Why going vego is the best idea in India
Trust us. And it’s not just because the dahl is super good…
I am as carnivorous as the next meat-eater, perhaps more so. As a silent protest to my girlfriends insistence on rarely eating things that cast a shadow, I will often eat a meal that is just meat. Seriously, I once stuck a fork in a bacon joint and ate the whole thing like a lollipop. It was glorious.
However, no love for lamb or penchant for pork could have kept me from vegetarianism in the time I spent in India and here’s why:
The meat quality isn’t great.
Unless you are willing to pay a premium for each meal, you can expect low-grade chicken or goat as the main meat in your dish. Usually it will be prepared and served on the bone, so don’t expect a juicy chicken breast or chunk of tender lamb, expect sharp bones and plenty of fatty gristle. You will also pay at least double the equivalent vegetarian dish for even the poorest quality meat.
The main substitute for meat is fantastic
Unlike many parts of Asia, in which bland tofu is the go-to for a meat substitute, India prefers paneer. Almost every part of the country offers varied and flavoursome curried dishes that come with huge slabs of the curdled cheese. The home-made paneer in India tends to be tastier and a little cheesier than the stuff you can find in the supermarkets, and the delicious little sponge soaks up India’s spiced gravies even better than most meats.
Now, you don’t need to strictly fall ill within the borders of Delhi itself to suffer from Delhi belly. It can catch you at any time, up and down the country. Spend enough time in India as a foreign visitor and, unless you have a stomach of steel, you can expect a little uncontrollable, eye-rolling stomach flu. The best way to guarantee a bout? The very real risk of eating meat that may have spoiled long before it hit your plate. Food hygiene standards can be pretty poor in parts of India, and it is the meat that suffers most.
Nowhere else in the world will treat you to such an array of powerful flavours without even a sniff of meat in sight. Spiced potato dishes, saffron soaked biryani’s, chilli tempered tapioca and lentil dal’s that seem to stick to every tastebud. Even the dosa breakfasts start your day with spicy satisfaction. Who needs bacon? I do, but that is beside the point. I couldn’t get any because…
Many places flat out don’t serve meat
Due to religious practises in the predominantly Hindu parts of the country, many of the best restaurants are strictly vegetarian. Cattle are friends, not food. Want to enjoy some of the prettiest, most charming little eateries India has to offer? Then don’t expect a steak. Entire menus at some of the finest restaurants around the country cater to herbivores alone, but luckily the chefs specials incorporate so many years of vegetarian craft work that you will hardly notice the lack of meat at all.
So my advice for eating out in India? Go vegetarian, because India it appears really, really wants you to.
ABOUT THE AUTHORLiam is a writer and filmmaker from the UK. He loves beer and meat. Despite his best attempts to get fat, his vegan girlfriend is currently fighting a battle that she will inevitably lose. Future Liam will be an overweight biker with a beard and a mullet, happily riding around the globe on the hunt for new flavours of beer and meat. He once made a pizza, curry and lasagne sandwich and didn’t regret it one bit.
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