The trend of following a vegan diet is catching up across the globe due to the many health benefits associated with it. It involves eliminating all types of animal foods and by-products. Due to this, many people who eat a regular or omnivore diet find switching to a vegan diet challenging. However, once you start doing this, it is fun and significantly improves the overall quality of your life. Apart from health benefits, many people follow veganism because it is part of their local culture, and the purpose of this article is to introduce you to vegan-friendly cultures of the world.
Vegan Movement In Countries
Even though English-speaking countries in Europe and North America are known for their potato and meat cuisines, they have been at the forefront of veganism. When you look at history, the first vegan society came up in England in 1944. In the United States, its popularity varies across the cities; it is more popular in cities like San Francisco and New York where a lot of vegan restaurants and eateries are popping up. Similarly, this trend is catching up in European countries like Germany which is popular for its meat-based cuisine.
Here we will focus on countries where vegan recipes are part of their traditional and authentic cuisines. Keep in mind that vegetarian food preparations make up a significant part of their local diet.
One of the most popular Greek food that is famous world over is souvlaki, also known as meat on a stick. But Greek cuisine has a rich tradition of vegetarian dishes as part of the Greek Orthodox Church culture. The fasting they observe is not abstaining from eating anything, but only avoiding animal food products. During this time, they consume a fully vegan diet except for some aquatic animals and honey. Ironically, many older people there are still unfamiliar with the term “vegan”.
Italy is one of the most vegan-friendly countries in Europe because this movement took off fast in the past five years. Moreover, the local cuisine has many plant-based recipes, and this was augmented with the vegan trend that was catching up in the country. Because of these reasons, many restaurants here are vegan friendly. Also, keep in mind that southern Italian cuisines are more plant-based, and this is especially true for the regions of Sicily and Apulia.
Even though everyone relates Turkish cuisine to meat-heavy dishes, there are a wide variety of local vegan food preparations. For example, authentic home-cooked meals use beans, olive oil, and vegetables. One of the best ways to enjoy these authentic dishes is to visit “ev yemekleri” which roughly translates into home-style restaurants; most of them are family-run establishments.
The meat-free Wednesdays and Fridays prescribed by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and vegetarian fasting of this faith has resulted in the inclusion of many vegan or vegetarian dishes in Ethiopian cuisine. Because of this religious and cultural influence, vegetarian food is widely available. Also, there are many beans, lentils, and peas dishes in this cuisine.
Like Greece, a vegetarian or vegan diet is one of the major aspects of the major religion in India, Hinduism. However, this is specific to certain groups of people within the faith. Likewise, the two other religions that require you to follow a strict vegan diet as part of the faith are Buddhism and Jainism. This is because the practice of ahimsa or non-violence is one of the tenets of these two religions.
It is easier to find restaurants that serve vegetarian foods. However, dairy products like ghee or clarified butter, paneer or cottage cheese, and curd or yogurt are part of most food preparations including vegan recipes. So, if you want vegan food, you must ask for it specifically.
The faiths followed in mainland China encourages the spiritual tradition of non-violence. Also, Buddhism is practiced in various monasteries, and the monks practicing this religion are forbidden from killing living beings. Because of this, they eat a strictly vegan diet and does not use any animal-based products like leather. Also, restaurants serve mock meat dishes prepared using seitan which is made from hydrated gluten. Furthermore, traditionally the mainstays of the local diet are largely plant-based, i.e. rice, noodles, vegetables, and tofu. However, nowadays many Chinese people do not follow a vegan or vegetarian diet.
Malaysian cuisine is a melting pot of local Malay, Chinese, and Indian cuisines. This is topped with influences from Thai, Indonesian, and colonial European country cuisines. It is common to find Chinese vegetarian buffets catering to the Chinese-Malaysian Buddhist population. Also, one of the specialties of these restaurants is that they offer many mock meat dishes and incredible choices for those following a vegan diet. Because of this confluence of various cuisines, a wide variety of vegan dining options are available in Malaysia.
On a final note, the concept of veganism is not new, and it has been followed for thousands of years as part of many oriental religions.