Tomorrow is World Vegetarian Day. It can be hard being a veggie on the road sometimes, but there are many pleasant surprises too. Here, Lyn Hughes gives her top countries for vegetarians
With meat and fish consumption going up around the world, it can sometimes feel harder than ever for vegetarians to eat well. However, the good news is that vegetarianism is also on the rise.
Here, we give seven destinations where you can eat like a king (or queen).
Masala Dosa with Sambar and Channa Masala in India (Dreamstime)
Although meat consumption is going up, India is still a paradise for vegetarians, especially in the south where it’s the meat-eaters who are the odd ones out. Tuck into masala dosa – pancake with onion and potato filling, accompanied by flavourful chutneys – thali, and a huge range of dhals. Even in the north, paneer (cheese) dishes are widely available, as well as a host of vegetable dishes. Note, however, that egg is considered “non-veg”.
Sambhar rice served in Sri Lanka (Dreamstime)
If you like your food spicy hot, you will be in paradise. Rice and curry is the typical dish, but this can involve a dozen or more veggie dishes. Look out for jackfruit curry; its meaty texture may fool you into not believing it is vegetable. Other popular curried vegetables and fruit include aubergine (brinjal), okra, breadfruit, various gourds and pineapple. Try hoppers – a tasty bowl-shaped pancake, served with an egg in the middle, or other ingredients added. Not to be confused with string hoppers, which are steamed rice noodles.
Vegetarian pizza in an Italian restaurant (Dreamstime)
Italian food is often the saviour of the vegetarian traveller wherever they are in the world, with pasta and pizza available in the most unlikely places. However, in Italy itself, it’s the respect given to vegetables that really impresses. They may not understand why you are a vegetarian, but a typical meal will often be dominated by seasonal vegetable dishes that are packed with flavour. The south of the country is easier for veggies than the north, but you can find tasty options everywhere.
Mezze in Lebanon (Dreamstime)
Hurrah for mezze. While chicken and lamb may be the staples throughout the Middle East, and vegetarianism not really understood, there is a host of humble but tasty vegetable dishes that you can stuff on. Lebanon (and Jordan) is particularly good for fresh produce. Falafels, hummus and tabouleh are all far tastier than you’ll have had at home, while various stuffed pastries, fresh cheeses, seasonal vegetables and salads mean that you’ll never go hungry.
Noodle stir-fries in Singapore (Dreamstime)
A foodie paradise, with its huge range of culinary influences from China, India, Malaysia, as well as restaurants and food courts featuring just about every world cuisine you can think of. With so much choice, vegetarian options are easy to find. Seek out one of the many vegetarian restaurants that serve “mock” interpretations of fish and meat dishes, but all made with vegetable products. Or simply stick to meat-free satays and stir-fries, southern Indian thalis, and aromatic coconut-milk Nonya dishes.
Stinky Tofu in Taiwan (Dreamstime)
More than 10% of the Taiwanese are vegetarian, and many more stick to a vegetarian diet at least one day a week, or two days a month. The government promotes eating vegetarian as a healthy choice, and regulates food labelling. So, not surprisingly, vegetarian food is very easy to find, and there are thousands of vegetarian restaurants – including very cheap vegetarian buffets which are perfect for filling up on.
Expect lots of healthy vegetable and beancurd dishes, including mock meat dishes made of gluten or soya.
Plate of pasta at an English restaurant (Dreamstime)
It has got easier and easier to be veggie in the UK, with menus having long moved on from just offering a plate of vegetables or an omelette. There is still the occasional disappointment – restaurants that (despite offering imaginative meat dishes) serve a grossly overpriced veggie pasta dish that you could do better at home. However, most pubs and restaurants now offer meat-free options that anyone would want to eat, whether they are veggie or not. Some now even offer a vegan dish or two.