People travel around the world to specific destinations for all sorts of reasons. It may be to experience the natural wonders of a country; its history, architecture, culture or even its people. Some people travel specifically to enjoy the food — whether it be Indian, Mexican, Chinese, French or any one of dozens of other national cuisines.
So, where does one go if they are of a vegetarian persuasion? Presumably some countries do vegetarianism better than others and if so, where are they? The subject of this week’s blog is to lift the lid (or banana leaf?) on where in the world, caters best for the non-carnivores amongst us? Let me state from the outset that I am a card-carrying omnivore but I do acknowledge the strength of arguments made in favour of vegetarianism on moral, ecological and animal welfare grounds and it is something that I believe will gain traction in the wider population in the years to come.
Any list of vegetarian-friendly countries must surely include India — a vast sub-continent of people, 30% of whom claim to be vegetarians! As it happens, I adore Indian food and if/when I do decide to embark down the meat-abstinence road, the likelihood is that it will be through the medium of Indian cuisine. Before we start looking further afield though at vegetarian hotspots, here’s a little nugget that I cam e across, courtesy of those well-informed people at Fodors: Apparently the land of Leprechauns (that’s us) boasts the largest number per capita vegetarian-friendly restaurants in the world so there’s hope for us yet! Our nearest neighbours, the UK also come in for honorable mention and in particular Scotland, where those in the know, suggest you try out the 13th Note in Glasgow.
Not unsurprisingly, Italy is also very vegetarian-friendly since a lot of their menus can be served minus the meat content and still taste delicious! Switzerland also deserves an honourable mention here too! After that (and I hope I’m not doing any disservice to any of our European neighbours), one needs to move East and South to get closer to the epicentre of vegetarian cuisine as every other country in the region rates very highly for their respective vegetarian-heavy cuisines. Top of the list sits the Seychelles which, as you may already know, lie about 1,500 kilometres due east of Kenya and which are a melting pot of Chinese, Arabic, French and African influences. Their beaches (arguably, the best in the world) are an added bonus.
Travelling further East, one can find Thailand and its next-door neighbour Malaysia high on the list (they actually occupy second and third post in the world, after the aforementioned Seychelles). Also worth considering are Singapore (the ultimate international melting pot perhaps?), Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Taiwan whilst Jordan and in particular, Lebanon, dominate the hit parade in the Middle East — home to hummus, falafel and tabbouleh!
In the western hemisphere, Belize, Jamaica and Peru all boast worthy vegetarian credentials, whilst crossing the Atlantic one more time, we come to Ethiopia, a country with a very unique culture and a cuisine that would satisfy any hard-core vegetarian. At the end of the day however, vegetarian cuisine is probably just like its meat-based counterpart in that it is all subjective and one man’s meat (if you’ll pardon the pun) is another man’s poison so you’ll have to make up your own mind and use the above suggestions as merely reference points. As regards all those other countries out there: I draw your attention to the results of an extensive survey that was compiled by an upmarket website called Oliver’s Travels and which is referred to as ‘The Global Vegetarian Index’ which draws data from 183 countries around the world. You might also want to check out www.happycow.com