Dining out is one of my favourite past-times, but as a vegetarian it can often be rather difficult. These days a lot more restaurants are catering for vegetarians and vegans as the diets are becoming much more popular and both are gaining a lot of media attention, however there are still many restaurants and certain cuisines that haven't latched on to the trend. I know I'm not the only vegetarian who has had moments where they have looked at a menu in despair realising that the only thing they sell is the generic 'vegetarian burger or vegetable lasagna'. These are fail safe options for most typical budget English restaurant and it's okay if you're in a hurry, but if you're looking for something to wow your tastebuds, visiting a restaurant with only these two options after you've spent hours getting ready can be anti-climatic. For all those who love dining out, but are vegan or vegetarian, I've put together a little guide of the best cuisines (in my opinion) that are veggie friendly and will deliver when it come to taste and originality.
The first cuisine I would recommend is Thai food. So far I haven't been to a Thai restaurant that doesn't have at least five different vegetarian dishes and I have dined at Thai restaurants all over the world, including Thailand. Thai dishes are naturally vegetable heavy from their Pak Boong (Morning Glory) which is a stir fry made from a type of Thai water spinach (make sure you ask for a vegetarian equivalent to their oyster sauce) to a more well known dishes such as a vegetable 'Pad Thai'. I particularly enjoy Thai soups which are quite hot, but often include a really nice buttery soft tofu and lots of mushrooms. Thai curries are also easily adapted to be vegetarian or vegan if asked and many Thai restaurants do offer tofu red or green curries.
Eat: Green/Red curries, Thai vegetarian soups, stirfrys, vegetarian Pad Thai (noodles)
Avoid: Oyster/fish sauce - Oyster and fish sauces are a staple in the Thai diet, so you should always make sure your dish comes without.
Indian food is another cuisine that is often vegetarian friendly and if you like spices, there's an array of vegetable or chickpea based curries that will tickle your tastebuds. Vegetables are a staple in Indian cooking and many parts of India are known for their vegetarianism. Typical Indian vegetarian food is usually chickpea and lentil dhals, potato and cauliflower curries as well as dishes with Paneer, which is an Indian style cheese, a little bit like Halloumi.
Eat: Aloo Palak, Aloo Gobi, Karahi Daal and many more
Avoid: Indian food is generally quite safe for vegetarians, but if you're vegan look out for creams, yogurts and paneer all of which include dairy.
Like many Asian cuisines, Japanese food is known for using a lot of fish stock and fish sauce, however there's still many great vegetarian dishes and a lot of dishes that can be easily adapted to your dietary needs. Vegetarian sushi can be found in most Japanese restaurants and it's also very easy to make at home, as well as vegetarian Gyoza which are Japanese dumplings. Other dishes include Miso Udon Noodle soup and sushi salads.
Eat: Miso, Gyoza, Sushi
Avoid: Always ask to see if something has been cooked in a fish sauce
Lebanese food is probably becoming one of my favourite cuisines. Lebanese food consists of cous cous, hummus, flatbreads, halloumi and falafels and vegetarian moussaka made from eggplant and chickpeas. Lebanese food is heavily influenced by Greek and Turkish cuisine that also has a lot of vegetarian dishes, so you can always find something veggie friendly in a Lebanese restaurant.
Eat: Falafels, Hummus, vegetarian Moussaka, Fatoush (salad) and Manakish.
Avoid: A lot of Lebanese food is heavily meat based, so always double check that these dishes are vegetarian.
Italian food is part of many peoples weekly diet and there's always something for vegetarians to eat. These days many Italian restaurants are recognising that a large proportion of the population is now also vegan and it is getting a lot easier to find vegan pizzas.
Eat: Arrabiata pasta, mushroom risottos, pizza with vegetarian toppings
Avoid: Parmesan cheese - a lot of parmesan cheese includes animal rennet and you should always ask if it is vegetarian.
What is your favourite vegetarian cuisine?