After 16 months on the road, Vietnam was the last stop of my vegetarian food journey. Luckily it was also one of the best. While nothing beats Bali as the ultimate vegetarian destination, the veggie food in Vietnam is amazing. The local cuisine is packed with fresh vegetables, just-picked herbs, succulent tofu and a subtle colonial French influence, and the prices are staggeringly low. Here’s how to eat veggie in Vietnam.
In many ways, Thailand is paradise for food lovers. You can’t cross a street without the aroma of frying garlic and chillies drawing you in, or smoke pouring from a street grill hitting your nose. Everywhere you go there’s a new temptation, whether it’s spicy papaya salad, fragrant coconut milk curry or traditional roti pancakes sizzling away. But in Thailand, navigating what’s safe to eat can be a minefield.‘Vegetarian’ generally means not eating meat or seafood: anything else, including meat stock, shrimp paste or fish sauce, is fair game. Get it right and you’ll be feasting on a variety of aromatic and flavorful dishes; get it wrong and you’ll find yourself inadvertently chewing on some gristle. Here’s how vegetarians can eat well in Thailand.
It’s hard to imagine a more idyllic place than Bali. With ornate Hindu temples, verdant green rice fields and white sand beaches, this beautiful Indonesian island encapsulates the idea of paradise. As one of the world’s top destinations for holistic retreats and a mecca for yoga enthusiasts, the concept of health and wellness permeates many aspects of tourism here. As a result, it’s also a dream for vegetarians and vegans — more so than any other country I’ve visited so far on this year-long trip.
Australia is such a vast country that writing an article about the best veggie hotspots would only offer the thinnest insight into the food scene here. Most visitors tend to stick to the ever-popular East Coast, which stretches from Cairns down to Melbourne. While not the capital, Sydney is indisputably the business and tourism hub of Australia: almost all visitors will find themselves here at one point, and the city has as many exciting food options as you’d expect. The appreciation for vegetarian food in Australia was not, on the whole, as prevalent as in other countries I’d visited (many people I encountered seemed to genuinely think I only ate vegetables), but there is still a growing vegetarian movement here.
New Zealand is known for its Middle Earth–inspiring beauty, Maori culture and passion for rugby more than for its food. Yet the endless swaths of farmland and 8,700 miles of coastline mean that meat and seafood feature strongly, and popular national dishes include roast lamb, oysters, and fish and chips. But vegetarianism has been increasingly steadily, and in the past five years the number of vegetarian Kiwis has reportedly grown 27 percent. During my time here I found that while there were few exclusively vegetarian eateries, most cafés and restaurants have several decent meat-free free options. Naturally, some are (much) better than others. Here’s where to find the best vegetarian food in New Zealand.
Despite many people telling me I’d find it hard to find healthy, varied options, on the whole Central America surprised me by how veggie-friendly it could be. The standout was Guatemala, but each country’s people offered up their own unique meat-free treats and happily tweaked their dishes for vegetarians. So how hard would it be to find the best vegetarian food in Panama?
Costa Rica has come a long way. Described in the 18th century as “the poorest and most miserable Spanish colony in all of America,” today it is by far the richest and most stable country in Central America. Long popular with tourists due to its wildlife, beaches and exceptional coffee, in recent years Costa Rica has been busy advancing its gastronomic reputation too. But this is a country where most national dishes (“tico” to the locals) revolve around rice and beans with seafood or meat. Remove that from the equation, and how does Costa Rica’s vegetarian food fare?
Like much of Central America, Nicaragua isn’t really known for its food. Bordered by Costa Rica and Honduras and set between the Pacific and Caribbean coasts, this country is celebrated more for its dramatic volcanic landscape than its culinary prowess. There’s a reason for this.
Guatemala: home of towering volcanoes, spectacular Mayan ruins — and the best vegetarian food in Central America? It’s true. Guatemala has been such a delight to explore and such an unexpected culinary standout that I don’t even know where to begin.
There are places you know you won’t find any good vegetarian food, and there are places you think you won’t find any. Belize is the latter. The Central American nation has a lot of coast for such a small country, so fish and seafood form a substantial part of the traditional diet. Ceviche, conch and lobster are the national dishes, and the idea that a vegetarian movement would be strong here didn’t seem too likely. But Belize is veggie-friendly — far more so than I anticipated.
Cuba is famous for many things. Rum. Cars. Cigars. Che. Food isn’t one of them. Aside from the staples (every Cuban citizen receives a regular supply of rice, sugar, coffee, meat, eggs and bread), food supplies are often limited and can run out without warning. Traveling the world as a vegetarian, Cuba was the country I thought would prove hardest to eat well in — or even moderately well. Its vegetarian food has a reputation for being either “completely uninspired” or “uniformly terrible” — but is the vegetarian food in Cuba really so bad? In a word, no. Definitely not. But I wouldn’t call it great, either. Let’s explore. HAVANA The first stop in Cuba is usually Habana Vieja, or Old Havana. As the…
The best thing about travelling is eating. There’s no better way to appreciate a different country and its culture than to tuck into the national dishes, and for most people, sampling the local cuisine is one of the things they look forward to most about exploring a new place. But if you’re vegetarian, things aren’t always so easy.