It can all be a little confusing can’t it?
I mean navigating the basics of what you can make at home is one thing, but eating out as a vegan is a whole other thing. And when it comes to ethnic foods, sometimes we just really don’t know. Plus, on occasion your server’s english isn’t so great.
So IF you find yourself at any of the below ethnic food establishments, here’s a guide for what to avoid, some pretty safe bets, and questions you can ask to ensure you’re eating good (vegan) in the hood.
When it comes to Indian food, there are a handful of dishes ‘traditionally’ made vegan, however it’s quite possible that you won’t find this be the case in an Indian restaurant. So let’s get clear about your resto options.
First off, watch out for Ghee! Some Indian restaurants cook with it, although oil is generally most cost effective and seems to be the norm these days. Regardless there’s no need to worry, if the restaurant you’re visiting uses Ghee, simply request they cook your dish in olive oil instead. Easy peesy!
For appetizers, you’re safe to go for Vegetable Pakoras, Samosas or Vegetable Bhaji. And why wouldn’t you! I also love the mint chutney that often accompany these, and that’s vegan approved too.
When it comes to bread, know that while Naan is traditionally vegan, most restaurants use yogurt, so I’d avoid it. Roti and Papadams (and sometimes Lacha Parantha my personal fave) are safe, but you’ll want to request they are plain and not brushed with butter.
When it comes to curries, you’re almost always safe with Chana Masala, Aloo Gobi & Daal (This one is technically a soup). I’ve also found Eggplant Bharta to be vegan in most spots.
My advice, start by looking through the vegetarian options, from there you can narrow down by avoiding paneer (Indian cheese) yogurt & cream. If in doubt ask your server.
Vancouver Go-To: Delhi 6
Vietnamese food is certainly not a traditionally vegan food.
I’d actually advise reviewing the menu prior to arriving to ensure they DO have something you can eat.
But, here’s what you’ll want to look out for, if you’re lucky, you should be able to find something off this list.
Keep your eyes peeled for Vegetable or Tofu Salad Rolls (most commonly paired with a peanut sauce for dipping) and/or fried Vegetable Spring Rolls.
For a main, cross your fingers they have a Vegetable/Tofu Pho, and be sure to confirm it’s in a vegetable broth. Some places have Vegetable Pho, but it is in a meat broth, which is a no go for vegans. If not, you can always order a Vegetable or Tofu Vermicelli bowl.
DO get down on the hot sauce and the hoisin they leave on the table, these are both vegan friendly condiments.
If you don’t already know Mediterranean is a safe haven for vegans. While they do have plenty of meaty options, most of their vegetarian options are in actuality, FULLY vegan.
So get your snacking on with Hummus (chickpea dip) or Baba Ganoush (eggplant dip) and pita bread, if you’re into dips that is. These will always be vegan at a med resto.
Vegetarian Dolmas (rice & veggies stuffed in grape leaves or cabbage), Tabbouleh (a bulgar wheat-based salad) & Fattoush (lemony salad topped with pita chips) are also vegan appies you can count on.
As for mains, Mujaddara or Mjadra is a lentil & rice dish that you can count on being vegan, as are falafels! If you’re ordering falafel by way of a wrap, be sure to ask for no tzatziki, but don’t worry about tahini, it is vegan!
While Mediterranean food is broad, the above are some go-to’s you’re likely to find on a variety of menus. This being said, you will absolutely find further options pending the kind of med food resto you’ve chosen, so peruse your menu and ask the server what else they have!
Vancouver Go-To: Nuba
When it comes to Thai Food, watch out for fish sauce & oyster sauce! It’s pretty common for vegetarian fried rice, stir fry veggies & curries to have fish sauce. This being said, in most cases you can just ask that the kitchen leave it out, and they will substitute with soy sauce.
Appetizers you can trust are Vegetable Spring Rolls, Vegetable Salad Rolls, Fried Tofu & Fried Mushrooms. Tom Yum Mushroom Soup is often a safe bet for vegans as well, but again, best to confirm that restaurant you’re in doesn’t use fish sauce here either.
You’re also good to eat Thai salads or Clear Noodles (made from mung beans).
And as for curries, Thai, Red, Green, Panang & Massaman Curry are also a-okay, so long as you’re ordering a tofu or vegetable version.
The same rule applies to Pad Thai & Fried Rice. Except that you’ll want order a tofu or vegetable version, AND request they leave out any egg.
When it comes to Sushi, there are actually quite a few things vegans can eat.
You will, however, want to avoid Miso Soup and Agedashi Tofu, as ‘Dashi’ refers to fish broth and is often topped with ‘Bonito’ fish flakes, and Miso is also, most commonly made with fish broth. This being said, some restaurants can and do make both without, but unless you get a clear answer from your server, I’d steer clear.
For starters, get down on some Edamame (Steamed Soy Bean Pods), Vegetable Gyoza or Gomae (cold spinach in peanut sauce, seriously don’t knock it til you’ve tried it).
You can also eat Inari (tofu curd wrapped rice), a Vegetable Roll, Kappa (Cucumber) Roll, Avocado Roll or get down on noodles by way of Vegetable Udon or Vegetable Sunomono.
When cooking at home, I basically eat every possible Mexican thing I can. But at a restaurant, I’ve found there are definitely some things that aren’t always vegan, even though you may assume so.
Be cautious with Rice, Beans & Tortilla Soups, many Mexican restaurants make Mexican Rice or Spanish Rice, Beans & Soups with meat stock. I know, I too was shocked and appalled… But really, mostly, just disappointed.
Avoid Quesadillas and Enchiladas, because cheese. For serious though, be wary of cheese at a Mexican spot. Especially if you’re in a tex-mex resto, they’ll likely add it to everything, even salads. So just get real clear that you’re NOT into cheese.
The good news… You CAN always count on indulging in some good ol’ Chips & Guac, and Salsa too! And in my opinion, you absolutely should!
Vegetable Fajitas are safe. Corn tortillas are vegan (Almost always). Sometimes, just sometimes, flour tortillas contain traces of milk. Just ask. Also ask about vegan options for Burritos, if the rice has meat stock, it’s likely they can leave it out. Remember, you can often veganize tacos too.
And just for fun, here’s a Mexican wildcard for you… Some tequila is vegan. But not all.
So… If you’re reading this and feeling a little overwhelmed, about the ‘sometimes’ or ‘just ask’ categories, it’s okay.
Order yourself a virgin margarita (if you’re playing safe) & relax. Booze is a whole other ball game friends and we’re not getting into that here. Not today anyway.
Hope this helped some! Please share in the comments if you have any other vegan safe foods to add. It’s an ongoing battle, but, we’re in it together friends. Happy eating! xx