cakes, cookies, pies and pastries) available from Vegan Supplies. I sampled the rugelach (NIS 34), by HaSadna: these treats – made with coconut oil, Belgian chocolate, strawberry jam and tehina – were rich and indistinguishable from the commonplace and ubiquitous variety found everywhere else.
Vegan Supplies delivers (in accordance with a weekly schedule) to most major population centers in the country, with the notable exceptions of Jerusalem, parts of the Galilee and everywhere south of Gedera (order minimums and a nominal fee apply). Alternatively, one may pick up orders three days a week from the Tel Aviv warehouse’s brightly framed takeaway window.
Tziklag St. 3, Tel Aviv. Phone: (03) 909-8163.
Online menu: vegansupplies.co.il.
The writer was a guest of Gingeat and Vegan Supplies.