The Hungry Vegetarian – 4 Countries where you can eat your (vegetarian) hearts out

Travelling as a vegetarian around the world brings with it the familiar challenge – how do you eat well, for a good price and get a variety of choices? While my meat-eating friends can’t stop raving about wurst in Germany,  babi guling in Bali and kebaps in Turkey, I’m usually scouring through Happycow before my trips to figure out how to keep myself well-fed. A hungry traveller is not  a happy traveller.

Here’s a list of the best countries for vegetarians that I’ve been to:

  1. India – Okay, this is no surprise. Nearly half the population of the country is vegetarian (In India, this usually means no eggs too) and in some regions like the West and the South, you might have a tough time finding a restaurant that’s not ‘Pure Veg’. Almost every regional cuisine in the country comes with vegetarian and meat-based options for almost every dish. Hell, even a popular chain of ‘Fried Chicken’ advertises itself as ‘So Veg, So Good’! Vegetarians might want to pack clothes a couple of sizes larger if they plan to stay here for a couple of weeks.

    If curries and more curries have numbed your taste buds, India also offers most international cuisines 'vegetarian-ised' Photo source: Pixabay
    If curries and more curries have numbed your taste buds, India also offers most international cuisines ‘vegetarian-ised’
    Photo source: Pixabay
  2. Italy – Of course. Italians, especially in smaller towns have a hard time wrapping their heads around the ‘vegetarian’ concept but ‘senza carne’ seems to get the message across. Other than the ubiquitous ‘vegetariano / margherita‘ pizza and cheese-tomato-lettuce panini (sandwich), you’ll find a number of options in antipasti and primi piatti (that’s appetizers and first course, respectively) – grilled vegetables, focaccia, ravioli, gnocchi, cannelloni and other pasta with vegetables. Vegetarian lasagna, alas, is not to be found on too many menus. Beware that a lot of Italians consider tuna to be vegetarian.
    In Italy, when all else fails, look around for the ubiquitous pizzeria - margherita, funghi, formaggio, vegetale - your options will usually be more than one
    In Italy, when all else fails, look around for the ubiquitous pizzeria – margherita, funghi, formaggio, vegetale – your meat-free options will usually be more than one. Photo by Shoebill2 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
  3. Turkey – Apparently, meat was prohibitively expensive at one point in the past in Turkey, so they’ve learnt to innovate with vegetables and lentils. Add to it the beautiful local produce – it’d be tough to go wrong with that. Turkish breakfasts are feasts for vegetarians – cheeses, olives, eggs, fresh bread, marmalade, cucumber and tomato slices, homemade yogurt and fresh fruit juice. Meat-lovers need not fret – the spread also includes sausages. Local lunch /dinner/snack options without meat include gozleme and borek (both pastries with different fillings), pide (closed pizza), lentil soup, stuffed grape leaves (these come in both vegetarian and meat options), kumpir (stuffed baked potatoes) and the very interesting vegetarian testi (pottery) kebab that comes in a pot that you can crack open.

    Pide (stuffed bread), Lentil Soup and Complimentary fresh bread - Thou shalt not starve in Turkiye
    Pide (stuffed bread), Lentil Soup and Complimentary fresh bread – Thou shalt not starve in Turkiye
  4. UK – Umm, wondering if you read that right? The home of ‘fish & chips’ is also home to a sizeable number of vegetarians and a large international population. Therefore, vegetarian burgers, burritos, wraps, curries are easy to find, especially in tourist-frequented places like London, Bath etc.

Other places that I found to be easy for vegetarians – 

  • Sri Lanka – curries, rice and roti; South Indian vegetarian food is available in Colombo too.
  • Thailand – It may have been because I stayed at resorts / hotels – these usually have large spreads for vegetarians too. Be careful about the generous use of fish sauce even in ‘vegetarian’ cooking.
  • Munich, Germany – In the heart of wurst-loving Bavaria, you ask? Germany actually has a rapidly growing vegetarian population and restaurants have a couple of vegetarian dishes to accommodate their preferences. Even the Oktoberfest menu now has two vegetarian dishes. And the Turkish Doner shops / stalls serving falafel are everywhere.
  • Ubud, Bali – Ubud is a popular meditation and yoga centre, therefore, has a number of restaurants with only vegetarian or vegan menus.

And the misses:

  • Spain and Portugal – only Spanish potato omelettes, patatas bravas and vegetarian paella (sometimes) in Spain.
  • Norway and Denmark – times when I’ve survived on cheese slice-and-mustard sandwiches; their neighbour, Sweden, is more pro-vegetarian, surprisingly.
  • Croatia – even with all that lovely local produce – your options are limited to vegetarian salad and spinach-and-cheese burek. Breaks my heart when people don’t know what to do with all those fresh vegetables. *sigh*
  • France – French cuisine does not acknowledge the existence of vegetarians – try the quiches, maybe.

Other expected challenges on my still-to-visit list – China, South America, Japan, Russia, Philippines, Africa, Iceland. I’d be very happy to know if I’m wrong about one or more of these places.

Share your recommendations, experiences and warnings for meat-free eating around the world – where have you feasted and where have you starved?

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This Valley or That Valley? – Hiking in the other-worldly landscape of Cappadocia

We were in Turkey in April 2013 and Cappadocia (with Goreme as the base) was our second stop in the country. After a cloudy, stormy first day in the area, we were absolutely thrilled when the clouds began to clear on Day 2.

Having received very strong recommendations, we headed to the Goreme Open Air Museum as our first sight for the day. Maybe we had the wrong expectations, but it turned out to be a bunch of ancient cave churches with long, snaking queues of senior citizens and high school tour groups. After an hour of under-appreciation of the place, we decided to cut our losses and head to the next thing to do on our agenda – hiking in the valleys of Cappadocia. On a recommendation from our pension’s front desk staff (lovely place that cave pension, but a post on that later), we zeroed in on the Rose Valley. A personal guide and a drop and pick-up came for a nominal price (when split across four of us) that I fail to recall. Continue reading This Valley or That Valley? – Hiking in the other-worldly landscape of Cappadocia

Friday Flashback – Blue Skies and Minarets

This picture portrays Istanbul just as I had expected it to be.

Photo taken behind the Sultan Ahmet Mosque a.k.a. the Blue Mosque (April ’13)

Quintessential Istanbul
Quintessential Istanbul

A Spectacular Sunset in Bali

Some pictures from a beautiful sunset at the Uluwatu Temple in Bali while we were watching a Kecak performance by the local artists (October ’13).

Uluwatu lies in South Bali, west of the Nusa Dua area where we were staying. It’s best to rent a car with a driver and reach well before the time of the sunset – else, you could be stuck with the bad seats i.e. with your back to the sunset.

DSC05578 DSC05580DSC05586 DSC05587 20131022_183250 20131022_182845

Escapes from an office cubicle with three weeks of annual leave

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