Eating Out Vegetarian Style
Some people think that it’s hard to eat out and be vegetarian, but let us change your mind with our guide to eating out vegetarian style.
Once upon a time...
It used to be the case that if you were a vegetarian and your friends invited you out for dinner, you could be fairly sure that – company aside – you were going to have a pretty dreary evening. Until fast food chains introduced the spicy bean burger to their menu, some restaurants’ only vegetarian option was a plate of what everyone else was having, minus the meat. Hence you’d end up with a plate of veg and potatoes and not a lot else.
Whilst the bean burger was a step forward, it has to be said it’s hardly the pinnacle of vegetarian dining, so those who’d been vegan or vegetarian since the 70s began to get handy with the cook book and some very worthy, but not particularly tasty recipes were launched on the unsuspecting public – think lentil loaf, nut loaf… well, anything that came in a loaf, really.
It soon became apparent that, despite these off-putting sawdust based meals, more and more people were taking their lives in their hands to become vegans and vegetarians and when supermarkets realised the market and began to invent vegetarian ready meals, the possibilities for more flavoursome vegetarian foods were realised. Although for a long time it meant that the only thing on the menu was likely to be that famous veggie staple the spinach and ricotta lasagne, it was at least a huge leap forward in vegetarian culinary experiences.
Today all that has changed and eating out as a vegan or vegetarian is no longer a chore as most menus now contain several tasty and interesting vegetarian options – usually clearly labelled. Not only that, but there are many wholly vegetarian restaurants to choose from. Often you can find a vegetarian Indian restaurant, where you can try delicious dals, saag paneers, bhindi bhaji and amazingly varied vegetable curries, but even if your restaurant does serve meat, all these dishes will still be available. In fact Indian restaurants are one of the best places to go for some varied and flavoursome vegan and vegetarian food.
It’s also easy to find vegetarian options in pizza and pasta restaurants, and these days, so many people enjoy vegetarian food – even if they’re not vegetarian themselves – you may find your friends also choose vegetarian options. Chinese restaurants also often have wonderfully different vegetable based meals – and, soya based tofu is a popular alternative to meat, meaning that many traditionally meat centred plates are open to vegans as stir fries, satays and other sauces have tofu substituted for the pork, chicken or prawn.
Even pub grub is open to vegetarians now, as more and more different cooking styles - from all corners of the globe - have been embraced by chefs and diners alike. You don’t need to just think of egg and chips if you fancy a pint with your lunch. Plates of nachos, filled potato skins, wedges with dips, onion rings, delicious wraps, pittas and paninis – all come in wonderful vegetarian options. And the more adventurous pub chef may embark on some traditional favourites – shepherd’s pie, chilli, or spag bol - made with vegetarian mince. Better still, as more pubs adopt Thai cuisine for their quick and easy lunchtime option, even more varied meals become available in the shape of noodle, rice and curry dishes.
If you’re a vegetarian or vegan you no longer need to feel disheartened when friends arrange a restaurant dinner, because it’s almost impossible to eat out now and not be catered for – even the most meat happy restaurants will have at least one vegetarian dish on the menu. And, if you’re still not convinced, or are looking for inspiration in your restaurant choices, why not check out the Vegetarian Society website where they have a list of approved restaurants and adverts for outlets that cater for vegans and vegetarians – and even some handy discounts.