Planning a long trip can be time-consuming and complex – and even more so if you happen to be a vegetarian traveller. Whilst in many areas, locals manage to eat a meat-free or low-meat diet, it can be difficult to know where to start looking for vegetarian food. And then there are the countries where vegetarianism is a little known or understood concept, or the places where street food consists of a pot of indistinguishable ingredients… Finding vegetarian food can be a minefield – so here is our advice on how to travel and eat meat-free.
1. Know your destination
One of the best parts of travelling to unknown locations is getting to experience the local dishes and sharing them with fellow travellers or your hosts! However, make sure you’ve researched your destination before you arrive so that you’ll know if any of the local delicacies contain meat or fish. Try and be courteous if you are offered or served something which obviously contains meat, by apologising and explaining that you’re vegetarian – but do not feel pressured into eating anything you don’t feel comfortable with.
Some parts of the world make eating as a vegetarian simple – India especially offers a huge number of traditional dishes that don’t include meat which even non-veggies will want to try! Indian vegetarian dishes range from Daal – a lentil curry, to Sambar – a vegetable stew with a huge number of vegetables. Around 30% of India is said to be vegetarian, so finding food is really easy – and food products in India must label food stuffs to show if they are suitable for vegetarians. The green dot in a green square means vegetarian, whilst the brown dot in a brown square indicates animal products have been used.
Thailand is another country where vegetarians will fare particularly well – despite there being no one word for ‘vegetarian’ in Thai. (Instead, try saying ‘phom thaan mangsawirat’ if you’re a man or ‘chan thaan mangsawirat’ if you’re a woman.) Khao pad is Thai fried rice, which is a good vegetarian staple found almost everywhere – although it is often seasoned with fish sauce, so specify if you don’t want this! Many Thai dishes are high protein, with egg and tofu both widely used. Try the following vegetarian dishes – Po piathod (fried vegetarian spring rolls), pad krapao tau-hu (tofu with thai basil and chilli) or pakthod (deep fried vegetables in a light batter). If you’re buying from street venders double check that what you’re being given is meat free, as many stalls will offer both vegetarian and meat dishes together.
4.China and Hong Kong
Visiting China and Hong Kong should also be enjoyable from a vegetarian point of view–both have a high number of Buddhists who follow a vegetarian lifestyle, so finding suitable food will be fairly easy. Whether you go for noodles with vegetables or more complex dishes such as hui zhu yu– mock fish slices in seaweed in tomato broth with mushrooms, tofu and chilli oil. Mock meat is quite popular in some regions and a good source of protein, so be prepared to see such things on otherwise vegetarian menus!
5. Other Options
Italy, Japan and Turkey can also be good for vegetarian food. Why not try anti-pasti or vegetarian pizzas in Italy, vegetable sushi in Japan or the breads and hummus in Turkey? In contrast, travellers may struggle with the barbecue culture in Australia, the stews and soups of central Africa and the red meat of South America – however, there are usually vegetarian options available, if you have the vocabulary to ask!
6. Further Resources
To look for vegetarian dishes, restaurants or shops around the world check out the following websites: