Cruelty-free eating has been experiencing a boom in recent years. In fact, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) actually declared 2016 to be #TheYearofVegan. Even if you’re not a vegetarian or vegan, there is a high chance you know somebody who is one, or have seen vegetarian menu options in restaurants more frequently.
As the world sees more meat and dairy-free restaurants and bakeries booming around the globe, our very own food haven, Penang, could potentially be turned into a destination for vegetarians.
With Penang playing host to the 7th Southeast Asian Vegetarian Congress from 11 to 13 November, Pishu Murli Hassaram, chairman of Southeast Asia Vegetarian Union, has urged the state to explore vegetarian tourism.
To date, there are over 600 million vegetarians and vegans worldwide! "Imagine if only 1% of the 600 million vegetarians worldwide visited Penang, that is already six million visitors," Pishu Murli said.
The event will see chefs, environmentalists, nutritionists, and health experts from across the region gather to share their knowledge on the vegetarian and vegan diet.
As the vegetarian and vegan community continues to spread globally, there is great potential for Malaysia to tap into this lifestyle and help boost the country’s tourism industry.
Here are some other vegetarian and vegan-friendly places that we can emulate from around the world:
Image: The Everyday Veggie
At least 13% of Taiwan’s population follow a meat-free diet with the prevalence of Buddhism and its esteemed respect towards animals. There are over 6,000 vegetarian eateries in Taiwan with hundreds of options in Taipei alone. Travelers will be able to spot them by identifying certain Chinese characters and learning some local terms. Some of the most popular outlets can be found at the Shilin Night Market, Taiwan's most famous street food market that never sees the end of tourists.
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Image: Renegade Travels
Home to more than 80 vegetarian restaurants, again due to Buddhism beliefs, travelers will find healthy salad bars, organic farm-to-table food, Japanese macrobiotic diet and more. When dining in restaurants that are not exclusively vegetarian or vegan, there are other meat-free options available, including dishes that are no stranger to us Malaysians such as Pad Thai
, tom yum
soup, coconut milk-based curries and salads.
India is probably one of the safest bets for vegetarian and vegan travelers as nearly half of its 1.2 billion population don’t consume meat. Northern Indian cuisine rely heavily on ghee
or clarified butter, whereas Southern Indian food mainly contain rice, legumes and coconut milk. You can find numerous restaurants lined up along the streets of India with their doors labelled ‘pure vegetable’. Considered India’s leader in the vegetarian scene, in Chennai, you rarely find a menu that doesn’t have a wide vegetarian option. Visitors can also indulge in several fine dining restaurants that serve meat-free and dairy-free cuisine. How fancy!
Seoul, South Korea
Although South Korea is a nation that loves their meat and seafood, vegetarian dishes are very common among Korean eateries. It is a norm for Korean restaurants to each serve only a specific type of Korean food. For example, you would go to a Korean pancake restaurant to enjoy some Korean pancakes, or a particular restaurant to enjoy some heartwarming kimchi
stew. Some popular Korean dishes that are vegetarian-friendly are bibimbap
(mixed rice), soybean paste stew and temple food. Loving Hut is another vegetarian chain that you can find across the country, which serves cruelty-free food at very affordable prices.
Image: Vegan a la Mode
PETA ranked Portland as America’s #1 Vegan-Friendly City of 2016, a green city well-known for its healthy lifestyle. So it is no surprise that Portland is home to an army of vegetarian, vegan, organic and fair-trade restaurants. There is also an option for travelers to enjoy a ‘vegan vacation’ at the Cherokee Rose Inn, an all-vegan B&B (bed and breakfast). From all-vegan eateries and food trucks, to malls and dessert bars, no visit to Portland is complete without experiencing the city in all its vegan glory.
New York City
Image: Paul Wagtouicz
New York City is no doubt the heart of the vegan scene in the East Coast of the United States. Also known as one of the world’s food capitals, celebrities and New Yorkers alike flock the Big Apple for the hottest vegan spots. Not only does the city offer something for everybody, it offers several different things for everyone. Vegetarians and vegans will find raw restaurants and eateries serving imaginative dishes, like jalapeno hushpuppies (read: deep fried cormeal croquettes, not to be confused with food made of actual puppies
). You can also enjoy gluten-free and vegan cupcakes at Baby Cakes.
Whether you’re into cruelty-free diets or not, let’s hope that Malaysia can also become a vegetarian hotspot very soon!