Contrary to popular belief, being vegan does not have to limit your “dining out”-scapades. You can dine just about anywhere in your city and enjoy a delicious vegan meal. In fact, most restaurants offer vegan and vegetarian friendly choices on their menus. Even if you don’t see any pre-fab options on the menu, you can often VEGANIZE what they do have. Heck, I do it ALLLL the time! No matter where I go, I can browse the menu, and with a little creativity, create my own personal “heaven on a plate”. My family and friends know this and often come to me for dining advice.
Here, I’ve put together a few tips for ordering “vegan” when dining out.
Indian cuisine has extensive veggie offerings. There are even strictly vegetarian Indian restaurants around. Try ordering samosa, pakora and masala dhosa or rice dishes with daal (lentils), potatoes, okra, eggplant and more. Vegans, watch out for the words PANEER (cheese), RAITA (yogurt sauce) and GHEE (a clarified butter made from cow’s milk). Everything else is all good!
You can pretty much count on Asian restaurants to have vegetable dishes, and you can even find bean curd (tofu) as well. In Atlanta, try GreenSprout‘s completely veggie menu (they’ll even omit eggs upon request).
The same goes for Japanese cuisine. I go to RuSans (not as much as my daughter, but that’s a different story.) Order the Inari Maki -a roll filled with tofu, and vegetable tempura maki – a rolled filled with different veggies like asparagus, onion, zucchini and carrot that are deep fried. Don’t forget a side of seaweed salad 🙂
Southeast Asian cuisine (Thailand/Malaysia), in my opinion, is the “southern food” of Asia! I could go on and on about the combinations of flavors and ingredients. In ATL, try PENANG Malaysian restaurant and order the Satay Tofu w-peanut sauce. On menus where they offer CHOW FUN (wide, flat rice noodle) dishes with beef, just ask to replace the meat with tofu or vegetables.
At Thai restaurants, you can bet your bottom dollar that there’s a coconut soup. It’s sometimes offered with chicken; just ask to omit it. However, do check to see if the soup is made with chicken broth (a TOTAL dealbreaker). There will almost always be vegetable spring rolls, fresh rolls – fresh raw veggies swathed in rice paper wrappers- and papaya salad (often prepared with fish sauce and shrimp paste, but again, just ask them to omit it).
Comida de Mexicana es muy delicioso tambien! Funny, I gauge how good the food is at Mexican restaurants by how much I like their chips & salsa (my guilty addiction). My top ATL choice is Nuevo Laredo Cantina. They even have a dedicated “vegetariano” section on the menu. Try ordering the BURRITO FRIJOLE sin queso y crema (cheese & sour cream) to “veganize” it. It comes served with the most flavorful rice w-tomato sauce on top. Some Mexican restaurants prepare their beans with lard (pork fat) so be sure to ask!
***East Africa/Middle East***
There are also some unique dining experiences you can have in Ethiopian and Middle Eastern restaurants.
Ethiopian restaurants always offer a veggie combo which consists of various lentils (wots), stewed greens (alicha), cabbage and potatoes and a salad of jalapeno, lettuce, onion and tomato. This is all served on a plate of injera (traditional Ethiopian flatbread). Take a friend or 4, as dining is communal. You eat from a big plate placed in the middle of the table with your HANDS! Make sure you use the right hand, as the left is deemed for less sanitary purposes :-/. It’s inexpensive, filling, and super-tasty! Don’t hesitate to dig into the injera plate after eating the veggies on top. A personal favorite is California Mart Ethiopian in ATL.
Common and popular dishes in Middle Eastern culture—like falafel (chickpea patty), tahini (sesame sauce), tabbouleh (bulgur salad), and hummus are naturally VEGAN! No “tweaking” necessary. Other tasty options that are usually vegan are dolmas (or stuffed grape leaves) and lentil soup. I enjoy Lawrence’s Cafe on Buford Highway.
Last, but certainly not least is vittles from the Caribbean. Caribbean cuisine is a fusion of African, Spanish, British, French, Indian and Chinese cuisine. Rice and peas (or peas and rice) is the mainstay across all the islands, with a variety of spices and sauces to accompany it. From Trinidad’s doubles, Jamaica’s ITAL options like roti (a thin split pea flatbread that encases curry stews) and callaloo(a Jamaican “spinach”, if you will), to Dominican Republic’s platano maduros (sweet plantains), dining at a Caribbean restaurant should be pain-free. Negril Caribbean Cafe in ATL is veggie/vegan-friendly, and has a mean bbq tofu platter w-rice & peas and veggies of your choice.
So there you have it. Ok, all this advice has gotten ME hungry 🙂 Gotta go…..Happy Eating!