A Guide To Being A Vegetarian Whilst Travelling in Europe
By Natalie Wilson
Over the past few years, eating a vegetarian diet has become easier than ever. Going travelling can be quite daunting if you have dietary requirements and is actually one of the most popular reasons as to why people avoid travelling. When you are travelling, it can often be easier to stay within your comfort zone, especially when it comes to food.
However, in many European countries, it's actually really easy to find delicious vegetarian dishes as more of us embrace a meat-free diet. Whilst there are some things to watch out for in a few European countries, most of the time finding and eating meat-free dishes is actually pretty easy and means that you don't have to compromise on traditional cuisine for fries or bread.
In Belgium, many of the foods are vegetarian-friendly. Chocolate and waffles may be your first dishes of choices, but Ghent, located in the north of the country, is the vegetarian capital of Europe and is well worth a trip if you're wanting to experience some of the best vegetarian dishes in the country! If you're going self-catering or are renting an apartment to stay in, then cooking for yourself is fairly easy in Belgium. There are plenty of vegetarian choices in the supermarkets and if you look in local organic or fruit and veg stores, you'll probably be able to find the freshest offerings.
It is a common belief that eating non-meat dishes in France is pretty much impossible. Whilst it can be more difficult being vegetarian in France than other European countries, France is home to some pretty special dishes, which are vegetarian-friendly. A country famed for its cheese, bread and butter, you'll still get to enjoy classic French cuisine, but when it comes to restaurants, you might think it'll be a little trickier.
Ratatouille is a French speciality and a dish which everyone should try whilst they are in France and French onion soup is one of France's most popular dishes and is incredibly tasty (but be sure to ask for the veggie option, which is made without beef stock!). Youíve also got plenty of choices when it comes to pastries and bread!
Spain is a country where it can be a bit more difficult when it comes to finding good vegetarian dishes, with a lot of Spanish dishes focusing on meat, fish and eggs. Vegetarianism is widely misinterpreted in Spain and whilst more Spaniards are going meat-free, it still isn't a concept which everyone is familiar with. You may need to prepare yourself to explain what exactly you canít eat when you dine out, as it isn't unusual to visit a restaurant in Spain which doesn't serve any vegetarian dishes at all. Patatas Bravas is an easy option of potatoes topped in a spicy tomato sauce, or gazpacho, which is generally a vegan cold soup.
Much like Spain, Portugal is a bit tricky for finding tasty vegetarian food, but it isn't impossible. Traditional Portuguese restaurants should be avoided, as these will likely focus on meat and fish in various forms, perhaps with the choice of fries and salads, but this shouldn't be relied on. Instead, look for smaller side dishes which can be paired together to make a delicious main.
Acorda, which is much like a risotto but instead made with bread, is super tasty and can be enjoyed with beans or fresh vegetables. Tremoco is a snack enjoyed by many people in Portugal and are big butter beans which are salted. You can also enjoy a frittata, fries, potatoes with mojo and delicious fresh bread. If eating out proves difficult for you, then there are plenty of vegetarian dishes which you can cook in the comfort of your own accommodation. If you are renting a luxury Algarve villa, then you could even get a chef to come and cook for you - many companies offer great vegetarian choices.
Whilst Poland's traditional dishes aren't considered to be the most meat-free, it isn't difficult to find a good vegetarian dish whilst in the country. Many Polish restaurants have variations of the traditional dishes which are meat-free and equally as tasty. Placki ziemniaczane is a potato pancake and very tasty and pierogi ruskie are a must-try as well, which are little Polish dumplings. Vegetarian versions of these can be found in almost every restaurant and are filled with all kinds of meat-free wonders. Barszcz is a vegetarian take on the traditional borscht and is a tasty feast of onions, garlic, beetroot and other vegetables, often served with bread or rice.
Look Up The Dishes
This may be obvious, but you could save yourself some time and potential mishaps by familiarising yourself with the traditional dishes of the country you are visiting, their ingredients and whether you could ask the Chef to leave anything out to make it veggie-friendly.
If you are particularly militant with being meat-free, then you need to be prepared. If you are walking around in the warm weather and in an unfamiliar environment, then you will burn a lot of calories and potentially be a bit disorientated. Be sure to pack some snacks, whether from home or after a supermarket sweep so that you don't end up hungry and annoyed if you canít eat anything from a restaurant.
Stick To What You Know
Sadly, not every country is advanced when it comes to being meat-free. You may have to do a little more searching if you want familiar cuisine or something to suit your dietary requirements, but if you're in accommodation where you have access to your own kitchen, then there is no harm in cooking your own dishes, especially if you are using fresh cuisine.