Being a vegetarian can be hard when you’re travelling, vegetarian options are not always available, you don’t want to feel like a pain dragging your travelling companions round to ten different restaurants and you might be worried about offending other cultures by not eating the meat they’ve cooked for you. In some countries like India, New Zealand and Greece you can expect to find good vegetarian alternatives, however, there are a few surprisingly good destinations for vegetarians that you wouldn’t have expected.
Argentina – You would probably expect that a country that has the second highest consumption rate of beef in the world and where you can get steak the size of your head for just £5, would be a nightmare for a vegetarian, but you’d be wrong. Argentina has a large Italian immigrant population and from 1914 to 1947 1.4 million Italians entered the country. With their strong Italian heritage you will find that almost every restaurant will have some type of pasta or pizza dishes on the menu.
It’s not limited either, think ravioli stuffed with pumpkin, parmesan pasta bake, vegetable pizza, mushroom risotto and calzone. In fact, Argentineans are so passionate about their pasta that in most homes and restaurants you’ll find that they’re pasta is freshly homemade. And if you get sick of pasta and pizza, there’s always cheese filled empanadas (like mini Cornish pasties).
China – Chinese takeaways are notoriously bad for vegetarians in the UK and most of the time you’re stuck with greasy vegetable chow mein or plain vegetables and rice, occasionally some deep fried tofu - if you’re lucky. Chinese food in China is completely different from how it is the UK and there are a whole range of different dishes to try.
However, it can be very difficult to decipher menus in China or explain to people that you don’t eat meat, with almost no one speaking any English. One trick is to learn how to how to tell people that you’re a Buddhist or carry a piece of paper in your pocket with the Mandarin characters on. If they think you’re Buddhist they’ll soon get the idea that you don’t eat meat and you’ll be faced with a whole array of veggie options, from spicy aubergine to fragrant hot pots.
Thailand – While you will always find vegetarian options in Thai restaurants here in the UK, in Thailand itself it’s not so easy. On most menus there you will only find chicken pad Thais, or green and red curries with pork or chicken and lots of fish. However, Thais are very friendly and accommodating people, you only have to ask and most places can make you the dish you want without the meat, and give you extra vegetables instead.
Head for areas near Buddhist temples and you’re likely to find a find a few more vegetarian options. If you’re in Bangkok, one of the best places to get vegetarian food is from Mr. Yim’s street food stall, which can be found on Soi Rambuttri Street, opposite the popular backpacker haunt of Koh San Road. Mr Yim cooks a whole range of veggie dishes from tom yum soups, to green and red curries and pad Thais, and what’s more it’ll only cost you about £1.50!
So, next time you’re worried about going to a destination because you think there won’t be much for you to eat there, think again. Do some research and you might be surprised.