A question I often get asked when discussing veganism with people is “But what do you do when you want to eat out? Isn’t it difficult?” It is a valid question, but quite simply, it is not a problem! You may need to spend a few moments looking up what is available if you plan to go out, especially if going with non vegans, to ensure that you don’t end up with a dry jacket potato. The last impression you want to give is that you have to suffer of make sacrifices when you make compassionate food choices, because being vegan nowadays is the easiest it’s ever been. So, here are my top tips for making eating out, cruelty free, as easy as can be!
Seek out veggie places
It may sound obvious, but if you are going to visit an unknown town or place, look up if they have any vegetarian or vegan places to eat! Check out the Happy Cow website (they also have an app if you have a smartphone). You can type in your destination and you get a list of vegetarian, vegan and veggie friendly food venues as well as health food shops and other places which stock vegan food. It’s just fab!Other than this, a simple Google search of the place name and vegan might bring up eating guides and even forums which can give you some advice.
Vegan options in restaurants
There are a number of types of food which are likely to have vegan options, partly because they are from cultures where dairy is not heavily featured in cuisine. These are the places you’re most likely to find vegan suitable food:
Indian – As long as the restaurant uses vegetable, and not dairy, ghee (butter) the vegetable dishes will be vegan. The only thing to avoid would be anything with paneer in, as this will be a cheese dish. I find it hard not to have a dhal when I go for a curry, I just adore lentils. Dansak is also a delicious sweet but hot dish with vegetables and lentils – it’s nice and thick. Bread-wise, avoid naan bread, as it is usually made with yogurt, but chapati’s are usually fine. If in doubt, just ask! Chutneys are usually fine apart from the yogurt and mint one, which should be obvious.
Oriental – Chinese and Thai restaurants may offer a vegan’s best friend – TOFU! Some also do dishes with soya based fake meat, such as mock duck and chicken. If they don’t have tofu on the menu, a delicious vegetable Thai green or red curries (which are creamy because of coconut milk) or vegetables in black bean sauce can be just as amazing. Vegetable spring rolls are also usually vegan. Noodles are the thing to watch out for as many are egg based. Rice noodles are fine, as is plain rice. Be aware, if you order vegetable rice, sometimes they have egg in too, so just double check.
Italian – If it is an authentic restaurant, pizza base dough should simply be made from water, oil and flour. Some bigger chains do put milk in their bases (it’s usually used as a bit of an ingredient bulker), but again, just check! So all you need to do is ask them to ditch the cheese. When the base and the tomato sauce is good and with piles of delicious vegetables, the lack of cheese is not a problem. I have found that, on most occasions, spaghetti is eggless so ask if this is an option and then enjoy fresh tomato and garlic pasta with loads of bread, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Greasy spoon cafes – The presence of a greasy spoon really depends where you live. This is quite an English thing, as far as I know. They offer full English breakfasts (I have written in-depth about this before!) and lunch items like sandwiches and jacket potatoes with various fillings. Here, the best option is a jacket potato with baked beans, hold the butter, or a breakfast made up of the ingredients of your choice such as hash browns, tomatoes, beans, mushrooms and toast without butter. What to check for here is that they are not cooked in butter – usually they just use oil as it’s cheaper.
Chip shop! – A very simple option, a nice portion of steaming hot, fluffy on the inside, chip shop chips. There is a chance that the chips are cooked in the same fryer as the battered fish, so if this bothers you, ask if this is the case. Accompaniments could include mushy peas, beans and some even have Jamaican vegetable patties which are vegan. YUM!
Pubs – These can vary widely, depending on the style of the establishment. However, most will offer at least chips as a bar snack. Some may do a Sunday roast featuring the roast potatoes and vegetables and even the gravy may be vegan!
In many places, at least around London, falafel has become a popular vegetarian option on lunch menus. An increasing amount of falafel stalls are also in markets. Wraps can include salad, tahini (sesame sauce), humous and pickles. Some now offer halloumi cheese in the wrap, so just make sure that doesn’t sneak in when you’re not looking!
As you can see, there are loads of options for vegans, you just have to ask and explain what you can’t eat. The main barrier may be an unhelpful, unwilling waiter or manager. In which case, whether you are vegan or not, why would you want to eat somewhere with rude staff!
If I do ever go out unprepared and end up with a dry potato, I instantly remember why I am doing it, find some ketchup and olive oil, smile sweetly and eat my potato like it’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever tasted. After all NOTHING tastes sweeter than knowing that no animal life has been used for the food you are eating.