Nature has provided us with a bounty of delicious fruits and vegetables to consume, enjoy as well as fulfill our regular nutritious needs to be healthy. Over time, we have discovered animal-based foods, like meat and fish, and it has become an important part of the staple diet for humans in most parts of the world. So much so that people cannot even fathom surviving on just a vegetarian diet. So, for individuals traveling, discovering fully vegetarian food is very grueling. Why? Because people at restaurants do not really understand the meaning of being a vegetarian. It is a pain for all, to constantly have to inquire about non-obvious details, for example, has the food been cooked with chicken broth, fish sauce, or beef stock etc?
Let's start with a few definitions then. A vegetarian is an individual who ingests plant-based (fruits, vegetables) as well as animal-based (diary) foods for meals. Meats of any kind - animals/ birds/ reptiles/ water-life (oceans, seas, rivers) or even poultry (eggs) are not eaten by vegetarians. Vegans only devour plant-based foods for their sustenance. Neither meat nor diary is consumed by them. Anything made from meat (stocks, broths, sauces etc) are also not consumed by either group.
With globalization, people have migrated, traveled more, and mixed together, thus getting to know and positively accept different cultures, and their diverse food habits. This has definitely created awareness. Also, you are what you eat. And more meat-eaters are moving to becoming vegetarians. With this significant enough and growing demand, restaurants now recognize and supply to vegetarians and vegans. For vegetarian travelers now, the world is not as difficult as it was, but not very easy either. So, when traveling, some self-turned vegetarians purposefully decide to relax their restrictions. But, if you are a vegetarian, you must learn to maneuver, such that you can enjoy delicious vegetarian foods anywhere you go. We have a few ideas here to help you with that.
You guessed it ! Plan and prepare !
Carry some food with you from home. Plan to purchase some peanut-butter and muti-grain bread, especially when traveling to remote areas. Prepare those delicious peanut-butter sandwiches at times when you don't find any vegetarian options. Carry some snacks to munch on. Eat fruits, fill up on smoothies.
Many cuisines like the Indian cuisine or the Mediterranean cuisine have a plethora of vegetarian options, you could look for some of these restaurants. Other cuisines now offer vegetarian choices as well, so make sure to research some of these restaurants and their menus, before you travel to your destination.
To enjoy local foods, try cooking yourself, and replace the meat with soy and other vegetables. These days, avocados are available nearly everywhere, and you can easily cook up some delicious avocado toasts. Make some easy bruschetta, or pasta or even a vegetable loaded pizza. There are endless options if you have the option to cook. So, maybe you could plan where you would like to stay accordingly.
Educate and explain.
People in the world still do not clearly understand the meaning of the word, 'vegetarian'. When you visit a restaurant, it may not be sufficient to say that you are looking for vegetarian selections. Learn the native language or at least some words, and use them explicitly, and say no meat, no fish, no eggs… you get the idea. Explain, do not expect them to know.
Studying the local language will also help you read and understand the menu descriptions better. Some restaurants will be willing to tweak their recipes a little to acquire a satisfied customer. Keep your patience, and speak kindly. If you find yourself dining in a Thai restaurant, and really crave a Pad Thai, for example, be very particular and specific when using words in your order, 'Pad Thai vegetables and tofu, no eggs, no fish sauce'. And be willing to repeat.
Search on your smartphone.
You are most probably aware of smartphone apps like Google Maps and Apple Maps, both of whom provide you with useful navigation features for dining. You could easily utilize them to look for vegetarian restaurants in the areas you are visiting. You could also google to look up menus of restaurants beforehand. If you are traveling with a group of people who love and eat meat, look up places that present you with both choices.
Check if there are familiar international chains in the area to fall back on, like a Starbucks, McDonalds, Chipotle etc. Explore and try out traditional cuisines like Indian, Thai, Chinese, Moroccan, Mediterranean, Italian, Japanese, or Mexican and you will unearth a whole variety of interesting vegetarian or vegan food.
Keep an eye out for bakeries, you may discover some fresh and delicious vegetarian options there as well. Check out Yelp and Happy Cow online. These have a huge and detailed listing of vegetarian restaurants all around the world, so check with respect to your location. They also share reviews from customers.
Visit destinations that are vegetarian-friendly.
This is a dream come true for vegetarians. You do not have to worry about asking about the ingredients, and there are delicious foods anywhere you look. India is one such country. For those who cannot think beyond boiled broccoli and salads as vegetarian foods, they are obviously in for a shock at such locations. There are absolutely mouth-watering vegetarian foods available in every corner of the country like the Samosa, the various Chaats, the Pav-bhaji and the Jalebi, so much so that even your all-eating friends may not realize that they have skipped meat willingly.
Thailand is another vegan-friendly country with its fantastic and delicious mango sticky rice. You can ask for Pad Thai noodles minus the fish sauce, or try other varieties like Tofu red curry or Coconut rice pancakes. Visiting Reykjavik in Iceland will tease your culinary senses with their innovative Vegetable Maki, with crushed garlic on the outside of the roll, and their amazing cocktails. Plan a trip to Israel or Tel Aviv, and you are sure to love the Roasted cauliflower, and the Falafel and Hummus sandwiches, and the sweet Baklavas. Rome offers several appetizing and vegetarian Pizza, Pasta and Risotto options to explore.
Even in the Bay Area, New York or other cities in the USA, several vegetarian selections have sprung up, with many restaurants voluntarily catering to this growing need of their customers. Mexican cuisine offers delicious vegetarian Enchiladas, and Burritos to explore with their guacamole spread and spicy salsa. Currently, more and more countries have greater options for vegetarians and vegans, all you should do is a bit of homework before you set sail, and decide upon some restaurants you would like to investigate.
Many airlines will also indulge your vegetarian or vegan meal requests in flight, so do not forget to reserve in advance. Explore, scan for the options beforehand, and select the ones that stimulate your senses. As you travel to any destination in the world, realize that the world is changing. People are starting to become more and more aware and accepting of what vegetarianism is. Still, make the effort to explain. Keep your cool and be nice. If you look, you will find options, and delicious ones at that. A little prior preparation goes a long way as well.
Share on social
More from Wander
Subscribe to Wander newsletter and get our "Making new friends on the road" guide