Food Vegetarian

Published on February 19th, 2014 | by Kellie Bright



Being a vegetarian can be hard at the best of times. Not only do all your mates make fun of you, but the closest most local pubs get to a meat-free option is a stodgy risotto. And some places still don’t understand the concept that not all vegetarians eat fish. 

Being a vegetarian is even harder when travelling. The good news is, there are some countries which specialise in vegetarian cuisine. And even meat lovers will find it easy to ditch their normal tastes for vegetarian options on offer. But their mates will probably still make fun of them. Whilst we’re here, actually, here’s a joke we just made up: What do you call a doctor who specialises in treating vegetarians?

…a vegetinarian.

Ahem. Anyway, back to business.

India and Sri Lanka


The subcontinent is paradise for vegos, with around 40% of Indians following a vegetarian diet themselves. In fact, many menus will be entirely vegetarian with a just a small section for the meat dishes.

Spices, chickpeas, potatoes, spinach, paneer cheese, roti, naan and dosas all feature heavily on the Indian table. You can even get a McSpicy Paneer or McVeggie from the world’s most familiar fast food joint should you crave something greasy.

In Sri Lanka you can’t go past jackfruit curry. It’s full of flavour and the texture is so meaty you’ll be surprised that it’s even vegetarian – which is great if you’re travelling with a meat loving partner. Sri Lankans also eat dhal – the lentil-based curry – for breakfast, lunch and dinner, so you’ll have no issues whatever the time of day. Streetside vendors also always have plenty of vegetarian short eats – roti parcels crammed fulled of a spiced vegetable curry. Insanely delicious.

Handy phrases:
Main shakaharee hoon – I am a vegetarian (Hindi)
Naanu shaakaahaari – I am a vegetarian (Southern India)
Mama elavalu vitaray – I am a vegetarian (Sinhalese)
Naan oru saivam kannay – I am a vegetarian (Tamil)



Members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church don’t eat meat on Wednesdays or Fridays. So loads of the cuisine over here is vegetarian. The base of most dishes is injera, the sourdough flatbread that feels soft and bubbly under your fingers and is impossible not to play with. We dare you to try and stop yourself. Locals use the injera in place of cutlery, ripping bits off to scoop up their meals. You’ll get lots of wats (stews) and tibs (sautees) made from things like peas, collard greens, potatoes, lentils and chickpeas.

Shiro is really popular (pureed chickpeas in Berber sauce) and you might like to go for the bayenetu option which is available at most restaurants. This is basically a sampler of little meat-free dishes served on top of a huge injera. Our favourites include aterkik alitcha (yellow peas in a sauce), atkilt wot – (cabbage, carrots and spuds in a sauce), gomen – (collard green with spices) and misir wot (pureed red lentil in Berber sauce).

Handy phrases:
Atakilt bicha – Vegetables only (Amharic)
Mimi sili nyama – I don’t eat meat (Swahili)



This might come as a surprise, but being a vego in Mexico doesn’t mean you have to live on rice and beans. In fact, there’s heaps of tasty treats here, especially when it comes to street food. When you arrive in Mexico, you’ll quickly learn that it’s possible to graze on street food practically all day long. On any given day there’s around 500,000 vendors in the capital selling their wares from stalls, carts and trucks. There will never be a hungry moment.

Our picks: quesadillas stuffed with flor de calabaza (squash blossoms), elotes (grilled corn with mayo, Mexican white cheese, lime juice, cayenne pepper and salt), entomatadas (fried tortillas in tomato sauce, sprinkled with cheese, and garnished with onion and parsley), chilaquiles (fried tortilla strips smothered in red or green salsa and cheese, sometimes with an egg), tlacoyos (masa patties stuffed with refried beans and cheese  then topped with vegies, salsa and cheese), tacos de guisados (fresh tortillas stuffed with various slow-cooked fillings).

Handy phrase:
No como carne – I don’t eat meat



You’ll have a field day with the cheap and tasty vego options on offer in Egypt. To taste a little bit of everything, you cannot beat mezzes. This is basically a number of small dishes like hummus, baba ghanouj, labneh (yogurt), ful medammes (mashed up broad beans), salads, pickled vegetables and olives with a side of freshly baked aish baladi (pita bread).

Koshary is one of Egypt’s national dishes, and it’s a real comfort food type thing, with macaroni, chickpeas, lentils and rice topped with garlic sauce, tomato sauce and fried onions.

Handy phrases:
Ana nabatee – I am vegetarian (male)
Ana nabateeya – I am vegetarian (female)



They love their mock meat dishes in China. Using things like tofu and bean curd, they’ll recreate popular western dishes that can turn off the vego crowd because they look and taste so much like meat.

It’s not that hard to go vego in China thanks to the Buddhist influence. And one good tip is that if you head to a Buddhist temple there’s bound to be a good vegetarian restaurant nearby. Gotta love the Buddhists.

The Chinese like to share many dishes among the table, with everyone sharing and chatting as they eat. So if you’re in a group with meaties make sure you know which dishes are which.  Some of our faves include nan-gwa (fried pumpkin with spices), mapo Dofu (spicy tofu, a Sichuan specialty), chowfain suchai (vegetable fried rice) Qing Jiao Yu Mi: Sweet corn with green peppers.

The language barrier can make thigns pretty tricky, so just remember to be flexible. The Veggine IN China app is awesome if you’ve got your smartphone with you, otherwise it’s good to have the translation written down.

Handy phrase:
Wo chi su (pronounced: wo chur soo) – I am vegetarian.

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About the Author

Nachos in Vietnam. Margarita pizza in Jaipur. Cheese in Morocco. Spaghetti bolognese in Botswana. These are just a few of the edible surprises I've come across on my travels. Sure, it's not all about food… but at the same time it kinda is. I'm a copywriter for Geckos and the most fun I ever had at work was writing our brochures. The most fun I ever had outside of work was watching a honey badger tear open a bag of chips at our campsite in Chobe National Park.

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