Eating plant-based abroad is hard, but these six countries make the vegan or vegetarian effort well worth it.
India is quickly gearing towards adopting a plant-based diet throughout the country. Veganism has been growing in popularity since Mahatma Gandhi denounced the cruel actions of the dairy industry. Gandi famously called out methods of forced insemination, and khalbaccha (the act of tricking the cow into lactating for longer periods with a dead calf.) Gandhi’s nonviolence methods led his adoption of the vegan/vegetarian diet, his followers joined soon after. With the creation of social media, more and more individuals are seeing the mistreatment of animals happening at farms, causing a large portion of India’s youth to fight for animal rights. Grocery stores and restaurants have opted for a colored dot system, allowing customers to quickly differentiate between vegetarian food with a brown dot, vegan products with a green dot and non-vegetarian food with a red dot.
Along with animal cruelty as a factor, transferring to a vegan diet helps create sustainable food production. Suppose the meat industry becomes solely responsible for the protein production for India’s population of 1.35+ billion people. In that case, there will no longer be enough room to sustainably continue meat production. With an already abysmal carbon-footprint, Indians are seeking a way to lessen unnecessary pollution with the meat industry becoming a common target.
There are several vegan food markets located in India, most notably the Ashima Festival held in Mumbai. Ashima Fest garners the attention of vegans globally, over 150+ businesses offered presentations, insight into the vegan community, fitness, recipe, cooking demonstrations, and more.
Many plant-based eaters agree that Israel is the unofficial vegan capital of the world, even earning the nickname “Vegan Nation.” Veganism/Vegetarianism had more than doubled from 2.6% in 2010 to 13% in 2020. With much of the population following a traditional Kosher diet, many restaurants/fast food joints have to abide by Kosher rules. The most important rule is that Jews are forbidden to mix meat and dairy. To keep their customer bases, McDonald’s, Dominos, Ben & Jerry’s have updated their menus exclusively for the Israeli market. Say “bye-bye” to your classic quarter-pounder with cheese, pepperoni pizza with thick cheese. “Hello” to soy-based replacements. Some Israeli foods have already checked the vegan box, like hummus and falafel. But now Israel is witnessing a massive switch from following the vegan diet for health to now pursuing it as a rejection of animal cruelty. Animal activism in Israel has seen its fair share of intense advocacy. 269Life, an animal right’s group, famously staged a protest in which members branded the number 269 on themselves using a hot iron to mimic the cruelty that cows are subjected to. The former Land of Milk and Honey is now turning into the new and improved “Land of Almond Milk and Agave” as Israelis switch to a vegan diet by the masses.
Finding vegan food in Thailand is not the easiest experience. Thai culture is heavily influenced by meat, even going so far as to consider vegetables as “decorations” and meat being the center dish. Even if you’re brave enough to venture into the food markets, much of the delicious meals are cooked with fish sauce, the most popular used condiments in Thai dishes. While you may have considerably tough luck finding plant-based foods from street vendors, the outdoor markets are usually filled with organic produce, fruits and other meat substitutes that can be purchased cheaply and prepared at home. Can’t cook your own food? No problem! According to Happycow, there are over 700 veggie-friendly restaurants to enjoy all over Thailand.
Travelers be warned, there are products sold in Thailand that are presumably vegan but are sometimes mixed with animal-products as a means of cheaper production. Cow milk can be incorporated into soy milk, and eggs are commonly used to make tofu. To successfully eat plant-based in Thailand, it is recommended that you know enough phrases in Thai to avoid any accidental animal eating.
Most of Indonesia’s cultural dishes require meat or animal-based products; however, being vegan in Indonesia is actually very easy. The island of Bali, one of the most popular travel destinations in Indonesia, is the best area to find vegan-friendly cuisine. With over 450 vegan/vegetarian restaurants, plant-based eaters will never go hungry in Bali. But not everyone who goes to Indonesia only goes to Bali; other locations such as Lombok, Gili Trawangan and Jakarta City are places associated with vegan-friendly dining. Night markets are a great place to find vegan/vegetarian staples to make your own food! Tempeh, a fermented soy-based product similar to tofu, is growing in popularity; meat dishes are commonly substituted with tempeh. A healthier alternative to tofu with a higher protein count (15.4 grams compared to tofu’s 10 grams,) higher in fiber (3.5 grams compared to 0.5 grams) and overall, easier to digest fermented. Also, tempeh has less estrogen making it okay to eat daily.
Ranked #3 on the “Most Vegetarian-Friendly Countries” list, Malaysia is home to over 1,000 plant-based restaurants and roughly 2 million plant-based consumers. Being a Muslim country, Halal meals are ever-present within cultural dishes; however, not all cultural dishes are “besmudged” with meat and other animal products. Foods such as Tahu Sumbat, Nasi Campur and Nasi Lemak are all meals that can be changed around with plant-based replacements. Veganism has become increasingly popular within the past 5 years, moving from more than just a fad to actual conversations about health and the benefits of a plant-based diet. In 2019 Malaysia held its first vegan market, the Malaysian Vegan Festival, garnering much attention from Malay vegans and vegetarians.
In 2014, an average Australian consumed 116 kg (255 lb) of meat per year, making it the country with the most meat consumption, compared to the average global consumption at a mere 43 kg (94 lb.) Since then, nearly 2.5 million people (roughly 12% of Australia’s population) have become vegan/vegetarian. The swift change happened due to growing awareness and activism for animal welfare and a means of “control” over the current climate crisis. While the movement towards plant-based consumption has positively affected the health of millions of Australians, they have barely put a dent in rewinding the damage done to the climate. It will take more than just a few million people to reverse destruction already caused by big industries (I’m looking at you, meat industry.) Vegetarianism is far more popular than Veganism because many Aussies vegetarians find it hard to replace food staples like dairy and eggs from their diet. The high levels of estrogen contained in tofu is unhealthy for anyone to eat on the daily. Those who are courageous enough to figure out plant-based substitutes for popular cooking foods say that being vegan in Australia is a breeze. Recently, major restaurants and fast food chains have debuted new plant-based menus alongside their classic meat-based menus. Hungry Jack, McDonald’s, IHOP, Domino’s, Nandos and Grill’d all offer vegetarian options now. Plant-based options are continuously being launched by the Australian food industry not only as a way to capitalize on the plant-based trends but to produce something that will allow vegetarian dieters a means of replacing animal products.