Travelling as a vegetarian can be tough. Even just across the channel, in France, you’re regarded as something of a freak – who the hell doesn’t eat meat? – and your only real option is omelette avec salade. Elsewhere in the world, you may be greeted with blank faces or the reassurance, “yes, yes, vegetarian!” only to find your dish is laced with flakes of beef. Hmm.
However, there are countries in the world that naturally excel in meat-free cuisine. Some places have a national palette that naturally tends towards veggie options. Other destinations have responded well to the stratospheric rise in lifestyle veggies and vegans over the past ten years, with imaginative street fare and restaurant options that cater to a full range of appetites.
Great destinations for vegetarians
To help voyaging vegetarians, the folks over at travel blog Oliver’s Travels have put together a Global Vegetarian Index to mark World Vegetarian Awareness this month. Their in-depth survey ranks countries around the world based on the number of vegetarian restaurants they have, how this compares to population size, and meat consumption per capita. The question on everyone’s lips is, of course, who’s the champion? Drum roll please for… the Seychelles, officially the new go-to destination for vegetarians everywhere.
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This Indian Ocean archipelago – a favourite for honeymooners – is home to an intoxicating fusion of African, French, Chinese, Indian and English cooking. An abundance of fresh local ingredients includes 10 different varieties of chilli, aubergines, mangoes, palm hearts and banana. Coconut milk is used in many dishes, alongside manioc, rice and sweet potatoes. Popular meals include tamarind chutney and shredded green papaya salad.
“The Seychelles’ top score is driven by its high number of vegetarian-friendly restaurants in relation to its small population, alongside its low annual meat consumption,” says Oliver’s Travels. “In the Seychelles the only 35.6kg of meat per capita is consumed annually. To put that into context, the USA consumes a massive 120.2kg per capita of meat annually.”
From South America to South East Asia
The beautiful South American nation of Peru (above) boosts a plethora of veggie-friendly favourites. Papa a la huancaina (boiled potato with creamy yellow sauce) is found everywhere, deriving its punchy flavour and colour from the yellow aji pepper. La causa is a kind of casserole that layers together potato and aubergines, two vegetables available in droves at any Peruvian market you happen to chance across. Choclo – Peruvian corn – is a staple ingredient, and can be found in anything from chupes (thick Andean soups) to boiled versions that are served with queso serrano (Andean cheese) or chilli pepper sauce.
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While many traditional dishes in Cambodia derive from beef, pork or fish sauce, the country has seen a boom in vegetarian restaurants in recent years – particularly in the capital, Phnom Penh. Popular rice and noodle mains can also be served sans meat, and the green mango salad – made with shallots, onions and picked cucumber – is to die for, as is guitiyo (Khmer noodle soup topped with coriander, bean sprouts and lettuce).
Where will you head next?
Moving closer to home, the top-ranked European destination in the Global Vegetarian Index is right here in the UK. So, as we decide where to travel to next, there’s plenty of veggie delights to choose from in the meantime. Take a look at the top 20 list from the index, below.