While the veganism wave is riding fast, there are many places still getting accustomed to it. Meat has, traditionally, been a part of various cuisines around the world.
Today, there are plenty of vegan-friendly cities in the world, but they mostly serve vegan takes on continental food such as burgers and popular dishes like pizzas.
Food is an essential part of any culture and finding out that there are no plant-based options for you is quite disappointing. The experience of such a journey can feel incomplete.
We wanted our vegan friends to travel better.
We found out that many places around the world actually serve traditionally vegan dishes. They are very much a part of the region’s culinary culture, and locals have consumed them that way for years. There are also some local dishes that have been given a vegan twist.
So here are the countries where a vegan can explore the remote sights, learn the local way of life and, at the end of the day, sit down for a heart traditionally meal without worry-
India has more vegetarians than rest of the world combined. Vegetarianism is widespread here due to cultural and religious reasons. While milk and milk product consumption is quite common in India, finding dishes for vegans is very easy too.
Veganism is understood by everyone here even if they are not aware of the exact term itself. So you can ask waiters and chefs to point out suitable options on the menu for you or request for vegan alternatives without any hesitation.
Here are some great vegan choices:
One can’t go wrong with dosas, idlis and vadas. These dishes are a staple of South India and are made from fermented rice and lentils. They are usually accompanied with sambar (a lentil-based stew) and a selection of chutneys.
Most dals are vegan too as long as they don’t have makhani (meaning cream) at the end. Dishes with ‘Shahi’ also usually have milk or cream added to them, so its best to avoid those.
The most popular street foods in India are also vegan- samosas, sevpuri, vada pav and aloo tikki are delicious choices. Pav bhaji is also vegan but is usually topped off with butter, but you can ask the vendors and chefs not to put it and roast the pav bread with oil instead.
An amazing dessert choice for vegans is ladoo. Ladoos are mainly toasted flour which is sweetened and then rolled into small balls. There are several variants of it ranging from besan ladoos (gram flour) to til ladoos (sesame). The only thing you really need to ask is whether they are made with or without ghee (clarified butter) and once that’s confirmed, you’re good to go!
While Spaghetti Bolognese and offal are famous throughout the world, Italian cuisine also has a plethora of vegan dishes in its repertoire.
The first step to eating vegan pasta in Italy is to make sure your pasta is not made from eggs (dry pasta usually isn’t). The next is to choose your sauce and toppings. And the third is to ask for no cheese.
Some delectable vegan dishes are:
Bruschetta al Pomodoro, which is a bruschetta topped with tomatoes, basil and olive oil. It is a fresh and light dish and a great example of delicious Italian cooking.
Spaghetti Aglio, Olio e peperoncino is a classic recipe originating from Naples. ‘Aglio’ means garlic, ‘olio’ means oil and ‘peperoncino’ means peppers- and that’s precisely what you can expect. It is a hearty dish and a must-try for vegans and non-vegans alike.
Pappa al Pomodoro is a thick herbed soup made from tomatoes and unsalted Tuscan bread. Vamba, a Florentine journalist popularized it with his 1911 publication of ‘Il Giornalino di Gian Burrasca’.
Caponata is lightly fried aubergines dressed in tomatoes, onions, olives, celery and caper berries. It was initially made from mahi-mahi fish in the eighteenth century and served to aristocrats. However, as the recipe reached poorer households, aubergines became a cheaper substitute for the fish. Today, every town in Sicily has its own ‘original’ version of it.
Malaysian cuisine has become a unique culinary experience that comes from a blend of Malay, Indian and Chinese influences. Some British, Dutch and Portuguese influence can also be seen.
There is a mix of Buddhist, Muslim and Hindu population in the country, and each has its own religious beliefs in terms of food. This has resulted in different versions of the same dish catering to all natives. A few tremendous vegan recipes found here are:
Nasi Lemak which the national dish of this country. It is also a standard breakfast amongst many locals. It is rice cooked withw coconut milk served with cucumbers, sambal, peanuts, boiled egg and beef curry, lamb curry or anchovies. Plenty of its variants can be found across the streets of Malaysia. You can ask for no meat and eggs in your dish and still enjoy a healthy meal
Chee Cheong fun is another well-known breakfast. While it literally translates to ‘pig intestine’, they are simply thick rice noodles seasoned with a dark sauce. Kuala Lumpur serves a sweet bean paste, Penang serves hei ko sauce, which is made from shrimp paste and some places offer curry as an accompaniment.
Tauhu Sumbat is the perfect snack. It is tofu stuffed with a variety of vegetables and sprouts and served with a sweet and sour or peanut sauce. It is widely available especially during the Ramadan month.
Speaking of snacks, boazi are Chinese steamed buns that are available with several fillings. Choose a vegetable filling, and you have a delicious snack on your hands.
A trip to Malaysia won’t be incomplete without a taste of Laksa. While it usually contains chicken, prawn or fish, many restaurants are willing to replace them with tofu.
