Guide to eating vegetarian in Asia

March 27, 2018
Guide to eating vegetarian in Asia

I have been vegetarian for almost a year now and I don’t plan on ever going back. I feel so lucky to live in Australia and have so much variety of healthy and some what fresh produce of fruit and vegetables… but what is it like in Asia and specifically, what is it like travelling as a vegetarian?

Well, I am going to try to write this guide based on the last two months I have been travelling Asia.

To start off, when you become vegetarian your taste buds change and you start to taste flavours you have never experienced and you also become more open to trying new foods. This is really important when your travelling anywhere because your not going to be eating the same foods you are used to eating at home. I am also lucky enough to be travelling with one of my closest friends that is vegan so usually what she eats, I’ll also eat. Laura also found this awesome app called ‘Happy Cow’ that has information on all Vegan and Vegetarian cafes and restaurants in your area, all over the world. It cost $5.99 and is definitely worth it, we have used it multiple times in different countries on this trip.

Another important thing to note is depending on your budget, the type of foods and type of diet you have whilst travelling will dramatically change. For example, in Australia I hardly eat bread and if I have it at home its usually gluten free. Since travelling Asia on an extremely tight budget, bread has been one of the main things I have been eating. It’s not that I choose to do that because I really don’t want too, but it’s because its the cheapest and most common thing to eat thats vegetarian. On top of that I have not been eating anywhere near as much fruit and vegetables I would eat in Australia and I have been eating a tone of junk food (which I have now stopped doing because I really want to avoid it). Honestly, I could be eating more fruit and vegetables but the main factor has been money. It does depend where you are; if your in a city, rural, developed, less developed to how much it will cost. However, for the most part it is expensive and unsatisfying. I remember when travelling The Phillipines the only food Laura and I could eat was vegetables and rice, which after a while got super boring and some of the vegetables in the dishes were ones I never want to eat again. However, the food there was super cheap, only like $1-$2, so well worth it. Back to the junk food, I think it has been hard when we have had long bus trips or plane rides and your only option is to eat a packet of chips or a chocolate bar. There may be sandwiches in the local shop or pastries but they are filled with meat, so unless we don’t eat for the day we have to eat junk food. Another option I have been trying to do is buy a bulk amount of apples and eating them on the road, the only problem with this is when you fly you can’t take fruit on the plane.

Every country in Asia has it’s own cuisine and traditional foods. In regards to vegetarian food, this is the knowledge I have of  the countries I have been too so far (please keep in mind this is from my experience):

  • Singapore: A lot of Indian and Chinese influence, not much fruit or vegetables, a lot of bread and rice.
  • Vietnam: Mostly noodles, rice and bread buns with hardly any salad.
  • The Phillipines: Vegetables and Rice, fresh fruit
  • Cambodia: Noodles, rice, fresh fruit, a lot of cheap market food.
  • Thailand (my favourite place for food): Noodles, rice, vegetables, curries, fresh fruit, best vegan/vegetarian cafes, cheap market food.
  • Taiwan: Bakeries, Stinky Tofu (didn’t try, smelt SO GROSS), noodles, rice.
  • Hong Kong: Noodles, Rice, Vegetables
  • Malaysia: A lot of Indian and Chinese influence, a lot of western foods, Middle Eastern foods.

Furthermore, if you have a higher budget you will experience a larger range of cuisines (mostly western) that will have more vegetarian food selections but as I said earlier we have been on a tight budget so the foods I have experience on this trip have been very cheap.

The vegetarian foods I have been eating in Asia have given me such an amazing experience of trying new foods and different traditional flavours. I feel like I now have a stronger tolerance with chilli and spicy dishes, I have fallen in love with mushrooms because of the extensive range of different mushrooms here compared to Australia and all the different dishes they use them in.

Some of my favourite vegetarian dishes I have tried:

  • Sweet Potato Balls /Taiwan
  • Fried Mushroom/ Taiwan
  • Bento Box/Singapore
  • Samoas/ Malaysia
  • Banh Mi/ Vietnam
  • Jackfruit Fruit Curry/ The Phillipines
  • Garlic Rice/ The Phillipines
  • Tropical Fruits

Hope this helps! x

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