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How to eat vegetarian abroad

1. Learn to say "I don't eat meat" in the language of the country you are traveling/living in. Be aware that even if you use the word "vegetarian" or "vegan" it may not always mean that the dish is actually vegan. The people you meet in your host country may have a different understanding of the word altogether. Some cultures think vegetarians just avoid red meat or think fish is ok. It may not be clear that you also do not want to eat very clear that not only do you not eat meat, but you also do not eat meat oil, fish oil, oyster sauce, dried shrimp, etc. This is particularly difficult with soups. Saying you are allergic may help make it clear.

2. Learn to write "I don't eat meat" in the native language. This can be particularly useful in countries where it is hard to be understood like in China.

3. Research before you go so you already know some places you can eat if all else fails. This can also help you identify the best places to dine. Our Guides for expatries have all a "Pubs, Cafes and Restaurants" section under Entertainment.

4. Know the staples. Find out what makes up the local cuisine and if anything you don't want to eat is commonly used like beef fat for frying vegetables. Many places have started to substitute soy and other alternative products so feel free to ask.

5. Enjoy local fruits. Mango, fig, pineapple, pomegranate and coconut never tasted better than when they are fresh from the market or straight off the tree. Eating the local fruits can also make your trip being more culturally authentic.

6. Enjoy raw and understand the problem areas. It is often said "If you haven't picked it, peeled it, cut it or boiled it yourself, don't eat it." Know that thicker skinned fruits and veggies are best and make sure you peel them yourself. It is also a good idea to possibly pick up a knife when you get to the host country so you can instantly peel and eat without having to worry about using someone else's possibly tainted utensils.

7. Learn to love rice. Rice is a staple for over one and half billion people worldwide and you are likely to encounter it often when you travel. Tasty, nutritional, and totally vegetarian. Find local toppings and sauces like soy sauce, peanut sauce, chutneys, seaweed flakes, fresh fruit and steamed veggies, and tofu.

8. Eat at the aperitif. It may be hard to find a main course without meat, but there are usually appetizers that are completely meat free. You can sometimes ask for an appetizer to be expanded into a full meal. An added bonus is that they are usually cheaper !

Bon Appetit


 [11-05-2011]
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