Thosai is very similar to India’s dosa and can be found very easily. We found Veg New’s advice on thosai very helpful-
“For dinner, head to the nearest Banana Leaf, a common South Indian restaurant that is always veg-friendly and often open 24 hours. Order thosai, a thin, crepe-like bread pinched between the fingers to spoon fragrant dal, spicy coconut chutney, and an assortment of mustard-seed and chili-infused vegetables into your mouth. For a heavier version, ask for masala thosai, which comes with turmeric-infused mashed potatoes inside.”
Also, there are many stalls in Penang that serve delicious coconut ice cream made from plant milk or cow’s milk.
“In Malaysia, you can find many vegetarian restaurants and stalls throughout the country. Many vegetarian restaurants particularly Chinese and Indian vegetarian restaurants do not use onions and garlic in their cooking due to religious reasons. Most Indian vegetarian restaurants in Malaysia use the term ‘pure vegetarian’ which simply means they do not use meat, eggs, onions and garlic in their cooking. Some of their dishes will contain dairy/butter/ghee. You may request for vegan options in Malay by saying
no eggs = tak mau telur
no cows milk = tak mau susu lembu
no honey = tak mau madu
no butter = tak mau mentega
no margarine = tak mau marjerin
no chicken = tak mau ayam
no meat = tak mau daging
no fish = tak mau ikan
no seafood = tak mau makanan laut
without animal products = tanpa produk haiwan
The word ‘tak mau’ means ‘don’t want’ in Malay.
Usually most people understand the word ‘vegetarian’ so all you have to say is vegetarian dan (which means and) tak mau telur, tak mau susu lembu, tak mau mentega, tak mau marjerin, tak mau madu, tanpa produk haiwan.”
Although it’s not so well known, Georgia is a vegan haven. Its cuisine is full of vegan recipes. A significant reason for this is the fasting period in Georgia on Wednesdays, Fridays and special occasions.
Most Georgians do not consume food from land animals on these days, and a separate fasting menu is available everywhere. You only need to be on the lookout for fish and other seafood. Georgians do not surprise you with secret ingredients in their dishes, so anything that doesn’t explicitly say fish will be vegan. One can, instead, find a lot of walnuts and bean-based recipes in the country.
Some amazing vegan Georgian dishes are:
Badrijani or nigvziani badrijani is sliced eggplant that is rolled and stuffed with a hot garlic and walnut paste. It is usually served as a starter.
Kitris da Pomidvris Salata Nigvzit is a light tomato and cucumber salad that is sometimes served with a walnut dressing.
Lobio, which is a spicy stew made from mashed kidney beans, onions, garlic, walnuts, marigold petals and vinegar. It traditionally comes in a clay pot. Mchadi is its accompaniment and is also vegan.
Tonis puri is a kind of bread stuffed with bean paste. It is cooked in a torne oven which is similar to a tandoor. It is mostly served on special occasions, so if Easter or Christmas is around the corner when you visit, do try it!
Being an island, one might expect seafood incorporated into every dish of Sri Lankan cuisine. However, this is only true. While the country does have a variety of seafood dishes, it has a large pure vegetarian population; the Sinhalese are mostly vegetarian, and even those who are non-vegetarian do not eat meat often.
The vegetarian part of a menu will almost always have vegan dishes on it. So if spicy vegan is on your mind, Srilanka is the place to be! Some tasty plant-based dishes found here are:
Vegetarian curries, which are usually made with potato, pumpkin, young mango or jackfruit. They are also cooked in coconut milk. The only thing to clarify at an eatery is if the dish is made with ghee. A great curry is polos, which is spicy jackfruit made with onions, garlic, cinnamon and lemongrass.
Sri Lanka has no dearth of lentil dishes. Try the parippu- a spicy dish made from yellow lentils, masoor dal- a curry made from red lentils and dhal- another red lentil dish which is the staple at meals.
The wambatu moju is a pickle made by deep-frying eggplant wedges and pouring sugar, vinegar, mustard seeds and onions on it.
Gotu kola salad or mallum is a combination of shredded leaves of Centella or Asiatic pennywort plant, coconut shavings, curry leaves and onions. It has a sweet distinctive fragrance and flavour.
Bread are an integral part of Sri Lankan cuisine. Rotis and parathas are a vegan staple enjoyed by everyone. Parathas are slightly heavier than rotis and are roasted in coconut oil or ghee. There are also available with several fillings like vegetables, bananas and even coconuts. Kottu roti is also a must-try dish here- cut up roti fried with chopped veggies or meat. Sounds great, doesn’t it?
Dessert in Sri Lanka is usually sweetened with natural sugars like jaggery and palm treacle, which makes them quite healthy. Children’s delight is pol pani or coconut pancakes which are made from coconut milk and flour and then stuffed with palm treacle, but these are very enjoyable for grown-ups too! Weli Thalapa is another decadent dessert. It is made from scraped coconut, coconut treacle and an assortment of spices.
“This was my favorite place to eat throughout my entire time in Ella. Lucky for us it was just outside our accommodation. This is THE place for breakfast. They will serve you a traditional Sri Lankan Breakfast for a very reasonable price along with good Italian coffee and incredible service. They will also keep bringing you more dhal and roti as and when you finish it for no extra charge!”