Vegetarianism is not understood or catered for in many countries and places around the world. While true that countries like India may well be considered a vegetarian’s paradise, many others could easily be considered a vegetarian’s hell. As a vegetarian traveling abroad and looking for a suitable restaurant, the more information you have the better chance you have of staying well fed.
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Ask Before Ordering
Unfortunately, what you think is vegetarian may not be what someone else thinks is vegetarian, especially if there are language and cultural differences. That said, asking your waiter for vegetarian options at a non-vegetarian restaurant is often not sufficient.
To the surprise of many vegetarians traveling abroad, some people don’t consider chicken, fish, or ham to be meat. Furthermore, a restaurant may consider soup or mashed potatoes made with beef stock to be a completely vegetarian item. Or chopped ham cubes may arrive on a “vegetarian” salad.
While it may be somewhat uncomfortable for all concerned for you to grill the waiter or chef on the contents of a dish, that is the only way you can be relatively sure that you are not served up some “vegetarian” veal or “vegetarian” ham as the author was in Spain and Mexico, respectively.
Ask if a dish contains: meat, beef, ham, fish, pork, chicken, shellfish, or seafood. Ask what kind of stock the soup or potatoes are made with. Then ask what the dish is garnished with.
Find a Vegetarian Place
As a safer vegetarian option, find a vegetarian restaurant. If your travel destination receives a steady stream of tourists, it is bound to have at least one vegetarian-friendly restaurant around. If you have time before you travel, research vegetarian restaurant options in the area on the Internet and then keep the information in your purse or day bag. Otherwise, ask the local tourist bureau or even at your hotel.
Go with the Italian Option
When all the restaurants around you seem only to serve roast meat with meat sauce and a side of meat, simply head to an Italian restaurant. While Italian cuisine certainly has its fair share of meat dishes, every Italian restaurant can easily turn out a margherita pizza or a plate of pasta with no meat in sight.
While vegetarians may sometimes have a difficult time finding suitably vegetarian dishes at restaurants while traveling abroad, it can certainly be done. Just make sure you know what is in a dish before you consume it and where the vegetarian and Italian restaurants are.