With around a third of Indians following a vegetarian diet (roughly 15x the Australian population), cows are considered a holy animal and with India’s universal understanding of English, this country is a vegetarian’s dream. Most, if not all restaurants, will have a wide and clearly-marked vegetarian section, even the ubiquitous burger chains offer veggie options.
As well as the wide range of curries, be sure to try the dosas, fried dishes and tandoori options. Vegans may need to watch out for paneer and cream, but there should still be plenty of options for a delicious feed.
Thanks to its Buddhist culture, vegetarian food is easy to find in Thailand too. Most restaurants, especially in touristy areas (and there are plenty of those), will have veggie options and others will accept an order for something like a green curry with ‘only vegetables’.
Trying to learn the Thai for vegetarian dishes can prove troublesome. The term for ‘vegetarian food’ is rarely used in the local tongue and the word for ‘vegetables’ — ‘pak’ — can often be confused as a request for pork. If you get into a confused conversation while ordering, referring to yourself as a Buddhist can help get across your desire for a meal with no meat. Vegans will delight in the rare use of dairy — few dishes have any cheese in them and coconut milk, rather than cream is used to thicken most sauces.
One potential stumbling block in Thailand is the habitual use of fish sauce in everything from curries to salads.
Around an eighth of the Israeli population excludes meat from their diets, and those choosing a vegan lifestyle is increasing too — some reports state that the Mediterranean nation has the highest per capita vegan population and an international pizza chain in Tel Aviv has added non-dairy cheese to its offerings, the first of its thousands of worldwide stores to do so.
While traditional kebabs will need to be ignored, you can still feast on delicious falafel, hummus, baba ganoush and pita bread. Israel is also very proud of its fresh produce, and much of its fruit, vegetable and nut offerings will have been locally grown.
Americans love their food and the choice of where to eat in the States is plentiful. Vegetarians and vegans may notice that, unlike in Australia, a lot of restaurants and diners don’t have the token options for veggies, presuming that their clientele will opt for the meaty choices. However, with a little googling, you’ll find that the USA has many more eateries with menus that are completely meat-free, giving vegos the unusual problem of being spoilt for choice.
Although knowledge of Belgium cuisine is normally limited to chocolate, fries and waffles — washed down with beer — it may soon become associated with vegetarian lifestyles, particularly the city of Ghent.
Ghent not only has the largest number of vegetarian restaurants per capita, it’s also home to Donderdag Veggiedag — Meat-free Thursdays. The initiative was created by city councillors in a bid to fight rising obesity and growing greenhouse gas emissions. The initiative started with the meals offered to civil servants, city councillors and school children, and the much-lauded move has spread throughout the city. Visitors to Ghent can pick up veggie street maps to help find their way to meat-free restaurants.
Where to avoid
There are some countries where extensive travel can lead to menu after disappointing menu. South America diets are notably meat-based, with Argentina and Brazil extremely proud of their steaks. Europe too has spots where it can be hard to find veggie food outside the big cities — central and eastern countries have a particular fondness for sausages and hunks of meat, while even Spain likes to put ham in almost everything (be prepared to eat a lot of cheese sandwiches outside Barcelona and Madrid). However, with a bit of careful planning and research (Happy Cow being one particularly good asset), a visit to anywhere can be made palatable.