Vegetarian food in Europe travel could be monotonous but not very difficult to find. Read to know how to survive as a vegetarian on a long holiday in Europe.
When a vegetarian wishes to travel, the first and foremost thought that comes to her mind is ‘how to manage food?’- more so if the trip is outside India. This million dollar question could make a vegetarian have second thoughts about travel! A bigger question than finding vegetarian food in Europe travel is, how to get a balanced meal on this holiday!
Fret not, I am a nutrition obsessed vegetarian and I just finished a month long trip in Europe, so you can do it too! However there are two parts to it – one is what you pack and take with you and the other is how you can manage with what is available over there. We shall concentrate on the latter part for now.
If you are traveling within just the cities of Europe, then you are likely to find many Indian restaurants. Although Indian food is my soul food, we decided not to go for Indian restaurants this time. Mainly because we wanted to taste something new, despite having limited vegetarian options.
There is this vegetarian place near the Notre-Dame in Paris, where a dish they made with semolina and vegetables was mind-blowing. Also a vegetarian platter at a middle eastern restaurant in Nice (France) was diverse and very appetizing.
To travel is to experience newer things – it is what makes your travel worthwhile. So don’t be afraid to try something new on this holiday!
I would recite my ‘vegetarian poem’ to every waiter as soon as we get seated in a restaurant. And this would sometimes be repeated even after we placed the order for vegetarian food, as I used to be paranoid about something non-vegetarian sneaking into our meal. I repeated it so much, that after few days in Europe, my son got it by heart and kept saying – “no meat, no fish, no eggs, no mushroom and no eggplant!” I know, some of the above are actually vegetarian, and yes my list might sound strange, but these are foods that I cannot manage. Make your own ‘vegetarian poem’!
Once we went to Moterosso, the 5th village among the mesmerizing Cinque Terre of Italy, and I managed to dip my head in sea water for the first time ever (story for some other day!). After all that beach fun, it was dinner time and we had to catch a train soon, but I made no mistake in my poem recital at a local restaurant. The waiter gave me this look and said, “But why are you saying this, you just ordered for a vegetarian dish only.” And I completely understand her situation – she must have come across many crazy vegetarian tourists like me!
Once the dish arrives, my next request would be for some chilli flakes or chilli oil. Really, everything at a local European restaurant tasted so bland to my desi palate after a few days of eating out! Every time it used to remind us of the scene from the movie Queen where the chef shouts at actress Kangana for trying to modify a dish!
I get really serious when I am thinking or talking or planning about food. I need it wholesome, tasty and vegetarian – food to me means something that I find hard to compromise on! Here are few tips to a balanced diet and where you can optimize your nutrition quotient to enjoy your holiday in Europe without much concern.
Whether it is a hotel or a homestay, breakfast is included in most places, and is mostly meat-free. The regular spread would have coffee/tea, juice, breads/cakes, butter, cheese, jams/honey, cereal, milk, yogurt, etc. And the best part – fruits!
Europe is a ‘fruits heaven’, and you get so much variety in them, even more than the kinds of vegetables. So the secret of nutrition lies mostly in eating these fruits as they are raw and fresh. You get different kinds of berries, figs, apricots, grapes, plums, peaches, pears, along with the regular melons, apples, bananas and oranges.
So try to hog on fruits, as much as you can! Even if the breakfast is not included in your stay, the above items are easily available in any super market for nominal prices.
Cheese is good for your hair and skin and is full of vitamin E. As the European cuisine uses lots of cheese, this is a good opportunity to try all the varieties that you come across.There would be pizzas, made with 5 different kinds of cheese. Apart from regular pizza and pasta, try cheese with potatoes and fondue, and rosti when you are in Switzerland.
In many places, cheese is lot more than a topping and is considered as the main meal as well! With this, you are not only enjoying the vegetarian food in Europe travel, but also relishing their local food and speciality.
The welcome change is that there are many pure vegetarian and vegan restaurants opening their doors in Europe. However, this comes with a huge price tag, much more than the regular outlets. The food is especially costly in Switzerland and you can save a lot if you can eat home cooked meals.
Few recommendations for vegetarian food in restaurants would be – pizza, pasta, falafel with hummus, salads, panini, sandwiches, bruschetta and rarely a lasagna. We were lucky to get a vegetarian lasagna, made with spinach base in Riomaggiore (1st village in Cinque Terre, Italy) and is a pleasant change from pizzas everywhere! My son loved pesto and had pesto pasta on most occasions.
I cannot thank enough all the falafel outlets where we had our meals. They are so filling and tasted yum. Also, they are a good way to get some protein inside as the falafels are made of chickpeas and hummus with sesame. They cover the nutrition gap which you would otherwise have in the form of dal as a vegetarian.
You might also find Thai cuisne in some places where you can enjoy some spice (finally!) along with protein rich tofu.
When you go to a restaurant, check if they have a salad buffet. This kind of buffet would work out to a few euros per plate or a few euros per certain weight of what you pick in the buffet. This usually consists of some cheese, eggs, raw vegetables, cooked rice or pasta, cooked beetroots & corn, mini bread, along with some interesting dressings.
This is by far the most nutritious if the restaurant offers only pizza and pasta as other vegetarian options on the menu. When we were in the palace of Versailles, the only vegetarian food we could get was salads, cut fruit and cakes. Sometimes, the sole presence of salads will push you to eat healthy!
Another important aspect of eating out is the portion sizes. The Swiss portion sizes are usually big and what you order for two adults can easily be shared with a kid too. Whereas in some parts of Italy the portions looked so meager that even a kid would be able to finish a plate of pasta. Hence be sure to check the servings before you order too much.
So, if you follow these tips, you will not have any trouble finding vegetarian food in Europe, the next time you plan a trip.
Images source: Sowmya Baruvuri