Veganism is still in a toddler phase and unknown to most of the people around the world. Comparing with 8 billion humans on the planet, only a handful of people are Vegans/ aspiring Vegans or familiar with the term Veganism. Social media and activists are definitely doing wonders in terms of making people informed about the issues. Maybe next time you travel, there could be more people who understand or familiar with the Vegan lifestyle.
Thousands of languages, cultures, and traditions. When you travel to a particular country, you don’t need to learn their language, culture, and tradition, a bit of knowledge is enough. But one part of knowledge without which you couldn’t survive is the FOOD. There is so much one can prepare and consume but as the whole world isn’t Vegan yet, their cuisines are either accidentally Vegan or not Vegan at all. Vegans must understand the cuisine/food culture of the particular country they are traveling to in order to make their life much easier.
As I am a Vegan and from India, I understand the Indian cuisine better. So, to make Vegans’ life a little easier while traveling in India, I try to jot down a few advice from my own experiences and after meeting quite a few foreigners while traveling and talking about India as a tourist destination for Vegans.
I have been reading on a lot of social media forums that India is not a Vegan-friendly country. It has been difficult for many foreigner/ travelers to remain vegan easily in India. Most of the Indian people in the restaurants/ food joints don’t understand the term vegan or dairy/dairy products. India, being a vast country, an amazing travel destination, the habitat of 1.3 billion with 1000 languages and dialects, a zillion traditions and cultures ALSO HAVE NUMEROUS CUISINES. As India has the most Vegetarians in the world, the vegetarian food options are plentiful. And most of them are accidentally Vegan. And guess what, EVEN 95% OF THE VEGETARIAN FOOD IS VEGAN, YOU JUST HAVE TO UNDERSTAND THE INGREDIENTS – ACTUALLY IN TOTAL ONLY FOUR.
There are tonnes of Pure Vegetarian restaurants on every corner of India and most of them don’t understand the terms Veganism or dairy products. Just keep a check of these four ingredients, and what you will receive is the delicious Vegan food that you couldn’t stop eating.
Ghee – Clarified butter:
Ghee is the most popular ingredient and necessity of every household in the north of India. At home, people use it in so many ways. From tempering curries to spreading on chapatis, ghee is considered both sacred (always made from the cow’s milk) and healthy for Hindus. Vegans do avoid it for actual reasons.
Whenever you travel to the north of India,
– just check whether the curries and lentils are tempered in ghee or oil? Ask them to use oil.
– While choosing Chapatis/roti, always choose ‘Plain chapati or plain tandoori roti’, otherwise, they might spread ghee on the top of any bread mentioned in the menu.
– Parathas are usually made by ghee in the north and moreover, they spread ghee on the top too. While ordering parathas, simply ask them to use oil and not to use ghee at all.
In the south, people don’t use ghee as much as North Indians, but the above advice is valid of all around the country. They do have a tradition of putting ghee sometimes on the top of rice but usually in the menu ‘Ghee rice’ is mentioned separately. Check if you could.
– Most of the Indian sweets are made in ghee. Sometimes, they use “Vanaspati Ghee” or Margarine i.e. hydrogenated vegetable cooking oil which is Vegan.
Paneer – Cottage Cheese
Paneer is the most common type of cheese used in traditional cuisines. You will see paneer curry everywhere – Restaurants, marriages, parties, get-togethers etc.
Things to keep in mind whiling ordering
– No brainer, avoid all the panner items on the menu.
– Mix Vegetable curry may include paneer too. Ask not to put paneer while ordering.
– Vegetarian biriyani/rice also has paneer. Either you can avoid it or ask them if they could make it without putting paneer into it?
– Very famous Punjabi cuisine ‘Chole Bhature’ (spicy white chickpeas with a fried bread made from maida flour) includes paneer if you eat it in a decent restaurant. Even if paneer isn’t there, in most the places, they put curd to ferment the batter. Better to avoid it but in some places, it is accidentally vegan. Check out with street stalls if you want to try some.
Curd – Dahi – Yogurt
Curd (Dahi in hindi) is similar to yogurt but a different technique is used to make it. No need to go into details. The curd is used in quite a few curries of Indian cuisine.
– ‘Dahi’ is used in quite a few snacks/ street foods in India. So, whatever food says dahi, avoid it.
– ‘Kadi’ is a curry, made up of chickpea, uses Dahi for the preparation.
– A few Indian sauces (Chutneys in hindi) may have curd in it like ”Green chutneys”.
– Remember the word ‘Raita’. It is made up of curd mixed with spices. You will find it when you are ordering THALI. Ask them not to include it in the Thali.
– If you happen to be in the south, a few south Indians may put curd in their most popular foods like Dosa, idli, and chutneys (coconut chutney, peanut chutney etc.) to ferment the batter while others don’t. Most of the south Indian I have checked with, have denied using curd at all. The general recipe doesn’t include curd, hence, Vegan.
– If you happen to be in Gujrat, their most favorite snacks/ food like Dhokla, Khandvi also require fermentation of the batter and they usually use curd. Check before you order and eat.
– Avoid LASSI, a yogurt/curd based drink. Very popular in India.
Though more than one-third of the total population is Vegetarian, the extensive use to milk and milk-product make people habitual of the cuisine that could be easily Vegan but isn’t. Almost all the sweets have milk or milk products in them. We have spoilt from coffees to teas to desserts adding milk and making ourselves addicted to them.
– Naan, Indian bread. Milk is added in the batter, along with butter or ghee.
– The terms ‘Mawa’ and ’Khoya’ are milk products. They are used in sweets most of the time.
While ordering THALI, loosely translates to Platter, you will find it everywhere. It has everything – Dal, curry, rice, chapati, salad. From the above comments, while ordering a thali, check all the above ingredients -Ghee, paneer, curd or raita, and milk.
Still, in the Pure Vegetarian Indian restaurant Menu, you will find plentiful options that are totally vegan. So many curries, lentils, snacks, chapatis, rice, and salad – enormously nutritious and enough to eat a variety of cuisines every single day.
There are uncountable south Indian cuisines that are accidentally Vegans like Dosas, idlis, vada, sambar and plentiful variety of rice. In the north, due to extensive use of ghee and paneer, a little bit of effort is required to veganise the cuisine.
As India is huge with a zillion variety of food, I cannot know everything. I am a traveler just like you, who happens to live somewhere in India, wanting to learn and know more about my country. This is simply an effort to share my knowledge and experience as a Vegan traveling in India to make at least someone’s life easy who knows a little less about India and it’s cuisine than me.
Let me know your feedback, opinions, ideas, suggestions in the comment section or at firstname.lastname@example.org. I need your motivation to continue. If you wish to read more of the Vegan Blog here is the one on ‘Tell a story, not an opinion‘ – The purpose of this article is to notice and be aware that only the people we are dealing with, who are non-vegans, have the capability to reduce the demand.