Travelling With Dietary Restrictions.

Picture was taken from here.

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you can eat anything listed on the menu because … you don’t eat meat? Or nothing suits your dietary needs?

Travellers who are vegetarians might find it quite difficult to get food in Asia because vegetables can be stir-fried with shrimp and oyster sauce might have been used as a complement to it. And shop keepers insist that it’s vegetarian. In my opinion, it never hurts to double-check with the waiter.

If you are a vegetarian and travelling in Asia, my advice is to seek places which serve Buddhist vegetarian food. These eating places will display a lotus along with the Buddhist swastika (卍) on their store front. Diners at these places can be assured that there will not be any sort of animal part in their food. Alternatively, an Indian eating place might be ideal. Even though these eating places usually serve meat in their restaurant, meat is kept out of the vegetarian dishes.

For Jews who prefer to keep kosher while they are in Asia, they might wish to try a halal food stall in Singapore/Malaysia. I had a friend who was a strict Jew. As there is only a small community of Jews here, kosher eating places are not commonly found. He kept kosher by only eating at places which are certified Halal by the local Islamic authority. In Singapore and Malaysia, in order to display a Halal sign on their door, Muslim eating places have to go through a very strict series of tests. The sign will look something like this:
Singapore Halal sign
Picture taken from this page, which has other variations of the Halal signs in Asia.

Asians are usually respectful of the dietary habits of an individual so nobody is likely to scoff at you if you say you are a vegetarian or need to eat at places which serve no pork. The usual response of that is to nod politely and change the subject.

It seems that the issue becomes more complicated when vegetarians travel in Europe. Here is another article about this topic from the BBC. I do not have much experience travelling in Europe but after reading this article, I am thankful that I do not have dietary restrictions. I can imagine how frustrating it might be.

If you have any tips for travellers with dietary restrictions, do share!

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