The 5 best countries in the world for vegetarians

When I was 20, I made the decision to become a vegetarian. How hard could it be? I’d just, you know, stop eating the flesh of innocent creatures. My diet choice could have been a walk in the park, except for the fact that I was living in France, where opting for vegetarianism is like blasphemy. You’ll be punished for your offence to the holy culinary traditions for the rest of your life.

“So, what are you going to eat now?” were my mother’s encouraging words.

Me: “It’s not like you only eat meat and fish. What about the green bits on the side?”

That’s exactly what you get when you’re a vegetarian in France: the green bits on the side. Luckily, there are other countries in the world where living a cruelty-free life is a whole lot easier and tastier.

1. India

Probably a vegetarian’s safest bet when it comes to traveling. In 2007, the Food and Agriculture Organizations of the United Nations ranked India the lowest consumer of meat in the world (3.2kg per person per year, about 120kg less than the US), and even though the consumption of meat in India is on the rise, you still won’t have to worry about finding delicious meat-free food as 42% of the Indian population is vegetarian.

Vegetarianism is deeply rooted in culture and religion; Hindus and Jains who represent more than of 80% of the population, often do not eat eggs or consume dairy products, so even vegans can roam the subcontinent worry-free.

Go and get yourself some pindi chana or aloo ghobi — your karma will be clear and your taste buds grateful.

2. Ethiopia

Most Ethiopians belong to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, which prescribes meat-free Wednesdays and Fridays as well as long periods of vegetarian fasting. Vegetarian food is therefore widely available, and no one will cringe when you mention your diet preferences (in France, they cringe and roll their eyes).

You’ll be served the unavoidable injera (a crepe made of teff customarily used to pick up the food from your plate), lentils, peas, and bean dishes, all likely to be spiced with the traditional Ethiopian berbere sauce. This translates as a loud “Yay! Let’s go to Ethiopia!” for any vegetarian traveler who might have held back for fear of only eating plantain and cassava.

3. Israel

A vegan craze has swept over Israel in the past few years. We knew about the beauty of hummus and the decadence of falafel, but this culinary revolution opens up the wonders of Israeli cuisine to all of us.

As of January 2014, there were 200,000 vegans in Israel out of a population of 8 million. Vegan restaurants and animal-free options have been growing like mushrooms (likely portobello mushrooms); even Domino’s followed the Israeli trend by launching its very first vegan pizza in December 2013. Tel Aviv seems to be the city with the most choices, but according to Happy Cow you should be able to find good vegan food all over Israel.

4. Jamaica

Most people belonging to the Rastafari movement follow the ital diet, a strict vegetarian — often vegan — way of eating. Even though Rastafarians represent only 8 to 10% of the population of Jamaica, their presence, and the climate of this island, favorable to a bounty of delicious fruits and vegetables, mean there’s good vegetarian food to be had. The cities of Kingston and Negril will provide all the meat-free food you’ve been looking for: a cornucopia of coconut cream, sweet potatoes, and banana-corn meal bread!

5. Singapore

The cultural diversity of Singapore brings delicious Japanese, Malay, Mediterranean, etc. vegetarian foods to the table. Happy Cow lists 286 vegetarian restaurants on the island country, so you’ll have plenty to choose from. Even though it’s easy to find delicious vegetarian food in Singapore, always watch out for the fish/oyster sauce and shrimp paste; these are widely used in Southeast Asian food and may make their way into your vegetarian dishes.

Photo: என்த்து பட்டாணி!