A Lost Vegetarian In Asia

As a finicky vegetarian, I say finicky because even the smell of some meats leaves me gagging (not meant to hurt meat lovers) travelling in Asia has been a real task. Let’s start at the very beginning of my travels.

South Korea was one of the first places I visited where I experienced the lack of good vegetarian food. It is important to note that I was staying in Incheon (outskirts of Seoul) and travelled daily alone to Seoul. Being a timid 18-year-old, I concentrated more on ticking of the historic places off my list than finding food. Most days I found myself in a coffee shop, with a large cold coffee and fries or salad. The extent of a lavish lunch extended to a potato sandwich one day. So, Starbucks became by best friend and I somehow explained to my parents that over-priced coffee was the need of the hour. It’s not that there was no food available at all, we tried an Indian place one day and also found a Mexican restaurant in a mall. But the point being that we had to hunt for food and no wholesome meals were available around the tourist spots. On the second last day of my trip, we ate a Korean meal at the museum by trying to explain to the lady to leave off the meat. She gave us curry, rice and khimchi salad. The seaweed on the
plate which is considered vegetarian left me sick the whole day and I had to cancel all plans for the next day. (I could not go to the border and waive to Kim Jong-un and I am still sad about that)

Like any other Indian, we had plenty of theplas, puri and ready to eat meals which got me through dinner but lunch was in Seoul and I had to fend for myself. In conclusion to this trip, I decided that I was either allergic to seaweed or just hated it.

I then visited Beijing, and was more hopeful of getting good food as we had a house here. Which meant mom could cook wholesome meals. It resulted in us eating Biryani with raita in the middle of Beijing Zoo which was of course a lot of fun. Most days we would have roti sabzi to eat for lunch and we tried some
fabulous Italian restaurants for dinner. But again, tourist spots and public places were a pain. In IKEA, I bought mushrooms with sticky rice, but could not stomach it. What I actually ate was two bowls of salad with hot coffee. Also, most malls in Beijing did not have vegetarian options. I resorted to one of the
greatest food items on planet earth, yogurt. Yogurt was in trend in Beijing. They had a variety of fresh fruit options and toppings. I would buy the largest size and surprisingly it was quite filling. I also really need to mention the bakery products. The Chinese more than excel in pastry. Therefore, we bought bread rolls and cakes in abundance. Sometimes there was cheesecake for breakfast. All in all, it was a much more successful food trip compared to Korea, maybe because the family was there to help me.

In conclusion if you are a vegetarian visiting an Asian country and happen to be concentrating more on sight-seeing than food make sure you pack enough theplas with you. And don’t be averse to eating stale theplas, dry salads and literally dahi (but yummy dahi). Do not be discouraged by my views because it leads to a healthier body and massive weight loss thanks to the absence of samosas.

-Aditi Dayal