Bangkok Hotels Blog

June 8, 2010

What to eat at a regular restaurant when youre a vegetarian

“Will there be anything that you can eat here?” How many times have I heard that question! And how frustrating. I haven’t found a restaurant yet that didn’t have something that I could eat, and I should know. I have been living out of a suitcase on a business trip that has taken me from Bangkok to Beijing, from Munich to Moscow, and plenty of other places in between. Everywhere I have visited, the locals tell me “No problem”, and they have been right.

In Bangkok it was easy – ask at any food stall and they will rustle up a tasty noodle dish that really hits the spot. And in China too – hot pots with vegetable stock are great fun. The pot arrives on the table, and the buffet groans with great vegetables that are sliced and diced and ready for you to cook at the table. In Germany, wonderful potato dishes abound, and white asparagus season is the best time to visit. Even Moscow proved to be a delight – visiting before Easter meant that every restaurant had a vegetarian menu for lent. The vegetarian borsch is something I will never forget.

Of all the places I visited, Sao Paulo was the greatest for vegetarian food. There are little restaurants all over – I dubbed them the kilo restaurants. Here, you literally buy your food by weight. You receive a plate as you go in and wander through the amazing selections of salad and vegetable dishes, piling your plate with everything that takes your fancy. And believe me, there will be a lot! When you are ready, your plate is weighed, and you are served at a table with a delicious array of juices. As if that wasn’t enough, you can return to the selections as many times as you want, weighing your plate on each visit. Thankfully there are no scales for consumers as they leave – they would undoubtedly show the damage of such a great eating experience.

So now, back home in England, what choices will I have? They are endless – pizza’s, pasta dishes, fresh salads, side dishes of seasonal vegetables, soups, and if all else fails the great vegetarian standby of cheese and fruit. Indian restaurants are the simplest choice for a vegetarian, always serving a great selection of vegetable dishes. But for the best vegetarian option, head to a Lebanese restaurant (or a Georgian restaurant if you happen to be in Russia). The salad comes so fresh that the lettuce is whole, as are the tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, peppers – all served on a platter with pitta bread and humus. Aubergines are roasted and blended into a delicious dip; vine leaves stuffed with rice and sultanas; chick peas mixed with lemon juice and garlic into little cakes called falafel; filo pastry wrapped around spinach and fetta cheese. Mmm! I feel hungry just thinking about it all. And for a mixed group, the meat dishes are equally varied and interesting. Finish it all off with Lebanese coffee and a Hubble Bubble pipe with refreshing herbs, and the evening will be a great success.

The biggest challenge to me as a vegetarian has been the fast food attack after a late night at the cinema. MacDonald’s, Burgerking, and KFC can be a bit limited for the vegetarian snack, but the kebab van will make a tasty vegetarian kebab of pitta bread, salad, jalapenos and garlic sauce if you ask them.

So – vegetarian restaurants? Who needs them. I can happily eat with my friends in any restaurant of their choice. And as I tell them if they are worried “If all else fails = there’s always dessert. There’s never any meat in apple pie!”

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